Today I went to the St. Charles ComicCon.
St. Charles is part of the St. Louis, Missouri metropolitan area, a fairly affluent city probably best known as the home of Francis Dolarhyde from Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon.
The event was held at the St. Charles Convention Center (here in the Midwest we like to give things simple names) and was fairly small as such things go. There did seem to be one panel room, but I only saw two panels listed for it. Primarily the event was the dealer’s room and a couple of costume contests–one for children and one for adults.
There was a good turnout–a pretty amazing turnout, actually, seeing as there were three other Sci Fi/Fantasy events being held this weekend within a short drive of here.
The crowd in attendance was young–I’d guess that the median age was closer to my children than myself–and varied. Around half of the crowd seemed to be female, and they weren’t just unwilling girlfriends being dragged there. I saw a lot of groups of young women walking together, many of them in costume. The attendees in general were dressed up, not all in full costume, but most in T-shirts, hats, jackets, or other clothes that proudly proclaimed their geek aleigences.
There were a lot of families with small children, and most of the children were also dressed up. I’d guess that the racial mix was comparable to the demographics of the city in general. I had no idea of what percentage of them might have been homosexual (since I didn’t see anybody having sex–I think the convention center would have had a problem with that), but there was a vendor booth for Gay/Straight Alliance group, and they seemed to be answering a fair number of inquiries.
In short, what I saw was a large number of young people who represented a broad cross section of society.
They were there to hang out, meet friends, show off their costumes, and shop. Good Lord, how they shopped. Local artists and artisans seemed to occupy about half of the tables, with dealers in collectables making up the rest. There were comic books–many clearly small press publications–but also movies, posters, clothing, props, toys, artwork–originals and prints–games, booths advertising other conventions. And from what I saw, they were doing good business.
Somehow none of these people had gotten the message that Science Fiction was dead, or that it was only open to old white men. And while I didn’t go around asking, I suspect that I would have found very few who gave a damn about the Hugo awards or Worldcon. There were superheroes and anime characters and wizards and Star Wars characters and quite a few hybrids like the T-rex Princess Leia. These were people who cared about fun.
I found it very encouraging. I, personally, slunk around in the shadows, listening to Michael Shea’s Nifft The Lean to drown out the sound of the crowd because I don’t actually like human beings and the feeling is generally mutual. But there was a lot of people stuff happening for those who like it. My roommate rolled around and struck up conversations with people–some of whom she knew from other conventions–and bought some stuff.
All in all I am very glad that I went. I’ve been paying too much attention to people who take the politics of science fiction way too seriously lately. This little convention–it was their first year, in fact–reminded me what I got into the genre for.
It’s fun, if you don’t take it too seriously.