KITCHENER — "It takes way too much effort to be cool," confides actress Tamsen McDonough, one of a trio of TV and movie celebrities who will appear at Saturday's Tri-Con KW 2017 nerdfest at Themuseum.
"I'm so much more into the geek-o-sphere. I like that people are passionate about something that's creative and interesting. These people are genuine."
That pretty much describes the fan base for both McDonough's geek-friendly sci-fi series "Killjoys" and the fourth instalment of this annual "celebration of cosplay, interactive experiences and all things nerd."
It's that word — "nerd" — that might throw some people, unaware that since the rise of digital culture, superhero flicks and nerd-friendly TV shows like "The Big Bang Theory," what was once considered a stinging insult has become an illuminating point of pride.
"Nerds are the ones who end up having great careers," agrees fellow conventioneer Thom Allison, who plays "Killjoys'" androgynous bartender Prima (Pree) Dezz.
"Nerds are the ones actually running the world and having a great time."
He pauses thoughtfully. "A lot of people go to work from nine to five, hate their lives and never go out. Nerds are living their dream lives."
Part of that dream is to meet their idols, he notes, a role he and McDonough are thrilled to play.
"It's amazing how much they actually know about us — things your character did and said. It's really kind of awesome."
"Killjoys," a shot-in-Toronto Space Channel series about a group of intergalactic bounty hunters, is a classic case of the new TV paradigm.
Adrift in the vastness of the cable universe, it remains unknown to many yet has inspired the kind of devoted cult following once associated with "Star Trek" and lampooned in the movie "Galaxy Quest."
"Lucy, why didn't you let everyone know D'avin has a knife?" mimics McDonough, who provides the voice for the show's snarky talking spaceship and was surprised to learn that, despite her lack of physical presence on the show, fans know exactly what she looks like.
"The fans do not miss a thing."
And they're loyal.
When Tri-con kicked off in 2014 as a two-day geek-off, it drew a mere 500 people.
Last year, the number rose to 1,000.
At first glance, this year's scaling back to a single-day event may seem an attempt to downsize.
But the focus on guest stars — including Edmonton native Eric Johnson, known for pivotal roles in TV's "Smallville," "The Knick," "Flash Gordon" and a starring role the upcoming Hollywood film "Fifty Shades Darker" — could push attendance over the top.
"It really is a phenomenon growing in leaps and bounds," notes Themuseum's chief executive officer, David Marskell, admitting that while he personally aspires to nerd-hood, "you have to be accepted."
"It's not just a fad or a trend. It's part of our community, and it's getting bigger."
Paying tribute to the many attendees dressed as characters from movies, books and video games, this year's event will feature a cosplay masquerade in addition to celebrity panels, meet-and-greets, gaming zones and a sword-building workshop.
The Tri-Con After Party follows at TWH Social, featuring nerd-inspired food and drinks and a performance by the Harry Potter themed band The Lovegoods.