As San Diego Comic Con approaches, I find myself thinking (more than usual) about conventions. Every year, I consider going to San Diego Comic Con. And every year, I remind myself that it’s just too big for me. Of course that doesn’t stop me from imaging what it would be like. And though it’s hard to compare conventions, particularly when they’re very different, that’s exactly what I find myself doing.
I attend five to six conventions each year. Some, like New York Comic Con, are enormous. Some are tiny, like Tribal Forces. I drive to some, fly to others. Some I attend for a day, some I stay for the entire weekend plus days on either end. Sometimes I go to panels, sometimes I hang out in the dealer’s room, sometimes I spend most of the convention in the lobby. But my primary reason for going never changes. To see people who have something in common with me, whether they’re people I already know or friends whom I haven’t met yet.
At larger conventions, I tend to meet (and know) less people. Maybe that’s not quite true, maybe they’re just harder to find. But it changes the way the convention feels. Gallifrey One leaves me feeling like I’m surrounded by my fandom family. I don’t know everyone, but I know a lot of people, and each year I come home with more friends. In contrast, at Philadelphia Comic Con I feel like I’m surrounded by strangers, even when my friends are right beside me. It’s more rushed, and people seem less likely to just stop and talk. I-con is somewhere in between. I know a lot of people, but the convention is so spread out that they’re more difficult to find. Other fans are willing to talk, but different fandoms make it hard for those people to become friends.
Big conventions fascinate me, particularly San Diego Comic Con. There always seems to be a million things going on that I’d love to experience. Panels, screenings, giveaways, parties, etc. But I’m also not a very forceful person. I don’t want to spend the entire weekend fighting my way through the crowds. I’ll say that I want to attend a panel, but I don’t want to lose the day to waiting in line. I like a level of spontaneity at conventions. I don’t mind making plans, but if something happens, I want to be able to change those plans without rearranging my entire day. Smaller conventions let me do that. If I say I want to go to a panel, but I find myself talking to someone at that point, I might skip the panel. Or slip in late. I have the choice.
Not all conventions are the same. Even when things don’t go perfectly, and believe me when I say things rarely run perfectly, you can always take something good away. While waiting in a never-ending autograph line, many years ago, I met the girl who would become my best friend. When one of my panels got canceled due to a tornado warning, we held the panel in the hallway instead, and had an amazing time.
Conventions are what you make of them. If you want to buy things, buy them. If you want to go to panels, go to panels. If you want to talk to people, talk.
Someday, maybe I’ll go to San Diego Comic Con, but it won’t be anytime soon. The size of the crowd is just too overwhelming. I go to New York Comic Con, which is comparably crowded, but it’s a train ride away, rather than a flight across the country. Most of my favourite conventions are significantly smaller. I’ve been going to conventions since I was ten, and I like to think that’s given me plenty of time to learn what I like in a convention and what I don’t.
But every time someone mentions enjoying a convention that I haven’t been to, I find myself wanting to go… just once.
Of course last time I said that, I ended up going for the next five years.
I guess I’ll see what happens, since I’ll be attending my first Baltimore Comic Con in September.
Until then, have fun at San Diego Comic Con, if you’re going (or already there). Bring back stories for those of us who are too scared to go.