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…

Who We Stand With And What We Stand For

Fandom is a strange sort of magic. Strangers united under the same umbrella, bound by a love of things that are not always as physical as they are ethereal. Bound by things that the mainstream once deemed as frivolous and wasteful but which found their way into the mainstream. Suddenly the mainstream embraced things they once made laughed at. Suddenly the mainstream was learning about superheroes, and space operas and video game characters. Suddenly the mainstream knew about all sorts of minutia that would make some old school fans’ heads spin.

And maybe it was when it all went mainstream that fandom changed.

Maybe it was when it wasn’t all a secret, a club, a love that was shared by just a few that things started to spin out of control. Maybe it was that now that more eyes were on things, that more people were into things that that world of fandom expanded, that the plates moved and what was once one continent fractured and became many. Suddenly there were more voices and more ideas and more people who wanted to see themselves reflected in these fandoms that they had just discovered. Maybe it was that.

Or maybe it was that the fans just didn’t recognize one another anymore and in that they didn’t recognize themselves.

And here we are, with fandom a prism that of late is showing more of its nastier side than anything else.

And it is nasty.

I suppose it always was.

Any time you get passionate people together you will find a bedrock of meanness and nastiness because people have to be right, even if it’s just for the sake of being right.

Fandom is a vast chocolate bunny with nothing inside.

Well, but that isn’t true.

There’s nothing unless we put something there.

Right?

Right.

We have been watching fandom fall for a good many years now. Watched as the bullies came in. Watched as the molesters came in. Watched as the racists and sexists came in. We watched as they started trying to mold the culture of gaming and comics and sci-fi and other fandoms to their small interests so it better reflected their tiny world.

Too many of us watched and never stopped them.

And you had franchises bend to the will of these trolls. Reshaping things so that all fandoms mattered and that those who had been watching from the sidelines, who had finally started to see themselves reflected in these fandoms were told that they didn’t matter, that they should accept what they got, and if they didn’t like it then they can get the hell out.

Now, ah, now you have perhaps the cherry on the top of it all as San Diego Comic Con, the granddaddy of the comic conventions, changed the game. There’s been a sort of, dare I say ‘gentleman’s agreement’ that the phrase ‘comic con’ was just part of the language of the culture. Con meant convention. A comic con was a comics focused convention. Easy. With so many conventions now though the brand identity that San Diego felt it was owed was suddenly in question. Chicago and New York suddenly had large comic conventions and other ones were popping up as well, both large and small. A word that many attributed to the San Diego show had been taken as the buzzword for all conventions. San Diego wasn’t THE comic con now they were A comic con. Losing the luster of something they felt they had started the convention did what they felt they had to – they claimed ownership of the name ‘comic con’ and thus they betrayed the very fans they claim to serve. They betrayed the very culture they helped to create.

San Diego Comic Con’s need to protect their turf, as they seemed to look at it, slit the throat of decades of fandom.

It is the symbol of the times.

A cynical move done to protect the moment and not the culture.

There’s an aspect of fandom that has always been freewheeling and loose. Based on fans doing it with fans and for fans. Even as the shows got bigger the fans were at the heart of it all. Once the corporations got involved, as they inevitably do, everything changed.

And here we are. We find we have sworn our allegiances to companies and corporations and not to the ideas that impassioned us to begin with. We are more interested in the brand, the license, the tag than we are in one another and in celebrating our fandom. We have lost sight of the stories and films and people that inspired our passion. We have gotten caught up in the nonsense that other fans and companies have created. Here’s a secret – ANYONE can create a fan festiva.

ANYONE.

I know because I did it.

Will it be like Chicago, or New York, or San Diego, or any other big show?

Nope.

And it doesn’t have to be like those.

At all.

It started as a celebration of fans and fandom.

It can be about it again.

We can start celebrating ourselves and our passions again.

We can cheer for one another and for people who realize how impactful fandom is.

We don’t need celebrities or big shows.

We don’t need corporate validation.
We need our inspirations, our passion, and each other.

That’s it.

We have watched as the worst of us have taken over, as the corporations have taken over, and we have let self-appointed tastemakers decide what is good, cool, and worthy.

It’s time we took our fandoms back and took it back to being about dreams and dreamers and the excitement that unites those two factions.

It’s cool if you came for the comics, or the movies, or the costumes, or the stars, or whatever and as long as you celebrate what you love, then awesome. That’s what it’s about and there’s room for you at the table, no matter what the hardcore old schoolers say. If you come with hate or with ulterior motives then friend, that’s fuel that’ll burn out real fast and you’re gonna plummet to the ground like every con and fake and the rest of us will still be here, shining from the joy that only magic can bring, manmade or otherwise.

Fandom is ours and if we let someone take it from us then that’s on us.

That’s on us.

…c…

As A Fan – Pt. 2

I had the interesting opportunity this past weekend to check out a convention that wasn’t my ‘scene’ and it was fascinating.

I lean more towards horror conventions and comic conventions if the truth be told, though I VERY rarely go to shows as a fan. I like the fan experience but loathe crowds and never feel like I have the cash to just go and be a fan and not worry. And really, I like being a vendor. It’s a wholly difference experience but I have grown to like it.

Continue reading “As A Fan – Pt. 2”

As A Fan

So I write about conventions usually from the middle of the aisle.

I vend at shows, and I have run shows, and I have attended them. I have seen things from more than one angle. I started out though going to shows and while I don’t go to many anymore – lack of money and a preference to vend – I still consider myself a consumer of shows and it drives me crazy when conventions cannot get the basics right.

It’s about the customer.

Again – it’s about the CUSTOMER.

Continue reading “As A Fan”

The Distance of Dreams

If you are lucky enough to have a dream in life you realize that eventually you must let that dream go. It doesn’t mean that you failed or that the dream failed but that you must move forward from that dream. The hope is that you got to live it, to some degree, and can move on with a feeling of some satisfaction. The truth though is that you never quite fulfill any dream fully because that’s just the nature of dreams.

Perfection does not exist and a dream usually demands perfection, or darn close to it or it wouldn’t be a dream, it’d be a goal.

Continue reading “The Distance of Dreams”