Home Arts Rise of the fandom planet

Rise of the fandom planet

by The Concordian October 11, 2011
It’s hard to find someone who doesn’t hold a torch for a science fiction or fantasy character, be it Spock or Wonder Woman. But how many can really claim to have had a hand in creating a city-wide gathering to celebrate their fictional heroes?
Well, the folks who run Con*Cept can. Started in 1987 by the Montreal Science Fiction and Fantasy Association, the event has grown from its beginnings as a one-day event to a three-day extravaganza of art, film, literature, gaming, and pretty much any other aspect of fandom one can think of.
What sets Con*Cept apart from other events (especially with the inevitable Comiccon comparisons) is its DIY approach, which takes away the impersonality that is usually found at big gatherings.
“Con*Cept is different from conventions like Comiccon in that it is non-profit, first of all, and even more important, fan-run,” said Cathy Palmer-Lister, convention chair and Concordia grad. “In our circles, fan-run has certain connotations. At a fan-run convention, you pay a membership fee, not an admission fee. As a member, you have input into how the con is run.”
Palmer-Lister said that all of the programming at Con*Cept comes from their membership. All the suggested program ideas are posted online, and the most popular ones are selected.
“It’s rather like a potluck dinner,” she said. “The best way to ensure the food and drink you like best appears on the table is to bring it yourself!”
With such openness to ideas, and the nature of science fiction itself, in that it pushes the limits on one’s imagination and constantly challenges one’s sense of reality, it seems fitting that there have been some proposals more avant-garde than others in the convention’s 22-year history.
“Con*Cept is a science fiction and fantasy convention, so far-out ideas are bread and butter to us,” said Palmer-Lister. “But I do recall a few that raised eyebrows. One was alien sex toys. Participants were asked to imagine what sort of toys would appeal to aliens with different anatomies. And there was the member who was convinced that fairies – the ones from The Hollow Hills – walked among us in secret, one of them being Madonna. He was quite serious about it, too.”
Like many of the organizers, Palmer-Lister first got involved with Con*Cept through volunteering. This was after her first convention in 1990, which she attended “on a whim.”
“At the first con I attended I asked the person at the door, ‘Where should I start?’”
She sent me to the display room and when I saw the models, I thought, “OMG, are all fans expected to be that good?”
However, ConVirgins (their term, not ours) need not fear feeling out of place. With many events to welcome new attendees, all it takes is an open mind and eagerness to find one’s place in the convention. Before long, they’ll be privy to some things best understood by fans.
“I was in the elevator one year with a Klingon commander and a Japanese tourist.  The tourist couldn’t take his eyes off the Klingon head the commander had sitting on top of all his gear, so the commander told him the rest of the body was in the crate,” recalled Palmer-Lister.
“Might have been coincidence, but [the tourist] got off on the next floor.”

Con*Cept is taking place Oct. 14-16 at Hotel Espresso (1005 Guy). Full weekend passes for students are $40, and one-day passes are available. For more information, go to www.conceptsff.ca.

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