Crowdsourcing the Convention: What Makes a Convention ‘Worth Going To’?
As you may recall from the first column in this series, I’m a rookie programming director for ConGlomeration 2011, and I’m relying on the (ahem) valuable feedback of SF Signal readers to direct some or all the programming decisions I make for the convention. Which brings me — somehow — to Lou Anders, and to Comic-Con, and to the entire point of small science fiction conventions.
Mr. Anders, you see, dropped a minor bombshell on the first SF Signal podcast when he professed that Comic-Con and Dragon*Con are more important than WorldCon or the World Fantasy Convention.
“My world used to revolve around World Fantasy and WorldCon. I no longer attend World Fantasy, and I will probably not attend WorldCons any year they’re dumb enough to schedule opposite Dragon*Con.”
Bear in mind that Anders was speaking as a professional editor. He gets much more value out of the critical mass of talent and fans available at Dragon*Con or Comic-Con than would the average attendee simply because it lets him do the most possible business in the shortest possible time. But it also bespeaks a larger issue: DragonCon and Comic-Con are growing, WorldCon and World Fantasy are shrinking. It’s not just pros like Anders that prefer the great geek pilgrimage conventions: fans are voting with their feet and their wallets, and they’re voting for megacons over the older or more intimate conventions.
So where does that leave the small regional conventions like ConGlomeration? What makes a convention “worth going to” for you and your fellow geeks?
For Anders, he has professional ambitions that only a megacon can adequately serve. But for the average fan, how many guests is enough? How many fellow attendees are necessary? How well known must the convention be?
Something tells me those are the wrong questions. I refuse to believe that designing and staging a successful convention is strictly a numbers game.
I know part of our problem is that geek culture is in ascendence. In the 1970s and 1980s we had to organize our fandom into tiny resistance cells, sharing our secret love of comics and movies and books and costumes away from the judging eyes of the world. Today we have whole cable networks devoted to feeding us our desired programming, innumerable scores of websites serving up our preferred media, multibillion-dollar movie and game studios pumping out blockbusters to amuse us, and Comic-Con gets nonstop international TV coverage every year. We no longer have to congregate in off-rate hotel spaces to plan the geek revolution. We won.
But we still want to gather and share our collective nerd interests. I’m asking why we get together, and what makes those gatherings worthwhile.
ConGlomeration will be defined in large part by your answer to this question (no pressure): What makes a science fiction and fantasy convention worth going to?
See you in the comments section.
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