7 Questions to Never Ask at a Fan Convention

Kate Mulgrew, LeVar Burton, Jonathan Young, Sanctuary, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek, Star Trek: Voyager

This week I am deviating slightly from my usual chat topics. Over the weekend of August 3-5, I attended the Shoreleave 34 Convention with my daughter and two friends. Shoreleave is a fan run convention, focusing on TV Science fiction and fantasy programs, most notably Star Trek, which is where the name originated.

Over the years, I have attended different types of conventions; fan run, business run, large events, small events, signing events; one thing they mostly have in common is that there are stage talks by the guest celebrities. The exact format varies depending on the venue and the scope of the event, however.

For instance, when I attended Dragon Con a few years ago, because of the massive scale, the mega panels featured a moderator who asked all the questions of the celebrities. My understanding of Comic Con is that it is the same way. Smaller scale conventions or talks will set up microphones for fans to line up so they can ask their own questions. There are clearly pros and cons for both methods. And, in my opinion, there are certain types of questions that should never be asked at one of these conventions.

Asking a Star of Scifi TV How to Get the Space Program Restarted

James Kirk and Nomad - Star Trek

I think that in the excitement of attending one of these events, the fans sometimes forget that the stars are not necessarily geeks. Of course, there are some notable exceptions, such as Felicia Day and Wil Wheaton. However, consider that even James Kirk said “No, I’m from Iowa. I only work in outer space.” Something similar can be said of TV stars – they may work in science or science fiction shows, but their interests can also lie elsewhere.

Asking a Star of a Canceled TV Show When It Will Return or Why It Was Canceled

Tesla and Magnus - Sanctuary

In this instance, I am not talking about the case of fans that have not yet heard a program has been canceled – I’ll discuss that later! No, what I am talking about is a program such as Star Trek, which certainly has had a number of successful spinoffs. But, asking the star of one of these programs when the next spinoff, reboot, or reimagining will occur is pretty pointless.

Similarly, in most cases, the reason a show was canceled is not revealed to the cast, unless it is something simple like ratings or money. So, asking them why will likely only receive a shrug of the shoulders and an “I don’t know” for an answer. It is true that sometimes the star will speculate on possible reasons, but that is not common.

Asking Multiple Part Questions When the Line Is Pretty Long

Star Trek: The Next Generation Cast

When fans line up to ask questions, it is simple courtesy to not dominate the format by asking two or three part questions. Most people realize that they can’t ask a bunch of questions so they shade it as “a two parter.” I will admit that many of us, me included, have many questions that we would like to ask, but it is very selfish to not yield the floor to the next person in line. If you have multiple burning questions, you can always go to the back of the line to ask you next question. That way everyone that wants to ask something gets a fair chance!

Telling Your Long Personal Story to the Star on Stage

Star Trek: Voyager Cast

I have found the guest stars to be very polite during the Q&A (question and answer) sessions, unless they are trying to be snarkily funny, so when someone gets up to ask a question, and prefaces it with a 5 minute explanation of their personal history, the guest stars will typically listen quietly. However, the rest of the audience is all thinking the same thing; I can guarantee it – “get to the point and ask your question!” Sometimes the guest star will say something like “Is there a question in here?” but not always. Perhaps it is best to think of your question as a tweet, with a limited number of characters available!

Continuing to Ask a Question When an Evasive Answer is Given

LeVar Burton

It is likely that if a star is giving an evasive answer to your question, he or she does not want to answer it. Some stars can turn it around and make it funny. This also happened at Shoreleave. A fan asked LeVar Burton a question, and he gave an answer worthy of a politician – very vague and evasive. The fan persisted in asking, trying to get him to answer. Finally, he said something along the lines of, “Why are you still asking this question? I’m not going to answer it any more than I already have.” Do you really want to be the fan that gets that kind of response from a star?

Asking Personal Questions

Kate Mulgrew

We all want to be personal friends with our favorite stars, and even I can fall prey to this trap. But, we are not, and therefore asking them personal questions during a Q&A will guarantee a non response or evasive answer from a star. If you really must ask this type of question, wait for the autograph line and ask it then. But don’t be disappointed if you do not get an answer!

Asking What Is Coming Next On a Show

Jonathan Young

There are a couple of reasons why this is a bad idea. First and foremost is that people working on TV shows are under contract to not reveal upcoming content. I’m not sure if fans are hoping that the stars will slip and they will get a scoop, or just expect that they will share some secret because they asked about it.

Another reason to not ask this is because it can reveal that you are unaware that the show has been canceled. This happened at Shoreleave twice during a Q&A for Jonathan Young, who had a recurring role on Sanctuary as Nikola Tesla. I know it can be hard to keep up on all the latest news about every TV show, but it really can make you look foolish if you ask this question in these circumstances.


So there it is; my list of questions that should never be asked. Have you attended a convention and heard these questions? Do you have favorite bad questions from your own experience? Please share in the comment section below!