Dashcon, and what you can do about it

So last night I was like “Wait, there’s going to be a Tumblr convention?  It’s in Schaumburg?  It’s happening this weekend?  I wonder how that’s going?”

What you mainly need to know about Dashcon is that it’s based around the Superwholock/Night Vale/Homestuck side of Tumblr, and it frantically raised $17,000 Friday night to avoid being shut down.  There’s more to come, I’m sure.

I’d rather reserve judgement until Monday, but I’ve read about this before.  It happened with Meeting of the Mines (2014), Las Pegasus Unicon (2013), WrestleFanFest (2007), Tentmoot (2003), Ultimate Fantasy (1982), and surely others I haven’t heard of.  The pattern is simple:

  1. Some people have an ambitious idea for a fan convention
  2. They expect a huge success and book beyond their budget
  3. The con starts and Friday ticket sales won’t cover booking costs
  4. Organizers scramble to keep the show running
  5. People speculate that the whole thing is a scam
  6. Everybody is assured ticket sales will be up for Saturday
  7. Guests are not paid, pay their own way, or don’t show up
  8. Attendance is way down on Sunday because everyone’s heard about the trainwreck
  9. The organizers either skip town or get cornered to pay what they can

So far Dashcon is somewhere in Stage 7.

I’ve seen people calling Dashcon a scam, but as with many of the cons I listed above, I don’t think so.  They certainly could be scams, but there have to be easier ways to swindle people.  To me the organizers always come across as sincere dreamers who overestimate fandom’s power and underestimate the difficulty of promoting a live show.  That’s what makes these fiascoes so unsettling—somebody is getting driven to financial ruin and having their wildest dreams crushed.

What’s far more troubling, though, is that each failed convention yields a group of gobsmacked fans, who believe they’ve witnessed an unprecedented, unrepeatable debacle.  Which makes sense, if you think about it.  The odds aren’t great that My Little Pony fans would know about WrestleFanFest.  Minecraft gamers aren’t likely to remember a Star Trek convention from over 30 years ago.  So fandom as a whole is never fully inoculated against this problem, and never evolves to guard against it.

Dashcon, more than any of these other cons, was clearly founded on a love of fandom for its own sake.  So here’s what I’d suggest to anyone who shares that love: Fandom doesn’t need another convention, it needs wisdom, shared by people who’ve researched and experienced these things across multiple communities.  Someone, somewhere, is going to try this again in 2015, and it’ll be a pity if they remain ignorant of the lessons of 2014.

  1. theswedishelf reblogged this from markptjan and added:
    Another perfect example of exactly this pattern: Con no Baka, Etobicoke, 2005. Meant to be an inbetween of sorts for...
  2. favedump reblogged this from jimintomystery
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  9. booksavvy reblogged this from jimintomystery and added:
    Reblog because I totally forgot about the WrestleFanFest debacle. Meeeeemmmmorrriiieeessss
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    As a long time student of the rise and fall of Tent Moot, and based on some of the stuff that one of the organizers who...
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