Con Season

With the start of the new year, it’s time to think about con season and pick which SF/F conventions I’ll be going to this year. I try to make it to as many as I reasonably can, but childcare issues have been crimping my style a little in recent years. (For those of you who don’t know, I have special needs children, so taking them all to the con isn’t practical, even with children’s programming.)

Literary over Media

I should start off by saying that I tend to go to what are called “literary cons” rather than “media cons”, and truthfully, that’s a little ironic. When I first heard about cons, what I heard about were not only media cons, they were Star Trek cons. Let’s all don our Spock ears, wait in line for autographs, and then go shop for even better Spock ears. At least, that’s what my vision was, because I never went to find out what they were really like.

It’s not that I didn’t like Star Trek. It’s just that the idea of focusing so much on the one show and its actors didn’t sound like much fun to me. I don’t know what my logic was at age twelve, but these days it boils down to this: I want to talk to the story writers, not the actors, because the writers can tell me more about the story, while the actors can only tell me about the acting and the production details. Since I’m not an actor, those things don’t interest me all that much.

At least, they didn’t interest me enough to actually go find a con in those pre-Internet days. And since then, I’ve never been to a proper media con. I’ll confess, Comic-Con is tempting just for the spectacle, but the few media guests and events at the cons I do go to have left me flat. Again, it’s not that I don’t like the media shows and movies. In fact, I like some of them a LOT. (I am a self-described Babylon-5 “cult member”.) And I do love to talk about the shows with like-minded fans, but I find that I don’t get that much out of hearing the actors talk about it. I want to hear the writers talk about it.

So I go to the literary cons instead, though I always thought the term “literary” was a bit pretentious for what goes on there. Certainly, we talk mostly about books, which I suppose could be called literature, but there are still a fair share of Spock ears and their modern equivalents. We still talk about movies and TV shows, praising our favorites and generally mocking the SyFy channel. We sing geeky songs, buy costumes, and debate the relative merits of Kirk vs. Picard. (My vote: Bill Adama for the win!)

Which Ones?

So where am I going this year? I’m planning on four cons: ConDFW in Dallas in February, ApolloCon in Houston in June, ArmadilloCon in Austin in July, and wrapping up with FenCon in Dallas in September.  There are a couple missing from that list that I wish I could go to but can’t this year. Those are AggieCon and WorldCon.

AggieCon was the first con I ever went to, probably twenty years back, and I became fairly attached to it. Alas, as a student-run con, the quality can vary significantly over time as institutional knowledge comes and goes with the four-year college cycle. Also, in the last couple of years it has been scheduled opposite one of my Burning Flipside activities, either a work weekend or ranger training.

WorldCon is something I’d like to go to every year, and I actually managed for a few years before the kids. Now it’s a little too hard, and I haven’t been since it was in Chicago in 2000. It’s coming back to Texas next year, so I definitely plan on going, and eventually the kids will mature to the point where I can start making this annual trip again.

It’s not that WorldCon offers anything significantly different than my local cons. In fact, they tend to pattern themselves on WorldCon, attempting to be a miniature version of it. But on the flipside, WorldCon aims for grandiose, not miniature. Still, as the biggest of all the literary cons, WorldCon itself is actually small by comparison to many of the big media or gaming cons. Its attendance ranges from 5,000 to 9,000 each year, while the larger media cons regularly top 10,000, some going as high as 30,000.

If Wishes Were Conventions…

Now, having stated my preference for literary cons, I confess that I do want to go see some media cons. I don’t know if I would ever add them to my annual circuit, but I’d like to see them at least once. As I stated earlier, Comic-Con sounds like a lot of fun, and I’m kicking myself for not having gone to at least one of the smaller versions that has been touring around the country, passing through Austin each of the last two years. DragonCon is another big one that I’ve been curious about, if for nothing else than to check out the notorious “DragonCon sex”. (Hmmm, better check with my wife on that one.)

Two others I’m interested in aren’t really SF/F cons, but rather gaming cons. The first is BlizzCon. I’ve been a serious World of Warcraft addict, er, player for five or six years now, and while the convention wouldn’t really offer an experience like what I’m used to at SF/F cons, it does sound like a lot of fun. However, actually getting in would be difficult or pricey. They have been capping attendance around 25-30,000, and the tickets typically sell out in two incredibly fast 60-second windows. No, that’s not a typo. Half a million overeager gnomes are a purchasing force to be reckoned with.  I’m just amazed their servers can handle the load.

The final one that tempts me is GenCon. Strangely though, I know almost nothing about GenCon except that it’s a gaming con. Still, whenever anyone talks about it, it’s clear that they are the uber-gamer for having attended, while I am the lowly turd scrounging through old board games looking for loose six-siders. Maybe it’s not really that special, but never having gone makes me feel a little inadequate. (Though at this point, I am compelled to point out that I am a level 85 Retribution Paladin and yet I DO have a girlfriend.)

So that’s it for me and cons this year. How about you? Are you going to any cons I should be tempted by?