Random Thoughts on Balticon

I’m back in the real world, having left Balticon in my rear view mirror far sooner than I would have wished. Here are somme random thoughts I jotted down about the con, which easily ranks up there with GenCon in terms of overall coolness. Expect much geeking out about it in the next Radio Active.

Random Encounters

Forget the panels, the music, the movies, and all the programing — the best part of the con were the random encounters with people I’ve chatted with for years … but never actually met. There are too many names to list, but suffice to say that thanks to Balticon I’ve finally met — and talked to! — people who’ve been my friends and inspiration for years.

The Youth Effect

The convention’s average age was lower than I’d expected. I’m not sure if it’s a function of the podcasting community being there in force (and most of us seem to be in our thirties) or the nature of Balticon itself.

David Brin wrote about the greying of Worldcon a while back (previously discussed on Nuketown here), in which he noted how old the convention goers were, and that his three kids were a significant fraction of those attending. At Balticon, I saw a lot of young kids, say ages 5-11 and a surprising number of babies. Strollers were certainly not uncommon, and outnumbered wheelchairs/scooters.

I think this is a direct result of the average age being somewhere in the neighborhood of 35-45; people in that age group are likely to have kids ranging from infants to tweens, and I think it’s a good sign that folks are bringing their kids to the con. Maybe it means that in 10 years, we will see more teenagers walking the halls.

Or not. I’d like to think we’ll be raising a generation of young geeks comfortable enough in their own skins to go to a science fiction convention … but teenagers are contrary souls who may avoid going to cons just because hey, their parents are there.

Conventions are different

Prior to Balticon, I thought most SF conventions were the same. It’s a gross overgeneralization that’s obvious in hindsight, but once here I heard time and again how different cons are better at different things. Balticon’s good at new media and books, PhilCon’s got a good professional vibe.

I will say that the various cons don’t do a great job of branding themselves as such; nothing about “Balticon” says “New Media” … except for the session list. Conventions should go out of their way to promote these aspects of the cons if they’re serious about bringing in new blood. Yeah, I know, that’s dangerously close to branding … but branding is a useful tool for communicating who and what you are.

I need promo materials

Promotions for every aspect of fandom can be found at the convention: fliers, buttons, lanyards, business cards, whatever. And honestly, if I’m going to have Nuketown, and I’m going to go to a convention, I should really be bringing stuff of my own to give away. It might only yield me a few new readers/listeners … but that’s a few more than I have now.

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