Friday, March 30, 2007

A Modest Proposal for Con-version

I have a modest proposal for Con-version, the annual science fiction and fantasy convention in Calgary. Given that many author guests and host hotels of science fictions conventions are put off by costumed attendees, would it help the convention in the long run to make it a costume-free event like World Fantasy Con?

A "no hall costume" policy could encourage better guests every year. A low Klingon Quotient would make many important people very happy.

The Fan Guest of Honour at CV22 made it very clear that people who show up to science fiction conventions in costume were trivial to the process, and rather undesirable. The convention is like a big circus tent, he said, and people who wear costumes are only the popcorn machine. No one comes to see the popcorn machine, and it really wouldn't be missed if it was gone. The real show is the centre ring, which contains the author guests. When the press comes to document the event and they only see Spock ears and lightsabers, it makes the whole event look foolish and dissuades some authors from attending.

This point was also made by Robert J Sawyer in a interview with Scifidimensions in 2000.
"As much as I love going to science fiction conventions, but I always question the clarity of thought of those who put on the Mr. Spock ears, or the Stormtrooper costume, because [...] the local news [...] will always find the one clown with a lobster on his forehead pretending to be a Klingon, and plaster him on page one of the entertainment section. [...] what the public gets crammed into their face is some arrested, overweight adolescent who's putting on a Halloween costume, and it's nowhere near October 31st."

There are additional benefits to preventing costumed folk from attending. Since most Star Wars fans don't read "real" science fiction, or read anything else notable for that matter, banning them from bringing their white armour and Jedi bathrobes could keep these "fringe fans" away. Wouldn't these arrested and overweight adolescents be happier at home anyway? Although it would mean no women in skimpy Slave Leia costumes to ogle, so clearly some exceptions would have to be made.

Also consider, no costumes means no furries. The Calgary Fur community consists of well over a hundred writers, artists and fans, but a small percentage of these have those costumes. Some see this kink-garb as wearable textile arts, comparable to sculpture or jewelry, but we really know what these people are up to, don't we? Should this be acceptable behaviour at Con-version?

It should also be noted that most of the getups seen today are only recreations of "media" costumes and props. Back in the day costumers would build imaginative and futuristic creations to amaze and entertain. Then came the onslaught of pseudo-science fiction television shows and wiz-bang Hollywood blockbusters, which are not only devoid of any social commentary or literary merit, but also serve as the petri dish which spawns the fungus on fandom that media costuming has become.

How do costumes relate to the Hotel? Remember that hotels are run by mundanes. When they see a mass of costumed folk they get worried. They realize that they are getting a group of people that rather sleep in the video room, or the lobby bathroom then pay for a room. They assume that large amount of outside food and drink will be brought into their convention space in violation of the catering agreements made with the con-com. They worry that the consuite will be so loud that they will have to comp the adjacent rooms. Let us set the hotel straight by saying that none of this would ever happen at Con-version, and we are willing to remove a visible minority to prove it.

So until Con-version lives up to its literary roots and does the right thing, we will have to live with this minority fandom subculture. Next time you see someone dressed up in some a "media" inspired outfit, it is fair to assume that this person likely has some form of learning or reading difficulty, so deal with them accordingly. It is also widely known that since they come from the passive "viewer" culture of film and television, they haven't contributed one ounce of work toward putting the convention together, so keep this in mind when deciding on programing content and guest selection.

Yours in Fandom


Drakkenfyre said...

Hi Kent! Thanks for this fascinating proposal. And I am still waiting on a list of guest proposals from you. :)

First, I don't know of any author guests who have refused to come to Con-Version because of hall costumes. Do you?

And if you choose to use the WFC comparison, don't forget that Worldcon is full of both hall costumes and wonderful authors.

The fan guest of honour (and we both know who that is, but should both refrain from saying) is dead wrong. He has his own attitudes about what our convention should be, and that's fine, but that's not what the general consensus seems to be saying, as you'll notice on the message boards.

Besides, a beanie is a costume.

Second, as a friend of RJS, I can say with both certainty and authority that he has never turned down an invitation based on hall costumes. Heck, some people have even suggested we invite him as GoH. I can't suggest it, because I'm his friend, but if you'd like to, we can make it happen. (As of now he's actually not going to be coming, but that might change.)

Third, on the furries. I believe a small dose of tolerance and a firm word to them beforehand about acceptable behaviour will do more good than banning all costumes.

Fourth, I belive that media fandom can stand proudly beside literary fandom. I've worked in publishing too long now to be a book snob.

Fifth, about the hotel: Your wife's convention last year seemed to go wonderfully and didn't seem to put off the hotel staff. Was there and incident I haven't heard about?

Also, as a side note, a large amount of outside food and beverage will be brought in this year, and it will all be in accordance with the hotel contract. ;)

Finally, it's unfair, snobbish, and just plain rude to "assume that this person likely has some form of learning or reading difficulty." And I certainly didn't peg you for a lit snob, given that you were one of the Nexus people last year. Yes, it often is the literary people putting the organizational effort into running the convention. But the media-fen do pay their admissions at the door like everyone else.

And that's really what our problems come down to: money. We need to raise our fees. But they haven't gone up in years. (In fact, they went down the year you guys ran the con, and everyone was happier for it. :) ) But we're fighting the death of people interacting in person. Look at us. Not so many years ago, we would have had to have this conversation in person or at least on the phone. That is the force we are battling against.

Of course, I do work in publishing, so I think it's safe to say it will be a pretty good year for literary programming.

And a modest proposal with no mention of infant cannibalism? How literary is that? ;)

I eagerly await your modest proposal for guests . . .

Phil said...

Congrats on creating a post that could either be a sincere desire to remove costuming from the convention or a sarcastic parody of what anti-costume people might say!

I honestly can't tell which it is.

I do think that any ruling that gets rid of girls in skimpy Leia costumes is inherently bad.

laughingmagpie said...

Since this post is pretty clearly tagged as satire... well, you are free to draw your own conclusions, I guess, but I know which side of the fence I think this little essay falls on.

Drakkenfyre: There certainly is a reference to infantile cannibalism in there. As a costumer and media fan (let's forget the first edition collecting, manuscript reviewing, and book club attending thing I do for now), I certainly feel the disdain of a segment of the 'old guard'. Treating media fans/costumers as second class, an embarrassing fringe or undesirable is much like eating one's own young.

As the growth of fannish conventions like DragonCon has shown, I believe the future is in the hands of furries, the goths, the 501, Anime/Cosplay and media fans in general.

I'm an adolescent/learningdisabled /kinky/passive/popcornfungus and proud of it, and I don't mind those people who read and write books either.

PS I hope this doesn't get posted twice! I had a little hiccup with the submitting thing.

Drakkenfyre said...

Given that Kent posted on the CSFFS boards that Con-Version should consider getting rid of costuming, and there was no indication that it was satire, and while I do get that this was supposed to be a riff on A Modest Proposal (but is actually missing a few critical elements to be one) I think he's serious.

Also, at Con-Version at least, it's not the real old guard who are against costuming. Many of the old guard were the costumers. For this year, I've already been talking with both the remenants of the WCG and with the Furs about getting them to participate this year.

Drhaggis said...

I just was making a suggestion based on the cumulation of various arguments that I've heard and read over the years.

I thought it important to tell people who show up in costume the kinds of things people say about them behind their back, or when they think that no one is listening.

If the suggestion met with enough support, we would know where we stood. As it has not, it is now nicely documented that we will not stand for the snarky name-calling and dismissive comments from our con-going peers and pros.

As for missing elements from the original proposal, I guess I'm not as swift as I thought I was.

Don't take my little harangue personally. By all accounts your con-com is doing a fine job.

Rask said...

I think you posted this one a couple days too early. :)