SF Fandom Is Aging Out; Will the Same Thing Happen to Traditional Comic Cons?

I found this essay by Madeline Ashby on the greying of Worldcon fascinating, particularly when she points out that “someday they’ll all be dead.” Such is the advice she gives to young women tired of being treated as interlopers by old-school fans who think all females in fandom are “fake geek girls”. Those backwards-looking, “conventions were better when it was just fifty of us in a hotel ballroom and no one ever talked about movies, let alone ones with vampires in them” types are older and yes, they’re going to be gone before the young women reading manga and watching Adventure Time and dreaming about Hulk and Hawkeye as buddies will be.

They’re trying to enforce boundaries out of fear. Now, you might think that those who were excluded and made fun of when young would be understanding of why that behavior is a bad idea, but humans are hypocrites, so we can’t rely on that to moderate their attitudes. Many grow out of it when they have a young daughter or niece and suddenly realize that they don’t want other people treating their darling as they did others, but not all of them will reproduce. So in the meantime, best to ignore them and keep on doing whatever you want to do.

Ashby quotes Robert Jackson Bennett:

The problem is, when the economy starts spreading money to the younger crowd, or when the Boomers retire or physically can’t attend, then certain industries and institutions and conventions – like WorldCon – are left in a hot seat. Your primary demographic is quite literally gone, and your younger one is alienated, because the programming and events there legitimately were not for them.

So conventions putting on Twilight panels or talking about comics for kids or struggles by underrepresented groups are doing the right thing by attempting to address demographics beyond the traditional older white guy. Girls star in works aimed at young adults and kids because those groups want to see more than the usual young white guy. Just like people, companies will get on board with these trends or die.

The comments thread at Ashby’s post is fascinating, giving a lot of different perspectives, including from convention vendors and comparing shows like Dragon*Con to Worldcon.

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4 Responses to “SF Fandom Is Aging Out; Will the Same Thing Happen to Traditional Comic Cons?”

  1. Ralf Haring Says:

    Is it important that WorldCon continue to exist? If it’s not in a dominant market position, well, let it die off if it wants to.

  2. Johanna Says:

    The idea of Worldcon, a global gathering of SF fans, is a good one, but due to the cost, I’d never go. That is the base economics of the situation, that if it can’t attract enough interested parties, that it will continue fading away. I’m not sure “wants to” is the right phrase to describe that, though.

  3. Russell Lissau Says:

    I expect so e of these shows will be replaced by newer shows, like acen and Akon and Anime Midwest… Shows that are expanding beyond anime and manga to include more aspects of nerddom, like comics and scifi. And the good ones are growing. Acen had 14,000 attendees when I was first a guest in 2007. This year they crossed 30k.

  4. Jim Perreault Says:

    Interesting article. It actually captures the way I feel about current mainstream Marvel and DC comics (especially DC). More and more, they are targeting older white male readers and ignoring younger readers.

    My 3 year old nephew can recognize Captain America by site ; too bad there isn’t a Cap book I could by for him. My 10 year old nephew loves Star Wars. Problem is, there is no Star Wars comic about the version he is interested in, the Clone Wars. Instead we are getting retreads of the original movie.

    And for me nieces, I pretty much have to stick to Manga.

    I really wonder what the mainstream comics market will look like in 10 years.

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