I’m just back from the second Eastern Media Convention, which took place the weekend of October 3-5 in Elizabeth, New Jersey. It was a terrific convention with a great, positive atmosphere, embracing both gen and slash fans, and fandoms ranging from old favorites (Starsky & Hutch, The Sentinel, The Professionals) to new, hot series (Torchwood, Supernatural, Moonlight). The convention remains small in membership size only (somewhere between 100-150 members, by my count) but with enough heart and enthusiasm for a convention many times its size.
As I was working the dealers’ room, I did not have the opportunity to go to as many panels as I might have liked, but I did moderate or assist in moderating three. The first was a 2-hour Beginner’s Art Workshop, where four of us artists gathered to share tips, tricks, and advice on everything from buying materials to ways to help improve your fanart portraits and make them more realistic. I received a lot of great feedback from people after the fact, and several suggestions that perhaps next year we could do both a beginners and a more advanced art workshop, to continue some of the ideas addressed this year. Other workshops held over the weekend included the use of Photoshop, Vidding, and a Writers’ Workshop, making it a great convention for those interested in improving their skills in their fannish activities.
My notes for my part of the workshop can be downloaded here.
I also hosted a panel entitled Working With Wiki, for those interested in either starting their own fannish wiki or helping out with an existing one. This went really well, even with just a small gathering of 3-4 interested folks. We talked about various issues such as choosing your hosting service, setting up your category structure, the usefulness of templates, working together with other wikis, and also how one can use the wiki architecture to create a fiction archive.
My handout for the wiki panel can be downloaded here.
On Saturday, I hosted a panel on teeny tiny fandoms along with Candy Apple. This was a really raucous panel as everyone has their pet tiny fandoms they wish were bigger, or wish they could find more fiction for. We talked about a lot of different topics, including what are both the pros and cons of being in a small fandom, the differences between “mainstream” fandom and fan-fiction fandom (that is, what to do if you’re part of a larger fandom, say The Police, that only has a small group of people interested in fan-fiction about it — and how sometimes that can lead to conflict and worries). We discussed how crossovers can be used to bring tiny fandoms to a larger audience (which then somewhat diverted into a longer conversation about crossovers in general), about how humor can be a tool to getting tiny fandom fic read, as well as many resources which can be used to find/list/help promote fiction in tiny fandoms.
Some of those resources mentioned included:
- FanWorksFinder: The fanworks index, where everything from fanart to fic can be added, recced, and individual favorites lists built.
- Yuletide Treasure: The annual small fandom fic exchange
- Crack Van: The livejournal community for promoting/reccing fandom fic big and small.
- Ship_Manifesto: The livejournal community for promoting various ‘ships and fandoms
- RareSlash: The livejournal community for rare slash pairings
- And of course, Fan History, where if a page about a fandom isn’t there, it can be added at any time, including links to story archives, fansites, and other information.
I did not make it to the vid show Friday night, but it ran nearly four hours long, I’m told, which first a gen half and then a slash half. The vid show was well-received from the comments I heard, with a wide range of hot new and older fandoms represented, as listed above. The Saturday night “Cope Fandana” was a fun event full of games, humor, and lots (and lots!) of cake, pies, and other sweet goodies. The art show was varied in content from your expected character portraits, photo manipulations, slash art, and also a nice sampling of fantasy and animal art. Dealers reported mixed sales, as might be expected given the economic situation in the United States. I found my sales were quite good, and by Sunday I even had a book full of orders to complete before the holidays! There were a few dealers who did not show up (or left early) but the room still represented a wide array of great merchandise including jewelry, woodwork, leather, celebrity photos and of course, lots of fanzines. Anyone looking for gifts of either a fannish or “mundane” nature could have certainly made out very well at the con.
Throughout the weekend, I found the hotel facilities excellent and the staff excellent. The food was much improved over last year and they were very accommodating to the needs of a fancon – that is, responding to breakfast buffet requests, setting up evening food buffets for those without the time to wait for table service, having bellmen ready and quick to assist in dealers’ move-in and move-out. I even had some of my best sales for the weekend of my jewelry from the hotel staff! While some of the mundane hotel guests might have wondered what was going on, the set-up of the hotel made it easy for most events to be held “away” from the mundanes, making it more comfortable for both fans and regular traveling guests alike.
Sunday after pack-up, I sat in on the Dead Dog Panel which included the usual mix of praise and quibbles, though the overwhelming response was quite positive. Given that EMC is only two years old, I believe the con comm has done a tremendous job already and can only hope that finances make it possible for the convention to continue into 2009 — and beyond. Of course, getting new fen to travel to conventions seems to have become a harder and harder task these days, given so many fen stick with the internet to interact and don’t see the “point” in spending money to see other fen in person. However, there’s just something about the chance to connect to friends in person you may only see once or twice a year; to have those discussions with a room full of people in “real time” instead of through comment threads and email; to be able to hold a piece of fan art in your hands or laugh at your fellow fans’ wonderful creations during “Crazy Hat Night” — or maybe discover a new fandom at a pimping panel or *cough* when your roommate sits you down to watch an episode or two.
I know I’ll be back at EMC next year, as long as it has a next year, and I hope to see more other fans there as well!