A History Of The Science Fiction Convention

Illustration for article titled A History Of The Science Fiction Convention

History is fuzzy about when the first science fiction convention actually happened, but we do know that in 1936 some fans including David Kyle and Frederik Pohl took a train from Philadelphia to New York City to talk about all things scifi with another group of fans at the home of Milton A. Rothman, who rivals Forrest J Ackerman for the biggest fanboy in the world award (Rothman had formed The Boys' Scientifiction Club in 1930). However, a group of British fans also got together in the same year to make plans for an actual convention in 1937, and later claimed that a group of fans meeting at a home does not a convention make. So even before the internet, there was squabbling over details and probably even convention spoilers. Some things will never change. In honor of our coverage of WonderCon, we present to you the history of Connage.

  • The first official (American, anyhow) "World Science Fiction Convention" (now known as Worldcon) was held in 1939, and followed by conventions in Chicago and Denver in the following years. check out the photo above of some fans posing at Coney Island during that first convention, on the top row on the far left is Ray Bradbury.
  • The first British convention in 1937 attracted 20 fans, including Eric Frank Russell and Arthur C. Clarke.
  • The WorldCon conventions were suspended after 1941 due to World War II, but resumed in 1946.
  • WonderCon was started by John Barrett in the San Francisco Bay area in 1987, but has since been adopted and is now part of the Comic-Con International family of Cons. Sort of like the Shazam family.
  • Comic-Con itself began in San Diego as the Golden State Comic Book Convention in 1970, and attracted around 500 fans. Last year the Con (now the San Diego Comic-Con or just Comic-Con) had over 125,000 visitors.
  • There are now regional cons including everything from Eurocon to DeepSouthCon to Westercon.
  • There are even specific cons that cover one range of subjects, like BotCon (Transformers), Costume-Con (costumes, duh), and FilkOntario (filk music, folks music with a scifi/fantasy twist).
  • That's not even mentioning all of the cons for specific shows and movies that have sprung up, like Star Trek, Farscape, Star Wars, and plenty of others. In fact, the movie GalaxyQuest is completely con-centric.
  • Our favorite title? The Wrath of Con in North Florida. Either that or the Comic Book Guy's Bi-Mon-Sci-Fi-Con. It's a toss up.

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I still have questions:

1) So which Con's Connage is the Cannon Connage?

2) Why have SF geeks always looked like SF geeks?

3) Is there anything that wasn't suspended between 1941-1946?

4) Can we refer to this as a Connage Industry?

5) How many people go to a Filk Convention?

6) How does something called Filk not refer to something NSFW?

7) Does 20 people really qualify as a convention?

8) Does it qualify because Clarke counts as 400 regular people?

9) Can I start using scientifiction to refer to things again?

10) Does Bi-Mon-Sci-Fi-Con refer to a bi-monthly event, or is this about sexually flexible members of the Mon tribe of Burma?

11) If it is the latter, how many SF stories include the Mon?