By Chris Lites
Source: Omni Reboot
Anyone who’s seen Zardoz knows how well weed and sci-fi go together. Now, like something out of a Kevin Smith movie, Jaymen Johnson brings Denver Chromic Con. One half expects Bluntman and Chronic to make an appearance. Inspired by his long history of attending conventions while high, Johnson, decided to bring this once illicit activity out into the marijuana friendly Denver and Colorado Springs weed club scene. Three such clubs will serve as venues for the con which includes sci-fi, fantasy and comic books along with the presumably non-requisite weed. Johnson himself owns one of the clubs, Speak Easy Vape Lounge, and promises “light saber [sic]whiffle ball” among the con’s attractions.
I’ve attended more than a couple of cons in an altered state and always had a great time. Any con-goer knows about party floors dedicated to themed libations patrolled by the drunken ranks of Barfleet Personnel. The first con I attended in such a state featured a gay Klingon wedding. In the aftermath, as the sun crept through the hotel windows in the ballroom, one could see a host of Klingons passed out under tables, atop the DJ machine, behind curtains. It looked rather like the aftermath of a battle until one of them threw up. But cons and partying have a long history as do altered states and creativity. SF/F, in particular, has always lent itself to those on the fringes of normalized demographics. Just as the “nerd” has popularly typified fandom, so too do the legions of those who enjoy altered states with their creativity. Artists too, have long espoused the virtues of blended artistic creation. Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles is practically a catalogue of psychoactive trips the writer himself took. Thomas Pynchon claims writing large sections of Gravity’s Rainbow higher than an esoterically referential kite. Drugs and the creative process behind SF/F has a long history.
Chromic Con [the logo divides the M so that you can read the word “chronic”] offers the first Alchemical Wedding of the outsider art of comics and the outsider recreation of pot smoking. But this begs the question: are either really outsider anymore? Chromic Con’s inception suggests they are not. In much the same way “geek” culture has become mainstream, so too has pot culture. Recent polls suggest those who like to toke-up are as legion as those who flocked to theaters to see The Avengers, some likely high at the time. Pot has become mainstream. The days of Reefer Madness are largely behind us. It’s only a matter of time before Wil Wheaton takes up the pot banner and becomes fandom’s Tommy Chong. The licensing alone might bring Disney into the fold. Imagine smoking some great skunk out of R2D2 or Darth Vader’s head? A Millennium Falcon bowl can’t be far behind.
William Gibson has suggested that there are no more Bohemias. As soon as a sub-culture pops up these days, it’s co-opted by the mainstream and commodified. While Chromic Con is still an indie event [as evidenced by its site, a kind of throwback to 90s web design], I can’t help but think that it’s the first step in a corporatization of the weed-SF Rainbow Bridge that’s always existed behind the scenes. Soon, I can imagine Comicon rife with glazed-eyed James Franco types promoting their latest movie and their favorite strain of California’s best. What kind of pot does Wolverine smoke in those blunts he calls “cigars?” Marvel could partner with a major pot corporation and let you know!
To be fair, Chromic Con is still very much a small event. The website suggests almost no celebrity guests have yet signed up [presumably unwilling to commit to the weed association just yet], and the event list is scant. It doesn’t look like it’s going to be a full con in sense most of us think of when we hear the term. Yet, where Jaymen Johnson may not produce much more than a fun curiosity this time out, he may presage the marriage of pot and mainstream conventions.
I’m all for the open enjoyment of comics, science fiction and weed, but I can’t help but feel that something is being lost. The stamp of the establishment on anything, however putative, takes away some of the exclusivity of the activity. Chromic Con’s site features its weed friendly sponsors prominently. Fandom is still alive and well, but the mainstreaming of genre favorites like Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings does carry with it a certain deference to the larger culture. It’s been recently announced that John Constantine won’t smoke in the upcoming NBC TV adaptation. A small thing, perhaps, but a significant one. Once we open the fringes to the doors of corporate America, there is always a period of sanitization. When the sub-culture and the root culture merge, it’s almost always the former that has to change some of its DNA. Chromic Con isn’t that. It isn’t close to that, but it is, I think, in the same neighborhood. You can see Snoop Lion endorsing San Diego Comic Con’s toking booth from here.