BLOG The Mega-Con

Do I really want to go to a big convention like San Diego? asks blogger and sci-fi fan Steven Ellis

After conversations with several of the SFX ers who attended, I started to wonder if actually being there is the best way to get the most out of the event. I know it’s all about the experience and there’s probably nothing like being in the room for things like the Firefly reunion or getting to see Dredd 3D months before anyone else, but if like me, you’re interested in all the info about new films and exclusive announcements then it could be a different kettle of fish.

The event is massive, has become the Mecca of the geek world and is probably the biggest event in the sci-fi and fantasy calendar; it’s the con to be seen at, and the people who make the films, the TV and the comics that we all love know this. With the tendency of companies, large and small, to use the SDCC as the launch platform, or the stage to announce and show off their new wares, I wonder how many people actually get to see all this stuff first hand.

The way the internet is these days, this online world of instant access and information overload, I wonder if little old me, sat at my computer in Manchester, is finding con-related stuff out via Twitter or Facebook long before some of the people in San Diego get to know; or whether they themselves, even though they’re actually there, are also using the same sources I am. Did this ability to read about news, see video of the latest panel or catch the latest scoop within minutes of it being announced make me, and anyone following like I did, closer to the event and more up to date than some of the people actually present?

If I was at the con, I doubt I’d be able to glimpse a fraction of the stuff I get to see reported through my computer. But I would miss out on the atmosphere, so it’s a trade off. There are many conventions I’ve been to here in the UK, including the three SFX Weekenders - which aren’t nearly as big as the SDCC and yet I’ve come away with regrets over stuff I’ve missed or had to sacrifice at the expense of seeing something else. At any con you go to there is sometimes the risk of sacrificing attending one panel or screening at the expense of another and I bet at the SDCC this risk is only multiplied. On my Twitter feed – I’m @ZombieKudos by the way – in additional to countless people reporting the goings-on of the event, I also saw plenty of people bemoaning the fact that they missed stuff while they were queuing for something else or that two things they really wanted to be at were both happening at the same time. So, this would seem to back up the "too much for any one person to see" theory.

A visit to the SDCC would probably be a once in a lifetime holiday event for a lot of people living in the UK and I wonder would it really be worth it? I’m not trying to be negative, it’s not sour grapes because I haven’t and maybe never will attend. And like I said, I know that the feeling of "being there" is still huge and there’s probably nothing like the thrill and atmosphere of actually attending. I also know that given the chance I, and many others, would be there at the drop of a hat. But the whole thing does seem a little bit overwhelming when you look at it from afar.

Has the San Diego Comic-Con becoming too big? Has it become an overblown corporate advert? Is it all about companies getting their product noticed? I’ve heard that a good or bad reaction from San Diego can make or break a film and while this doesn’t hold true every single time, there certainly is something to it.
From an event which started in the ‘70s with 145 people to last month’s event, which had somewhere in the region of 130,000 attendees, has something been lost in the run-away success and popularity of this mega con? Or is it the ultimate in fans getting to show the film and TV companies what they think of the products advertised?

So, what do you think? Would you go? Do you think watching from afar is the best way to get all the info at an event like this or would rather just go and find out what you missed later?

Or have you already been to the San Diego con? Did you have a great time? Is it really just about being there and revelling in the atmosphere rather than getting to find out every little thing you can?

Steven Ellis