The Big Con

I think over the years I have been writing in this blog that it’s clear enough that I love conventions. As far as I can figure, Fangoria’s WEEKEND OF HORRORS was my first (and second), with the Motor City Comic Conventions coming after and by then I was hooked. I loved conventions, the WEEKEND more than anything, because it did two things – it brought together all of these misfits that were into the fringe pop culture stuff (horror), and it let us meet the people who inspired and impassioned us. At their best, conventions are a place where dreams and passions come together. At their best they are a place for people to find that they are not alone in their weirdness, in their hobby, and that they can find the best friends they have ever known. At their best, cons give us opportunities to show off our talents, sell our wares, and become the next generation’s inspirations.

At their worst, conventions become an example of the shortened form of the name – a con. High vendor fees, high autograph and photo fees, high entry fees, high parking fees, lines, congestion, fees to enter this or that or those. The convention becomes a vampire, feeding on the fans ruthlessly. We are starting to see this more and more as cons have turned from fan gatherings to businesses with employees, CEOs, boards, and on and on. Too many voices, too many hands, and too much cost.

Having been to a few bigger shows, I am not going to damn them all because it’s only at these bigger shows that you see the bigger named guests. It’s only at the bigger shows that you get the wide variety of art, craft, comic, movie, and book. It’s only at these big shows that you find some of the cooler and weirder art and geek goodie. The thing though is that there are just too many huge shows. Everyone seems to want to have the huge show to bring in more money. Those shows have become their own worst enemies. They put a big show on to get bigger guests, which means more crowds, which means more money. But the thing is that there is always more, more, more. More guests, bigger guests, bigger space, bigger displays and the more you add the more you have to charge. It’s a beast that demands to be fed and is never full.

Which is not to say that I don’t love big shows. I do, but I think that in the push for these huge shows we are forgetting that it’s the smaller shows that keep fandom going. It’s the shows that get friends together and let people interact. The smaller shows let fans speak with people working in industries they may be interested in. The smaller shows showcase the foundational people that make the genres we love, the people that get left behind and forgotten. Sure, it’s boss to meet that guy in that thing that’s done other things and did OUR thing too but isn’t it better to show someone that actually cares about the genre you love some love of their own? Smaller shows let us get closer to the creators of our dreams and nightmares and there’s something special about that.

Ideally we’d have a mix of larger shows with smaller shows as the foundation. Now, saying that, that’s what I WISH but that’s not reality. Even as a fan I look for the bigger shows more than the smaller ones but part of that is that there aren’t that many small shows anymore. Small shows need funding that isn’t always there. Small shows need people who are willing to put the work in to make them happen and brother, that’s asking a lot of anyone. And let’s face it, as popular as comics and genre works are now they are still on the outer rim of the norm and as such will never be full embraced by the masses. Bigger shows the now the entry point for most folks now so that smaller shows serve to reinforce the fandom and inspire the casual fans.

We are forgetting, far too easily, that conventions were created for fans and as opportunities for fans to celebrate that fandom. Money is an integral part of these shows – they cost money put them on and it costs money to get autographs, pics, art, or what have you. There’s way to do all of it though that makes fans fee less like human ATMs and more like a part of something bigger. Those shows are out there, inclusive shows that serve the fans first, but they are getting harder and harder to find.

For the same of fandom, I hope those shows start taking over the discussion more and that the fans start to embrace the smaller shows for the good of us all.

…c…

The Dark Days

Being just shy of forty-five, I have worked a lot of jobs.

A lot of jobs.

I started working when I was a teenager, doing occasional yard work for a neighbor for $5 an hour, which at the time seemed pretty amazing. From there I worked with my sister cleaning a couple offices my dad was connected to and I have worked every since. I grew up a spoiled kid but not one that didn’t appreciate that you had to work in life.

That’s just how the system is.

So, I worked.

Which is not to say that I LOVED work but that I did what I had to do, even working three jobs, seven days a week, for a brief run.

Through all those jobs, all that time, I had never really been fired.

I had been essentially laid off when there wasn’t a need for me but it was a matter of – we’re closing the store – or – we just can’t afford to keep you. Which isn’t a great feeling, but it’s one that I could shrug off.

I had never really been fired, not even when I wasn’t brought back on an interim job. It was frustrating and angering but the term of service ended and I wasn’t brought back, that was it.

I had never been fired.

Not until six months ago.

It was a job that I didn’t love, that I didn’t excel at, and that I didn’t feel like I fit doing but it was a job and at my age, that’s the prison we put ourselves in. The hell of it was that the people I worked with were pretty nice, I liked the work we were doing, and it was good to be part of something working in the community. I went into something I didn’t know, didn’t quite understand, and wasn’t fully trained for and did the best I could.

It wasn’t good enough.

And I get it.

I got it.

I saw the writing on the wall long before the big day but it didn’t make it easier. It’s hard to give a damn when you know you are doomed. It’s hard to help when you know that your time is almost up. I had gone through the drawn-out death of my mother and then the awful death of a puppy we had just adopted and then work started to go downhill and it’s hard to keep your head up when you are drowning.

The worst of it was how it went down.

How isolating it felt.

How needlessly cruel.

How I knew I was about to be fired when I was told I was requested for a meeting with my boss on Tuesday for the coming Friday.

Everyone knows what Friday meetings are.

I hated the game.

I had to be a part of firing someone in the program I was an admin on who had been caught stealing.

I was going to be expected to attend a full staff meeting of our division the day before I was to be fired.

It was like there was a secret that I had overheard.

And when it happened, and it was all done, the year and change I had worked there, with these people, was gone.

I was gone.

A break-up like any other.

Gone.

 

I had been unemployed before, been in the system before, but not for the duration. Not until it ran out.

They definitely made it easier, made it more streamlined than it used to be, but it’s still a huge system that you fall into and try to navigate.

How people are expected to survive on unemployment I can’t say. Were I not married and with an understanding father that owns the house we’re paying off, I’d have been on the street.

 

It’s funny to read about how great the job market when we live in a gig economy. When we live in a time where people have to get multiple jobs to make things work. Hey, it’s a ‘gig economy’, we hear. It’s awesome to have to be a cab driver with no union, and using your own car. I have been looking for work, with a Bachelor’s Degree and years of work in professional offices, and I still can’t even get interviews.

I am at a point where I have started to look for work far below what I want or need to live because I am out of time and out of hope. I started to sell some things. I lucked into a side gig for a moment. I applied and applied and applied, to over a hundred jobs in six months hoping something would come through. And it gets laughable, the things these places want for what they pay. Wanting administrative assistants to do work like website maintenance or marketing when those are professions on their own. It’s like there’s no investment in people any longer. The market shrunk and now it’s a buyer’s market. The idea that adults can live off of part time work, can survive without benefits or insurance, and can thrive on temporary work is insane.

We don’t care about the worker any longer though, it’s all about the corporate persona and its ever hungry leadership as they consume the wages and drive the company into the grave.

And when that company dies, the leadership pulls their golden parachute and heads off to another company to suck on its blood.

Wages haven’t grown.

Opportunity hasn’t grown.

The only growth is at the top.

We are no longer people, we are a collection of jobs and skills and people who know people.

We aren’t seen as investments, we are seen as parts for a larger machine which are easily changed out.

It’s nuts.

And I sit here, scouring ads looking for jobs that make sense, that I can do, that I might be able to get, and the hole feels deeper and deeper and deeper.

The past year has been an utter nightmare that I can’t find an end to.
I know it will end.

I know I will get through it but I just don’t know how or when or how I survive it.

It’s heartbreaking to know that all of my hard work, experience, and time has led to a dead end. It’s a shame that we’ve turned the workplace into a grinder, a beast that must be fed at all costs.

It’s a shame that we’ve accepted this ‘gig economy’ as normal.

I have yet to find the bottom of this hole but like every hole it will have one and from there I can only go up.

Sharing the Love

I have a couple friends who are prolific writers and awesome people and wanted to help them get the word out about their newest efforts.

 

Paul Counelis has written a LOT of stuff, has written for RUE MORGUE, and is as passionate about writing as you can get.

His newest book –

We Dare The Night To Condescend

 

My friend Lucifer Fulci is also a prolific author, mainly of dark fiction but he also has a book for kids out. His newest is definitely not for the kids.

Blasphemy