If you’re like me, you may have been a long time fan who rarely or even never went to Cons. So much of the mainstream publicity surrounding Cons leaves it kind of mysterious about what’s going on. Panels? Is that lectures? Who wants to pay for that. I had enough in college, thanks. Or even scarier–strange people dressed up as aliens who insist you call them “Zorg” all weekend. I have nothing against CosPlay but no, I don’t think I’m calling you “Zorg.” If you recognize those reactions, let me tell you why I changed my mind about Cons and why I think you should, too.
1 ) You Are Not Alone– If you’re a fan of speculative fiction movies, TV shows and books, Cons are congregations of people like you. Oh sure, some may be a bit more extreme than you, like Zorg, but you have a lot in common. You don’t have to like or agree with everyone on politics and religion to be part of this community. Since I got actively involved again in fandom, only twice have I felt rejected for my beliefs and political differences. The majority of people I know in the SFF community don’t share my points of view but couldn’t care less. We have too much else in common for it to matter. We can spend hours chatting about all kinds of topics and never get to politics and religion. And the conversations are passionate and fun because we each love what we’re talking about so much.
2 ) Networking– In addition to connecting with like-minded people, you can connect with like-minded people who might become important career contacts. This is true for writers, editors and illustrators, of course, but it’s also true for others. I know people who have made all kinds of business contacts through Con friendships. Cons are about having fun and building relationships and friendship is full of opportunities. Many Con friendships last a lifetime.
3 ) Meet Heroes– Authors, Editors, Actors, etc. come to Cons for one reason: to meet fans and each other. They are like-minded people, too, and they enjoy the conversations, socializing and celebrating of genre fiction as much as anyone. Most are really accessible and available, especially at smaller Cons. From getting books signed to picking your favorite’s brains, there are lots of opportunities to chat you wouldn’t get anywhere else.
4 ) Swag– Cons vary in the swag you get but both dealers and Cons give away everything from books to food to collectibles. World Fantasy, for example, sends every member home with a stack of new books donated by publishers. Vendors in dealer rooms, authors and others often have samples and special gifts or even bargain deals to offer. Every attendee who wants to has many chances to load up the suitcase with goodies. And many items are hard to find or unavailable anywhere else. ComicCon and DragonCon, for example, often have items custom made for distribution at that year’s Con by various vendors.
5 ) Parties– Like free food and drink? Like to dance? Like to party? Cons are full of opportunities to do just that. From publishers to fan groups, everyone’s throwing parties. You can move from room to room until the wee hours of the morning if you want. And most provide a great spread of food and beverages along the way at no cost to you. Just attending a party often makes the price of your membership a bargain.
6) Sneak Peaks– Publishers and filmmakers and more use Cons to launch books, movies, etc. and also to tease upcoming ones. You can get first looks at books, movies, tv shows and more just by attending a Con. Part of being in the right place at the right time, after all, is just knowing where to hang out, and Cons are the place to take advantage of Sneak Peaks for specfic fans.
7 ) Great Art– Love book covers? Cons are a chance to not only see the work of those artists and more up close but to meet and chat with the artists themselves. Almost every Con out there has an art show and art sale. So you can even walk home with framed copies of your favorites.
8 ) Cushy Digs– One criticism by many of Cons is that they always pick expensive, fancy hotels for their host sites. On the other hand, if you rarely get the chance to stay in such fancy hotels, the reduced Con rate may be a great excuse. After all, being at the center of the action does have its advantages. Especially for those late night parties. And on top of that, most hotels love Cons and usually go out of their way to treat Con attendees with special care. So spoiling yourself with a Con has added benefits.
9 ) Cosplay– Costume Play, if you’re into that, is a huge advantage of Cons. Some people take a different outfit for each day, like my friend Scribe. Others wear the same outfit the whole time (don’t get too close in case they smell). Still, if you like dressing up and need an excuse outside of once a year at Halloween, Cons are a tailor made opportunity for you. People who like that will compliment you on your outfit and creativity and those who don’t won’t stare.
10 ) PhotoOps– You get great opportunities at Cons to take pictures not just with celebrities but with other fans in costumes, set pieces from TV and movies, great locations near where the Cons take place, etc. Cons are full of PhotoOps. And, after all, the number one rule of Cons is: if there’s no photos, it didn’t happen. So take your camera!
So, if you’re a fan of Science Fiction or Fantasy, there’s ten great reasons to join your fellow fans at Cons. What are you waiting for?
For what it’s worth…
Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novel The Worker Prince, the collection The North Star Serial, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. He’s also the host ofScience Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat every Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. He can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog.