|And my god, what ferocious captains of industry they are!|
And yet there was a tension to it all that I didn't expect - maybe the love-hate culmination of a whole year's worth of con-going. My new friend Linda Deneroff expressed it best, I think, when we were talking about the difference between our community and the big media cons: she said, "we operate on a different economy." As in, ours is a culture of volunteering: we're not in the business of charging for autographs or herding 20,000 people through the turnstiles, and except for whatever premium we pay to get George R. R. Martin on the premises, nobody involved nets a dime.
|Part of a tribute to Peggy Rae Sapienza - our fannish bodhisattva.|
You won't see this at Comic-Con.
That is an amazing thing. I am just absolutely overjoyed and delighted to belong to a community of giving - to be surrounded by people who donate literally years of their lives to creating something for everyone to enjoy. I love our culture of generosity and camaraderie - how we set out free hot dogs and bowls of cheesy-poofs in the consuite so people can eat without killing their wallets, how you can meet The George in the bar or at a panel or wherever and just hang out, how people will host room parties to advertise their con/event or just for the hell of it, and throw the doors wide open for anyone to come and enjoy. It all makes for this delightful, hugely addictive atmosphere, and I'm just massively in love with it.
|This was part of the video archaeology project - restoring footage from years past.|
The panel on the screen was from a discussion on feminism at the 1976 WorldCon
- which inspired the creation of WisCon.
But the thing is... it's one thing to donate your time. It's another thing to rely from top to bottom on a comprehensive system of unpaid labor. (And I'm not singling out fan conventions here - writers conferences do it too.) From organizers to boots-on-the-ground henchpeople to guests and presenters - nobody gets paid. Ever. And I mean, I get it: that's what keeps the cost down, so the event stays accessible to everybody - or at least as many people as possible. But here's the kicker: we're kind of failing on the 'everybody' front. Those corporate big-box media cons beat the pants off us here. Comicpalooza and A-Kon and Dallas ComicCon are full of young people, small children - whole families. And they aren't nearly as monochromatic.
Maybe it sounds crass to count census demographics. It's a little hypocritical to criticize a surfeit of squishy white people when you are one. But the town, city, and state I've lived my whole life in are all 40-50% minority, and it never stops feeling weird to go from the huge mix of everyday folks around me to a con, or to workshop, or to a writers conference, and find myself in a venerable white wonderland. It feels like the other half of the world just got quietly filtered out while I wasn't looking - like they just disappeared.
|Which is a big reason why the 1956 Hugo Awards...|
|...still look a whole lot like the 2013 Hugo Awards|
More importantly, and more to the point: this is SUCH an awesome community, and I really want it to become as inclusive as it's trying to be (and it IS trying). I want it to be a place by and for all the fans, not just one where they're all theoretically welcome.
I don't blame the SMOFs for that (though I wish there had been some substantial discussion of these things at the con). Honestly - it's a weird, broken world out there, y'all, and not surprising that our social microcosms still reflect that. Race and age and money and the luxury of time - they're all part of the same big ugly muddle that's still tripping up our whole society, and sometimes it's hard to have any hope for improvement. Sometimes you just get so swept up in the joy of seeing the people who ARE there that you don't notice or think about the ones who aren't.
But I tell you what: the power of nerd-love built this house, and I believe it can open the doors even wider. The people I hung out with this past weekend raised this community up from the foundation - from the first tiny Star Trek conventions and fanzines to the massive, million-dollar WorldCons we put on today. They've done phenomenal work in forging this space, and wide-eyed nooblets like me have already benefited enormously from their efforts. If we carry the torch even half as far as they have, we'll have something even more incredible - a worthy legacy for their work, and a community that continues to honor the forward-looking dreams of all the best science fiction.
After all, we're nerds. The future is what we do.