The Con Game (OR How Not to Fix Comic and Culture Conventions by Bitching)

Now, far be it from me to have an opinion on something like, oh, doing conventions, but I have done a few now – close to ten, I forget how many, to be honest, but closer to ten and since 1994, with some years of not doing them in between – but, well, I have some opinions.

I recently had the pleasure of doing another convention – second of the year, both small, both more fun than profitable but both genuinely fun – but the convention, as they all do,  brought up a lot of points that I figured it’d be good to make. For me, doing conventions is, more than anything, a chance to meet the people I hope to sell to. Generally I want to break through to the main stream, as that’s the way  you make a living at your passion, but cons are fun to do to make contact with people in person, to meet artists, and to just be around creative people. As much fun as they are though, they can always be better. Always.

But here is the thing, a thing I have seen a lot of lately from one of the guests – there is critique, there is suggestion, then there is being an asshole. Me, I choose to give suggestions and critiques. I don’t figure I know it all, and I don’t figure that any con is perfect, but I know what I see, I know what I feel, and I figure it never hurts to relay that. As a vendor, I see things the creators don’t, and have my own point of view since I am a writer, and have done all manner of cons and bazaars and what not. And I know creative people, so that helps. Ah, but then there are people who find it better to yell, and shout, and complain to get their point across. Sure, their points might be salient but it gets lost in the bluster. Cripes, I know I can get endlessly frustrated at cons but I never try to take it out on the people running them becaxuse I don’t know how hard it is to do them. Shit, they want a successful con more than I do, I’d wager, so there isn’t a need to treat them like kids. Or assholes. I hate that, more than anything. People who figure that, if they yell – even in a blog – that they’ll get their point across. And I guess I figure we’re all at least pretending to be professionals so it makes more sense to keep your more pointed comments between you and the intended person so you can keep it, you know, professional.

Ah, but these cons. I am still, after all these years, trying to figure the perfect way to do them. I mean, it’s clear that comic conventions are not the place to try to sell fiction. That doesn’t mean I won’t keep trying but seriously, comic cons are weird things. People come to see the celebs more than the artists and creators, and that’s cool as hell as that was why I always went, so you just have to get past that and push on. After the celebs though, you have all these comic creators who either look like carnies or aloof ARTISTEs, either pushing too hard to hawk their goods or seeming too disinterested to really engage you. For me, I never looked at stuff because I never could afford more than what I came for, so I always avoided artist alley. The older I get, and more aritsts I meet, the more I want to check the stuff but, it’s still awkward. I know, like they do, that you are there to sell, they are there to sell, and it makes me feel bad that I can’t buy. Again though, for me, I love people taking interest in what I am doing. It is cool to try to talk to people about WHAT I am doing. Now, I am awful at that part of it, for real. I just, I dunno how to tell people without feeling I am preaching or selling. But it’s fun to get that connection. If I had a suggestion, it would be to keep pros (as if I am some schlub that doesn’t take it seriously ’cause it isn’t my sole income, god do I hate that distinction) and amateurs and semi pro people together, mixed together, so that we all get the same exposure. And, really, let’s try to showcase more of the ‘nobodies’. You have to cater to the established people ’cause, well, they are your bread and butter, but, hell, if you don’t try to help the indie people grow then who the hell will?

Ah, and there is the rub, for me – who WILL help we, the creators? Each other, that’s who. I am tired of the attitude, from high to low, that we are in it alone and have to fight to make the dollar. Really? Really? The fact that there is so much division among the creative community is one of the big damn problems. I love going to these conventions and seeing how many people never bother to walk the hell around. Hell, I am there to work, we all are, but if you are too big, busy, or stupid, to realize that we’re all in this together. A big part of the appeal to do these things is to meet other passionate people who are trying to do the same thing that I am doing. And dammit WE know what would make these cons work better and if we have ideas we should share them. And if we will help one another, then the cons will be more successfur for everyone. Go fig.

Ah, celebrities. I love them. I love conventions because you get a chance to see some funky celebs, past and present, and it’s a great chance to interact and meet them. I have some awesome memories of interacting with people whose work I admired. Ah, those times have changed. Too many of these supposed celebs are in it for the money, and it shows. And I can appreciate that these people travel, take time from their lives, and don’t take jobs so they can do these cons, so yeah, they should try to make a buck but it bothers me when it’s solely for the money. I have been to too many cons where the celebs are treated better than the rest of us, charge outrageous amounts of money, and make it so it’s all a cattle call – step up, pay, what’s your name, get a pic, and please move on. Uh, great. So why the hell are you here? Shit, more than me, these are the people there because of the fans, so, uh, why not give something back? Drop your damn prices, and be available to connect with. Good grief!

Different, that to me is what makes a con special, is being different. Now, this doesn’t mean that you change the formula that works but that you add to it, you make it unique and make it special. Shit, one of the rad things at World Horror Con was that, as far as I saw, anyone could book a room to present in. How rad is that? It is risky, sure, in that you want to make sure the person has something interesting to show, or say, but damn, why not more of that? Let the talent sell themselves. I am tired of the tales of the business that they always have. I am tired of the anecdotes. Tell me something different. Tell me something real. That would be something. So would having this be an event. Not just a show, but an event. Make it so full of stuff that people can’t see or do it all. THAT would be something too.

I could sincerely go on and on with my ideas and thoughts on conventions because I am so passionate about what they CAN be. I have been to really good ones, and a couple lame ones and the lame ones were the really big shows that have been around so long the people behind them are lazy. This is something rare and special and should be treated as such. Sure, we may seem the same people at them all but that’s why you give the show more going on. The best thing that happens at these shows is the moment when a creator or a fan gets the revelation of – oh my god. And that OMG can be about selling something, meeting someone, touching a life, or just realizing that this is what you want to do with your life. It’s about connecting. I have done these things for a long damned time, and even I forget how long, and the one thing I get tired of are the people who go as guests who whine about things but rarely work to change them. We should spend more time supporting and encouraging one another and less bitching about shit we can’t change. A convention should never make or break you, it should add to what you are already doing. And shit, if we can make these things fun again and the people will start coming back. It’s not about economy, it is about fun factor. Have that and you have the people.

And you will have me, for sure.

…c…

Author: Chris Ringler

Writer, blogger, reviewer, artist, arts and cultural events coordinator, and semi-professional weirdo. Author of a heap of books from horror to fairy tale to kid's.

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