The Gallifrey One convention in Los Angeles is coming up next week, and I’ll be going. It will almost certainly be my last time.
Going to Gallifrey has become very expensive. First off, it’s $90 to just get in. The passes all sold out within 75 minutes, which added to the complications of attending. Then there’s the costs for the hotel room ($125+ a night, roughly), gas (goodness knows, since it’s not my car, but add six hours in a car to the annoyances of the convention), food, and souvenirs. I got lucky this year in that a website I write for is footing a large chunk of the bill for me attending the convention, but in previous years this has really cost me a pretty penny, and it’s only going to be more expensive in future years.
Talking of expensive, do you know what costs big money at the convention now? Autographs. Pretty much everyone’s autograph. Back a few years ago, when I first started going to Gallifrey, and indeed up until at least 2013 when I last went, people who were the invited “guests of the convention” (ie: people that weren’t sponsored by some outside group), signed things for free. There was an autograph line, you got into it, and voila. You’d get one, sometimes two things, signed, and you’d pay nothing for it, since it was included with your badge.
Those days are long gone (by which I mean they apparently ended last year). Now everyone is allowed to charge, so almost everyone will.
I understand that not everyone will want the autographs of the people there, and that’s fine. But imagine that you’re some kid, just getting into the convention scene, and you’re really looking forward to meeting your favorite actor and getting a minute or two of conversation. Sucks to be you, kid, at least if you’re poor. Not only will you not get in unless you can pay $90, but you aren’t getting anyone’s signature unless you can pay even more than that (probably around $20 – $60 a pop, though certain actors charge $100 or more). So you certainly won’t be getting your moment or two with your favorite actors.
I’m using Gallifrey as an example here, but the problem is very widespread. Not that many years ago, it was about $40 or so to get into most conventions. You’d go, you’d meet a few people, make some friends, maybe get a signature or two from your favorite author or an actor or whatever. You’d have plenty of fun and you wouldn’t spend a week’s pay to do so.
But for the younger generation (ie: the people we’re depending on to carry the torch), and for lower-income people you can forget about it. If you’re a family of four going to, say, Phoenix Comicon, you can really forget about it, since you’re talking $280 if you buy your memberships ahead of time. Wait to buy them at the door, and you’re talking $360. That’s just getting in. That’s not counting food, souvenirs, a hotel room, if needed, or transportation. I’m talking about just a huge amount of money to even get your foot in the door.
Fandom should ideally be open to everyone. Years ago there was this convention where I grew up that had in its charter that the memberships would never be more than an hours work at minimum wage. Now they got their space for free, and I understand that it’s unrealistic to expect that these days for most conventions. But surely something can be done to alleviate the price issues.
Admittedly, I’m not sure what that something is. But we’d best find it, and soon, because a lot of fans, especially younger ones, just don’t have the resources to go to these things anymore, and since they’re the future of fandom, we’d best work out something for them.