September 4th, 2013


Worldcon v. DragonCon

So the two big conventions of my fandom just wrapped up, and a lot of people have things to say about them. I gather from mzmadmike's comments on FB that the dealer's room at D*C was...less than optimal, shall we say, and the concom's reaction to the complaints ran somewhat along the lines of "Oh yeah? Well, wait until NEXT year, you ungrateful bastards!" My personal take on D*C is that if you go there (even now that the alleged pedophile is gone) you ought to be aware that you're paying someone so you can have fun, because it's a for-profit con, so once they have your money they could really care less what you think, and if you don't come back next year, then so what? There's thousands more where you came from. Literally. D*C is HUEG LIKE XBox, very nearly on the scale of SDCC, which I have zero interest in attending either, because I have better things to do than wait in lines so I can get in other lines - even assuming my legs would hold me up that long, about which I have my doubts. I'll stick to smaller cons, thanks.

On the other side of the fence, michaellee linked to a couple of blog posts by Chuck Wendig and Andrea Phillips bemoaning a number of things they don't like about Worldcon, mainly:

  1. The lack of young people

  2. The lack of ethnic minorities

  3. The lack of media/anime/YA programming

  4. The expense

  5. The way the Worldcon is run (the SMOF problem)

I am sure I'm going to surprise nobody when I say my gut reaction to all of these is "Quit bitching and start organizing." Stomping off to Dragon*con is not going to fix Worldcon or fandom in general any more than leaving angry "HELP HELP I'M BEING OPPRESSED" comments on somebody's blog1, because people have been doing these very things for decades, and we still have the same complaints year after year. Phillips's post in particular was especially irritating; apparently she felt that she should have been greeted in a warm bath of fannish embraces and ushered into the Inner SMOF Councils despite apparently not knowing a damn thing about SF before she was born or exerting any effort to find out how WSFS runs things. Which is not, by the way, some closely guarded secret available only to those who have submitted proof of their middle-aged Caucasian Protestant status, sacrificed five catgirls on the altar of John W. Campbell Jr., and memorized the entirety of Lovecraft's The Dream-Quest Of Unknown Kadath. Why, look: it's right here on the Internets. You want to change the Worldcon? Learn the rules and start getting all your friends together. The Old Guard isn't going to live forever, but why wait until they all die before you do something? I'm not saying it's going to be easy. You'll actually have to exert effort and spend money. A lot of money.

And speaking of money this was PARTICULARLY irritating:

Worldcon rewards people with social status for volunteering; the people who volunteer get to Be Somebody in the community. (Thus prioritizing people who have the relative privilege to spend that time on volunteer works and not, say, a second and third job, which is kind of a class issue with fandom and a whole other ball of wax. ...Let's pin that for another time.)

"...a class issue with fandom..." What the fuck? Who else is going to be actively involved in running conventions except people who can afford it? Listen, honey, SF fandom -and especially its conventions- has always been a bourgeois pursuit. It costs money to rent hotels and convention centers, and it takes time to attend concom meetings so you can organize and execute the convention - which as you point out in a stunning example of cognitive dissonance, is not exactly possible if you're working two or three jobs.2 Dragging Marxist pseudo-analysis into this accomplishes nothing besides obfuscating the issue and making people like me think you're an idiot. Theoretically, you can pay staff members to work on a convention so they don't need a second/third job, but you better be ready to justify that to concom staff who AREN'T going to be so "privileged", to say nothing of the IRS, which has not been in the warm mood lately when it comes to non-profits. It's a disaster waiting to happen, unless you want to go the for-profit route, at which point good luck getting volunteers. Yeah, everything ought to be free and equal and wonderful, a Utopia of fandom - only it's not. It never has been, never will be, and any attempt to operate as if it were will end in tears and (very likely) lawsuits.

Everything starts with getting involved. If you can't afford to get involved, then too bad. You're going to be on the outside looking in, and as they say in Holy Mother Russia, tough shitsky. SF fandom has managed to stagger along, getting older and greyer (except where it isn't) and whether the media fans want to admit it or not, the entire expanse of media and anime are rooted in the soil originally plowed and sowed by guys like Hugo Gernsback, John W. Campbell, and Fred Pohl, who came up with the ideas that became stories that became TV shows and movies and comics and actual STUFF in this world of ours. And maybe if you took the time to read some of that, you'd be better informed and inspired to do new things yourself. It wouldn't hurt.

1 Or making LiveJournal posts, for that matter. :v
2 Which is why I'm not on staff at any of the local conventions. I literally can't afford to be doing that stuff right now.