Conventions (Cons): Introduction

For this chapter, I am looking at a particular performance at conventions as a rhetorical ars memoria. To do that, I also have to make sure that the readers generally understand what a convention is and how it works.

steampunk_icon_for_Safari_by_yereverluvinuncleber-d4zhax0What are Cons?
“Fan conventions, often hotel-weekend affairs involving parties, panels, guest speakers, and appearances by celebrities.” (Cheryl Harris, Theorizing Fandom 8)

“a con is a multifaceted environment with many separate events going on at the same time under the con’s general aegis” (Brian Ruh, Adapting Anime 166)

“the con is a gathering site of a kind of community that distinguishes between existing members and those who might want to become members. In very broad terms, then, there are two different types of audiences to which one can perform at a con – those inside the subculture and those outside” (Ruh 167)

Where did Cons start?
“Science fiction fandom evolved out of the interaction between readers in the letter columns of these magazines [Amazing Stories and onward]. Fans began to publish fanzines. They began to hold SF conventions, then an annual Worldcon, out of which came the Hugo awards. A subculture accreted itself around the kernel of the SF genre” (20).
Spinrad, Norman. Science Fiction in the Real World.

How do the cons work?
“the physical landscape of the community plays out in the mobile geography of the convention calendar. We will see how new fans and new generations are socialized through personal contact, structured interactions, and ritual-like events.” (Bacon-Smith 10)
Camille Bacon-Smith Science Fiction Culture.

Who goes to cons?
Historical view:
Fans are integral to the way contemporary SF operates: numerous fan-created magazines, websites and conventions generate much of the energy on which the continuing vitality of the genre depends. Yet the ‘fan’, and especially the ‘science fiction fan’, has a very low cultural currency today. He or she exists in a cultural climate of low-level ridicule and dismissal; thought of as obsessive cultists, unskilled at social interaction, physically unattrac- tive and unhygienic, outsiders, nerds; to instance a cultural icon with whom many people will be familiar, the comic book store owner in The Simpsons cartoon series. Behind all this negative social construction (which, as with any derogatory stereo- type, relates less to reality and more to prevalent ideological fascinations and anxieties) is the twofold baseline perception: that fans are ‘fanatical’ (the former term, of course, derived originally from the latter) in some dangerous sense; and that fans are passive receptacles of consumer culture. (Roberts History of Science Fiction 17)

More modern/realistic view:
Science fiction is a community, not an elite. Fans more often than not embody a huge, detailed and working knowledge of their genre, and can locate new texts within a framework of intertextual reference and connection with impressive facility. And the trope of ‘the fan’ embodies not only actual humans who follow SF, but the position of the new SF text (novel, film) in respect of the whole genre, and – as I have been arguing – in an ideal sense the relationship (active, engaged, creative) between ‘SF’ and science that underpins the definition of the genre this chapter has sought to sketch. (Roberts History of Science Fiction 18).

How many people go to Cons?
cons can be quite large as well – in 2004, Anime Expo and Otakon, the two largest anime cons in the United States, had official attendance figures of approximately 25,000 and 21,000 people respectively (“Otakon 2004 Statistics” 2004). This is a significant increase from anime cons that took place less than ten years ago; for example, the attendance at the 1998 Anime Expo was 4,745 people (Patten 2004: 123), meaning that attendance at that particular convention has increased fivefold in six years (Ruh 165)

RMCF (Rhetorical Memory Cosplay Fandom)

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