Anime USA is this weekend.
I hope you’ll be there. I’m slated to be giving four panels and I’ll be selling books of course as well. Come check out a panel, pick up a book, or just swing by to say hello.
As of a few weeks ago, my convention career can drive. I guested at the first MAGFest back in 2002, when I was promoting the newly released Teach The Sky serial as well as Crossworld (I think the first edition, too!). Since then, I’ve done a whole mess of conventions (I tried counting and could only conjure a vague number) and I’ve seen the convention scene really transform.
It’s weird to know people whom I met as teens and even kids, who know are married and sometimes even have kids of their own. It’s interesting to see the shows that were considered the cutting edge now be seen as old-style and even classics. It’s telling to watch fads come and go, some disappearing in a heartbeat and others sticking around far longer than anyone expected.
In the sixteen years I’ve been doing conventions (specifically anime conventions), here’s what I’ve seen:
- Accessibility is king. The shows that become mainstays, at least temporarily, are the shows everyone has access to. I’ve seen the most brilliant series ever go completely neglected in favor of what’s on Toonami and Adult Swim. Netflix is the new gold standard
- Accessibility is a double-edged sword. Just because something is on TV doesn’t mean it’s popular. If being on Toonami beats a DVD release, getting onto mainstream Saturday Morning Cartoons must beat Toonami, right? Not so much. After a certain point of ubiquity, a show becomes a pariah.
- Popular shows disappear in a flash, but good shows burn forever. Gargoyles, Big O, Static X. There are a lot of shows that were never hugely popular but maintain an enduring, loyal following in part because of their excellence.
- Honesty and heart beat production value and cheesecake. What makes the shows from the previous point standout is the way the stories addressed issues head-on, rather than ducking around them. Meanwhile, shows with lots of fun gimmicks and/or lots of cleavage might be super popular in the moment but are rarely remembered ten minutes from now.
- Merchandise does not a show make. A lot of shows spawn a gazillion action figures and innumerable cosplays but are financial flops when it comes to DVD sales, TV ratings, or Netflix views. Some people love accouterments of a show but not the show itself. Just because a show’s merchandise is popular doesn’t mean anybody’s watching the show. The inverse rarely seems to be the case, however.
- Original art might be the goal but fan art pays the bills. A lot of artists struggle to move original art at conventions. They use fan art to help support themselves and promote their skills. Simply banning fan art comes and goes as a fad at conventions, which often doesn’t address deeper market issues.
- There’s no telling what will sell. I’ve seen thimbles that very vaguely anime characters sell out by Saturday morning. I’ve seen masterworks at discount prices go ignored. Anybody who says they know for certain what will move is grossly inflating their certainty. Or their foolishness.
- The table arms’ race is nothing new. Tables in dealers’ room get more involved and more complicated every year. Wire shelves are the big thing now, when a decade ago it was a video display. Before that, it was backdrops. There’s always a new toy convention experts insist will make your products standout, but see the above point.
- Hotel packing is nothing new. I’ve seen groups organize complex sleeping charts so they could fit 16 people to a room with two queen beds. It’s amazing.
- Gatekeepers have always been around. Fans who like to test and then judge those who fail to meet their standards of fandom have always been a part of the community. A toxic part. They are getting called out a lot more these days, which is a good thing. We used to just move on after we declare them to be what they are: assholes.
- Every cosplay debate has always existed. I won’t even bother listing them. Whatever debate surrounding cosplay you can think of, it’s been going on well before now and likely will be going on well after now.
- COSPLAY IS NOT, HAS NEVER BEEN, WILL NEVER BE, CONSENT.
- Sexual harassment has always been at conventions. It’s just getting reported more, tolerated less, and conventions aren’t covering it up as much as they used to. Ideally, sexual harassment would disappear all together, but until then, a more aggressive attitude towards perpetrators and a more supportive attitude towards victims is an absolute good thing.
- False sexual harassment allegations are practically nonexistent. I’ve seen or heard of a few in the sixteen years I’ve been doing conventions. Every last one of them didn’t stand up to even five minutes of scrutiny. The statistical likelihood is overwhelmingly that a sexual assault allegation is true.
- Conventions are, on a whole, MUCH safer than they’ve ever been. Convention staff – who are overwhelmingly volunteers, I’d like to point out – are more dedicated, more on-the-ball, and more competent than ever. Sure, there’s always a few slackers on any crew, but what job doesn’t have that? Most convention staff are damn-near superheroes.
- A convention’s vibe is more important than anything else. If a convention feels fun, it often has little to do with the guests, the panels, the merchandise, or the venue. It’s the convention staff and the attendees. Guests and presenters are brought in not for their celebrity status but because they will help make people smile. If they don’t do that, they often don’t come back.
- What makes a convention often times are the attendees looking out for one another. The guests and the staff can only do so much. It often falls on the attendees to look out for each other, be respectful and supportive, so on. Be the experience at a convention that you want to have. Tell people their cosplay looks good. Support new fans, no matter how recently they got into a fandom. Share, don’t test, another person’s loyalty to a fandom.
- And for the love of god, remember the 6-4-2-1 rule of minimums: six hours of sleep, four cups of water, two meals of real food, one shower!
My panels at AUSA will be:
Zombae – Where I talk about zombies, zombieism, the history of zombies, and how they came to be the pop culture figures they are today.
Ten Best American Anime – I talk about some classic American-made anime series (yes, including Avatar the Last Air Bender) and some lesser known series that are worth taking a look at
Lost 80 Gems – With Hollywood in the midst of reboot fever, this stroll down memory lane will talk about some of the true classics of the 80s cartoon genre that are better than people remember and deserve another chance at life
Writing Workshop – A catch-all workshop, this will address everything from capturing new ideas, dealing with writer’s block, to even some industry discussion. Notepad and pencil are not required but are encouraged.
And on top of that, I will have print copies of all my books – Rockaiju, Proton, Rhest for the Wicked, Samifel, and the 2017 Anthology.
See you there!