At the last minute I decided to check out RustyCon yesterday, as it’s an SFF convention ludicrously nearby. I’ve concluded I probably won’t go back. Nothing went horribly wrong or anything; but not all cons are for everyone. In case your preferences align at all with mine, these are some of my impressions.
Everyone I talked to was perfectly friendly. But it also seemed like the vast majority of people attending already knew each other, and moreover had been meeting up at the con for the last twenty years. It’s great that so many old friends can get together to geek out, but demographically, the con was overwhelmingly older white people. There was a bracket of small children as well, but a critical miss of the generation in between. And, again, anyone not white. And while everyone was very nice, it was a little off-putting. I don’t attend cons to hear people I don’t know spend their time reminiscing.
One of the biggest reasons I hadn’t considered fully committing to this con in advance was the website set-up. The con website had no separate program information except within the calendar. Many events, I suspect long-term staples of the con, had no explanatory information for newcomers. It was impossible to find out where the writing track was being held. Once I’d registered for the day, I was given a calendar that had program information squeezed in amongst ads in tiny print. There was no map, and room names on the calendar did not match the room names on the hotel’s signs. It was hard to navigate the website, and it was hard to navigate the con.
I’ve been to enough SFF cons where people don’t tend to come in costumes that going in I didn’t expect that RustyCon attendees overwhelmingly show up in costume. (I did see that they have a costume contest; to me that did not imply that EVERYONE would be in costume.) And the costumes were great! But if I were heavily interested in costuming, I would have liked to know how supportive an environment RustyCon is to attend wearing one — I could have prepared a costume, or dug out my old RenFaire clothes.
The dealers’ room did remind me a lot of RenFaire, which was awesome. There were booksellers, tiers of costumes, and shops for everything from fancy weaponry to board games, wooden tankards, and comic prints. I did come away with a gorgeous pair of chainmaille earrings.
Now, the panels. I didn’t go to many, and some of the panelists on each were fine. More were not. It was evident several hadn’t even read the panel descriptions and that there was no clear moderator. One panel I sort of steered a little bit from the audience with questions because it started as a “Creatives have ALL THE PASSION and that’s all the matters in life and the work magically happens because of sufficient passion and EVERYTHING IS BEAUTIFUL” and, well, no.
Also, that thing where authors bring books and strategically place them around their name cards and pull most of their points from just those books when they’re on the panel? Super tacky. Like, if you want to bring it with you and when you introduce yourself hold it up for a second, whatever, that’s cool. But the panel is not about selling your book. In fact, nothing will make me less likely to buy your book than you spending all of your time telling me how clever you were in it while pointing down at the cover. If you have interesting things to say on the panel, and I know that you’re an author, that’s what will interest me in looking your book up. Not wasting discussion time by shoving it in my face. (Just me?)
So, that happened more than once. I have little patience for people who are more interested in interjecting bits trying to sound clever than talking about the panel subject. If you don’t have anything to contribute to the panel, why did you choose to be on it?
RustyCon feels a lot like a smaller con trying to be bigger than its membership supports. It seems to have a devoted older following, and that is truly lovely for them. From my limited experience yesterday, I do not think I will be joining it.