March 11, 2012


I do not speak from authority but rather from a few random observations.

I do not want to hurt feelings, but what I think I’ve seen some may find possibly irritating.

I’d like to talk about science fiction, fantasy and (to a much smaller degree) horror fans. Not in a broad sense of people who read or watch or write the stuff. I’m going to make some observations about the people who go to sf/f/h conventions.

My wife and I attended a moderately-sized local event with an Actor Guest of Honor, a Writer Guest of Honor and a few other Guests of Honor I neither knew nor cared about.

While I’ve attended a total of four such events (as well as been to four book signings by four really MAJOR authors) and was actually on a panel with an infamous author; I can say that after the most recent one: Conventions Are WEIRD! Weird in the sense of the following synonyms: "unnatural; preternatural; eerie; unearthly; uncanny; mysterious and apparently outside natural law; suggestive of the fateful intervention of supernatural influences in human affairs; suggesting the ghostly; that which seems by its nature to belong to another world; that which is mysterious because of its apparent defiance of the laws established by experience."

My thesis statement then, which I’ll defend briefly below is as follows: SF/F/H Conventions (aka as “cons” after this) attract people from opposite ends of a “Public Acceptance Spectrum”. This PAS is a measure of how the average member of a given cultural population (in this case primarily white, middle class, urban/suburban Americans of both genders and a variety of advertised sexual orientations) reacts when confronted with another human being in a public (or rarely private) situation. The scale sets 20 as “adulation and praise” and 0 as “revulsion and derision”. Unlike life outside of the con, there are more people clustered near 0 inside the con. Without moving my head and with a single long look at the con we just attended, I could see a 20 and a 0. I only rarely observe such a phenomenon.

If I stood up and turned 360°, I would have seen far more 1s, 2s and 3s on the PAS than if I had done the same thing at the Education Convention in October, a Barry Manilow concert or the Body, Health and Life Expo. The other cons I have attended would have given the same result, and anecdotal evidence from still others from various other cons would have included seeing people with angel wings and gowns, Babylon 5 Minbari, Star Gate soldiers, Star Trek officers, Hagrid from Harry Potter, less-than-sleek Indiana Jones, Klingons, people with stuffed fire lizards clinging to their necks, Leelu-dressed women, John Carter clad males (of the last two, none of the imitators SHOULD have been dressed that way), and arrays of super heroes (see above), though only limited creations of other imaginations fertile, fevered or fervid.

Why is this? Why would otherwise sane people feel the need to dress up like fictional characters who live in worlds created by people whose worlds were invented for profit? What possible satisfaction could be gained from pretending to be from one world while obviously and ridiculously remaining in a 21st Century hotel – mixed in with people from OTHER pretend worlds?

Why do the people that do this appear to fall somewhere between 1 and 5 on the PAS and the people who are guests and rank somewhere between 15 and 20 on the PAS do NOT dress that way? By all rights, the PAS 20 guests could do so and claim to be reprising a role they created. Author guests don’t appear to dress as their characters either, though they could claim that “this is how the characters looked in my imagination!”

I postulate that the 1-10s are people who exist without their own dreams, imagination or aspirations who must live in the imagined worlds of others in order to escape the reality of the early 21st Century. The actors and writers, though they may READ and legitimately ACT OUT the stories of other worlds, are generally satisfied with the early 21st Century and have no need to escape its reality.

This phenomenon is the basis from which people who claim to be fanatical fans of various sports teams (and neither play the sport or no longer play the sport), feel qualified to comment on the performance of every player. They also loudly proclaim that THEY would have better judgment in creating, practicing and calling the plays that would have “won the game”.  Sports fans who claim expertise where none exists probably deserve PAS rankings from 5-12, though their friends often accord them 20s; the fact is that they most likely deserve 10s or less.

Even so, con-people have the more serious affliction and from my point of view, significantly lower ranking than the sports geeks.

My four cons and four signings may be a skewed sample, but I’m pretty sure it’s accurate.

Cringing, I ask: What do you think?

PS – Yes, I know I’ve been to cons myself. I also had a teal-colored sweatshirt with a black yoke.

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