When Fandoms Collide

Recent events have called up memories of conventions past.

It seems some overly enthusiastic person(s) at Dragon Con this past Memorial Day weekend seriously injured two DragonCon attendees by throwing chairs off a tenth-floor balcony at one of the large hotels in downtown Atlanta. The current prevailing theory is that the person(s) responsible were in town for a sporting event, and may have imbibed too heavily. As I write, they do not yet have any suspects in custody, but I hope they find the person or persons responsible, and thoroughly prosecute them. Drunk is one thing: drunk and violently stupid is entirely another.

It reminds me how many times sci-fi fans have clashed with other fandoms or non-fan groups. I remember many WisCons past — when the convention was still held in March — where participants in high school sports tournaments would be competing for the same hotel rooms as WisCon attendees. More recently, members of a wedding party tried to crash a private WisCon party. When told they couldn’t be admitted without a convention badge, one of the drunken wedding celebrants “cleverly” whipped out his penis in an attempt to impress somebody. He failed.

I also recall tension between gamers and football fans in Indianapolis during GenCon. GenCon is such a big deal that hotel rooms are sold out for twenty miles in every direction months in advance of that weekend. This was cause for significant embarrassment when the visiting teams playing the Indianapolis Colts in two different years had to stay nearly in the next state in order to book enough rooms for the entire team and their attendant staff. The football fans, decked out in their team color feather boas, oversized cowboy hats, and body paint in their team’s colors jeered at the “weirdos” in elf costumes complete with pointy ears, or carrying wacky sci-fi replica weapons. The irony of the situation was clearly lost on them.

Even among fans there is significant tension. Cosplayers are often at odds with comic fans, who claim the costumers are ruining their conventions. Sci-fi fans regularly sneer at gamers for being too lowbrow, and the filkers and furries get on everyone else’s nerves just by being there, apparently. It’s a sad state of affairs, but mirrors American society as a whole. I don’t know where it’s going to end, but I do know we can look forward to more years of fans looking down on one another, making hierarchical lists of which fandom is most worthy, and so on. If we can’t be more tolerant of other pursuits in our choice of fandoms, I don’t see how we can possibly do better in treating our fellow human beings well during these politically divisive times.

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