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Convention Attention: Are Conventions Really That Important?

This month’s Convention Attention column is an open discussion thread. Your responses will help shape what I talk about in upcoming months.

Here are your discussion questions:

  1. Is attending conventions* important?
  2. Why or why not?
  3. Who should attend them?

Sound off in the comments!

* By “convention”, I mean any regional, national, or international Convention, be it fan-organized or media sponsored (like a ComiCon), be it big or small, be it writing-focused, specific fandom-focused, or general. I’m not picky.

About Andrea Johnson (99 Articles)
Andrea Johnson also blogs over at where she reviews science fiction and fantasy novels and talks about other nerdy stuff. She's also an interviewer at Apex Magazine. Her apartment looks like a library exploded, and that is how it should be.

11 Comments on Convention Attention: Are Conventions Really That Important?

  1. I think going to conventions serve several purposes:

    1, the planning, saving of money that would go elsewhere, having a goal.
    2. the excitement of doing something different than work or school.
    3. being surrounded by people who react in a similar way with you about fandoms instead of being confused or polite about it.

    Who should attend them? the fans of the conventions themselves for chance to see something they normally wouldn’t see. To create memories that they can look back on.

    If we didn’t have conventions, we wouldn’t be able to meet new people who like what we like. There would be resentment or depression over not having something unique for ourselves while other people have their own unique thing.

    Plain and simple, it’s a positive outlet for geeky/nerdy fans to enjoy themselves.

  2. Until last October, I hadn’t attended a convention since the mid-80’s. Why? Family, work, money, time. Conventions moved away from what interested me (if I had more time, money and less family commitments, I might attend a more literary focused convention, but the time is tight, the money is tight and the family needs help).

    Last October I attended Honorcon and had a great amount of fun. It doesn’t look like I’ll attend this year’s Honorverse convention or the World Fantasy Convention due to (family, time, money, choose any three).

    But you know…SF Signal is like a convention. Heck, Twitter is like a convention. (Maybe Facebook is like a convention, but like Patrick Hester likes to point out on a regular basis, I don’t use it anymore.)

    Life is like a bowl of cherries. We are all Shakespeare. What is the sound of one hand clapping?

    (The last three items brought to you by a lack of coffee.)

  3. Conventions were an important part of my growing up. By having organized social events with “my kind” – I was allowed a normal adolescence. I went to dances, went to parties and had the social life every teenager should have, that I would have been excluded from had I not been involved in fandom.

  4. I think “important” can have different meanings. Is it important in the grand scheme of the universe? No, of course not. Could it be personally meaningful and a great time (which is definitely important)? Sure! It may even be good for business, depending on what you do.

    Anyone who wants to go should attend a convention. I think it can be especially relevant for people who have far-flung friends they only get to see at cons, or people whose day-to-day lives leave them feeling isolated. Of course, I mentioned business above, and I am going to go so far as to say that I think fewer people should attend with any goal of making money. Networking is about building relationships and that means having fun together at a con, most likely. Nobody is going to want to be your friend or become your “brand evangelist” if you annoy them from the first moment you meet them.

    This is a good one in the lead-up to one of my favourite local conventions, Ad Astra (less than two weeks!).

  5. Attending a sci-fi convention as a sci-fi fan is analogous to attending an NFL game as a football fan – a way to elevate a level of attachment and interaction with what we love by doing it with hundreds or thousands of people who feel the same way we do. (Also, both typically involve spending excessive money and, often, drinking adult beverages.) In fact, put the 501st Legion in the same room with a bunch of Klingon cosplayers and something very much like a Jets/Giants vibe starts to permeate the air.

    There are plenty of NFL fans who have never and will never attend an NFL game, just as there are many Star Trek fans who have never been to a Trek convention, or fans of Beyonce who have never seen her perform live. They are no less fans for not having gone, but those that attend usually feel far more of a connection to their fandom for having been there in person. I think that connection is worthwhile — to the point that I help run my own local convention — but I’m not sure important is right word.

    The NFL would likely be nearly as popular if the games were played in closed stadiums with no audiences — comparatively few hit music albums are recorded live in concert — but I wonder if it would be as vital. Science fiction is more popular than ever, as are major fan conventions, but I think the first causes the second, rather than vice versa. Conventions help invigorate the genre, but the genre itself has been and will be just fine even if conventions mutate into some unrecognizable form or disappear entirely. Sci-fi is a genre of imagination, and imagination is eternal.

    • Agree with most of what you are saying, Jay, but as a lifelong Packers fan, nothing beats sitting in Lambeau Field watching the Pack!

      • As a lifelong Louisville Cardinals fan, I would say the same thing about watching them at the Yum Center. I would also say, as a lifelong geek, nothing beats sitting five feet from Jim Lee at Comic-Con or having Walter Koenig buy we dinner. It’s much the same.

  6. The only reason I’ve attended conventions is to meet specific people – friends or authors. Social media, email and the like is all well and good, but there is nothing quite like sitting face to face. I believe that is true in anything, not just conventions (and have the Continental/United miles and butt calluses to Europe and Asia to prove it).

    The only reasons I went to LoneStarCon3 was to meet the SFSignal folks I hadn’t met in person (I see JD all the time and needed a break from that) and to meet and interview the legendary James Gunn (whose sharp and incisive mind one just wouldn’t experience via email exchange). Both of those interactions, and random meetings with folks like Harry Turtledove, were well worth the price of travel, time and admission.

    I must admit to shedding a small tear knowing that Fred was not going to be at LoneStarCon3…so I ordered pancakes for him at the SFSignal IHOP gathering and ate them in his honor.

  7. I agree with many of the above comments.

    Despite having been a conrunner for a number of conventions (including the com for two Brit natcons) I have mixed feelings about cons.

    Long-standing friend is of the view that a convention is like a splendid banquet into which someone has smashed a glass. However, pick carefully and you can eat to your fill.

    These days I rotate cons to catch up with friends. I try to do a Eurocon at least once every 2-3 years as you get to see another country as a bonus.

    However Brit Eastercon and Worldcon fandom is seeing a strident (sometimes to the point of bullying as in the recent JR case) politically correct movement that I do not agree with (but they are entitled to their views) and so I have only been to a few of these the past decade. Fortunately fandom is big, so no problem there.

  8. For me, there are Fun Cons and Work Cons, and both serve very different functions. Fun Cons are places where I can get my geek on, go a little fangirl over people who have brought me my entertainment (actors, artists, etc.), and generally kick back. These are important in the way that a weekend at the lake or some other recreational getaway is important to people who are into that sort of thing.

    Work Cons are where I go to meet other professionals in my field and generally do things to goose my livelihood. These are important in that most of my professional accomplishments trace back to personal connections I’ve made at these functions, and regular attendance helps me solidify my relationships with colleagues and meet new people.

    Each con has its own flavor and audience, so “who should go” depends a lot on which con and what the person wants out of it. Someone wanting to geek out about comics is probably better served going to a Wizard World than to a literary con that brought in an astronomer as a science GoH. Doesn’t mean one con is inherently better than the other.

    While I have found some measure of professional success through connections I’ve made at work cons, that is by no means the only way to go about it. It was the way that has worked for me, but professional success can be had without con-based networking. Someone who isn’t a “people person” might find cons doing more harm that good professionally.

  9. Comicon provides an escape and camaraderie amongst peoples to share their similar interests.

    The TED conference, on the other hand, is elitist. 1st you have to be invited, and prepared to foot the bill. When it costs $7500 to listen to Bill Gates speak, you wonder if the money can be better spent elsewhere.

    I’d take Comicon over TED any day. Super Heroes vs Super Stars.

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