At the Pasadena Westercon, Part 2

This year’s Westercon is number 63. And there’s a growing anxiety that this series of cons doesn’t justify a continued existence. The question was even asked out loud on today’s program “Should we Retire the Westercon at 65?” with Ben Yalow, Kevin Standlee, Glenn Glazer, Bobbie DuFault.

When fans created Westercon in 1948 as a traveling convention there was no other regular con on the West Coast of the United States. Now every major city in the region has at least one fan-run sf con, often several other commercial cons, and perhaps even a major anime or comics event that dwarfs the sf convention. There’s no vacuum that anyone needs a Westercon to fill.

Meanwhile, Westercon has dwindled in size to such a degree that some years it has been run as a kind of oversized party at a resort in Hawaii or Las Vegas.

Milt Stevens reported that this morning’s panel turned out enough fans who believe Westercon should continue to deter anyone at the subsequent business meeting from moving to abolish the con, although such a motion had been anticipated. 

Con chair Christian McGuire told me Westercon had drawn over 600 attendees by today, Saturday, July 3 — a number in line with recent California Westercons.

If one stops thinking about Westercon as a mere shadow of its formerly glorious self (the 1989 con had 2,500 attendees) and thinks about it as an event that provides a good time on a holiday weekend for several hundred fans, it’s not hard to imagine it going on indefinitely. The only question is if the loose community of conrunners who shepherd it from year to year will find that idea sufficiently inspiring to keep doing the work.

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3 thoughts on “At the Pasadena Westercon, Part 2

  1. Yes, I think the issue is one of expectations rather than reality. Medium-sized cons like Westercon are just as valid and important as the commercial megacons.

    A floating con like Westercon also allows groups who’d like to start a local con or work on a larger one to try out their wings. As a “one shot” for a local area, they also give opportunities to volunteers who don’t want to be swept up in the “you did it last year so you’ll do it again next year” that happens with so many local cons. At least they should do those things.

  2. Westercon is not the only established con that is having attendance problems. This year’s Midwestcon (number 61) only had 100 attendees.

  3. Before reading Joel’s comment, mine was simply going to be “In Which Westercon Becomes Midwestcon West.”

    Bob: “A floating con like Westercon also allows groups who’d like to start a local con […] to try out their wings.”

    That’s backwards.

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