To con or not

Conventions – what are they, and what are they worth to me (and my writing career). This is principally a writer’s advocacy and support site, but most of us got into sf/fantasy because we liked to read it, or at least some of it. The line between writer and fan is blurred one – which is a good thing.

Let me start by saying as marketing tool for most noobs and even midlisters Cons are singly useless. If – for all the expense and hassle and stress you get to breaking triple digits worth of extra sales… you’ve done exceptionally well. Of course one can achieve that with a single Bookbub or even a Kindle countdown. Unless you’re a flamboyant extravert with self-promoting skill at the Scalzi level, it’s not going to – in financial terms – break even, unless the con is in your home town, and entry is exceptionally cheap.

To a reasonably successful author the purpose of a con is limited to rewarding loyal fans, and introducing your existence to people who don’t read you.

Even in terms of raising your profile – the same requirement to be an extravert exists. Oddly, many great writers are not known for being rabid extraverts. It’s not a job requirement.

And yes, I’ve met the lonely wannabe desperately wondering around a convention with his manuscript in his backpack. It never was a great place to schmooze with potential buyers as a noob, and let’s be honest in an environment where publishers bought 1 manuscript in 3000… it was always a tough sell. In some cases it work for a few people. Once for me. Call it less than 5% of my sales.

Unless you’re one of those extroverts: a con is… not for your benefit. Cons really… are for the benefit of fans. That’s why fans pay to attend.

On the other hand one of the largest reasons fans have to attend is that this is their change to see, hear, and maybe meet and talk with authors of whom they are fans. That’s why authors with a lot of readers tend to get invited by cons as guests. The cons pay for them to attend.

In the midrange there are noobs and minor authors and low-level midlisters. Cons usually don’t pay for them to attend, or only comp minor expenses (because they have few fans if any). They hope to benefit by getting noticed by the people who are there to see the authors with a lot more fans. They’re keen to be on panels (especially with popular authors) and keen for a chance to schmooze and make contacts. If they’re extroverts and good at being popular or even noticed, it might work. They’re –let’s be blunt – of no particular value and can be replaced easily. They want to be there, and you don’t have to attract them. They’ll come. But popular authors and fans won’t bother if they’re all you’ve got.

The second major reason fans go to cons is social: they are able to interact with people who share their interests.

Look, a lot of sf-fans find themselves fitting badly into the wider world and revel in finding a group of fellow ‘misfits’. For that alone a con can be fun. For that to work, however, the environment (and the people attending) have to be tolerant of a wide range of ‘misfit’. The minute you start regulating people who came to escape being regulated by society… well, let’s say it’s the thin edge of the wedge, and pretty soon it tends becomes a place where many misfits don’t find any different to the society they don’t fit. Yes, I know. Peanut butter is not a ‘costume’.

Con organizing is labor of love, and like herding cats. A few people do a lot of the work –and there is a lot of work. Sadly there is an element who see anything like this as a great opportunity to play organization (office) politics – which almost always spills over into actual politics. And one the basic rules of life is those who devote their effort to playing organization politics, have little energy or desire to actually do any of that work. So, many great and credible organizations find themselves with all the senior positions taken over by those who like to and are skilled at playing politics, and do bloody little, and what they do do, they do badly –while demanding the respect earned by the hardworking types they displaced. The worker-types get tired of doing the work that does get done, with constant interference and no support – and no real credit… and leave.

What we’re seeing at the moment with many of cons in the US and elsewhere, is that because of an attempt to de-platform and silence anyone who doesn’t agree 110% with fairly extreme (and growing more extreme and doctrinaire by the hour) left-wing doctrine in its entirety, is a very toxic combination that is likely to kill many cons, let alone remove any value of them to authors

We’ve had the exclusion of authors for ‘pre-crime’. Two that I can think of, so far. One has sued – win or lose, the cost in time, money and extra stress will I hope discourage something that any rational person and even those who think if they buy kippers it will not rain can see is dumber than rocks. The rationale behind this sort of thing is the assumption it will never be applied to you. That you and yours will always be in control. Aside from the recent US elections proving that wrong, it doesn’t even have to be an ‘opponent’. Ask Trotsky or Bernie Sanders.

The newest trick in the culture war is epitomized by the attack on John Ringo as a special guest at Con Carolinas. It’s his local Con, he’s attended for years with nary an incident, nary a raised eyebrow. Magically this year the shrieking chorus of internet ‘heroes’ or so-called ‘SJW’ (you know, people who wouldn’t lift a finger to help a poor person injured and in trouble ten yards from them – but will raise a twitter mob and devote thousands of hours to virtue signaling to the world how ‘woke’ they are.) started one of their fits of histrionics – managing to claim that one hand John was a danger and on the other that they were going to confront and physically assault him – secure in their armor of ‘righteous wokeness’ using all the magic words of SJW power, ‘racisss-sexisss-homophobe’

Now John has attended the same con for years. I’ve known him for about twenty years. We’ve had our differences – but this is one of the guys running towards the sound of the guns. This one of the people who stepped up to defend – not just people they liked and agreed with, but those who were 100% the opposite. There’s a hysterical idiot claiming discrimination is just fine – because people like John want her/it/whatever dead. That’s about as logical as claiming I’m the magic words, because when I get an Ambulance call-out I don’t ask the race, sex or orientation of the person I am going to help.

If you can tolerate this – Cons are dead. Look at the reasons they exist, what authors get out of them, and shrinking pool of ‘misfits’ who are ‘acceptable’.


  1. Sigh. My daughter (who does AMAZING paper art) and I are seriously rethinking our market schedule this fall. There are events that we have taken a joint booth/table at, for years, because the fee was reasonable, and we did good sales … but some of the markets are upping the fees to a level we are not willing to pay. No, really – from $150 for three days, to $500? Nope. Nope. Nope. Not when sales in that particular market have fallen off over the last four years. Yes, we track this kind of thing, having to pay sales taxes based on the specific location to the State of Texas.
    Sorry – moving on.
    The thing is — as we have noticed — that the lower-fee markets have a more interesting array of artists and crafters. The high-cost markets eliminate just about all but the established artisans, or those with a big corporation behind them … who charge prices for their goods more in line with brick-and-mortar establishments.
    ‘Tis a quandary, I am sure.

    1. Unless there is a new one that could be established that is free of SJW screeching and influence it probably isn’t going to be anywhere near as fun as cons of old. It’s not just non-leftist authors they don’t like after all – skimpy cosplay, unapproved portrayals of women, etc, that they do not like.

      1. Conventions like Dragoncon or Libertycon still have a good ratio of fun. But you will notice that Dragoncon, Comicon, etc. have fiduciary responsibilities – they need to make a profit.

        Traditional cons are nonprofit, but used to be money-conscious, at least in a billpaying way. Now they have mostly been captured by people who only want a skinsuit to posture in. They do not let themselves worry about attendance or vendor needs, or even survival of the con.

  2. I went to my first con (a fairly large one) last year, and had a blast, save for the one explicitly SJW-oriented panel that one member of the group of mutual friends I was going with roped the rest of us into attending with her. And I’m planning to go on a small (I think) local con next month for the sole purpose of meeting the local chapter of a costuming/charity club that I’m interested in joining.

    But other than that, I’m really hesitant to go to any more cons. Because even though I had an awesome time at the big con, and there was no obvious SJW influence or themes (save for that one aforementioned panel), I felt like I had to be on guard at all times, not say or do anything that would out me as a conservative. The fact that it was in probably the most LibProg city in the northeast didn’t help any.

    1. Carp. Hit Post somehow without meaning too.

      Like I said, while that one con seemed pretty good, everything I read about both here and in other media about how SJWs are invading cons and their “antics” (for lack of a better word) once they assume control have really have me hesitant to attend another con. Which pisses me off, because like I said, I had a blast at the one I went to last year.

      1. Go. And try not to let other people’s experiences dissuade you. Each convention is it’s own thing and there are bright spots here and there. And who knows, maybe some of the others will start to get clues, too.

        But go. And report back.

  3. I did a lot of cons when I was writing tabletop RPGs. For small companies, you usually were lucky if you broke even (on actual expenses; never mind the time spent there). They could be fun – I got to meet a lot of cool people in the gaming and comic industry – but they were a lot of work. But back then, nobody was running around looking for trouble. Now all it takes is half a dozen Twitter warriors to create drama.

    I feel really bad for a lot of fans who aren’t neurotypical and whose low social abilities or even the expression on their faces can be easily mistaken for “microaggressions” and harassment, especially by grievance commandos looking for something to whine about.

    Not worth it, IMHO.

  4. My take on the issue here: Pretty much what Sarah said, plus extra f-off sauce.

    Here in the Demented Dominion, I used to attend Comic Con and Fan Expo in Toronto. Last year they banned cosplay weapons, and they frisked everybody at the entrance.

    I’m going to -pay- to be disarmed and frisked? No, I’m not. Too bad so sad, con runners. I’m quitting now before you take my cane off me for “safety.” If you feel the need to frisk me, I don’t need to be there.

    The Ringo situation, clearly what’s going to happen here is that cons will have to pick a side. There’s plenty of cons that already did that, they’ve gone full-SJW. The odd one has gone “conservative” or maybe Liberal-lite, we’ll be seeing a lot more of that. The days of seeing Jemisin and Ringo at the same con are now over.

  5. Concarolinas isn’t John’s local con, it is one near enough to him for a relatively painless trip. If i understand correctly from discussions with him, his ‘local’ con is LibertyCon.

      1. LC would have to fundamentally change its entire philosophy in order to become an SWJ haven. To do it they would either have to infiltrate the Concom or pack attendance with their people much in the same fashion as was done at WorldCon the year of Noah Ward.
        LC has a hard cap on total attendance, it’s written into their charter, and they’ve maxed that number several years running now. In a normal year half get bought up on the last day of the con for the coming year. This year there was a venue issue that prevented opening enrollment until much later than usual.
        Not to put too fine a point on it, but any attempt to subvert LibertyCon would be taken as a personal attack on family by a whole bunch of folks. Serious consideration would have to be given to moving the long standing LC range trip on site for the edification and entertainment of our new SJW friends.

  6. I remember when you could go to a con in Britain and take weapons for your costume: swords or pistols etc. Then came Hungerford, and things just got more “policed” and less fun. We then went went from peace bonded to none, and so on and so forth.

    My first SF convention I saw and met Arthur C. Clarke. That was 1976.

    In the 1980s I would go to up to three conventions a year: EasterCon, NovaCon, and one or more other conventions depending. Nowadays, starting circa 1993, I found convention beyond my means, and the assumptions of value versus cost mean that going to a convention is a thing.

    I would also agree with, “They’re (low level authors) – let’s be blunt – of no particular value and can be replaced easily.” At which point it comes down to how much I enjoy the conventions. I do, but the cost makes the fun seem over priced to me.

    I am however, going to next years EasterCon, because it’s local to me, but I’ve laready had an email from someone on the comittee to the effect that they don’t want me on panels if all I’m there for is to sell my books. Quite frankly I feel offended. I volunteer for panels because I enjoy them, if they’re about something I find interesting to discuss.

    You can read my LonCon (2014) WorldCon report here:

    1. From your and Celia Hayes’ comments, I’m getting the sense that part of the SJW infestation of cons is an adversion to yucky commerce. After all, someone might actually make a profit, and that would be absolutely horrible! /end sarcasm…

      1. The SJW crowd and hard corps socialists are at the very least fellow travelers. After all a true artiste must be above all that mundane financial garbage, in fact the only way to be truly creative is to have yourself and your work placed on government stipend leaving you free to develop your masterpiece of performance art as a blue painted poo flinging monkey.

  7. You’ve pretty much listed my reasons (other than financial) why I’m rapidly losing interest in attending cons unless I know a group of friends will be in attendance.

  8. I’m still going to cons, but recent events are making me wonder how long this will remain the case.

  9. I go to Liberty con to see friends. I go to our almost-local con (Cosine in the Springs) because it’s a day trip or two days trip (about an hour there and an hour back) and we see younger son. The rest? Bah. Don’t make no difference to the sales.

  10. BTW, Greg Hullander who often comments here decided, for reasons best known to his psychiatrist, to consult his SJW friends on twitter about the advisability of visiting Liberty con with his POC husband.
    He was of course told we’d mistreat him — I’m not sure how, honestly.
    In fact, one of our close circle is gay and has promised this year to introduce us to his husband (Well, I met him at LTUE, so I’m ahead of you guys. Mwahahahahah), one of my friends who came to LC to attend my wedding is gay (and currently dating a POC. Are you going to marry him already and stop hesitating?) and there are any number of gay people for whom the con is a regular thing.
    So, hint for those who think a con might be this or that. Ask people who have been there, not people who judge without going.
    Also PFUI. What adult would think those people are the ones who would know? Honestly.

    1. of course he’d consult them, he thinks they know what the hell they are talkign about.

    2. “…the advisability of visiting Liberty con with his POC husband.”

      I noticed when he mentioned this elsewhere. The husband had concerns about his “safety.” In case the toothless hillbillies might get drunk and shoot the bottles off the bar or some such, I presume.

      I don’t want to turn this into a Bash Greg moment, but given the events of today in Toronto, I’d say things have changed. We are literally not safe standing on the corner minding our own business. There are twenty five people dead or smashed to crap right now who were guilty of walking down the street. That’s the reality today.

      To so easily suggest that a diverse group of political opponents are gay-bashing racists, when there are REAL racists, REAL murderers planing and carrying out atrocities… this is unacceptable, ladies and gentlemen. Enough is enough.

      1. I dunno Phantom. By that argument I’d have to stop fear mongering about the dangers of foreign nationals just from from a few big cities worth of domestic on domestic murder rate.

        Plus I hear some LibertyCon goers are Bob the Fool adjacent, hence by proxy super dangerous to every human being walking the earth, even if many of them do think that Bob is a weirdo that doesn’t give reliable advice on use of force situations. XD

      2. I don’t want to turn it into a bash Greg Moment either. I was just shocked he asked people who know nothing about it.
        The con has people of all political colors,including the deeply red Eric Flint, and various orientations, and I never heard anyone be treated harshly or even impolitely.

        1. I think it’s about fear.

          Fear makes us unable to think straight.

          And given that even when we do think straight, human heuristics are not great at assessing real risk versus perceived risk.

        2. I didn’t mean to suggest you were bashing him, Sarah. More that I wanted everybody to know -I- wasn’t bashing him, because sometimes people misinterpret things that I write. I was pretty angry yesterday about the atrocity on Yonge Street, and I knew my post was going to come across harsh.

          I’ve been on that sidewalk where those people died. I’m pretty sure I did a bunch of painting in a building across the street from there. It’s very real and extremely personal.

          Then to see perfectly ordinary, good people being slandered as dangerous racist/bigot/homophobes… the comparison pushed all my buttons.

          They’re still pushed, too. The authorities up here are playing cute with the media and the media are playing along. There’s been no word on the attacker’s history or motives from Toronto Police, but politicians have appeared and assured us all this is a Lone Wolf, and an Isolated Incident, and we must all Stand Together. Meanwhile the news outlets ran with a literal Chad/Stacey 4Chan troll.

          At this point I have to conclude that incompetence does not explain the -entire- media using a 4Chan troll in a broadcast. CBC, CTV, Global, and the radio stations all used the same copy. They literally can’t be that stupid. Its impossible. So they’re playing a propaganda game.

          The truth will eventually come out. Evidently the Ontario and Federal Liberals are very interested in seeing it comes out -after- the provincial election, I presume because it makes them look bad.

              1. In fairness, I’d trust a 4Chan troll over the New York Times. A 4Chan troll might tell lies it would be worth my time to investigate and find the truth of.

              2. So far, the closest thing to “official” I’ve seen is the former NYC Police Commissioner Bratton saying that his contacts are saying the guy was a “known wolf”.

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