Back in 2017 a kickstarter was set up for an initiative which described itself as the "First multi-fandom Con dedicated to inclusion, highlighting Women, LGBTQ, the Disabled and Persons of Color." By the time the campaign closed it had already raised $56,498, over double its goal of $25k. Planning and promotion then kicked in, with the con date fixed as April 27th-29th 2018 at the Baltimore Convention Center.
Then, with just days to go, the announcement was made that the Universal FanCon had been cancelled - and nobody would be getting a refund.
Because, as we keep seeing over and over (Tentmoot, JumpCon, DashCon,...), fan conventions are expensive and time-consuming undertakings. It's rarely the kind of thing a bunch of amateurs can pull off on a wing and a prayer. Rosie Knight and Jazmine Joyner have published a detailed write-up of where it all went wrong over at Women Write About Comics but, suffice to say, it was all the same mismanagement as usual.
The whole thing has reaffirmed my conviction that, according to the mainstream at least, I don't do fandom 'right'. I've been to a few fan cons and they were kind of fun. There was lots of cool merchandise on display, and there was usually plenty of snack food and blue slushies - my eternal weakness - being sold.
Sometimes the panel discussions were really interesting. Sometimes they were just somewhere to rest my aching feet for half hour or so. They rarely delved particularly deeply into a topic and, for my own personal preferences, didn't compare well with academic or political cons.
The real draw of fancons tend to be the celebrity guests, and I'm all for hearing them talk about how they came up with this personality quirk, or why they went with that plot point. I am a fan, it's a big part of my identity. But, for the most part, I'm a fan of characters and creations rather than portrayers and creators. The offshoot of the celebrity presence, the chance to pay somebody for an autograph or to pose for a photograph with them, holds zero interest for me.
It may be an important income stream for a lot of celebrities but, frankly, some of them ought to be paying me for the awful trash they helped inflict on the world. Even if I think their acting was beautiful or their creative genius unsurpassed I already paid to consume the thing I liked. There is no way I am going to pay them to sign a copy of it.
That isn't to say that other people shouldn't enjoy their moment. It's their cash, they can spend it how they want to. It's not something that's unique to the more mainstream affirmational / curative fandom either - transformative fandom seems to be just as into it. My fellow fans share photos of themselves meeting stars at cons, or contribute to letter writing and fanart projects to present to the people behind their favourite characters.
Maybe it's the lingering shadow of the fourth wall - the barrier between transformative fandom and the people involved in creating the canon - that puts me off the idea. Perhaps it's just the fact that I'm such an anti-social miser that makes me shy away from the concept. I don't know, have you ever paid to meet somebody at a convention? Did it live up to expectations? Here's me asking for answers on a postcard (or the comment section)!
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