For some, Universal FanCon began when the Kickstarter was announced in 2016. However, for the 20+ groups and dozens of volunteers working to make FanCon a reality, this event began many years ago, for some, decades and even longer. Surely Universal FanCon the name was invented when Black Girl Nerds and The Black Geeks put their heads together, but the essence of what makes FanCon what it is, goes far beyond that. Universal FanCon upon first look, may appear to be yet another Con with similar and familiar offerings as any other. However, if you dig below the surface, talk to those behind the event, and see for yourself, what you’d find is an opportunity to create a paradigm shift in the way we celebrate fandom. The minds behind FanCon are a consortium of bloggers, podcasters, activists, groups, and even other Cons, who for many years worked tirelessly to advocate for diversity and inclusion in the fandoms we love. We petitioned for women directors or women lead films, POC representation, accurate representation and opportunity for persons with disabilities and to proudly state on film, in print, and in public spaces that love is love. We are a collective that believes if you want us to continue to invest in movies, TV, comics, novels, games, or events, they need to reflect the diverse fans who’s green dollars look the same as those usually and mostly catered to or considered the default or standard. We are fed up with the annual diversity panels and the promises that next year will be more inclusive. So after many years of waiting and hoping, it became clear to us, that instead of waiting for others to get to where we are, though we weren’t considered in the beginning, that it was time to create a space based on the reality we experience daily.
Universal FanCon proudly boasts that it is the first large scale, multi-fandom, convention focusing on diversity and inclusion. But what does that mean? We know that FanCon isn’t the first multi-fandom convention nor are we the first diverse convention. Universal FanCon is however, the first to bring it all together by partnering with others and building from the ground up, an event that at its core represents the totality of what we hope becomes normal for all conventions. FanCon ensures that our words are reflected in our actions. Our volunteers, staff, program, and guest selections are all diverse and inclusive. It’s one thing to claim diversity and inclusion, it’s entirely something else for the majority of your organization to be women, most are persons of color, and many in leadership positions are part of the LGBTQIA community. We’re proud that this wasn’t a conscious decision to staff this way. It was as natural as breathing air. When diversity and inclusion is your reality everyday, your worldview and the people you surround yourself with, reflect that truth. This is the FanCon difference. It’s an event created by and catering to everyone who ever felt like or was treated as the other, especially at fandom-based events.
We are within 30 days of our first FanCon and the anticipation is both exciting and terrifying at the same time. As fans ourselves, we are so proud of what we’ve been able to achieve and are extremely happy with how things are shaping up. It means a lot for many of us who have been wishing for an event like this for years and writing countless articles about lack of diversity and inclusion in our fandoms, to know that ours is an event that we’ve been wanting to go to for so long. FanCon is a love letter to so many including ourselves. We are working day and night to confirm the faith so many fans have put in us.
Creating this event has not been easy and we eagerly await writing the tell all book. As fans, we started this journey with so many ideas, hopes, and dreams and we now wonder why no one ever wrote a book called “so you want to start a convention…” The emotional roller coaster has been extreme and has taken its toll on so many people. We know now more than ever, that enthusiasm of the fans is the only way to sustain a convention. Our supporters understand that if events are to be successful, you have to buy tickets without delay because those sales impact the convention in so many ways. Brands, companies, and studios may or may not participate in an event unless there is a lot buzz or fans in attendance. What guests or activities are present can be based on fan engagement. Which is why it actually harms an event when fans do not confirm attendance by buying a ticket right away. Fans mistakenly believe that just like major, corporate conventions, there is no difference whether a ticket is purchased early or the day of. This is not the case. Larger events are often funded by organizations who already have millions and sometimes billions of dollars. These events can put together an event by throwing money at it in such a way that it almost becomes as simple as painting by the numbers. Which is why if we are truthful, this is exactly what Cons are tuning into. Change the location, add a new name, get similar guests and panels, get industry support and put tons of money into it, then sit back and watch the fans spend. Rinse and repeat.
If you’re a Con focused on women in fandom, the LGBTQIA community, or POC, 9 times out of 10, the money needed to create the event came from crowdfunding, personal funds, and those who believe enough to give their support. It’s an uphill battle to create inclusive spaces and the only ones who can change this is the fans.
It’s the fans who ultimately decide the winners and losers when it comes to fandom. Supporting or not supporting a film, game, or comic as we’ve seen time and time again, can determine which decisions are made by studios, publishers, and creators. So why would events be any different? If several times a year, the major events are supported and the smaller events are not, where will the guests, brands, studios, etc., go to? If fandom events don’t have to cater to your needs, but you give them millions anyway, what’s their incentive to change?
This is why when those like Clexacon, like FlameCon, BlerdCon, Girl Geek Con, Universal FanCon, and so many others work to cater to diverse groups of fans, it’s extremely important that we as fans buy tickets, spread the word, and do whatever we can to ensure these events get all the resources they can to make sure our voices are heard in the industry. These events don’t happen in a vacuum. They are the direct response to the status quo deciding that inclusion isn’t either profitable or necessary. However, like Wonder Woman, Girls Trip, Hidden Figures, Moonlight, or Black Panther, when fans support in numbers, things begin to change.
This is why we ask that you support our event and so many others today. Confirm your support by buying a ticket for yourself or donating it to a charity we support or of your choice, and then telling everyone you know about it. It’s not enough to support events in principle. First and even second and third year conventions rely heavily on fan support. This year we should strive to make conventions that are focused on diversity and inclusion the break out successes they can and should be, just like their movie and television counterparts.
Let’s make Clexacon our Wonder Woman, FlameCon our Moonlight, BlerdCon our Hidden Figures, Girl Geek Con our Girls Trip, and Universal FanCon our Black Panther (obvious bias). We the fans can make this a reality, but we have to commit to making this happen. Do not delay, buy or donate a ticket to the Con today, right now, this very second! Let’s prove once and for all, that this mobilization for diversity and inclusion in our fandoms is real, is powerful, and can produce change. We will not stop until diversity and inclusion is normalized.
Thank You For Your Support