CHERNOBYL, Ukraine — Superfans of the acclaimed HBO historical miniseries Chernobyl gathered for the first annual ChernobylCon fan convention last weekend, leaving at least 47 dead and many more subjected to severe radiation poisoning.
The convention took place in the shadow of the Chernobyl disaster site, a destroyed nuclear reactor that still emits extremely high levels of radiation. Fans traveled from all over the world to meet each other and show off their costumes and collectibles.
“Just watching the show might be enough for some people, but for the real nerds, the canon is only the starting point. The story really comes alive when you live it,” said Jackie Vera, turning on her authentic Soviet-era geiger counter, which began to click rapidly. “Whoa, just like the show!”
Besides getting to see locations from their favorite series, attendees were also excited to meet fellow self-described “Cherds” (Chernobyl nerds). Subreddit moderator Josh Willet complained that casual fans were not able to talk about the program with the same amount of depth.
“Take chief engineer Anatoly Dyatlov, for example. His characterization in the show was so complex, it totally went over most people’s heads,” said Willet, who spent the weekend attempting to find a way through the protective barrier surrounding the reactor core. “In one sense, Anatoly is a villain for pushing the reactor too hard. But like, at the same time, the system is the villain. I know it’s confusing — watch the whole series a few times, maybe you’ll start to see what I mean.”
There was noticeable tension on Sunday, however, when a group of fans arrived at the site wearing protective radiation suits. Willet complained that their costumes broke with series lore, which includes a Soviet supply shortage that caused untold deaths in 1986.
“This is how a Con gets ruined. All these casuals show up for some Instagram posts and never really engage with the culture. Fucking tourists,” Willet explained while hammering at a crack in the concrete radiation shield. He paused to throw up blood. “This isn’t San Diego.”
As of this morning, Willet and 46 others had perished after finding a way inside the reactor, where they reportedly acted out a fan-written Chernobyl script in which all their favorite characters are polyamorous.
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