Julie Barrett is a freelance writer and photographer based in Plano, TX.

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Fresh when it gets here from Julie Barrett
Tuesday, September 3, 2013

This will be brief, I suspect, though the picture will help. This is what I was doing all last week:


It's a crappy picture, but the only one I have. I was too busy running around to get better shots. 

Yes, I was running the Hugo Awards Ceremony last weekend.

LoneStarCon 3 was awesome. When I wasn't working on the ceremony, I was sitting on panels with some very amazing people. One panel yesterday had some very good discussion on how to make fan-run conventions (including Worldcons) more attractive to younger people. More on this in a minute.

But the Hugos were mind-blowing. Paul Cornell was an excellent MC, and he was a pleasure to work with. And yes, we had technical difficulties again this year, but they were not Ustream's fault. Just want to point that out.

To top off my weekend, I was given two autographed pictures by Astronaut Cady Coleman, who participated in the Hugo Ceremony. She had some nice words for me on the pictures, and I'll probably share at least one soon, once I catch up on sleep.

Now, the problem with youth and Worldcon. We speak much of the graying of fandom, and yet I know there are a lot of young fans out there. They have money to spend. I see them at the big "gate show" events. Those who find our fan-run events generally have a good time. Some are befuddled by things. We call the costume contest a Masquerade. They call a Masquerade a dance. We definitely need to do a better job of communication.

Worldcon faces come other issues that I don't think are entirely of their own making. It costs a lot to attend a Worldcon. Hotel rooms run over $150 a night, and we spent six nights. We bought memberships over 18 months ago, and it still cost about $500 for the three of us. Granted, Chris is an adult now, and that drives up the cost. (Yes, I was glad to pay his way because he earned it many times over by helping with the Hugos.) 

While cost is a huge issue, another is school. One reason we never attended Worldcons was that Chris was in school. When he was in public school, it was an unexcused absence. Miss a week in college, and you could be screwed. (That's another reason we were pleased to pay for Chris to attend. It was a bit of a "school's finished" celebration.) 

Then there's just being a young adult trying to make their way in this world. Jobs are harder to come by, and they don't pay as well as they did a few years back. If that young adult is starting a family, something like Worldcon isn't going to be high on the list. That's one big reason most of the people running these events are in their 50's or later. The kids are out of school and there's more disposable income. And believe me, it takes money to do this. The con doesn't pay for any of us to spend two or three extra nights there at $150+ per night, plus meals. 

So, what can be done? I think the move to get a YA Hugo going is a great start, and I'm sorry it got shot down. I completely support it. Over at another blog (I forget which one), someone stated that it's the rich fans that run the business meetings and get to vote for the Hugos. As for the first part of that statement, see the previous paragraph. Rich may not be the word (I'm certainly not), but at that age there is a little more money to spend on going to an event like Worldcon. And I know some of the big name fen scrape all year to get there. But they don't all have small mouths to feed or college tuition to cover. As for the second point, anyone with a supporting membership can nominate and vote in the Hugos. Supporting memberships generally start at about $30 or $40, and that also gets you the voter packet, which includes far more than that value in books and graphic novels in electronic form. I think there's a bit of a marketing issue here, and I would like to see more marketing to not just younger fans, but to ALL fans regarding the value of a supporting membership.

We also need to get the young adults and teens into fan-run conventions. Again, there's a marketing thing. Get them involved. 

And yes, we need to be more than "old white men and women." I'm seeing a little more diversity in the membership, but I think Worldcons still have a long way to go. And I think the best way to change that is to start at the regional level and recruit some new blood.

So how do we do this? Is it a marketing issue? Something else?

Okay, so this wasn't so brief. And pardon the typos. I am exhausted and need to hit the ground running tomorrow. And must go pet the cat some more. She missed us.

Filed under: Conventions   Worldcon   LoneStarCon 3      


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