(For other doubtful possibilities, see Con (Disambiguation))
Con is short for convention. Herein it means science fiction convention, a gathering of fans and pros from near or distant points. They’re usually held in a hotel, frequently for more than a single day and often discussing sf, where they have programs. The attendees join the con as members, not ticket buyers.
Modern SF conventions continue to be run by volunteers and are the result of 60 years' evolution of the conventions described in Fancyclopedia 2. Most conventions are Not for Profit and many are 501(c)(3) (US charity), but all -- even those run by nominally for-profit corporations -- are run by unpaid volunteers. That everyone from the chairman on down to the lowliest gopher is an unpaid volunteer is the hallmark of a fannish convention. Anything else is a gate show.
Since Fancyclopedia 2 was written, the term convention or con has come to be used for pretty much all organized fannish gatherings beyond club meetings, and is no longer restricted to annual Natcons. The word conclave, meaning "meeting", has dropped out of use, leaving its influence in the ConClave and Disclave convention series. The old terms confabulation and conference have pretty much died out. (See the Fancyclopedia 2 entry on “Con,” below, for more.)
The main kinds of convention now (in order of increasing size) are:
|Relaxacons||Conventions which are basically excuses to get together and socialize. They have little if any organized programming. E.g., Midwestcon.|
|Specialized conventions||Conventions focused on a narrow aspect of fandom. E.g., Smofcon or Costumecon.|
|Locals||Conventions (usually small) that draw locally only.|
|Regionals||Conventions that draw from a wider region than a locality.|
|Traveling conventions||Conventions that move from place to place and are frequently bidded on. Many specialized conventions and many very large conventions move from site to site.|
|Natcons||National conventions, today held in most Western countries and quite a few other places.|
|Worldcons||The World Science Fiction Convention, sponsored by WSFS.|
For comparison with the world of Fancy 2, a typical modern regional convention (of which there are 100–200 each year) runs to several times the size the Worldcon was (371 members) in 1959 when Fancyclopedia 2 was written, and is correspondingly more complex. Commonly, a regional will have a multi-track program, an art show, a hucksters' room, a con suite, one or more evening events such as a masquerade, and also may have some sort of media program such as a film program, an anime room, and gaming. Some sort of evening parties run by members are also common.
|From Fancyclopedia 2, ca. 1959|
|Con – Comingtogether of fans from various localities, usually at a call issued by some organization or local group. And the designation is used as a combining word to make up some distinctive name for the brawl -- either "con" itself or its completions, -vention, -ference, -clave, or -fabulation. These words are not equivalent, for convention usually refers to the principal annual gathering; other formal get-togethers are conferences or conclaves. A confabulation is an informal meeting larger than a mere fan visit but not built up or conducted like a conference; the word is pretty near obsolete, tho popular in the early 40s.
The most important thing about a con is that the slans can get together with their own kind of people, perhaps forgetting their introversion for a while, and do what they want to do and fangab about mutually interesting things and develop their stfnic personalities.
|From Fancyclopedia 2, ca. 1959|
|Note that this article (unlike the rest of the Fancy 2 articles) incorporates the Fancyclopedia 2 Supplement additions into it. In this case, the material in the Supplement was a re-write of and duplicates to a significant extent the original material, extending it with additions rather than amendments. They are presented here as a single merged article.
Convention – Before late 1938, any largeish fan gathering; thereafter, a more or less successful policy of restricting the word to the annual national/international convention was followed in fandom. The World Science Fiction Convention is usually held on Labor Day Weekend (in the United States the first Monday in September is a holiday, guaranteeing a long weekend), and allows a good year for recuperation between cons. Attendance is anywhere from 200 to 2000, tho the big-convention trend has been viewed with Alarm and Despondency by many fans.
The first Science Fiction Convention was in Philadelphia in October 1936, when the NYB-ISA visited the Philadelphia Branch. It was marked with horseplay and camaraderie. This was the first of all stf conventions.
The Second Eastern States Science Fiction Convention was held in New York the following year under ISA auspices; rumblings of a World Convention were heard. It was essentially a return visit by the Phillies to New York.
The Newark Convention, officially the First National SF Convention, was held at Newark 29 May 1938, at the call of Will Sykora and Sam Moskowitz. The first con to pass the hundred mark in attendance, it was marred by feuding and sniping over Michelism, the ISA, the planned WSFC, and any other convenient theme. Since it had no representatives from west of the Appalachians the Wollheimists called it Fourth Eastern for a long time.
After this "convention" should be restricted to the chief annual gathering of fans, which is usually designated as somethingcity World Science Fiction Convention by the committee which produces it, and by the fans who refer to it as some word starting with part of the host city's name and ending with "con" or "-ention".
1939 NYCon I was held in New York 2-4 July under the auspices of New Fandom as the World Science Fiction Convention, "First" being added later. (Annual Worldcons were not at first contemplated; idea and site for the ChiCon were not formally approved by fans till the Philcon later this year.) With a total attendance of 200, it was the largest before World War II ended major conventions. It set the pattern for subsequent conventions lasting more than one day, but was marred by the Exclusion Act. The name of NYCon (or "Fifth Eastern") was tagged on it by the Wollheimists to downgrade the claim implicit in "World", but after the ChiCon such portmanteau-names were always used. GoH: Frank R. Paul; Chairman: Moskowitz; Hotel: Caravan Hall; Estimated attendance: 200.
1940 ChiCon I was in Chicago about Labor Day 1940 under the auspices of the Illinois Fantasy Fictioneers (a con-promoting organization specially organized by Reinsburg, Tucker, and others for the event; it later merged with the MWFFF). The ChiCon I was significant of the new harmony in fandom resulting from the suppression of feuding, and took place in the plushest surroundings yet. A suggestion by Speer and Rothman led to institution of the Costume Party at this con; Dave Kyle won it as Ming the Merciless. GoH: E. E. Smith; Chairman: Korshak; 115 attendees at the Chicagoan.
1941 Denvention was presented 4-6 July in Denver Colorado, by the Colorado Fantasy Society. GoH Heinlein made an outstanding speech. Also worthy of remark was the traveling that fans did to get there; the Widneride, riding the rods, making the trip on a starvation shoestring, etc. The award offered for the fan overcoming the greatest difficulties to attend was deserved by many. Olon Wiggins in the chair; 100 attended at the Shirley-Savoy.
1946 Pacificon (no pun intended) happened under LASFS auspices; attendance was disappointing on account of bungled publicity. The announcement of the formation of the Fantasy Foundation was made, Rothman Liebscher and Perdue improved the occasion with pianistics, and Ackerman had a nervous breakdown from overwork. A wire to Dunkelberger informed him that the N3F had been dissolved when a quorum of the members met at the con (probably the only time a quorum of N3F members has ever met face to face since the first year of the group's existence; Dunk hollered foul, hired a lawyer, and got ready to fight the battle of the century before E. E. Evans exposed the hoax.
Joint Guests of Honor were A. E. van Vogt and E. Mayne Hull. Chairman: Walt Daugherty, he of the projects. 125 attendees at the Park View Manor. The attendance would surely have been larger for the first postwar con, reminisces Burbee. "I do remember how irked Walter J. Daugherty was because so many local fans were sending publicity out. He wanted to be in sole charge of publicity releases, releasing just tidbits of information at a time, so that months would elapse before people were even sure that there was going to be a convention. Gradually they would learn details, such as when and where. I believe that he also wanted to have but one fanzine, Dunkelberger's Fanews, be the convention news medium. He said he knew all about publicity and nobody else knew anything."
1947 Philcon produced by the Philadelphia SFS was loaded, chairman Rothman selfcriticizes, with too much heavy science on the program, but Speer and some friends managed to lighten things up a little with the Fireworks Furor. John W. Campbell was GoH; hotel Penn Sheraton; 180 attendees.
1948 Torcon, marked by the first appearance of the helicopter beanie and zap-gun, was put on by the Toronto (Canada) Derelicts over the July 4 weekend. (Patriotic Amerifans celebrated Independence Day and defied the tyranny of King George.) Tucker presented his Little Kinsey Report (which Bloch later parodied), Wollheim defended sex (on prozine covers, that is) and Doc Keller plugged for science-boosting stf. Oh yes -- and Rothman introduced a film on atomic physics, with results told under zap-gun. 200 attendees heard GoH Robert Bloch; Chairman Ned McKeown arranged for the con to be held in the RAI Purdy Studios.
1949 Cinvention under Cincinnati Fantasy Group sponsorship was prefaced by the Second Tucker Death Hoax. Guests of Honor were selected from both pros (Lloyd Arthur Eshbach) and fans (Ted Carnell, who had been brought over by the Big Pond Fund). A group of attendees appeared on TV to plug the con, Kyle arranged for a model to come from New York to pose for cheesecake photos of "Miss Science Fiction", pro guests included the author of scientificomic "Alley Oop", and Dave MacInnes recorded all on wire. 200 attendees met at the Metropole under Don Ford's chairmanship. The Cincy boys made a tidy profit to pass on to the next year's con. Parenthetically, Redd Boggs puzzled some fans no end by titling his comments on the con, "The Fantasy Boys Over the Rhine"; It turned out that "Over the Rhine in '49" was a World War II slogan used by those who thot the conflict would end in this year.
1950 NorWesCon (at Portland, Oregon) followed an intensive campaign for a West Coast con in the name of fairness. It saw the introduction of a Dianetics session full of people testifying to the healing powers of the New Faith, and a lethal takeoff on such screwballism in Theobald Mackerel's presentation of Diacybersemnetimantics. Held at the Hotel Multnomah; chairman Don Day presided over 250 attendees and Tony Boucher who was GoH.
1951 Nolacon, the only convention yet held in the South (at New Orleans, Louisiana), was the smallest since the War, but contributed to fannish legendry the two-day party in Room 770 and exposed the quasi-hoax about Lee Hoffman's sex. Harry Moore, who managed the thing, got world premieres of The Day The Earth Stood Still and When Worlds Collide to show. Fritz Leiber was GoH; Harry Moore, chairman; 325 attendees; St. Charles Hotel.
1952 ChiCon II went to the other extreme, being the largest since the war with over 1100 attendees. Walt Willis was brought over by Shelby Vick's WAW With the Crew in '52 campaign and the Little Men held a fabulous penthouse party (which, however, didn't get the con for Frisco in '53); John Pomeroy told everyone How To Be An Expert Without Actually Knowing Anything, and Gernsback introduced the peculiar idea that writers should claim a sort of patent or copyright on ideas they introduced in stfyarns. Chairman: May; Hotel Morrison; GoH: Hugo Gernsback.
Chicon II only gradually, and after the fact, became the accepted tag for this con, perhaps because diehard old-time fen insisted. Even TASFIC, the contemporary nickname, was not really authorized by the committee, which never gave out an "official" nickname. In fact, this was the only Worldcon whose official name was not the Somethingth World SF Con; the 1952 Convention was the Tenth Anniversary World Science Fiction Convention, and the Committee wouldn't let you forget it.
1953 Philcon II saw an incredibly lengthy auction session managed by L. Sprague de Camp but was fannishly marked by the irruption of the 7th Fandom faction, organized earlier in the summer. Early mutterings of the advisability of incorporating were heard and the rotation plan, which regularized the idea of holding cons in Eastern, Central, and Western locations successively ("orderly progression westward") was adopted. Milt Rothman made himself the only second-time s/u/c/k/e/r Worldcon chairman; Willy Ley was GoH. 800 fans coagulated at the Bellvue-Stratford. The Philcon II was the first (and only) con to official use a II in the nickname.
1954 SFCon out in San Francisco saw the 7th Fandom fuggheads in full cry, was embellished by Vorzimer's haircream caper and the activity of some nameless goons who threw full beercans out the hotel windows, and somehow found the management unsocially inclined; intrusions into private rooms by the house detective were reported on several occasions.
It was known as SFCon or Friscon -- the latter name was detested by the local people, who have a Thing about their beautiful city being called Frisco. John W. Campbell was GoH again; 600 fans and some of Vorzimer's 7th Fandom crew made the scene at the Sir Francis Drake, and Les Cole held the chair. I forget who carried the hose.
1955 Clevention occurred after the 7th Fandomites had been kneed in the groin by the mad dogs and hotel relations (with the Manger, in Cleveland Ohio) were wonderful. One unusual aftereffect of the con, not previously observed, was a justification of the last paragraph under "con"; meetings of Lee Hoffman and Larry Shaw, and Rog Phillips and Honey Wood, were followed at no long interval by marriages. The Terrans, who produced the con this year, were already an incorporated group, so that question didn't arise this time. Nick Falasca was chairman, and Isaac Asimov GoH.
1956 NYCon II (or NewYorkon, as some called it) was monstrously large, estimates around 2000 being offered since a large number of visitors were not con-society members. It was disfigured by a marked degree of unsociability, a Little Exclusion Act (the committee restricted the audience of some speakers to those who'd paid $7 ($7 [!!] for a banquet), the incorporation of WSFS by maneuvers which provoked much resentment, and a debt of hundreds of dollars due chiefly to some thefts of display material and an overestimate of the number of fans who'd be sucker interested enough to pay $7 for a hotel banquet. Arthur C. Clarke was GoH, and Dave Kyle controlled the chair.
1957 Loncon, London, the first genuinely international con (there was one in Toronto, but Canada can hardly be counted as a separate country), represented an attempt to return trufannishness to the commercialized con, but was disturbed externally by a flap over a proposed plane trip which eventually wrecked the WSFS Inc.; the business session was delayed by a gun battle in which the GDA retrieved the Official Gavel, BBC-TV filmed a choice collection of interviews with attendees, worthy fen were inducted into the Knights of St. Fantony, and TAFF winner Bob Madle got a better reception than the later furor might suggest.John W. Campbell racked up another Guest-of-Honorship, and Ted Carnell his first Worldcon chairmanship. 425 people were at the Kings Court Hotel.
1958 SoLACon was the culmination of the longest-range campaign in fan history -- it was originally to be a South Gate convention (hence the "So" in the name); it squashed the WSFS Inc, introduced the Lens to fannish fashion, saw Ron Bennett come over for TAFF, and sparked off a revival of activity in the Los Angeles area, which had been practically dead since the Insurgent War. Anna Moffatt controlled the chair ("and nicely too") for the 475 people at the Alexandria. Richard Matheson was the GoH. (Cf SOUTH GATE)
1959: Detroit: Detention. The one we couldn't tell you about last year [in the original Fancyclopedia II, published in 1959] turned out to be an extremely successful gathering, with 350 people there at the Pick-Fort Shelby. It was begun over Howard DeVore's dead body, and featured such things as a speech of conspicuous excellence by GoH Poul Anderson, Detroit's noble redemption of its pledged free beer tickets, a debate in which John W. Campbell laid waste the opponents of psionics, and a "Fan Editors' Panel" which turned into a marathon gabsession lasting six or seven hours nonstop. Joint chairmen were Sims and Young.
1960: Pittcon in Pittsburgh. What Chairwoman Dirce Archer and GoH James Blish will make of the program we know not. The hotel will be the Penn-Sheraton -- of the same chain as Philcon, disproving a fond fan illusion about how obnoxious we make ourselves. And for the same of uptodateness, here's a spot to enter the attendance: _____
The annual conventions in Great Britain (beginning with the second con in fan history, at Leeds on 3 January 1937; it was called to discuss an organization to replace the moribund SFL, and gave rise to the SFA) which are covered under their individual names, are also properly called "conventions", since they are nationwide in scope. Reserving the expression "World Convention" for American gatherings has been regarded doubtfully since 90%+ of the attendees are Americans -- except at the Torcon and Loncon, of course -- but may be justified as a name on the ground that we want fans from other countries to feel that these are their conventions too, tho circumstances may make it difficult for them to attend; as for location, the practice might be compared to baseball or cricket world championship play, in which only American or Commonwealth teams (respectively) actually compete, since those sports are played more in those political areas than all the rest of the world combined.
Since the first convention a standard pattern for such an event has emerged. There is one every year; other fan gatherings are scheduled in such a way as to avoid competition. Expenses are raised and publicity arranged by selling memberships in a convention society which is started for the purpose of putting on the con; and, later, by selling ads in the program booklet and holding an auction at the con itself. (Membership in the convention society is open to all, but it is understood that stockholders' privileges are not conferred and management remains in the hands of the local boys.) Proz give the affair publicity, and sometimes the local newspapers write it up before -- or after. Slogans on the general model of "DC in '60!" are repeated in every fanzine and in many letters, while every trufan tries to figure out some way to attend. The program runs three days (tho there are get-togethers before and after the official con dates by those who arrive early and/or stay late). The first day may be planned for the general scientifictionist, the second day for the faaan, and the third for sports and business. On the first day, for instance, there will be speeches by celebrities, showing of a fantasy movie, and a costume party in the evening. Second day may include business matters connected with the convention organization and really should settle next year's consite, tho that's often put off to the third day for the sake of the suspense. In the evening there's a banquet in honor of a science-fiction celebrity. An auction is put on wherever it can be fitted. Other features include formal and informal talks by pros, ditto by fans, club meetings, home-talent plays and ballets, and whatever else the committee can throw at the audience. British conventions, especially since the Supermancon, are distinguished by the greater muzzle velocity of the zapguns and the greater informality of the program. If you decide to attend, bring plenty of money, a zapgun, and a helicopter beanie.
|From Fancyclopedia 1, ca. 1944|
|A large fan gathering, though formerly used of any fan gathering.
The Second Eastern States Science Fiction Convention was held in New York early in 1937, under the auspices of the ISA. The chief event, aside from the first mention of a World Science Fiction Convention, was a handshake between Wollheim and Julius Schwartz which ended the warfare of their factions.
The Newark Convention, officially the First National Science-Fiction (or Fantasy) Convention, was held at Newark on 29 May 38, on call of Will Sykora and Sam Moskowitz. It was marred by sniping and feuding on the subjects of Michelism, the ISA, the WSFC, and personalities, but was the first to pass the hundred mark in attendance. Wollheimists called it the Fourth Eastern for a long time.
Similarly they called the WSFCI the Fifth Eastern. The World Science-Fiction Convention ("First" added later) was held in New York on 2 3 4 July 1939 under the auspices of New Fandom, and was the largest before the war ended major conventions, approaching a total attendance of 200. It set the pattern for subsequent conventions lasting more than one day, but was marred by the Exclusion Act.
The Chicago 1940 World Science Fiction Convention was held at Chicago around Labor Day 1940 under IFF auspices. The Chicon was significant of the new harmony in fandom, and took place in snazzier surrounding than fen had theretofore enjoyed save at the Paul Banquet on 3 July 39.
The Denvention was the Third World Science Fiction Convention, Denver 4 5 6 July 1941. GoH Heinlein made an outstanding speech. Remarkable too was the travelling that fans did to get there, the Widneride, riding the rods, making the trip on a starvation shoestring, etc. The award for the fan overcoming the greatest difficulties to attend was deserved by many.
The Fourth World Science Fiction Convention, the Pacificon, was to be held in Los Angeles in 1942, but it was finally voted to suspend it because of the involvement of the United States in the war and threat to the West Coast.
Great Britain's SFA had annual conventions at London in 1937, 1938, and 1939, which were featured by speeches from men of considerable standing in the world of letters and science, and by consumption of great quantities of beer, but your Diderot is unable to supply separate details.
In addition to these main events (and the conferences and confabs), there have been numerous meetings facetiously called conventions, included here for the sake of completeness: The first Interplanetary S-F Convention was held in a fone booth by Jack Gillespie and Cyril Kornbluth, sometime around 1938. The 4 r Eastern, or First Pan-National Science-Fiction Convention was the meeting of Speer and Wilson in Philadelphia in 1938, called Pan-National because, unlike the "First National", it had a representative from west of the Appalachians. The tendency more recently seems to be to label all such pseudo-conventions as somethingcons, which has given us a wave of such words as Sydcon, Pacificon Jr., Staplecon, Midgicon, Schnectacon, Fancon, and Norcon.
Thru the three World Science Fiction Conventions, a standard pattern for such an event has emerged. Normally, there is one every year. There is a special organization for people to join for publicity purposes, but absolute control as to the program and rules of proceedings is given to the local men. The prozines give the affair publicity, and sometimes local papers write it up before or after. Slogans on the general model of "New York in '39!" are repeated in fanzines and on envelopes of letters, and every fan of fandom tried to figure out some means of attending, but when the convention finally comes, a large fraction of its attendance is of scientifictionists from in or near the convention city. The program runs two or three days: the first day is planned for the business. On the first day will be speeches by celebrities, showing of a fantasy movie, and a costume party in the evening. Second day includes business matters connected with the convention organization, and where to hold the next year's convention. In the evening is a banquet in honor of a science-fiction celebrity who is there (Paul in 1939, Smith in 1940, and Heinlein in 1941). The auction is put wherever it can be fitted. There are get-togethers before and after the convention days by those who arrive early &/or stay late.
The expression "world convention" has sometimes been called into question, particularly by Britishers, since all attendees were from the US except a possible Englishman at the Nycon and Canadian at the Chicon. Ackerman has replied that we want the British fans to feel that these are their conventions too, that the war prevented them from having any large gatherings in 1940 and 1941, when America's last two were held. It mite be compared to the "World Series", in which only American teams participate, because more than half the baseball in the world is played in the United States.
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