Science fiction convention

From Academic Kids

Science fiction conventions are gatherings of the community of fans (called science fiction fandom) of various forms of science fiction and fantasy. Historically the focus has been on the written form rather than audiovisual media representations, but this may be changing. People in attendance at a science fiction convention are traditionally known as members of the convention; authors and other invited celebrities are commonly known as guests of the convention.


World Science Fiction Convention

The precise time and place of the first science fiction convention is a matter of some dispute. Sometime in 1936, a group of British fans made plans to have an organized get-together, with a planned program of events, in a public function space, in early 1937. On October 22, 1936, however, a group of six or seven fans from New York City, including David Kyle and Frederik Pohl, travelled by train down to Philadelphia, where they visited for several hours with a similar number of local fans at the house of Milton A. Rothman, declaring the event the first science fiction convention.

On January 3, 1937, the British fans held their long-planned event at the Theosophical Hall in Leeds. Around twenty fans, including Eric Frank Russell and Arthur C. Clarke, were in attendance. To this day, many fan historians — especially those in the United Kingdom — complain that the Philadelphia meeting was a convention in name only; while other fan historians point out that many similar gatherings since then have been called "conventions" without eliciting any disagreement.

Nevertheless, by 1939, American fans had organized sufficiently to hold, in conjunction with the 1939 World's Fair, the first "World Science Fiction Convention," in New York City. Subsequent such conventions were held in Chicago in 1940 and Denver in 1941, before World War II interrupted their scheduling until Los Angeles, California hosted the World Science Fiction Convention in 1946. They have been held yearly ever since. These main yearly conventions are called Worldcons and rotate among different large metropolitan cities in North America and, occasionally, around the world. When a convention is held outside of North America, a mirror convention is held within North America that same year, though it isn't called a Worldcon. Also, since the founding of the first world convention, hundreds of local or regional science fiction conventions have sprung up over the years and are held around the world at various places and various times during the year.

At these conventions, fans of science fiction come together with professional creators of science fiction (writers, artists, filmmakers, etc.) to discuss its many aspects, debate the merits of past or recent works, as well as market new or future works of science fiction. Exclusively among the members of the previous and present Worldcons, a vote is taken in several categories (short story, short novel, novel, etc.) on the best science fiction of the previous year (called the Hugo awards). In addition to written SF, Hugo categories include dramatic presentations and various fan awards.

World Fantasy Convention

Fantasy has in the past been part of the agenda at these conventions (the terms were used interchangeably for most of the period from 1926-1966) but as fantasy literature grew in popularity in the 1970s, a separate World Fantasy Convention was begun in 1975, held yearly thereafter. The World Fantasy Convention, however, has less connection to the fan community, and most of those who attend "World Fantasy" also attend Worldcon.

Anatomy of a typical science fiction convention

Getting Started

Although wide variations exist between different conventions, there is a general pattern that most adhere to. The typical convention is held on a holiday weekend where three or four days can be devoted to events.

The first night of the convention "Opening Ceremonies" are held, where organizers and marquee guests are introduced.


A costume contest called a masquerade is held where persons go on stage and compete for nominal prizes based on their skill in assembling and presenting genre-inspired outfits. This is truly more a "talent show" rather than the "fancy dress ball" that the term suggests. Anime fans might refer to a masquerade as a cosplay, but there are notable and subtle distinctions between the terms.

Panel-led discussions, or Panels, usually fill up the daytime hours of most conventions with one-hour discussions of topics related to Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Fandom in general. Some larger conventions, such as Penguicon and DragonCon, have had well-attended, scheduled panels starting as late as midnight.

Specific Rooms

A Dealer's or Huckster's Room is available, where merchants sell wares of interest to fans. These include books, action figures, prop replicas and t-shirts. Similarly, there is often an Art Show where genre-inspired art is displayed and usually made available for auction or purchase.

Many conventions have video rooms in which genre-related audiovisual presentations take place, typically commercial Hollywood movies and genre television show episodes. If there are multiple media rooms, each one may have themed content.

Game Rooms are also available for attendees to play collectable card games and role-playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons and Magic: The Gathering.

The Convention Hospitality Suite or Consuite is often provided as a room reserved for light refreshments, a quiet conversation, and a place to briefly rest. The refreshments typically include coffee, tea, juice or soda, and light meals appropriate for the time of day. Depending on local liquor distribution and liability laws, the suite may serve alcohol.

Ending the event

Often the "Closing Ceremonies" on the convention's last day are dispensed with entirely. This omission is because such ceremonies would logically be held after scheduled events are over, and convention members are occupied with packing up and checking out of the hotel.

Ceremony or not, a dead dog party is likely to be held. This is the traditional winding-down party where few of the attendees are likely to have huge amounts of energy. This party is an attempt to ease people back into the real world outside of convention and can be an effective method of warding off the depression, which is often associated with the end of a major event. Analogies can be drawn to the decompression parties following large events such as Burning Man.

Other conventions

Although the oldest and largest conventions attempt to reach fans of the entire genre, some specific works have gained a fan base considerable enough to support dedicated conventions. These include "Celebration," the official Star Wars convention and "Galaxyfest," the yearly event in Vulcan, Alberta dedicated to Star Trek.

Specific conventions


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