This was originally published at Watch The Skies but it was part of a longer and very interesting conversation. I certainly hope it garners a few comments here as well:
Over a recent weekend I attended Philcon , “…the world’s first and longest-running conference on science fiction, fantasy, and horror!” It was a good experience. I’m glad I went. I’d only ever attended one other time and that was a day pass. This time I was able to get the full emersion version.
From a location point of view I hated attempting to cross Philadelphia to get there. I dislike the area around the hotel in terms of driving as well. I don’t know how close (or not) the train or bus run. It’s not as easy to access as other conventions I’ve been to, but as someone pointed out to me, the parking is free and there is lots of it. Even when a boating competition was in the area there was still ample parking.
The hotel itself was nice. I needed to adjust to a more vertical layout than other conventions I’ve been to. The fire alarm that hit in the middle of the afternoon was quickly handled with minimal disruption to the convention. The stairs were strictly emergency exit things but elevators seemed to handle the needs of the crowd quite well.
The crowd… didn’t seem like much of a crowd. From time to time through the course of the weekend I wondered where everyone was. I’ve seen others more familiar with the convention report that attendance was far lower than previous years. I only recall a handful of hall costumes. No disrespect those that were there – they were well done. The storm trooper was excellent. I loved that two people teamed up and came as Bill and Ted and I had to do a double take when somebody I know showed up in a wig and an outfit that made her look totally different than the way I recognized her. That’s a short list though – and I only recall seeing four or five others at all. For a convention with costuming as part of the panel selection it seemed very, very thin in that department. That was symptomatic of the rest of the convention as well. Panels with a dozen people were considered well attended and it wasn’t uncommon for me to hear of panels where the panelists outnumbered those attending. I realize this happens from time to time at a convention. The number of times I heard the complaint was more than it should have been.
The lasting impression from this convention was from a panel called “This Is Everyone’s Lawn”. Ostensibly this panel was to look at defeating ageism in fandom. What this panel became was ‘What’s wrong with Philcon’ or ‘why won’t those old bastards change’. This was a genuinely interesting panel and it highlighted a few things despite not actually focusing on the intended topic. Fandom in general is running into a problem similar to that in many other walks of life. There has been no movement of leadership at the top for decades. In the intervening years those who didn’t want to wait another 20 years for change have moved on and started doing something else. The ‘something else’ could be another career or running a convention of their own. Whatever the choice, the result is the same. Convention attendance is down at “traditional” places, but up on all the fronts that have been rejected (at some level) by those traditional cons. One of the most telling statements from somebody there involved a story that’s a favorite to be down on. I can’t quote the exact phrasing, but the intent was: We all bashed the fans of that [crazy, stupid, popular,bad] series and ended up driving them all away. What we should have done was approached it as ‘we’re glad you like that, let us show you what else is out there – something similar to what you like’. There was a lot of lamentation about what was wrong, but only one or two folks that really seemed interested in trying to fix things.
I hope the folks of action proceed and are successful. I had a decent time at Philcon. I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to work my way onto the list of convention guests. I’m also hopeful that the convention gets the issues that were showing through fixed up so the event continues and I can attend every year.