Convention List

CRITERIA

I’m on a kind of tight schedule. I’ve only got about a year and a half to do my research in, and a budget of exactly $0. Actually it’s less than that, but I pretend it’s $0 to make myself feel better. In addition, the book can only be so long. Thus, here’s only a limited number of conventions I can attend. I’m still working on this list of must-sees, but here’s my criteria.

First, there are four primary types of fan convention that I’m looking at, and then three secondary types or subtypes.

The four primary types are:

  • Science Fiction – Fantasy is included under this umbrella, as they go hand-in-hand.
  • Comic Book
  • Anime
  • Gaming

The three secondary types are:

  • Single-fandom – These are conventions devoted to a particular fandom niche. An example would be a Star Trek convention, or a Steampunk convention.
  • Multimedia – These are conventions that purport to cater to more than one type of media. You can actually argue that most of the larger comic book conventions these days are this type – SanDiego Comic Con, for instance, covers a lot more than just comics.
  • Videogaming – This is an emergant subtype of the Gaming con. Originally, gaming cons were for tabletop games, but as we move into the future, more and more fan cons based on videogames are arising.

Of each of the four primary types, I intend to visit at least three cons. They have to fit one of these three criteria:

  • Largest/Most well-known – The con has to be the largest or most famous of its type. Examples include WorldCon, the archetypal science fiction con, and SanDiego ComiCon, the largest fan convention of any type.
  • First/Oldest con – Whatever convention is the first or oldest of its type. For example, PhilCon is probably the oldest science fiction convention (Some people argue for cons that happened in Chicago or Leeds, England, but in all honesty PhilCon seems to have gotten their foot in the door first with a date of 1936.)
  • Local/Quirky – One small or medium local convention with something unique or quirky. I don’t want to exclude the small local guys – these are really the bones of the convention scene. Problem is, there’s four billion of them. In order to narrow my field, I’ve decided that I’ll only be attending cons that have something unique to offer. For example, Boskone and Arisia in Boston are two small local sci-fi cons, but I count them as one due to their unique history (Arisia grew out of Boskone due to some shenanigans in the 1980s) and the fact that they compliment each other (Boskone focuses on the literary end of science fiction; Arisia tends to be more about the quirky stuff like costuming and lifestyle).

For the subtypes, I really only want to do about two or three single fandom cons. I will not be attending any furry conventions or yaoi conventions for a number of reasons. Sorry, guys – you’re significant and your subcultures are unique and interesting, but I don’t think I can do you justice in a book as broad as this. Top of the list is Star Trek, as Trek cons really were what the public thought of when you said “convention” for a number of years; second are probably Steampunk cons, as they’re an up-and-coming subset of science fiction.

For Multimedia cons, again, only two or three. I don’t want to drown in them, cool as they are.

Videogame cons will be the exception. I’ve already attended PAX East, and I want to hit PAX Prime as well as at least one small, local con. The reason is that videogame cons are likely to be the wave of the future in terms of fan conventions – as games become more and more part of our day to day society, you can expect to see more of them. Or not! Either way, they’re significant.

But Jensen! XYZ Con isn’t on your list! Why not!? It PERFECTLY fits your criteria!

I don’t know everything! I am still learning about this, and it’s a slow process. So, if you know a con that totally fits the criteria (‘small local con that involves an annual cosplay parade down main street and also silverware juggling for charity!’ ‘first con for gamers!’ whatever!), give me an explanation behind your reasoning (either in the comments, on twitter, or through my email) and it may well get on this list!

But Jensen! You didn’t put XYZ small local con on your list! Why won’t you write about it!?

I can’t visit everything, much as I’d love to. Going out to a tiny anime con in rural Iowa sounds to me like it’d be totally rad, but there’s a problem known as ‘time’ and also ‘money.’ Like I said earlier, I have to prioritize. First con in genre and biggest con are the two majors, but I cannot hit every small local con that ever existed; I can hit one of each KIND of small local con.

If you are truly, completely, utterly dead-set on me putting your very favorite con into the book or onto this site, the easiest way to do it is to give me some way to come for free.

Unfortunately, free doesn’t just mean ‘free admission’ – it means hotel, plane ticket, and possibly food; as well as the acknowledgment that at a graduate student’s salary I can’t always afford to vanish for a week or more. I’m still in classes and I still have a job.

In the end, this means that I probably can’t make it to your con. I’m not impressive enough or famous enough to convince people to give me free stuff like that, and probably never will be. Fan cons are often underfunded volunteer efforts themselves, and they don’t need to throw money at some weird nobody grad student trying to study them!

Enough babbling. On to…

JENSEN’S CONVENTION BUCKET LIST

SCIENCE FICTION

FIRST
Philcon
BIGGEST
WorldCon (Will be trying to hit Renovation and Chicon)
LOCAL
Boskone Attended! Will go again next year
Arisia

COMIC BOOK

FIRST
Need to do more research to find out what this is.
BIGGEST
SanDiego ComicCon (it looks like this might overlap with first con…?)
LOCAL
Recommendations wanted! Right now looking at Baltimore ComiCon and possibly WonderCon, but open to suggestions.

ANIME

FIRST
Akon, but I need to check to make sure that this is actually true and not Wikipedia lying to me.
BIGGEST
A TIE BETWEEN:
Anime Expo
– and –
Otakon – Visited every year between 2003 and about… 2008? Hard to remember, but I’ve been.
LOCAL
– Open to suggestions! I’ve heard href good things about Katsucon and Ohayocon, but I’m not sure what makes them especially unique.

GAMING (tabletop)

FIRST
Unknown.
BIGGEST
GenCon Technically, this is an industry con (so I’m told) but I still think it fits here.
LOCAL
Dexcon – Attendance of 1400 appx. Seems to be a hybrid tabletop/videogame con with an emphasis on oldschool gaming.

OTHER

SINGLE FANDOM

I need suggestions for Star Trek cons, and other single-fandom cons that are historically significant in some way. BotCon may be awesome, but Transformers cons haven’t had THAT big an impact on the overall con scene (unless I missed something).

VIDEO GAME

PAXEast – Went this year; enforcing next year
PAXPrime

Suggestions for small local cons and other significant cons are welcome; as well as the first video-gaming con (This might not exist – tabletop and videogaming cons seem inextricably linked). Please note! E3 doesn’t count as it’s not a fan convention, even if it was once adopted as such that was never its primary purpose (as far as I can tell.

OTHER???

Suggestions welcome. Please keep in mind that conventions must be fan oriented (so no SXSW or E3 – those are more industry-geared, as far as I can tell) and media-fandom based. Also note that I’m going mostly for speculative fiction/sci-fi, so while mystery cons and romance novel cons and soap opera cons are really interesting, they’re not quite my subject area.

  1. #1 by Mark Geary on September 27, 2011 - 3:10 am

    I’m not sure about putting DragonCon in the gaming category. There is a fair bit of gaming, but it’s a small part of the whole con. If you can’t make it to Essen, then I expect Gencon is your best bet for the largest gaming con.

    As for the oldest, that may be Gencon, too. The first one was 1968. I’m not aware of any older that that.

  2. #2 by Ed Finneran on December 29, 2011 - 1:15 am

    Wow! I thought at first you were just going to try to cover the history of science fiction cons only in your project. Tackling this much larger list seems even more daunting!

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