Cons - why we do it and what we want?

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Title: Cons - why we do it and what we want?
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Date(s): November 19, 1996
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Cons - why we do it and what we want? is a 1996 essay on Virgule-L. It is excerpted here on Fanlore anonymously with permission.

Some Topics Discussed

From the Essay

I've been going to media conventions since the second-to-last Scorpio (I can never remember what year that was -- mid/late eighties?), and to sf cons since 1982. I love 'em. Most recently I've been to Escapade, ZebraCon, ]]MediaWest]], and Virgule.

What do I love about 'em? Primarily the chance to see friends (and make friends). A con in which I didn't get to hang out and talk madly with people about fannish pursuits (and -- gasp -- Real Life) would be a pretty sad con for me. (This means that I'm more likely to go to cons that my friends are also going to; many of my friends live on the other side of the continent -- or the ocean -- from me, so I don't get to see them much outside of cons and rare trips). I carry pen and paper with me wherever I go at a con, to note down people's names and addresses and what I've promised to send them and what they're promised to send me and the title of the zine they recommended and the room number of their party and and so on.

I like panel discussions when they're good (I suppose that's tautological). Often, however, I don't go to panels, because I'm already having a wonderful fannish conversation, so why should I break it off to go to another one that might not be as good? I haven't been to a MediaWest panel in about three years, and I haven't been to a MediaWest panel I wasn't on in even longer. On the other hand, Escapade tends to have really interesting panel discussions. (Hint to panel programming organizers: having a topic like "Highlander" or "Quantum Leap" or "Name Of Show" generally tends to make for boring panels IMHO. Having a substantive question to be addressed, especially if it can be addressed in many fandoms or contexts, interests me more: "When the hero is a villain," or "buddy pairs in group shows," or something. NOTE: I made those topics up for the sake of illustration; I'm not proposing them, and I reserve the right to decide tomorrow that they bore me.) I also like panel topics that inquire into fandom itself. I have loved Escapade's panels on the phenomenon of fan pairs, on the history of fandom, on academia and fandom, etc.

I like cons as places to buy zines. Since I got out of active B7 fandom I haven't really bought zines through the mail, except from presses/editors whose work I know intimately and whose taste I trust. In a dealers' room I can flip through a zine and get a sense of what it's like and whether I want to buy it (and yes, excessive whitespace and typos matter to me. But that's another topic of discussion entirely). Although I had a wonderful time at Virgule, it saddened me that the dealers' room was so small and, from my PERSONAL perspective, poorly stocked; I ended up buying a gen novel I'd read on loan many years before, partly so that I could come back from the con with at least *one* zine I hadn't written myself! Otherwise it just would have felt *wrong.* Go to a con and not buy zines? Impossible.

I like cons as places to see songtapes. I wish that the people showing the songtapes were easier to find and order from...

[snipped]

I do not generally watch episodes of shows at cons; I'm usually far too wired on adrenaline to sit still and stare wordlessly at a screen for that long.

I like cons as places where fandom comes together and defines itself by its own actions and intrarelationships. So in addition to all the above, I like fan plays and other performances, especially when they comment on fandom itself ("not that there's anything wrong with that!"). Getting to be in the ZebraCon play last year was a highlight of con-going for me.

I like staffing a dealers' table, as it gives me a way to interact with a whole lot of people, ones I know and ones I don't, as they come by my high-visibility but seated and usually fairly comfy position. For much the same reason -- plus the power (I only said it so my staff wouldn't!) -- I like working on cons. I run the artshow at Escapade, and usually the charity auction at ZebraCon, run or auction at MediaWest, and generally volunteer to help out, in the art show or elsewhere, at any con I go to.

It is certainly nice when a con suite is stocked with yummy food (and not just junk food -- I try to avoid the chip & dip style of dining, especially at cons when I'm run ragged on adrenaline and no sleep and need to treat my body gently), but it doesn't make or break a con for me.

[snipped]

It's probably clear from much of the above that I don't go to cons to see actors or other pro guests. I've always considered them an optional extra in fandom, but certainly not the point, and in some cases -- like slash cons -- they actively get in the way. Although I do occasionally get interested in an actor and try to track down other films of his, and so forth, I'm not really interested in meeting them in the highly-artificial environment of a con.... Although I do find myself blindsided every now and then with a flood of interest in some juicy actor gossip, or jealousy of a friend who has actually established a genuine friendship with an actor, I wouldn't go to a con to see one, and I certainly wouldn't pay extra for the privilege. (B7 cons used to have a special "sponsor" category of member; if you kicked in serious money toward the costs of bringing the guests over, you got to come to a special dinner with them. I couldn't understand the mindset of people who did that. Didn't they realize that they could have bought *zines* with that money? Oh, well -- my fandom's okay, your fandom's okay.)

References