Another Failed Attempt To Attend A Science Fiction Convention

This past weekend I went to a science fiction convention.

The title of the post isn’t entirely accurate–I was physically present in the hotel where the convention was held.  However, despite the stated reason for the convention’s existence, I did not find it remotely enjoyable.  It was, in fact, only intermittently bearable.

I will admit that I am utterly at a loss as to how anyone could find such a thing enjoyable.

The convention was divided into four distinct groups.  First, there was the sales floor.  The dealer’s room was the only part of the convention that was well-labeled.  In fact, a casual visitor could be excused for thinking that area was all that there was.

It was a good dealer’s room, as such things go.  It took up one of the main exhibition floors and contained perhaps fifty individual dealers.  The booths were spacious, there was plenty of aisle space for groups in bulky costumes to pass each other. I can see how a serious collector of fantasy and science fiction memorabilia could find access to the space worth the price of admission.

Next, there was a gaming area. There may have been some mechanism for people to join the games who were not already part of a particular group–I was not sufficiently motivated to go looking for the right person to ask.  The program gave no clue as to how it was done.  There was a list of what games would be played, but that was all. There seemed to be no staff members in the gaming room itself, at least none who presented themselves as such.

There were panel discussions, and now you know as much as I do about that.  A listing of them was available–not in the program, but on a separate sheet.  However, this listing did not give anything more than a title and “Room 1” or “Room 2”.  In the hotel, there was no “Room 1” or “Room 2”–there were things like “The Willow Room” and “The Oak Room”. No one that I spoke to could say what panel would be held where. Nor were the titles particularly descriptive.

Oh, there were also supposed to be two rooms where they were screening films.  I never found either of those. Clearly one was expected to know someone who was setting these things up, or one didn’t attend.

All of which could be considered a passive expression of the fact that outsiders were not welcome, except to spend money at the dealer’s tables.  What happened after dark was an active expression of that.  At seven in the evening on Saturday the registration desk and security desk shut down.  As near as I could tell, the convention staff left then.  When I talked about my experiences Saturday night, all of the staff members that I spoke with said that they hadn’t stayed at the convention hotel, and they had left to go spend time with their friends at their own hotels.

My daughter and her friends also left, which I am very happy about, since the convention spaces were taken over by roving gangs of drunken thugs, many of them armed with weapons that may or may not have been props. They were loud, destructive, and drove off anyone who wasn’t part of their gang. Again, if there was any convention staff on-site, they were not evident, and no way was provided to contact them.

I spent the evening outside the front lobby, smoking and talking with the bellmen. In theory there were films being shown late at night that I had wanted to see, but I didn’t feel safe looking for the movie rooms.  I do not often fear for my physical safety, but I did that night.

Seen through the lens of my experience at this convention, the events at Spokane last year make more sense.  “Science Fiction Fandom”–as opposed to people who simply like science fiction as a genre–seems to be a very clannish group, openly hostile to outsiders. The one party that I attended Friday night (after paying an additional 3$ to enter) began with a ceremony to shame “virgins” and was run by a man who kept up a steady patter of in-jokes and references that was clearly designed to reinforce the line between them and us.

Presumably one could run the gauntlet of initiations and secret rituals and become, at long last, an insider with full rights and privileges, but I am really not interested in jumping through a lot of hoops to be granted the right to be welcomed into an event which is, after all, advertised as being open to the general public.

I do find it interesting that a number of people–some of whom I have a great deal of respect for–have told me that conventions are welcoming to new attendees and are a good way to get to know other fans.  I really have to wonder if they have been on the inside for so long that they have forgotten what it looks like to outsiders, or if perhaps they find the process of earning a place at the table less onerous than I do.


About MishaBurnett

I am the author of "Catskinner's Book", a science fiction novel available on Amazon Kindle.
This entry was posted in Artists That I Admire, On Promotion, Who I am and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Another Failed Attempt To Attend A Science Fiction Convention

  1. paws4puzzles says:

    Wow – that sounds a lot different to Archon (which I know you didn’t enjoy – but still it was organized (sort of) and for me at least fairly welcoming). Really sorry you had to go through that. As my Russian friend, Basil is fond of saying, that sucks hard.

  2. what a bummer.
    They were loud, destructive, and drove off anyone who wasn’t part of their gang < that's enough to kill any enjoyment. Any supposedly open event with organisers and participants like that make outsiders feel isolated and unwelcome. It's like being at school, all cliquey and immature.
    Better luck next time.

  3. tannerakane says:

    A few notes about conventions:
    1) Rowdiness has become a problem in the past few years. Some hotels have decided not to welcome back conventions due to damage. Most conventions are not a drunkfest but alcohol consumption by a few with bad behavior give the entire community a bad name

    2) You wrote, “…since the convention spaces were taken over by roving gangs of drunken thugs, many of them armed with weapons that may or may not have been props…” The weapons are fake. Convention organizers inspect “weapons” before entry.

    3) Attendees who buy passes on convention websites have access to a list of events, who’s speaking, and whatnot. Sounds like you stumbled on the convention and didn’t have access to all the info.

    4) You wrote, “All of which could be considered a passive expression of the fact that outsiders were not welcome, except to spend money at the dealer’s tables…” That’s a highly accurate assessment. I love science fiction but most young fans are cliquish. Seems the only things relevant with those under the age of thirty are what’s been produced in the last fifteen years or less. In addition, they demand and expect modern social issues included in science fiction. If their warped belief systems are threatened by older science fiction and fans who understand it’s _____ (enter the “ism”). Most know nothing about older SF shows and movies. Their response is to bully older fans who correct their misinformation. I won’t attend science fiction, fantasy or cosplay conventions for the above reasons and based on what you wrote in the blog.

    • MishaBurnett says:

      Regarding note 2) The weapons that have been inspected by con committee are fake, yes, but I saw no evidence that the con committee was screening people after hours. Regarding note 3) I did have a pass to the convention, and I was given all of the information that was available to attendees. The location of the rooms where the panels and movies were held was NOT part of that information. The people working the registration desk didn’t have access to that information, either.

      • tannerakane says:

        Thanks for the clarification. Sounds like poor planning on the part of the committee. You don’t have to reveal the name of the convention but can you tell me if it’s established or been i nthe samae location for a number of years?

      • MishaBurnett says:

        It’s been going on for years, but this was their first year in this particular venue. I can forgive a lot of the confusion on that basis, but it felt indicative of an attitude on the part of the convention–this was their private party and they had no interest in helping anyone outside of their circle.

      • tannerakane says:

        Sorry this happened. Conventions are suppose to be fun, not ruined by jackasses. Unfortunately I read stories similar to yours in social media cosplay groups and bloggers.

  4. Whoa! I haven’t been to one of these things in decades, and that kind of stuff would have taken me by surprise. I still might try one in the coming years, but if my wife joins me, I’ll stick close to her, and try to leave before the nighttime activities.

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