Baltimore’s Universal FanCon was supposed to be one of the biggest fan conventions of the year. For its inaugural event, not only was it crowdfunded through Kickstarter, but it had some majorly awesome programming, guests, and vendors slated. But today, just one week away from the event, the convention was abruptly postponed, leaving attendees demanding answers.
FanCon was really the first of its kind: a crowdfunded, large-scale convention celebrating diversity and inclusivity in fandom. The convention as meant to promote that feeling of belonging among fans of color, those with disabilities, sexual orientation, gender identity…basically anyone who considered themselves a fan. And the convention was boasting some great programming and guests, including actor Orlando Jones, and many famous podcasters, creators, and personalities. The event was to take place at the Baltimore Convention Center on April 27-29. Unfortunately, today the event was postponed, and many are upset at the timing of the announcement, and how it was announced…because some attendees and vendors still have not received formal notification that the event has been postponed.
And then the speculation began. Attendees started reporting on social media that they found out about the postponement because their hotel canceled their reservations. As word spread, some were starting to accuse organizers of fraud or something less than honest. Some were even calling this the nerdy version of last year’s disastrous Fyre Festival. But those with knowledge of the industry, such as Elizabeth Vlasoff (managing editor of The Fandomentals) raised some good points about how this could have happened.
Here’s a hot take on the Universal FanCon from someone who has worked in the hotel industry for four years: the only way that a hotel can drop a block of rooms is if payment in full is not received by the deadline outlined in the contract. That’s it.
— Eli T. 🦔 Joins the Skeleton War (@elitheehedgehog) April 20, 2018
L. Joy Williams, a political strategist and President of the Brooklyn branch of the NAACP, not only was forced to forfeit her funds, but had to give up her civic engagement booth which was planning on assisting attendees to register to vote and take further civic action in their communities.
I shelled out $2,362.18 to build a civic engagement booth for #UniversalFanCon that would allow participants to register to vote, recruit their networks and other civic engagement activities
— L. Joy Williams (@ljoywilliams) April 20, 2018
Needless to say, fans and guests were not happy. During this time, Universal FanCon officially tweeted some words about the postponement and announced that they would share more details along with a contingency plan. At the time that this article was published, no announcement has been made.
But the most positive thing to come from this whole situation is the sense of community found on social media. Almost immediately after word was given about the postponement, Twitter erupted in offers of signal boosts for vendors who were out of a weekend’s worth of sales, touristy ideas for attendees who couldn’t get out of the reservations and are still making the trip to Baltimore, and even offers of meeting up and having fan gatherings.
#fancon fam! Are you an artist/writer/vendor who was planning to sell your kick ass goods at FanCon? We’re putting together a list so friends and fam can support! Sign up here and please RT! #fanconassemble https://t.co/CgOzGL7Xqt
— kat calvin (@KatCalvinLA) April 20, 2018
So did Universal FanCon win or lose in this situation? Due to the swift backlash on social media, it is unlikely that the event will be rescheduled, and if so, they will have a lot of explaining to do to fans and will need to offer a lot of guarantees that this scenario will not happen again.
The best thing that we can all do is to support the fandom community during this time. Help support those vendors who are unable to work the event by purchasing some of their goods or supporting them on social media. Kat Calvin, founder of the Spread the Vote organization, said it best regarding supporting attendees:
The big problem here, and the reason we started the list is because this was specifically for POCs and people who are not usually represented at conferences. Which means on average they don’t have the same resources as the people who attend regular conferences. People put hard earned money into tickets, hotels, merchandise, etc. and this will be a BIG blow to a lot of people. This is the kind of thing that can kill a new or small business. So we want to help alleviate that as much as possible by publicizing their goods so people can support them and who knows if we spin it out into something else. These kinds of things have real life repercussions.
Calvin, along with other fans, is organizing and actively working to support the creators and attendees by tweeting a Google doc list of vendors to try to alleviate and offset some of the heartbreak and true financial loss from this unfortunate situation.
Are you a vendor, creator, guest, or attendee who is no longer able to attend Universal FanCon? Let us know about your experience in the comments.
Universal FanCom image from universalfancon.com
Erin has reviewed many shows over the years including Orphan Black, iZombie, Penny Dreadful, and Killing Eve. She has a keen eye for on-screen chemistry, and loves to tackle the subject of casting. She is also our horror aficionado. She live tweets shows, and loves to share her feelings. Erin has a BA in History, and likes to analyze the lore behind historical fiction. She attends San Diego Comic Con every year and has also attended C2E2 and WonderCon.
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