UNITY DAYS // JANUARY 4-6, 2019
I don't know about you, but there's a moment for me every year - that few minutes or so before midnight every New Year's Eve - where I find myself a tiny bit lost in the wonder of what possibilities might be waiting on the other side of the fireworks about to burst over my head. What will I do? Who will I meet? Will they become a part of my story? Will I become part of theirs? How will the world fall together for each of us, all of us, this time around the sun?
Almost a year ago, I remember coming across the above photo in the quiet confines of my home office one day, and those same thoughts flickered. On one level, every person in that room, that picture so full of grins and togetherness and joy, was a stranger to me. A frame of faces of people I'd never met. And yet, I thought sitting there with my tea in hand, it was a picture that summarised so much of what had changed my life so beautifully, so wildly, and so irrevocably, over the last few years.
Because this, folk of the interweb, is the original Onekru.
The original and the best.
I remember running my fingertips over the screen, that day, Really looking. Feeling something really bright, joyous and thankful blooming deep in my chest at the sight, and trying not to get overwhelmed with the most genuine FOMO of my life. So many people. Actors whose performances I'd sat up til all hours watching in my owl pajamas with a pen wedged in my hair; writing about about all the different ways they'd moved me or challenged me or terrified or made me cry or laugh. Just by doing what they do best. People who'd made some of the best words I have ever strung together, spill out of me like cool water into a tall glass on a hot day. A friend, perched there off to the side: her sense of kindness, gratitude and honesty, challenged but never dimmed by the world. Someone who reminds me everyday that the phrase 'But I am just one person' - spoken as though it's an unbreakable limitation - means nothing when it comes to making a difference in the world.
But the ones that really got to me in this photo were all these people I didn't know. Faces of fans from all over the place. Some of the smiles behind the likes and the encouragement and the constructive feedback. The people behind the tweets and Facebook posts and messages. As the year went on, I got to start matching some of the faces above with the accounts of people who'd become a part of my own experience of being in this fandom: as a writer, but more importantly as a fan myself. And I cannot begin to explain what an amazing thing that is.
Because the word 'fandom' is sometimes spoken like it's a dirty word, and in the case of this show...well, nobody knows better than we do that it's been an experience with no shortage of hills and valleys. But looking at snaps like these, all I can see here is the absolute, categorical opposite of a dirty word. Instead, I see what they mean when they talk about friends being the family you pick for yourself. The above represents the best of what both a show and a fandom can be, together.
On one hand, you have this incredible, diverse collective of people from all over the world, who are drawn together and have become friends, through a shared passion for the same great story, and the same characters. It's a group of people that, mobilised, can achieve some incredible things, the least of which is not that it's able to make you feel that you're a wanted, valued part of something wonderful. On the other hand, you have an incredible group of creatives - not just actors, but props teams, and composers and writers: people who genuinely go out of their way to give back to the people who tune in to support them every week. Who give back to their fans in genuine, tangible, meaningful ways.
They are just people. We are just people. But moments like the one captured above? They show that we're family too. Our crazy, abundantly clever, dynamic, occasionally dysfunctional, but at its heart, always epic family of misfits, rebels, and wonders.
And it's for this reason, that I am thrilled to be a part Unity Days 2019. A con built to celebrate that family. Because Unity Days, at its heart, isn't just a fan event. It's a gathering that aims to highlight the amazingly cool thing it is for so many different people, from so many different backgrounds, to be brought together by one great story. A con that above all, honours the story and experience of it, equally, and from as many perspectives as possible.
For my part, I am beyond delighted to also be able to participate in UD3 as both a panelist - alongside Selina Wilken and Yana Grebenyuk: two writers I have admired and been encouraged by for the longest time - when we get together to discuss our experience of reviewing the show, as well as get some time to engage with other fans in the process. Truly. I cannot wait to be there with those who are able to attend, and am really excited to share this final Unity Days event - be it in person, or online via social media - with the rest of our tribe as we hang out for Season 6.
Unity Days is run by Unity Events Canada.
For more information on this event and past events, you can find them at: