I’ve attended conventions off and on for the past ten years. However, the cons I’ve attended, whether small and local or bringing pilgrims from near and far, have definitely all been of a certain “type.” You know the kind I mean – the ones where the first question out of your mouth is, “Who are the celebrity guests?” Sure, there are dealers and panels and other activities, but the media stars are the real draw.
My perception of cons is colored heavily by the media guests – how the con handles the crowds one guest draws, whether they make their policies on pictures and signatures clear up-front.
I volunteered for many years at cons, so I’ve often seen all that mess from the other side of the table. There’s a certain “face” to convention fans – the excitement, hope and exhaustion of a fan waiting to meet their favorite star, or the hardened look of professional Ebay signature sellers. Honestly, it’s kind of easy to get jaded or burnt-out from cons.
This past weekend I was able to catch part of a different type of con. I was meeting some friends, so I wasn’t attending strictly as a fan, and frankly, I was kind of apprehensive. This was not a convention centered around people from TV or movies; frankly, I wondered if it would be boring. I mean, if you’re not spending chunks of time standing in a line or ogling the guests from afar, how long would my attention be held by everything else?
To put it simply, I was wrong. This con had the most jam-packed schedule I had ever seen. In addition to dances and parties late at night, the day was a never-ending revolving door of panels (near as I could tell, all fan-run), several of which were held at once, so you really had to decide what you wanted to focus on. There were demonstrations and blood drives and singalongs and game rooms. And, of course, more costumes and corsets than you could shake a stick at.
It slowly began to dawn on me, the difference with this type of con. People looked… lighter. No one had that haunted look people get when their celebrity cancels at the last minute or cuts off the autograph line or just turns out to be a jerk. No one had that look you get when your adrenaline has spiked and now you’re crashing down.
People were there, in full costume, to simply be there with other fans, and maybe do a little shopping. They were going to panels because they just wanted to talk about what they love.
There was something sort of pure and joyful about it. Maybe my heart had become a little jaded to conventions, though I hadn’t realized it. Maybe this trip restored it a little.
Don’t get me wrong; there’s still value in the bigger cons. It is neat to see what TV and movie actors look like in a real life, and I love meeting creators – authors and artists. And attending a panel with actual input from actors and creators, maybe even inside information, is always exciting.
But it was nice to be reminded of what a convention really is: a gathering of fans who want to celebrate their love of something together. Simple. Wonderful.