As A Fan – Pt. 2


I had the interesting opportunity this past weekend to check out a convention that wasn’t my ‘scene’ and it was fascinating.

I lean more towards horror conventions and comic conventions if the truth be told, though I VERY rarely go to shows as a fan. I like the fan experience but loathe crowds and never feel like I have the cash to just go and be a fan and not worry. And really, I like being a vendor. It’s a wholly difference experience but I have grown to like it.

This Sunday my wife and I took her brother to an anime convention and while he did the fan thing we sorta lurked. While I am still very frustrated with the straight up awful communication the show displayed – asking them in a message what their hours on a certain day shouldn’t give you a broad answer and a link to a Google Doc – they put together a huge show that seemed to get the heck out of the way of the fans. There were rules, a LOT of rules, but that’s more of a response to poor behavior by people (some fans, some just lurkers looking to cop a feel or ogle someone in cosplay) than it seems like micromanaging fun. Along with a lot of rules were a lot of restrictions and procedures which definitely feel like overkill but, again, it’s a sign of the times we live in. Being a show that caters to cosplay you are going to get a lot of fans with decorative weapons and safety has to be at the forefront of the people behind the scenes so it’s a tough balancing act to make sure folks have fun but that things are still safe for everyone. I don’t envy them that task as there were a lot of people at this show.

One of the most interesting things for me is that the emphasis was on fun. They had a few guests, and had a few musical acts, and had a few featured artists but all of that seemed like icing on the cake more than the draw. The draw seemed to be the convention itself, which featured a twenty-four hour schedule for fans that wanted to game or party all night. That’s pretty neat. A lot of shows are starting to edge this way, and it’s smart. Some fans drop a lot of money to be at the show, to have the full experience, so it’s good that cons are actually creating a better experience. When I was a kid going to my first conventions you got a weekend pass and basically wandered around for three days. You’d stop in to watch a movie once in a while or duck out to eat or go to a mall, but it was really about being at the show…which could get boring. Now though, you can go game, you watch movies, you can do the guest thing, go check out vendors, or just hang out with fans in some of the open areas and just nerd out.

That ‘nerding out’ was the biggest thing I saw – fans getting together and talking, laughing, taking pictures, being obnoxious, and having fun. And there is the key. All fans really need are the ability to be themselves in a safe environment, and the opportunity to geek out over their passions. You can never please all the fans, never-ever, but you can create an experience that feels genuine and honest and allows them to make their own memories. I realized years ago that once that show opens you can’t control what people experience of feel. Some will have the time of their life while others will hate the time spent there. You can plan and plan and plan and you still can’t think of everything, and you still can’t plan for everything, and you just cannot control the experience others have. All you can do is listen to what the fans are saying, what they are asking for, and see if that makes sense for the show you are putting on. I’d wager a lot of the fans that were at the anime show this weekend spent more time with one another, having fun in their costumes and sitting around talking, than they did inside the convention proper. And that’s pretty awesome. They built the show, provided the space, and got out of the way. I am sure there was drama, and tears, and tantrums, and I guarantee there are fans that had a terrible time but that’s what happens too when people get together, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Some things you just can’t control. And that’s fine.

As an outsider it was great to see a show that tried to embrace everyone and everything as best it could and which let people be weird. You can’t do that with every show, sadly, as once you start adding things like alcohol into the mix that obnoxiousness can turn mean or dangerous pretty quickly, but you can still provided space and experiences and let fans choose their own paths. As showrunners sometimes we overthink things, trying to provide a hundred guests and a thousand movies and a million micro-managed things for people to do when really, what they want is to see and be seen, to have fun, to laugh, to geek out about their given fandom, and more than anything, make memories. The rest of it helps, sure, but in a world that feels awfully dark these days it’s nice to have safe places to go where you can be you – straight, gay, trans, and any color under the rainbow – and you can be as weird as you want and while not everyone will embrace you there, most of the people will accept you. That’s pretty powerful.

I was always trying to evolve our small show we did here in Flint into something more experiential but we never had the budget to really make big leaps towards that so I have a lot of respect for shows that figure out a way to make it work. This wasn’t my fandom, and it wasn’t my scene, but as an outsider looking in, I was impressed.
































As A Fan


So I write about conventions usually from the middle of the aisle.

I vend at shows, and I have run shows, and I have attended them. I have seen things from more than one angle. I started out though going to shows and while I don’t go to many anymore – lack of money and a preference to vend – I still consider myself a consumer of shows and it drives me crazy when conventions cannot get the basics right.

It’s about the customer.

Again – it’s about the CUSTOMER.

Yes, guests will have demands, often high ones, as will vendors, but it’s the customers that you have to keep in mind as you put together and run these shows. Guests are either at the show for free or on your dime, and while they make their demands, they also are officially part of the show. Vendors can be whiny. Super whiny. Hey, we’re there for a day or three days and we have needs to. Most of them though just want space for their stuff, some structure, and access to some sort of free food. They expect you to promote your show, to manage it, and to act professionally because that’s what they’re paying you the vending fee for, but mostly vendors want to know they are being heard and being given a chance to make some money.

Fans though, fans have a million demands, most of them ridiculous, but you still have to listen. Fans see things only through their eyes. They want what they want and screw everything else. They want, as I have said many times before, low prices, big guests, and no lines. They want what they want, how they want it, and when they want it. Basically, they are fans, and fans are not worried about big picture so much as the microcosm of what they love. And that’s fine. Fans drive you nuts, but they are also the reason we have a booming (er, busting?) con scene? Fans, when driven, have resurrected television shows, have gotten movies made, and have had a whole world of marketing and entertainment created for them because they are so invested into their passions. You get to be myopic if you have a wallet in your hand.

Fans, for conventions, are the customers, and they need to be heard. They shouldn’t always be listened to, but they need to be heard. And respected. Fans want what they want because they want to celebrate their loves. They want to mingle with their idols and inspirations. And they want to meet one another. And they want a place to do all of that. A safe place that respects them and treats them not as coin purses but as people. The easiest way to do that is to listen to them the same way you listen to the vendors. They want to be heard. They want to feel as if their wishes are being heard. Sure, not everything is possible, but if you listen, if you respond, and if you treat them with respect you’ll find out that they are suddenly fans of yours as well.

One of the things that drives me craziest about shows though is how lazy they are when it comes to communication. The simplest questions can be left hanging on the vine or worse, can be answered with snark or indifference. I am your customer – treat me that way. Treat me as someone that you want to please. It’s not hard. I recently messaged an upcoming convention to get their hours so my wife and I would I would know when to take her little brother to it. What I got back was an indifferent message that they were open Friday from X time to Sunday at X time and that they had a schedule in Google docs and then a link to that. While I am not dumb, treat me as if I may be and explain it to me – oh, hey, thanks for your interest, we’re open from X to X on Sunday. We look forward to seeing all of you. BOOM. Short, Sweet. Polite. Answers the darn question.

Yes, fans are a pain, but they are also what keeps you in business.

But they are not always right.

At all.

Fans can lose sight of the pretty amazing time we live in where we have these shows. They can forget that while they are needed, each person doesn’t speak for everyone else. Fans get lost in their list of imaginary demands and forget that this show isn’t just for them but for other fans as well. These shows are for the hardcore and the casual alike and the more people get caught up in the ‘you’re not a real fan’ nonsense the more needless arguing and division there’ll be.

When I was a kid I never knew that there were places where people got together to share their weirdness. I could never have imagined that we’d live in an era where there would be so much variety in not just the fandoms but in the shows that cater to them. We get so caught up in our demands, as fans and as showrunners, that we miss out on the fact that fandom is not a fringe thing any longer. It’s in the mainstream and it’s taken seriously. We have flooded the market, and screwed up the economy of things and we’re seeing the troubles with getting exactly what you wanted.

We have become greedy, again, as showrunners and as fans, and we’re risking it all.

We let greed for money and things ruin the simple fun of getting together with like minded people to share our mutual passions. We are chasing celebrities at the cost of the economics of the shows, which are becoming more and more expensive and pricing out fans and families. We are letting our demands on the shows weigh them down so that the market for smaller shows is collapsing as they try to compete with the mega-shows. We are so caught up in photo ops and autographs and merch that we forget the talented artists that populate these shows. You know, the people whose original art we ignore as we look for their take on a popular nerd property. We forget that once upon a time comics and their artists were the people that inspired us. We wanted bigger, bigger, bigger and that’s what we have gotten – bigger guests, bigger venues, bigger rules, and bigger prices.

This is the world we wanted.

This is what we have.

We can either work together to make these shows about the fans again, and about fandom, or we can keep making them about celebrities and money. Maybe that’s what we want in the end. I hope not because fandom is about a lot more than that, and so are conventions.






A Game Of Expectations


There are days, like today, where I am glad I am out of the convention game.

For the five years that we did shows locally I loved them. I loved ALMOST the entire process.


But I loved it.

Now that it’s over I miss it, for sure, but I can live with missing it if it means distancing myself from the madness of the con-going mindset of some. Most fans I love, because I love the passion and I love the fandom, but there’s been a mindset that has only gotten worse as the shows have grown bigger and bigger. Greed. It’s greed of a strange sort. Fans want HUGE named guests from HUGE shows and movies at ROCK BOTTOM prices.

It’s the wish in one hand sort of thing that we did as kids but which we should know better about as adults.

As someone who vends at shows I am always looking to see who the guests are when I am going to book. I want to know for myself, in case there is someone I want to see, and to see if they’ll be a draw. Having done shows though I also appreciate the economics of guest booking. Where one guest may be X amount another will be XX and on and on. They don’t all want or ask for the same stuff. One will just need travel, another will just need hotel, some will need those things and a feed, some will even want special VIP treatment. And that’s all part of the show. It’s part of what you plan for but each guest eats up your budget. And if you eat up all of your budget on that then you won’t have money for other things – like venue rental etc.

It’s fair for fans to have wish lists of guests. That’s what we all do. And it makes sense that fans want guests that reflect what is popular at the moment. THE WOMBAT just came out so OF COURSE everyone wants to meet Dan Sloane, who plays said Wombat. Unfortunately, Sloane knows he’s in a huge movie and he’s in demand and so he can expect and get a large payday for appearing and will need VIP treatment. No problem. But fans want more than just Dan Sloane, they want several people from that film, and from its offshoot, and from the television series that is popular right know about the zombie dragons. The list of wants gets to be so long that a convention has to make hard decisions. You go after a few big stars, you go after some cult guests, some throw-back guests, some cheap-as-free people, and you fill in with props and movie replicas. It’s all a matter of working with what you have and finding ways to please as many people as you’re able along the way.

You will never please everyone.

It’s impossible.

And fans don’t want to be pleased.

They just want.


And again, I get it.

I am a fan too.

I want big name guests and I don’t want to pay tons of money meet them. That’s not the market though. The market dictates what they can get and they want what they can get. Believe me, I hate the market. I think it’s insane to ask more than $50 for a damned autograph but you can blame collectors for that. As soon as fans became sellers, flipping signed items and memorabilia for profit things changed drastically. Why would a celeb basically price things so that a fan can flip the item and make more money on it? It made the experience less about meeting someone you admire and more of a business transaction and thus, here we are.

It sucks, but we did it to ourselves.

We took fandom and made it about money, well, so did they

And the thing is that if you want to have a HUGE convention with TONS of guests well, that costs a lot of money, and that cost gets passed on to us – the fans and vendors. And believe me, as both, it sucks.

It really sucks.

We have taken conventions, which were about a fan experience where we shared our fandom with others, met people whose work we admired, and we got to buy things that we couldn’t find at a store. Since fandom has gone mainstream things have climbed in price. Hey, it’s the price of popularity. The thing is though that by everyone wanting and demanding these big shows it is killing off the smaller, regional shows that had less and more modestly famous guests and focused more on the artists behind the scenes and the fandom itself. Those small shows were what got all of it started and what kept fandom alive when things were barren. Yeah, the smaller shows are not as exciting but it’s where you can actually talk to someone whose work you admire, can meet working artists, can meet other fans, and can really savor your fandom. You don’t feel rushed or hustled. Large shows are great because there is literally something for everyone but it gets so crowded and can feel overwhelming. You’ll miss guests and artists and vendors you may have been interested in because you just didn’t have the time to slow down and take it all in.

The best part about fandom is that there is room for everyone.

If you are a cosplayer – welcome aboard.

If you are a comic fan – come on in.

If you love movies and television – enjoy!

If you love the artists and vendors – right this way.

If you love the moveis or the games that are on hand – have at it.

There’s room for everyone.

But we have to stop acting as if a convention is JUST for us. That’s what will kill all of it off. We get mad and frustrated when OUR guests aren’t being booked, forgetting that budget, availability, and overall fan interst dictates who is booked. It’s not about you. And the thing is that by demanding bigger and bigger guests and larger shows it means all the prices go up, which no one wants to see. It sucks. Having done a low-dough convention I know firsthand. Fans want big names but they don’t want to pay big prices.

That isn’t how it works though. And by letting the large shows crush the smaller ones we have killed off opportunities to check out other things that were being marginalized – more obscure properties, classic actors, and shows focused more on the core things about or fandom like comic creators or indie filmmakers. You’ll see fans carping about ‘the same vendors and same artists’ but the thing is that this is the livelihood of those folks. This is their store. I do shows because it gets me and my product in front of people. I always lose money but at least I can interact with folks and sell my work. I can take an ad out but where, and for the cost I mind as well do a show and have some fun. Most people gloss over advertising now so you have to ask if it’s really worth it to bother. The crummy thing is when vendors and artists are forced to be carnival barkers, pushing their wares on people as they try to ‘make table’, which is basically paying the basic cost of yourself being there. On the other end of the spectrum are the ones that act as if they are bothered by having to interact with people, preferring to chat with other vendors and friends or work on art.

The thing we forget about conventions is that this is a business, for everyone involved.

The con needs to make money by creating an event people HAVE to attend.

The guests need to make money to make it worth the time and effort they take to attend the shows.

For vendors and artists this is their livelihood – even if it’s a hobby, it’s still something you are passionate about and are trying to financially support.

It’s the vendors I will always feel the most sympathy for because I know very well that there is a day when you have to look yourself in the mirror and ask if it’s worth it anymore, and not just doing shows, but doing the art you are passionate about. Sure, you’ll always do it, but the drive is to share it, for it to be seen and read, and if it cannot sustain itself, it’s a hard decision to decide – that’s it.

The best way to look at a convention is as a chance to discover – new art, new artists, new writers, new friends, and to just revel in fandom. Go for the guests, absolutely, but take the time to look past that and to appreciate how lucky we are to get to meet people who inspire us. Other fandoms don’t get that sort of access. You may meet a band you love but it’s rare, same with a sports or political figure. I have lots of issues with conventions, how they are run, how they are funded, and how they have grown, but in the end I still love them and still know they are a huge part of fandom and keeping that fandom alive. I hope that we’ll see a resurgence of small shows again, and know that it will happen but until then, let’s reign in our expectations a little and appreciate what we have while we have it.




The Distance of Dreams


If you are lucky enough to have a dream in life you realize that eventually you must let that dream go. It doesn’t mean that you failed or that the dream failed but that you must move forward from that dream. The hope is that you got to live it, to some degree, and can move on with a feeling of some satisfaction. The truth though is that you never quite fulfill any dream fully because that’s just the nature of dreams.

Perfection does not exist and a dream usually demands perfection, or darn close to it or it wouldn’t be a dream, it’d be a goal.

The difference?

I will be President.

I will run for President.



You can get darn close to attaining your dream, so close that it’s more than just a goal, but we don’t really get them fully, and that’s OK. If we attained our dreams, then what would we have to strive towards? What would we stretch ourselves towards? Goals are the stepping stones towards dreams and if we keep achieving our goals then we get close to our dreams and can find a way forward from there.

Over my forty-two years I have had a lot of dreams, many which came and went with the wind but some which stuck with me. As an adult my dreams changed, they evolved as I did. I have had two dreams as an adult which stuck with me –

The dream of having a horror convention in Flint, Michigan, my home city.

The dream of owning a performance space and gallery.

Both are attainable and both are ’goalable’, though I slot them in the category of dreams because they are both very distant to the life I lead.


In 2011, as I have talked about time and again, I started a small horror convention here in Flint. Dream achieved? Sorta. As close as you can get, to be honest. Zoom in though and the distance between dream and reality is pretty vast. Dream is to have a horror convention. Reality is the work to do it and the struggles to get there and the disappointment when all of it falls short.

I no more regret dreams that didn’t come together than I do relationships that didn’t last.

Dreams are a part of us, they shape who we are and what we strive towards, and even if we don’t come close to them we can become better people because of them.

With the horror convention it was something I never thought could have happened. To think that we created it with just $800 of seed money is mind-blowing. I was blessed with some friends that believed in me, with some people who believed in what we were doing, and we put it together and created the improbable – a horror convention in Flint, Michigan. Over our six years and five conventions we brought celebrities into our city, we showed films from around the world, we brought vendors and artists in from all around our region, and we did an affordable show that was by fans and for fans and didn’t sell out on that. Best of all was that we raised money for organizations that needed it and deserved it and we never took a dollar of that money for our own uses. We did things the right way and never betrayed our fans. I try not to be prideful but I am proud of that. I am proud of what we achieved. It wasn’t my dream but I think it was better, maybe, because it was real.

But all things pass and all things fade.

With each successive year the hill we had to climb to do the convention got higher. We needed more money to put it on and it required more from us to put it together. It was worth it, it was always worth it, but the longer we existed the harder it became. We changed venues, which seemed like a blessing but became a curse when that venue was essentially given to another entity bent on raising prices and focusing internally. In a city full of non-profits and churches it fell more and more to us to fund a convention that was ready to grow but which we couldn’t afford. We wouldn’t raise the cost for vendors and guests because we knew what we were – a small, one-day convention – and we didn’t want to be another show that bled people for money. My philosophy was always that if the vendors didn’t do well, i.e. make money, then they stop doing our show and let others know not to do our show. Vendors are the backbone of conventions and if you don’t treat them right you will pay. Guests wanted to do our show but without funding we couldn’t and were at a point where I was putting my own money into the show and a simple fact of business it this – if the business cannot sustain itself then it’s no longer a business and is a hobby.

This was a hobby.

And we loved it.

I loved it.

But it was too much.

Dealing with the money, the logistics, the occasional asinine and selfish vendor, the randomly rude guest, the unreasonable fan expectations, dealing with the venue, searching for funding, reaching out to make partnerships, all of it was a weight that grew heavier and heavier and heavier with each year.

After our 2014 show my heart was broken. I had lost a friend that year and had dealt with a memorial project for him that was to culminate at the con and during that same show I had an ex-vendor’s girlfriend calling me to allege we had a bootlegger selling this person’s wares at the show. I absolutely hated that show and the toll it took on me. At the end of the night I had to stay two hours after everyone left as I tried to find ways to secure the space after realizing that the venue’s doors weren’t locking and no one was answering their phones. We had a priceless movie prop in the venue and I didn’t want some drunk college student or curious weirdo to come destroy it. It was a nightmare. We’d lost so much money on what had been our biggest show and the simple fact was that while people came out to the show, we never really had a breakthrough attendance year. We did OK but every year there was an event, or football game, or party, or something else that prevented people from getting to the show. There was also the sheer fact that we had limited resources with which to advertise. Fans loved the concept of what we were doing but most people that followed us never came out. So with diminishing crowds, no real funding, and growing pressures in our day to day lives it was time to re-evaluate things.

I was ready to call it quits.

I loved doing the shows but the stress had gotten to be so great that it outweighed the fun. It was hard finding time to get us all together for meetings let alone to put the show together. We all had jobs, and families, and lives and passions outside of our shows and the weight of the convention became too great. As much fun as things were, the needless stress seemed to grow exponentially, down to people thinking that the Green Room was their personal buffet. We even had the joy of booking a guest that spent most of his day away from the show with some girl he was something-or-other with. We pulled down the tent, took a year to think, and in the fall of 2015 we met and decided we’d try one more show. A smaller, simpler, less expensive show. From the ashes of the Flint Horror Convention came the Monster Marketplace. Another day of low cost, family fun, with more regional guests. It was a step back but we hoped people would still come out. Interest had diminished in the ‘brand’ and by the time the convention came around you could see pretty quickly that we were not going to do very well. We had had to press the venue for three months to let us know if we might be able to grow the show, having a little more money than we expected, and didn’t learn we could until the week before, which kept us from adding vendors or anything else. The venue was so mismanaged that it became a pain just to try to work with them. The contact person was sweet but we always felt we were a burden and this year we had the added bonus of having to deal with dozens of college students wandering around the outside of the con and some inside as they went to a Saturday business class housed in the same facility. During the show we had one of the guests, who we paid and paid for them to have a hotel room for two nights, decide that they were done and pack up, get out of their convention outfit, and wander off to their hotel two and a half hours before the show closed. This after we had planned to have an announcement to honor a milestone for the person. But such is life.

Such are cons.

You are spinning so many plates that you hope that you can keep them spinning while the earth shakes around you.

Our 2016 show as fun but full of more stress than necessary and it was the final sign for me that the time to move on had come. I mourn that decision but know it was the right one. We had a lower turn out than ever before and it just feels like the interest in our shows have passed. We’ll still do smaller horror events but our days of conventions are gone. What makes me saddest is that we did have people that supported us and what we did and we filled a space that is quickly vanishing, and that’s of the small convention. So many shows are super-conventions that are all about the egos of the people behind the scenes and of the brand and not about the fan. Sure, they offer a lot to do and see but at a high price that hurts vendors and fans alike. The super-shows will eat one another and the fans will suffer for it. We need the small shows where you can meet guests and talk to them and learn from them. Where you can make friends and discover things. We need them because like indie horror is the backbone of the genre, indie cons are the backbone of fandom.

I wish things hadn’t come to what they did but it is time to move on.

I am tired and need to focus back on my writing and my books. I have tried to do both and in doing that my books have gotten the short shrift. What comes next I can’t say. As I mentioned, we’ll do other events, but never something so grand as we did before. I am sad to see it go but have no real regrets.

We were blessed.

I was blessed.

I still am.

I made new friends, met amazing people, saw amazing films, and lived as much of a dream as is possible.

Now is a time for rest and to regroup and to see what my heart tells me is next.

Because something will be next.

It’s just a matter of what that will be.

Dreams are never as far away as we imagine, and they are closer than we dare believe and they can drive us, and push us, but they do not chain us, they do not own us, and they do not define us. Dreams change as we do, and once in a while it’s good to let a dream go to move on to the next because if you let a dream define you then it becomes no longer a dream but a burden, and there is little good in that. Little good at all.


The Con Game 2016


Convention life is a very strange thing. For the time you are there – three-ish days usually – it is as if there is no world outside of the con. You don’t see the news until the show is over for the day. You don’t know the weather unless you go outside. And the usual day to day things that you normally keep up on with your friends is lost in the blur of the convention. For that time you are living in a sort of bubble where you are always thinking about the next day’s show, the sales, how your space is set up, and on and on and on. For that time you are living the world of cosplayers and celebrities and travel and hotels and blah, blah, blah. It’s one of those things that until you sorta dip into that world it’s hard to really appreciate the craziness that comes with it.

But it’s wonderful craziness.

And awful craziness.

Conventions crowds are a lot like the crowds you find at any fan-centric event, be it a sporting event or concert or something else. You have all of these people who come from different walks of life, from different world and they all come together at one spot because they all have that fandom in common. Such is the world of the convention. With comic conventions you get more variety because they are catering to not just one genre but all of pop culture now as well as comics. These worlds become safe places for everyone to come together under one umbrella, where you can fly your freak flag and enjoy yourself without the judgmental eyes of society on you. For that short time you can be you, be into what you’re into, and it’s celebrated.


Geeks and nerds and weirdos can still be judgmental jerks, let’s face it. Worse than that, they can be sleazy jerks. As much as we all love to be in a place where we can embrace one another’s weirdness and passions we also are still pack animals at heart and still feel the need to shun the ‘outsider’. Not geeky enough? You shouldn’t be at the con. Too mainstream? Why are you even here? That’s the crappy thing is that conventions are supposed to be safe places for fans and we are taking that safety away, and it’s not just the casual condescension and ownership some fans feel but the vile sense of entitlement and objectification of cosplaying. Once upon a time people who dressed up like characters from movies, games, anime, television shows, or whatever, were looked at as the geekiest of geeks and the biggest of losers. Over time we have finally embraced this subculture and are starting to recognize and appreciate it. As well we should. It takes a lot of time, dedication, and money to create some of the costumes people put together. Alas, just as we are putting the spotlight on cosplay the lowest and most vile of fandom has decided that sexy attire is tantamount to an invitation to ogling, coveting, and molesting. It’s thankfully not rampant but it’s too casually accepted. The random stranger that stops the sexy cosplayers to take their picture as the same photog passes up a dozen other costumed fans. Maybe they like those characters…but probably they just like the skin. And heck, sleaze is nothing new and it’s sadly something that most of the fans dressing up expect. It’s when it goes further. The fan that wants to pose with the sexy cosplayer and then ‘accidentally’ touches the person on the butt, or chest, or anywhere. Oops! Hahahaha! No harm, no foul! Right? Yeah…right? Except we’re better than that. A sexy outfit, out of context, is ‘just’ a sexy outfit, but at a con we should at least appreciate the context and understand that it’s representative of a character. We don’t have to like cosplay, and some don’t, but we need to protect it. We need to protect the cosplayers. We need to let them and the sleazebags know that the old ‘they shouldn’t dress like that then’ chestnut doesn’t fly now and it never did. If we can’t respect ourselves and our fellow fans then why the heck are we even bothering with conventions in the first place?

Respect is a big thing though that really is lacking at too many shows.

A lack of respect of fans, of guests, of cosplayers, of vendors, and of artists.

Vendors and artists too often are at shows for themselves, are about themselves, and anything else is a distraction from them. Too many treat the space like a dorm room and leave a gnarly mess, or they will pack up well before a show is over – because they are bored and wanna leave – or you get the great ones that have displays that are so big they trap you into your area so you have to exit and enter your space by ducking under your table, which looks great to people you are trying to pitch your wares to. Heck though, I saw a female fan run up behind an actor that was in a hugely popular show and she grabbed and hugged him. Not cool. Too many will shrug that off but if it was a male fan doing it to a female guest it would be a much bigger, much scarier moment. Fans need to respect the guests. Again, you don’t have to like them, or their prices, or their attitudes, but they still deserve to be treated like a human being, not as property. I don’t know if it’s the prices that celebs charge these days or just a general comfortableness with them but man alive we really have come to treat these people like cattle. We love them…until they annoy us and then they are trash to us and we’ll make sure everyone around knows it. Yeah, they’re paid to be at these shows but it’s gotta be weird to sit in one spot for hours at a time having to be consistently excited and happy to meet everyone, whether you are tired, sad, bored, frustrated, or anything else. You’re performing, live, and you better be good, darn it. It ain’t brain rocketry, sure, but unless you’ve worked as a receptionist or retail you don’t quite appreciate what these folks are going through.

I’d love to blame all of this on big shows, and I am sure it’s more rampant there as the whole atmosphere is more impersonal, but sadly, it’s becoming regular practice at all the shows. Fans are getting rude and selfish. Celebs and guests are getting more expensive and impersonal. Vendors and artists can waver between cold indifference and carny barker schtick. Sometimes I wonder if the fans attending and people building these shows know what a convention is. The celebrity and costumer ogling is nothing new but it’s the anger people go to shows with that is disconcerting. The ‘been there, done that’ attitude affected by teenagers who are bored by everything. It’s like – go to shows that have something for you and just avoid those that don’t. Simple, right? Not for some. Instead they go to the show and grumble, and complain, and act like spoiled children even though they knew going in that there wasn’t much to offer them at the show to begin with. These were meant to be places where we could all get together and share our fandom and while they still are, they are also becoming too much about business and too little about the ‘scene’. And that hasn’t helped things.

There’s room for shows both large and small.

Room for fans both passionate and casual.

And there is room for all of us if we can remember why we’re all at the shows in the first place – to have fun.

To be in a safe place where we can have fun, preferably with our fellow fans.

A place where we can show off all of the work we did on that costume, or drawing, or book, or movie, or props.

A place where we can make new friends, meet our favorite stars, fall in love with artwork, get that collectible we’d had our eyes on, and just be a part of a world that understands why you’re fandom is so passionate.

We don’t have to all like the same things, or have the same intensity of our fandom, we just have to respect one another, a thing that’s very basic, but so darn hard for so many of us to remember.


Why I Do It


In talking to someone at work today I mentioned that I was going to a big comic convention this weekend to sell my books.

They said that sounded like fun and hoped I sold some books.

I told them – well, I don’t. I never do. (This is writer hyperbole – I DO sell books, just not many, so take that statement with about a handful of salt).

They asked a very good, and pointed question – then why do it?

And sometimes I don’t know.

I do cons because I need to get out there, to get my books out there, and to keep trying. I need to do shows because my books won’t just find their audience, I have to help the audience find them.

I can’t afford to be an optimist when it comes to my books. I have to be a realist and I have to keep pushing.

I have to hope that some people will take a chance on my work, that some people will want to know what I am about, and that someone will become a fan. I accept that most people won’t care but some people may. I have to hope for that.

And that’s why I do these shows – hope.

The reality is that I am one little writer in a hall full of hundreds of talented people selling their own wares and no one is there looking for me. My odds are not great to make an impact. But I will try. I have been doing this show in particular for over twenty years, off and on. I never sell much at all but it’s fun to go and it’s an opportunity to promote my writing and our convention that some friends and I run.

But there is the pragmatic side. I am currently sick. It’s an expensive show to do. It’s long hours and little sleep. It’s more of a job than my own job.

But that’s the path I chose.

If you are gonna write, or do any art, then you have to understand that you are the main promoter, cheerleader, and sales person for your stuff. If you aren’t willing to go out and bang the drum a little for your own work then you are for sure doomed. And there’s something to be said about selling your work to someone in person, who makes the choice to buy it. People who don’t know you and have no connection to you.

That’s great.

Connecting with someone over your work, that’s pretty amazing.

It’s rare, but amazing.

So why do I do this?

Well, to a degree I have no choice. The market is saturated, any advertising I could afford would be tuned out, and I just don’t have the time to become infamous right now.

So I have to do shows to promote my work.

And I like them. When you are at the shows you make friends, you see friends, and you have strange experiences that only happen at the shows. And you learn. You learn to sell and to promote.

So off I go, to sell, sell, sell…in the least obnoxious way I am able to.

Wish me luck.


The Circle


I went to my first convention when I was just a kid. Two friends and I went to a Fangoria Weekend of Horrors show in Dearborn, Michigan and spent the weekend there. This was in 1990. We went back in 1991 and those were the only two times that Fango visited the Mighty Mitten. Those two conventions have stayed with me and are still a part of me.

I have been going to conventions on and off since that time and it inspired me to create a convention here in Flint. All of this is an old song that I have sung before. I have learned a lot of things over the course of these many years in going to these shows and putting them on. I have been behind in the lines, behind the tables, and behind the scenes. The one thing that stands truer than all things, the one thing that it seems that gets forgotten more times than most is that we’re all in it together.  We are all part of a circle that needs each piece to be complete.

From the fans, to the vendors, to the talent, and to the people running the shows we all got in this because of our passion for something, be it horror, science fiction, comics, pop culture, or something else. We got involved because of a genuine love of these things. Sure, there are people, far too many, that get involved, got involved, out of a desire for money. They are business people first and foremost and if they are good business people they have made these shows work. I tell you what though, you can tell the difference between a show that is run as a corporation and a show that is run as a passion. Sure, we’d all love to make some money doing what we love, at every level. As a fan I want my fandom to lead to something bigger. As a creator I want my creations to pay my bills. As talent I want that talent to solidify my future and broaden it. As someone behind the scenes I want to be able to pay everyone working the show, appearing at the show, and have money enough to create future shows. We’d all love to do make a living doing what we love but some things just don’t allow that and…well, maybe they shouldn’t. Who am I to say? What I WILL say is that it is passion for the things we are honoring with our conventions that makes those shows special.

And we are forgetting that.

We are forgetting that once upon a time we were all just fans falling in love with worlds, characters, and ideas that we had never experienced before.

The fans have started monetizing their fandom. They are flipping autographs and because of that the cost of those things has gone up, up, and up. Just going to meet a celebrity has become an expensive proposition and one that isn’t nearly as impactful but is often impersonal and quick. The fans, and how ‘true’ these fans are is debatable, have gotten very demanding and rude. We are forgetting that these people are just folks like us who have been able to turn their talents and hard work into careers. We are forgetting that while they should appreciate our fandom, they don’t owe us anything. We never hired them, we never directly paid them for their work, and we don’t support them directly once the conventions are over.

The creators have begun ripping off not just the fandom but the fan culture itself with mimics of what is possible and imitations of existing things. Oftentimes we don’t create new worlds and new work, no, we lean on what is popular, what is making money, and what others have done before us and we forego new work. We are not creating the worlds that will inspire this generation of fans and the next and the next after that. We are simply assessing what will make us money and leaning on that. And as creators we need to be aware of what is out there, and need to work in worlds that are often familiar will earn us a check. That’s the job. But in doing JUST that we are selling our artistic souls. If you are an artist you cannot just do fan art of other characters. If you are a writer you cannot just write stories about what others are writing about. If you are a singer you can’t just sing covers. If you do that then you sell your soul for a check and some things you can’t buy, and integrity is one of those things. We are here to be dreamers, paid or unpaid, or desperate to BE paid. We are here to inspire others to dream. And whether those are dark dreams or sweet dreams matters not, but we are here to inspire dreams. We cannot forget that. Just as we cannot forget that when we do find people that connect with what we do we cannot take that for granted. We cannot abuse that. We cannot forget that we were fans once too.

The creative people, the talent, must remember too that they were once fans. They must remember that fans, the core fans, the true fans, just want that one moment with them. They want that memory. Sure, some will get out of line, some will get out of hand, and some will want you just because you have something they can sell, but not all of them. The core of them want to have a moment with you. You owe them nothing but thankfulness. Thankfulness for their support of your work, thankfulness for their support of your projects, and thankfulness for sharing their support with others. The sad fact is that some fans will always be there to try to make a dollar off or your work and many are only fans of the money itself. There’s no real escaping that. All you can do is be true to yourself, to your fans, and to be fair to them, and yourself, in what you charge and what you offer. If you don’t want to touch fans or take photos then don’t. Be clear. If you don’t want to sign autographs then be clear. Fans don’t have to like everything you do, but if you are not interested in those things then don’t don conventions. Save everyone some trouble. These are your fans, they are there to see you. Don’t forget that. Don’t take advantage of that. Make some money, that’s fair. Don’t rip them off though. Even if you feel like you may be taken for granted by the non-fans don’t let that jade you. Please. Remember the fan you once were and never forget that. If you can do that then sure, you will have bad days, bad shows, but overall you will love what you do and be shown time and again that what you do matters.

There is a problem with the people behind a lot of shows and that is their cold indifference to fandom. They follow the market to see what is popular but the fans that they are supposed to be serving get left behind in the drive for profits. And sure, without the profits there are no more shows but there can be a profit without ripping people off. And it isn’t just the show runners but it is the eco-system of conventions where it is about sales over experience. Even cosplayers, fans who loved something so much they wanted to create costumes to honor them, even they are being used as ways to draw more people to the shows so they can make more profits. Agents get involved. Creators get involved. More people than need to have a say in how a show is put together shout out how they want it done and you get a giant mess of a beast that is hard to manage and harder to connect to. This isn’t a bang on the walls of the larger shows but is a bang on the notion of higher and higher and higher prices that limit fans and what they can experience. No, not everyone can do every thing, nor should they, nor can they but they should have the opportunities to do things and experience them. We cannot make fandom for the rich and connected. We cannot let conventions lose their personality. Lose their fun. We fill them with so much to do distract the fan from noticing how impersonal the shows are. The fact is that a convention can only be so much. It cannot be all things. It should not be all things. Fans will get bored. That boredom can be an indictment of that show but it can also be a part of the expectations of those fans. Fans can expect too much. They can demand too much. Give them some fun, give them opportunities to make some memories. Let them interact with fans and creators and stars. Don’t charge them every last dime they have. If you can do that then it’s on them if they don’t have any fun. Conventions are a business and need to be handled like one but it’s more than just that. It’s more than dollars and numbers. Conventions are opportunities for fans to step behind the scenes of their dreams, to meet the people that inspire them, and to meet other fans and share their excitement. Cons have gotten impersonal though, and expensive, and can inspire as much apathy as they do excitement. You can never please everyone. You can never be everything to everyone. But you can be something special. Something unique. And something fun. Cons and their creators are forgetting that. They are forgetting that fans may make all manner of demands but in the end what they want is to have some fun and escape the world for a little bit. That’s it.

The thing with all of this, with fandom and conventions is that it’s all part of a circle and each part feeds into the others and everyone needs one another. Without the fans there are no cons and without the cons the fans have no place to meet the people that inspire them. The world doesn’t NEED cons. Fandom doesn’t need them. Conventions are special though. Are magical. And we can’t forget that. We can’t let them become about money and greed and mimicry. We can’t let them become places that are not safe for other fans or for the creators or talent. We can’t let apathy ruin something that fans, that WE fans, have loved for decades. We take so much for granted and that can be dangerous with the things we love. If we are not careful we will price the fans away from the shows. We will get so greedy and demanding that the talent won’t come out anymore. We’ll pen creators into cages where they are not allowed to do anything but copy the works of others. And if we can’t start respecting one another, respecting the people who inspire us, and the people behind the scenes then we’ll lose cons altogether.

We all started out as fans.

We are still all fans.

We are all part of the same family, the same ecosystem, and if we don’t start acting in concert, with one another instead of against one another, we’ll be throwing it all away. So many of us spent years feeling disconnected from the rest of our peers, lost in our imaginations, finally, with conventions, we have a place where we can all get together and meet. We are pricing ourselves into oblivion. We are becoming so greedy, so crass, and so nasty that places that should be seen as safe havens are becoming too stressful and too dangerous. We are at a tipping point and unless we work together we’ll lose these precious spaces where all of us fans can get together, safely, and share our fandoms. It’s an exciting time to be a fan but the hard work we all put in to get here can be destroyed a lot more easily than we realize and if we’re not careful, we’ll deserve it when it finally falls apart.