so what makes a convention great?

Conventions have been one of my primary ways of socializing for a long time.  I started attending them in…I believe it was this convention in 1985, as I remember making a birthday card for Peter Davison and getting the chance (thanks to a fan club membership) to meet him at some point during the weekend.

(He’s very tall.)

When I moved to the Philly area, I started helping with very small conventions, and over the past *mumble* years I’ve been a volunteer on varied levels, including con guest liason and con planning committee.

Conventions work because we who attend and love them do so with the unspoken agreement to accept everyone.  My description of that is:  Every fan has a box of shiny that s/he carries around covered up and – by and large – unshared in the mundane world.  So when s/he gets to a convention, WOOHOO!  It’s a chance to open up that box!

The problem with that is you then have a hotel filled with people all excited about their boxes of shiny and often unable to appreciate each other’s shinies.

The first time I ran into this, it hurt my feelings. I was thinking, “Yay! We get to share our interests!” and then I realized that couldn’t happen because the other person was very very focused on the joy of being able to really celebrate her shiny.

Within the world of fandom?  That’s ok.  It’s ok outside fandom, of course…my meaning here is that within fandom, within that atmosphere of accepting everyone, quirks and unconventional behaviors and all, it’s more ok.  And, given a chance to get the OMG out of her/his system?  True sharing will happen.  🙂

I get that the environment of conventions is changing, and that harassment is a huge issue.  Because I love conventions, I want to say, “No no, it can’t be that big a problem!”..but yes, I’ve been harassed at cons (NOT because of my costuming, ironically) and it’s caused me to not want to attend certain events anymore.  I think harassment policies are long overdue; I also think – as the above link illustrates – that you can’t just have a policy. You also have to have a staff that knows how to effectively deal with harassment issues.  And that’s a piece of the puzzle that’s being overlooked too often.

So when I say that we as fandom are accepting of everyone, I’m doing so while wearing a hefty pair of harassment-blinders.  That said, I still believe it’s a safe place where you can celebrate your geekery, dress up as you wish, and find like-minded people.

In some of the aftermath of Dashcon, I’ve seen people saying, “This was  great for cosplayers because they weren’t harassed!”  “This was awesome because I met other fans!”  Those *are* good things.  BUT.  You don’t have to pay a high-priced ticket or donate $17K to a con to have that experience.

This is a great, great list of 24 conventions..some pro-run, some fan-run…that is FAR from complete but is a great place to start looking for conventions that are relevant to your interests.

I’m gonna add a few more:

* Balticon – Located in Hunt Valley, MD, it’s one of my most favourite events.  Great costuming!  Great panels!  Wanna make a costume element and you’re not sure how to get started?  The costumers at Balticon put on some fantastic talks.  There’s a science track that’s well, well worthwhile.  There’s dancing, and gaming, and a video room, and a great art show…AND an auction that raises  money for the BSFS Books for Kids…**AND** there’s a writing contest for young authors!  I unabashedly love this convention.

* Interventioncon – Also located in Hunt Valley, there is something NOTHING out there like Interventioncon.  Quoth one of the co-chairs, Oni:

Intervention is different from every other event you have ever been to. Our name is the combination of the words “Internet” and “Convention” but the significance is deeper than that. The entire idea of this event is to Intervene and Inspire everyone to live a more creative, geeky, and fun life within the welcoming scope of a traditional geek convention.

 You KNOW you want in on this.  Go read more about it here, and for the love of God, find a way to get to this convention!

* Pi-Con – So you want to attend a con that isn’t all about guests, but rather is a celebration of geekery?  Get ye to Pi-Con!  I love this event.  It’s a modestly sized convention that each year features a “Guest of Awesome”…namely, someone from fandom that is surprised with a, “Hey! Wanna be our Guest of Awesome?”  (See?  Completely charming!)

There are way, way too many great conventions out there for me to even THINK about listing them all.  (Fortunately, I don’t have to…Nathan Lilly’s done that with his Convention Finder.)  The take-away here, the point I’m hoping to get across, is that fandom is AWESOME.  Conventions are AWESOME.  There are SO SO SO many GREAT events out there that show, in SO MANY WAYS, the things that happened earlier this month at Dashcon are *not* the norm and should *NOT* be what one expects – or forgives – from a convention.

That said, whichever convention you decide to attend should – hopefully – give you a taste of this:

(And with that, I return you to your regularly scheduled haunted house geekery…VERY VERY SOON!)

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