punkwalrus (punkwalrus) wrote,

Pre-con musings...

When I used to live with Bruce and Cheryl, conventions weren't just a whole weekend, they were like a week. I am sure for them, it was even longer, but for us accessory/grunt folks, we started to work on the convention a week ahead of time.

One story I love to tell about Bruce is that he used to string the house with Christmas lights. All. Year. Long. Neighbors would ask about it. "When are you going to take them down?" Then as Evecon approached, we had to take them down because at the time, we used them in these groovy light displays for the con (I haven't seen them since Evecon 5... I miss them). So, neighbors would see us have Christmas lights all year... except around Christmas. They asked about that, too. I told them Bruce was Jewish (we lived in a very white bread neighborhood), and they went, "Ohh..." as if that explained everything. Maybe they thought, "those wacky Jews are the anti-Christmas."

Anyway, stuff would start top get packed, boxed, or unpacked and reboxed, or unboxed and left lying on the floor. Finally, all that was boxed would start going in people's cars (I predate the Big Red Bus), and on Thursday, we started driving a cluster of caravans to the hotel. Someone would always break down. Bruce and a skeleton crew would arrive first, and then we'd start setting up by moving stuff to a hotel room or function area, usually a main ballroom. Cheryl usually stayed behind at first, because she was the caboose that made sure no one or nothing got left behind. And something always did.

Thursday night, we'd do what unpacking we could, and then a bunch of us would go out to dinner. Sometimes fans arrived early, but it usually wasn't a big deal, since we usually scared them away by trying to recruit them to do something, and those that didn't run usually became lifelong friends. Then, finally, in a hotel that only looked slightly fannish, we said our goodnites, and tried to get one last good sleep before the con.

Most people who go to sci-fi and anime cons never get to see behind the scenes. They show up at 3pm on Friday, deal with the crowds, chat with friends, and never give much thought to how it all gets put together. I am sure many of them think we do it for money. I have personally known many people who spend thousands a year, out of their own pockets, to help keep their cons running. You are considered successful if you come close to breaking even. Many don't. Making a profit is usually a temporary windfall because you discovered some niche market at the cusp of some rise in popularity.

Anime cons are like that now, but they won't always be. As they fragment, the genre will become mainstream, and soon, you don't have to travel 300 miles to see anime. Anime cons will lose their specialness, and their popularity will drop. Many will die off, usually in the explosive glare of some political downfall. A few will survive, though, and even as their numbers dwindle, they will still sustain from the people who lost their usual anime cons, and then it will just be a bunch of older anime fen who get together out of ritual more than anything else. Just to see what Bob is up to, or listen to Suzy's guitar solos that she never took mainstream, but you always thought she should have. Soon, they become like family. Some start to die off, or move away for good.

This is why I have always liked cons early in their growth, and in the sunset of their former selves. When they are mainstream, it becomes this crowd of people you don't know. People who use the con rather than add to it, and that's okay. I mean, more opportunities to make friends, I say. In the beginning and near the end, you only see people, usually familiar people, who are there because they want to be; they like the company. And that, to me, is what fandom is all really about: friendship and sharing certain interests.

Tonight, I am going to arrive at a convention that is spanning at least 2 hotels. We expect almost 5000 people. This is anime at its height. In 2015, us old folks will remember when the cons were this big. Hell, I remember when SCI-FI cons were this big, and not just the comics ones, either; the ones run by volunteers, not corporations. Did you see Otakon? Unbelievable. The Baltimore Auto show even paled in comparison. In 1995, an anime con was like 300 people and one function room with 50 VCRs. Now anime cons could fill a stadium. I think one did recently, for some J-Pop thing. Anime is part of the Japanese Cultural Invasion, similar to the British one in Rock and Roll in the 1960s.

I am glad to have ridden this wave with the people I did. I am making fond memories.
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