We attended StellarCon in High Point, NC this past weekend, and it got us thinking about the place of the smaller, local convention in fandom. StellarCon isn't the smallest of cons; it's more of a medium-sized convention. We have no idea of attendance numbers, but it is small compared to the giants like DragonCon and ComicCon.
Conventions like StellarCon don't have the glitz and buzz of the super media events, but the local cons have a charm that you can't replace with seizure-inducing displays by gaming companies or panels complete with sneak preview footage of the latest upcoming blockbuster. Don't get us wrong, we LOVE the giant cons, but the local cons are about the fans. Fans who attend those local cons have an opportunity to meet and interact with both pros and other fans with an intimacy that doesn't often exist at the super cons. You can get your books signed without waiting in line for hours. You can ask a question and get an answer. You don't have to plan your whole day around standing in line to get in a particular panel. You can buttonhole people in the hall and chat. In fact, the pro guests are very available because a lot of the fans are really there to hang out with their friends, not monopolize the guests.
And since local cons tend to get their guests from the writing world, most of the programming is about writing and publishing. Movies, tv, and gaming haven't taken over the local con scene. These gatherings are first and foremost about reading. And that is really cool. People talk books. People buy books. People carry books around like they mean something to them.
There's room for both types of cons. We just hope that the smaller local convention stays around. They certainly seem to be thriving. There are new cons popping up every year. Some work, some don't. But there seems to be no shortage of people anxious to create their own con. They don't seem to care that ComicCon and DragonCon are out there. They must know that someone will always come along to fight the giant.