Attempting to Restore Fandom to Victoria, BC

30 Oct

feast By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)

Sadly, the cancellation of the Island Fantasy Convention (IFCon) the week before has dealt a blow to fandom in the City of Victoria. The reasons are  justifiable; when the CEO Bill Code was reported to have collapsed due to (personal) health issues and the convention committee was assessing the situation, whatever decision they make will have far-reaching consequences. Everyone’s thoughts are on Mr. Code’s medical condition stabilizing, and those who know him are rooting for him to pull through. Whatever happens next, the fandom living in this city will be asking questions. It brings to light the interview I conducted with Code, and I asked the question, Can Pop Culture Fandom Return to Victoria, BC with Island Fantasy Convention? as a headline.

At present, the answer feels like a resounding no. Having experienced many conventions in this city from the late 80’s to present, whoever wants to take charge of a grand scale event next, if there is someone, will be facing an uphill battle. After GottaCon decided to close its doors and the leader of IFCon taking ill, the future is not so bright anymore. This city has very few events left. Tsukino-Con caters to the Japanese Animation fandom and LANtasy is continuing the Gottacon tradition, albeit with more of a video-gamer focus. It’s hard to say what this event will be like since it’s catering to a very specific audience. It is taking place on the last weekend of February, that Gottacon traditionally occupied.

Aside from the Victoria Comic Book Expo, which is a quarterly event and Cherry Bomb Toy’s Ultimate Hobby and Toy Fair, a bi-annual event, these four shows is about it until someone decides to attempt a mass-spectrum show. It’s hard to say if IFCon will happen again, or if Bill Code or someone else is daring enough to inspire confidence amongst Victorians that this city can support a geek event.

There’s no need to speak ill of any show. However problematical any event can get behind the scenes, the motivation is to provide fun for the fans. I can speak from my own experiences. I really enjoyed being at Gottacon during its early years. I volunteered to Game Master an introductory Call of Cthulhu scenario. When I heard from gamers that they like original material, I spun tales based on the folklore of Vancouver Island. I prepared ideas which involved the mysterious Sooke Staircase but decided the mystery of the Young Building located at Camosun College’s Lansdowne Campus was far more interesting. When I actually explored the tunnels underneath this structure, I thought a gothic style story from the yesteryears could be told. When I learned Mt. Tolmie was a volcano from a millennia ago, I got creative!

The Toy Fair is always a fun event to simply hang out at; as I look around, I always find something that I’ll have to buy to add to my collection. Although I don’t collect comics as an investor’s hobby anymore, I still find joy at discovering a title I never heard about and as long as it’s not overpriced, I’ll most likely pick it up. I still remember finding a Lilo & Stitch family lithograph — something I would not expect to make it up here to Victoria! It’s an item I figured that would only be available at Disneyland and oh the joy! James Shaw was with me when I saw a dealer who had that and yes, I squealed like a little boy.

While anime hardly holds my interest these days, I respect the fact that Tsukino-Con brings the anime community together. I’ve peeked in, but that’s just not my thing anymore. However fickle this city’s fandom community is like, they need an outlet to meet and greet, to interact and react, and to make friends so growth can occur. Instead of simply showing up to enjoy a weekend of camaraderie, I wonder how many local clubs truly expand after putting on their presence at a convention? I ask of how many new friendships are formed? After going to Anglicon, I made a few new friends. I hope one of them will still visit the Island even though IFCon went kaput. It’ll be cool to hang out with him.

I used to operate a club and usually, after sign-up, only a third or a quarter are genuinely interested in being full-time members. Because of the flow-through traffic in a convention, newcomers to the city get to learn about clubs like the Victoria LEGO Users Group or the Magic the Gathering community. RPGers tend to stick to themselves, and yes, for newcomers, it is difficult to become part of an established group. Even tougher are having these folks willing to commit to a regular night around a table to hack and slash through a dungeon (or combat an Elder God). I’m still searching myself, and I know for a fact that there are gamers who love Call of Cthulhu. I can argue that I’m waiting for Chaosium to release the printed seventh edition books (which is anytime soon), but that’s still no excuse!

Conventions are important so people with similar interests can find one another, to trade phone numbers and continue to party on! I really hope something can emerge in the next few years. So far, although I enjoyed large fandom events like Fan Expo Vancouver and Emerald City Comicon, there’s no place like experiencing a home-grown show.

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