As pretty much everyone reading this probably knows…it was even in the Hollywood Reporter… Universal Fancon was officially ‘postponed’ one week before its supposed commencement. It was to be the intersectional rallying point for nerds and geeks from all walks of life.
However, one week before it was set to start on April 20th, Universal Fancon’s social media had a cryptic message seeming to imply that things were not well. A few hours later the social media stated it was postponed with more information to follow on the website. And the website went dark. People were outraged and rightly so…but this is not about that. There have been some great articles detailing the fallout. This is about the success that arose from that situation. About what happens when a community bands together and says…”Oh no you din’t!”
With a week to go a group of local Baltimore nerds decided that it was NOT okay that people were coming in from across the country (seriously people from HAWAII) had none refundable tickets and so were coming into town regardless. These were not people who were paid by the convention, but people who had made plans because they were promoting work or believed in the statement that Universal Fancon said it was trying to make. They pooled their resources and knowledge of local space to find a venue-the 7th floor of an industrial building as that floor had been cleared for renovations.
The DJ’s were present, there were places for lots of vendors, a panel room, and the cosplay contest still happened! The overall feel was pretty darn positive. Definitely an air of making lemons from lemonade, but I would argue that they made limoncello. Of course, there were problems, any event would have them, but to come up with space and resources to hold a full-fledged convention in four days is amazing. And the event was an incredibly successful, intimate one. Local businesses came together to sponsor the event, provide financial support, concessions, and specials for attendees. The local businesses-shout out to Culinary Architecture, 9/10 condition, Breaking Bread, Suspended Brewing, and Old Major-for all the specials and sponsorships that enabled Wicomicon to take place.
For some of us who have been in the game a long time, it reminded us of when start-up cons didn’t have star-studded guest lists or thousands of attendees. It felt the way that true college cons do-lots of time to talk to guests, mingling between attendees. There were lots of local individuals involved. There were local and indie publishers who really need a place to showcase their amazing work, such as Arclight comics and Black Heroes Matter. These are some people who make art that THEY want to read, that also makes a point. That people of all abilities, ethnicities, genders, orientations, benefit from seeing legitimate representations of themselves in places of power. This is what Universal Fancon should (and could) have been. A celebration of all that is geeky and glorious throughout the whole spectrum of humanity. Instead, a group of local nerds stepped up and schooled us all in the best parts of each of us-the geek community, the city of Baltimore, and humanity.