Book Conventions – Fan event or Industry Circle-jerk?

I shall be attending World Fantasy Convention 2013 in October, in Brighton, and despite looking forward to it enormously – especially seeing Joe Hill (SQUEEEEEEEEEEEE!!) – I think that this will be my last con for a while. Why? Because its seems the business of books stopped being about reading and readers.

I have been to several cons now, and always go there bright eyed and bushy tailed, but by the end of it I leave there feeling slightly inferior, unnoticed, and unimportant. I am fed up of going to a convention, meeting someone new who, when I respond to the question ‘what do you do’ with ‘I am just a reader’, having them immediately discover they have somewhere far more important to be. I am not saying that any link in this ridiculously large chain isnt important, I just want to know when was it decided that out of all the people involved in the genre fiction community, the readers, the ones that hand over their hard-earned cash, are the least important.

I always assumed that conventions were a fan event, an opportunity for fans of a particular genre to get together and geek out over their favourite books, authors etc. It may well have started like that, but it seems that it is now more of an industry circle-jerk where wanna-be authors clamor for the attention of established authors, editors or agents. Established authors really only seem to hang with other established authors, forming their own inner circle in the giant circle-jerk. The mid ground is occupied with publishers, editors and agents, and the poor old readers are left on the outside, unsuspecting performers in a bukake-fest. It is quite honestly like being back at highschool, with the cool kids not talking to the nerdy kids, and everyone trying to get the attention of the school jock.

Add into this all the strops, flounces, willy waving, toy throwing that goes on the community. The internet, and even social media, has accomplished some wonderful things, but it has also given a platform for petty people to air their gripes. I try and operate under a ‘if you wouldn’t say it to their face, don’t say it on the internet’ policy, but not everyone does. Most people seem to use the internet as a screen to hide behind while they fling poo, from their lofty and imagined position of entitlement.

I just want to get back to liking books. To reading books I enjoy and not worrying about if it was written by a man or a woman. Or whether the characters are portrayed as a sexual stereotype or not. Personally, I feel this is a ‘taste’ thing, and should be down to the reader to decide if they want to read that or not. I want to go back to gushing over favourite characters, sobbing when they die, feeling jubilant when they succeed.

I don’t want to go to conventions only to find that the topic of books has been cast aside in favour of the topic of panel gender bias, or fake reviews, or whether an author should be allowed in the fan forums. I am quite simply, as a reader, not fucking interested in all the toys being thrown out of prams anymore. It is making the whole scene look petty and childish. Meanwhile, literary authors look on in with even greater disdain than usual, tutting at the SFF community’s behaviour as if we are the Big Fat Gypsy version to their Downton Abbey.

I will say however, that I have made some truly lovely friends at cons, including a few authors who do actually take the time to acknowledge the readers, but they are rare and elusive beasts. Conventions are expensive, especially when you factor in hotel and travel. I think, I would be better

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