Most of the time on this blog I’m discussing politics or the craft of writing; I rarely have anything to say about Science Fiction fandom. But that doesn’t mean I’m not involved; I was a fan (in the “active in fandom” sense) before I was a writer, and still think of myself as very much a part of the tribe. Note that phrase, because we’ll be coming back to it.
I just got back from a wonderful time at Convergence. But an odd thing happened. As an indirect result of a complex series of events, I’ve begun to suspect I’m in a very small minority; a position I’m used to in political discussions, but not about fannish things. Here’s the short version: apparently, there is a perception of mutual hostility between elements of the convention committees of the two main regional SF conventions here, Minicon and Convergence. And it seems I’m one of very few who are both involved in the conflict and oblivious to it.
It is difficult not to assume an attitude of superiority here; the temptation is to be supercilious both on the level of, “I have more important things to be concerned about,” and, “you are all being juvenile about this.” It is tempting to be that way, but not fair. This is stuff that matters very much to a lot of people I care about. And the reason it matters to them–to us–is at the heart of the conflict. That is, it is about tribe.
Everyone involved will, no doubt, see and remember it all differently, but, as brief as I can make it, here is how it seems to me: Years ago, Minicon was a gathering of the tribes, as it were: what we think of as hard-core SF fans, plus all sorts of related (or sometimes unrelated except in the “outsider” sense) other groups coming together. It grew and grew, and pulled in people some of us, including me, didn’t like, and couldn’t feel comfortable around. The final straw for me was when a long-time fan with a major disability was rudely told to get out of the way at the consuite bar, and the word “crip” was used. And I said, “Why am I putting on a convention for these people? I put on this convention precisely so, for one weekend of the year, I can get away from people like that.”
I was part of the group that favored making Minicon drastically smaller, and that then implemented it. Whether we did it well or badly, what mistakes we did or didn’t make, isn’t the point here. What we were doing, quite consciously, was saying, “We no longer want to put together a gathering of the tribes; now we want to gather with our own tribe.” But–this is important–we knew then that there were others who wanted the big gathering, and we thought that was a good thing. I remember conversations about how we could and would encourage and help (financially, with accumulated knowledge, with loans of equipment) any other convention that wanted to pick up where Minicon left off. And to me, that is just what happened, and I’ve always been pleased about that. Like, it worked. Now there is Minicon, where I can feel safe and relaxed; and also Convergence, where I can have the old sense of exhilaration and excitement. When I walk into a Minicon, I can feel tension leave my shoulders. When I walk into a Convergence, I can feel myself smiling. At Minicon I’m safe and secure with my family; at Convergence I’m in a happy whirlwind of activity.
That someone might feel bored at one or uncomfortable at the other seems entirely reasonable, and no more worth hard feelings than whether one prefers Lord of Light or Nine Princes in Amber. I was surprised and disappointed to learn that I am supposed to pick sides, or, worse, that there are people who thought I had.
In the grand scheme of things, sure, none of this is terribly important. But then, I don’t usually live in the grand scheme of things, I live in the small scheme of things. And twice a year, I have the pleasure of attending conventions that, each in its own way, make my world better. Why shouldn’t this be enough?