When Fans Are In Charge

Written By: Randy Hall

Published: Issue 8


When we were thinking conventionally last week, we discussed the two types of Star Trek and science-fiction conventions: those put on by professionals (who are paid for their services) and others conducted by fans (who usually volunteer their time and efforts). We also noted that the main goal of "pro" cons is to ENTERTAIN. While this is also true of fan-run conventions, something else makes these gatherings special: the chance to PARTICIPATE.


While fan cons still give you the opportunity to listen to and get autographs from Trek stars, shop in dealers' rooms and see folks from almost every species in the Federation, they're also a great setting to meet fellow fans who feel the same way you do about Trek, as well as those who don't!


I remember hearing a woman who was attending her first fan con say how much she enjoyed the whole program, but she especially liked the "committee meetings." It took me a minute to figure out that she was referring to what are usually called "panels."


A good panel starts out with a few people up front who are at least fairly well versed in the topic being discussed. One of those folks serves as the "moderator," which means he or she makes sure everyone who wants to voice an opinion gets heard and keeps the discussion going while not wandering off into a tangent or another subject. And of course, it's great to have people in the "audience" who contribute to a lively exchange of ideas and viewpoints, even when there isn't universal agreement on every point.


We'll take a closer look at panels in a future installment of this column, but I do want to mention that panel discussions, even at cons with only Trek guests, regularly cover a wide variety of sci-fi subjects, especially movies (such as The Matrix and Galaxy Quest) and TV shows (ranging from Farscape and First Wave to Stargate SG-1 and every "generation" of Star Trek).


Another way fan cons try to broaden their appeal is by bringing in guests whose specialty is "hard science." It's not unusual to see scientists, astronomers and even astronauts sharing the bill with actors who bring Trek characters to life. I've attended conventions that had people from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and a number of institutes hoping to translate an interest in science fiction into an interest in science.


Are you an artist? Do you like to draw or paint? Fan cons often have art shows and even art auctions where you can sell your fantasy or sci-fi wares. And if you're a fan of the written word, authors of Star Trek novels also frequent fan-run conventions.


Needless to say, there are plenty of ways to spread the message to Bring Back Kirk. If there's a guest from the Classic Trek crew, you can bring up the subject during the question-and-answer part of his or her appearance. The same holds true if there's a panel that deals with the original series. How can you talk about the adventures of Kirk without having any interest in seeing him again? Be careful, though. Some folks just accept things the way they are and it's not good to dominate the discussion the panelists had planned, but even then, you should have a few copies of our flyer with you to give to any kindred spirits there. And I've never been to a fan con that didn't have plenty of table space for fan clubs to advertise for new members and others to promote a cause, such as BBK.


However, just because you have an opportunity to mingle with other fans or take part in the program doesn't mean everyone will. Some people apparently just want to take in the scenery and would just as soon not join in all the fun. Maybe they're shy or just haven't been to many conventions, and pushing them when they don't want it is counter-productive.


Again, we'll be examining many of these aspects of conventions in further depth in the coming weeks. But if you have any questions on any aspect of conventions, feel free to contact me via E-mail to RandyHall@aol.com and if I don't know the answer, I'll do my best to find out for you.


Starting next week, I'll include a listing of upcoming conventions with my column, with special mention of those that have Classic Trek guests since people who attend those will hopefully be more receptive to BBK.


Also, next weekend, I'll be attending a Slanted Fedora pro convention in Chantilly, Virginia (in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area). Guests will include Michael Dorn (Worf) and Marina Sirtis (Troi), as well as others whose characters are Klingons or have been involved with our beloved turtle-heads. I'll be taking BBK flyers with me and joining with Excelsior proponents as well and will let you know afterward how things went.