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Detcon1 and Inclusiveness

I’m still thinking about Detcon1 and some of the things the convention did so well. One thing that stood out for me was the Fan Gallery in the dealer’s room. This was a collection of photos of fans past and present.

Included with the gallery was a note acknowledging that historically, white men have tended to be the dominant group in fandom and the genre, a statement backed up by looking through the faces in the photo collection. The note goes on to encourage people to help change that, to get involved and make fandom a more welcoming and inclusive place.

I really appreciate this approach. Rather than getting defensive about our history and the state of the genre, it acknowledges where we’ve been and where we are, and encourages people to join in the work of getting to a better place.

It’s hard to fix a problem you won’t acknowledge exists in the first place. It’s even harder when people actively mock you for trying to point out problems you’ve seen and experienced first-hand, or when the people you’re trying to reach take any discussion of said problems as a personal attack on them.

That knee-jerk defensiveness is an incredibly frustrating obstacle, often derailing and shutting down conversations before they can even get started. How many times have we seen exchanges that go something like:

“I really wish we had more non-white protagonists in the genre.”
“I’M NOT RACIST! THE PROBLEM IS JERKS LIKE YOU RUNNING AROUND CALLING PEOPLE BIGOTS!”

“Ever notice how few non-straight characters ever get a truly satisfying romantic plotline?”
“I’m not homophobic because I once wrote a gay character!”

“It would be nice to see a wider range of female characters in–”
“THE GAMMA-BUNNY MANGINA-POLICE ARE COMING TO STEAL MY CAPTAIN McMANLY: SPACE MAN OF TESTOSTERIA STORIES!”

So kudos to Detcon1 for not only recognizing that fandom hasn’t been as inclusive as we sometimes like to believe, but also for understanding that acknowledging the historical problems of our genre doesn’t mean you’re a horrible, bigoted, sexist, racist, tribble-kicking jerk. Acknowledgment is the first step toward progress.

In a similar vein, Detcon1 created the FANtastic Detroit Fund to provide memberships for fans who might not otherwise be able to attend.

Here’s Detcon1 conchair Tammy Coxen talking about the program in her own words:

Even though we worked to keep our membership rates as low as possible, conventions are expensive, and Detroit has the highest poverty rate of any large city in the United States. We wanted to provide a mechanism for fans of limited means, from Detroit and beyond, to be able to attend the convention, so we launched a crowdfunded program to provide free membership.

The program was very successful. We received $1555 in cash and 28 donated memberships, which allowed us to provide 66 memberships to adults, youth and children.

I can say without reservations that we would strongly encourage other conventions to adopt a similar program. It was easy to implement and had big impact. We will be offering seed funding to the next WSFS-sanctioned convention to offer such a program (exact amount to be determined based on our final bookkeeping), and are happy to serve as consultants to those desiring to set up a similar program.

Bottom line, I’m very proud of the work my state did here, not only to create what was by almost all accounts an amazing convention, but also setting an example of how to work toward a more inclusive and welcoming fandom.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

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( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
deborahblakehps
Aug. 18th, 2014 07:15 pm (UTC)
Kudos indeed.
margaret_y
Aug. 18th, 2014 07:57 pm (UTC)
My friend Lori (Detroit native)was a recipient of one of the memberships. She otherwise wouldn't have been able to attend. She loved the con and got a lot out of it.
jimhines
Aug. 18th, 2014 08:01 pm (UTC)
Very happy to hear it! :-)
starcat_jewel
Aug. 18th, 2014 09:08 pm (UTC)
I was very pleased to see the higher percentage of non-white fans in Detroit. I think my sense of "how a con should look" has been significantly re-tuned by going to some of the big comic-cons, which tend to be much less blindingly white.

Also, it was a great pleasure to meet and chat with you.
jimhines
Aug. 19th, 2014 12:00 pm (UTC)
It was great getting to talk to you, too!
nevacaruso
Aug. 18th, 2014 09:36 pm (UTC)
This is really cool!
taldragon
Aug. 18th, 2014 10:05 pm (UTC)
i was going to make a supportive comment (i've been to Detroit several times - family nearby) but i got to
"THE VAGINA-POLICE ARE COMING TO STEAL MY CAPTAIN McMANLY: SPACE MAN OF TESTOSTERIA STORIES!” and oh i wish they were a real thing because omg i would totally read them.

back on track, i admire how Detcon handled the Fan Gallery and how they supported non-white fans. i hope that these examples are shared widely and that other cons pay attention.
jimhines
Aug. 19th, 2014 12:00 pm (UTC)
Thanks! And I hope so too :-)
fenicedautun
Aug. 19th, 2014 12:50 pm (UTC)
Actually, I want to read the story about the Vagina-Police trying to steal the stories, 'cause that sounds like a really weird Jasper Fforde-like caper.
fenicedautun
Aug. 19th, 2014 12:50 pm (UTC)
Actually, I want to read the story about the Vagina-Police trying to steal the stories, 'cause that sounds like a really weird Jasper Fforde-like caper.
anglerfish07
Aug. 19th, 2014 06:29 am (UTC)
Congratulations! Your state did a wonderful job with DetCon1. This sounds amazing! :D
jimhines
Aug. 19th, 2014 12:00 pm (UTC)
They really did. I was quite impressed.
cathschaffstump
Aug. 19th, 2014 01:33 pm (UTC)
A naive question. Will there be more Detcons, or was it just created for NASFiC?
jimhines
Aug. 19th, 2014 01:43 pm (UTC)
It was a one-shot convention.

(You could always come back for ConFusion! ;-)
cathschaffstump
Aug. 19th, 2014 02:07 pm (UTC)
I thought as much.

I'll give that ConFusion thing some thought. You guys are a fun crowd.
dionysus1999
Aug. 19th, 2014 04:22 pm (UTC)
Penguicon is another convention in the Detroit area, it was founded as an open source programming convention, but it always has lots for readers of speculative fiction.
David Wilford
Aug. 19th, 2014 04:33 pm (UTC)
I'm happy to have donated my own Detcon membership in support of more inclusiveness. And yes, ConFusion is also fun and I hope to attend it again next year.
phantom_wolfboy
Aug. 19th, 2014 05:50 pm (UTC)
Now you must write "CAPTAIN McMANLY: SPACE MAN OF TESTOSTERIA" stories. There is no avoiding it.
jimhines
Aug. 19th, 2014 06:09 pm (UTC)
I'm in the Deadline Vortex at the moment ... but I'm considering it :-)
lokifan
Aug. 23rd, 2014 11:27 am (UTC)
Yay! This all sounds excellent :D
( 20 comments — Leave a comment )

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