Twice this weekend I ran into long lost nerd-friends who told me that they can no longer tolerate or afford the juggernaut that is San Diego Comic-Con. I've been hearing this quite a bit lately. Either people are disgusted by the crowds and the commerce, or they're offended by the registration process, or they've experienced too many times that weird phenomenon where you move through San Diego in an isolated cocoon - crushed on every side, yet never actually interacting with anyone.
Smaller Cons can be much friendlier and offer closer access to celebrities and artists, with lower expectations and more fun. You tend to get invited to more after-parties. So if you didn't get a badge for San Diego (though you probably wouldn't be reading this in that case) you might want to consider some of the Cons listed in this article on io9 today.
That said, the list was somewhat incomplete.
- Outlanta Con in Atlanta - May 3-5
- Steampunk Worlds Fair in Piscataway, NJ - May 17-19
- Anime Central (ACen) in Rosemont, IL - May 17-19
- Galacticon in Houston - May 23-26
- Anime North in Toronto - May 24-26
- A-Kon in Dallas - May 31 - June 1
- Phoenix Comic Con in Phoenix - Memorial Day Weekend
- Denver Comic Con in Denver - May 31-June 2
- World Horror Convention in New Orleans - June 14-16
- Supanova Sydney in Sydney, AUS - June 21-23
- Botcon in San Diego - June 27-30
- Anime Expo in LA - July 4-7
- Florida SuperCon - July 4-7
- Days of the Dead in Indianapolis - July 5-7
- London Film and Comic Con in England - July 5-7
- Star Wars Celebration in Meese Essen, Germany - July 26-28
- Otakon in Baltimore - August 9-11
- Official Star Trek Convention in Vegas - August 8-11
- Wizard World Chicago - August 8-11
- Comiket - Tokyo - August 10-12
- GenCon in Indianapolis - August 15-18
- Toronto Fan Expo - August 23-26
- LoneStar Con/World Science Fiction in San Antonio- August 29-September 2
- Dragon*Con in Atlanta - August 30-September 2
- San Diego Comic Fest in San Diego - October 4-6
- New York Comic Con - October 10-13
- SteamCon in Bellevue - October 25-27
Really there are Cons for everything. I've seen Book Expos become Book Cons, Fetish Festivals become Leather Cons. "Con" is the magic word with the biggest branding, and everyone is using it to draw in crowds who don't have one nerd molecule in their bodies.
And it's working; this weekend I also ran into two sets of non-geeks who are going to Phoenix Comic Con solely to dress up. To people like this, a Comic Con is just an off-season Halloween party. Which is their right, I suppose, but it does point to a certain cultural dilution that can ruin that special nerd universe feeling.
All of which is my long-winded way of saying: when it comes to smaller Cons, choose carefully. Some are a hodge-podge of every fandom under the sun. Others concentrate on one specific culture. Know what you want and know what you're getting into, because if you're used to San Diego Comic-Con, many of these are a far cry from its grandeur and variety. Still, they can be pretty fun.