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Media West*Con Memories

This past Memorial Day weekend was the traditional time to attend Media West*Con in Lansing, Michigan. I was once a faithful attendee and still miss it, but a lot of factors combined to make 2011 my last con.

When I first attended in 1993, I had one of the greatest experiences of my life. After being in fandom for several years and hearing about this con and others, it was a thrill to attend my first one. It was the most perfect of all the cons I would attend (MW years were from 1993 to 2011, missing only 1994 and 2004). These were MY PEOPLE! Ha, fandom was a lot smaller then but bursting with positive energy, and the con reflected that. Like-minded fannish people were my soulmates, and I loved the unofficial con 'uniform' of jeans and fannishly-themed T-shirts and jewelry. Comfort above all! ;)

I loved everything about the con: the crazy, packed Dealers' Room, the people dealing out of their rooms, the decorated doors, the vids, the panels, the parties...meeting people I'd only previously corresponded with was a great pleasure, and meeting new people, too. In those days, you didn't get feedback for your stories and art much at all. If a zine editor decided to publish LOCs in a subsequent or kindly send along comments, it could still be months or years after your fanworks saw publication. LJ was heady stuff with the immediate and numerous comments and feedback ten years ago, but now most on-line platforms are like pre-Internet days, ironically.

Some of my fondest memories are of times spent at that con. My roommate Khylara and I became annual door decorators, choosing themes like slash (It's Raining Men) and winning some prizes (Best Pop Culture Prize for our Christian Bale door). There were dinners and parties and just informal get-togethers. Before the hotel changed things, they had some courtyards with fountains that were great for reading zines or just enjoying the sun.

The hotel's employees really enjoyed MWC Weekend. The restaurant put up posters of movies and played TV themes during the con. They were always intrigued by the door decorations and had fun, too.

I remember Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon dolls making out in their own dollhouse while newbies watched Due South and the series finale of Smallville. I remember hours of vids and searching the Dealers' Room for treasures. Every year I bought a new piece of jewelry and bought my year's worth of zines at the con.

You could just start a conversation with strangers and bond by the time it was over. It was the first time I talked with someone who understood about characters taking over a story. At my first con, I sat down at my first panel and thought, I did it! I really did it! I'm here! :)

So why did I stop going after my last trip in 2011? A lot of reasons, which probably applied to other people, too. Fandom's getting older and poorer. The economy might be great for the 1%, but the rest of us have to struggle. And dealing with the airlines? Every year it got more aggravating, not to mention less flights available at good times getting in and out of Lansing.

The con hotel had changed ownership a few times, and they definitely didn't consider us a top draw anymore. They were more interested in corporate business and didn't bother putting up posters or playing soundtracks in the restaurant anymore. Fortunately the Con Committee noticed and changed hotels, ironically returning to the hotel that had become uninterested in their business almost 20 years ago. I ended up going the first time after they moved and stopped the year before they left. :)

The con itself had lost energy. The vids were practically non-existent (the Internet killed those), the Dealers Room had once been so packed that there were dealers selling out of their rooms due to lack of tables and then half the tables were empty in the last few years, and the Art Show exhibited only half the items of previous years. The Art Auction used to take 4 hours to get through all the items but then was reduced to 2 hours, if that.

I guess the biggest disappointment were the panels. The schedule used to be packed into the wee hours, but during the last few years I went there were significant gaps in the schedule. Only a few people might show up for most panels.

Finally, people were fed up with the room lottery. Some years you knew if you had a room in the host hotel only a few months after the previous cons, but other years you had to wait until only three or four months before the next con, and one memorable year notifications didn't go out until a month before. I talked to at least three people who quit going because of the lottery.

Me? Finances and dealing with the airlines did me in, exhaustion with the room lottery, and sadness over the con's lack of energy. A lot of familiar faces were gone, and the con was a shell of its former self.

I don't know if it's still the same story, but they almost cancelled this year due to low attendance, so who knows? But it's still doing business, so people must be having fun. :) And I'll always remember the great times I had. Things just change sometimes.

This entry has been cross-posted from Dreamwidth. Comment on either entry as you wish. :)


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 4th, 2018 11:23 am (UTC)
I went to Media West a couple of times. The first time was pretty nice. There was enough panels, and the dealer's room, while not packed, was sufficient. This was maybe around 2010. Then I went again when they moved back to their original hotel. It was pretty sad.

But it sounds as if that's happening to a lot of cons. While Shore Leave is still going strong because it's more a scifi con, the slash contingent keeps getting smaller. The two slash panels (one K/S, the other all fandoms,) are still pretty well attended, but the K/S party attendance is really down. This may be my last year attending, though I really hope not. I usually take two trips a year, one home, and one usually to Shore Leave. That's not something I look forward to giving up.
Jun. 4th, 2018 11:24 pm (UTC)
2010 was when it started to slide, but I'm glad you had fun. :)

I guess the cons begun in the '70s are going the way of the dinosaurs. Upcoming fans aren't as keen to do the face-to-face thing anymore, or prefer cons with big names (actors, writers, producers, etc.).
Jun. 5th, 2018 03:08 am (UTC)
I think it helps cons survive if they diversify. The one I've been going to for years has music, writing, art, crafting, and mythic tracks, among others. They have good guests (Tamora Pierce and Esther Freisner, among others) and it's not too big. Most people are local, though a few do fly in.
Jun. 6th, 2018 10:03 pm (UTC)
MWC was always a major con with 900 attendees and people flying in from all over the world. Now it's got less than half of that amount, so I'm not sure of it's big or small anymore.

I'm not sure if MWC changed its programming all that much. People still go. I guess if you were around for the high-water years, it's just a little sad now.
Jun. 7th, 2018 04:32 am (UTC)
Haven't been on LJ in many months, but I happened to log in today and spotted your post in my friends feed. Ah, Mediawest! I attended nearly every one from '95 to '09. We've probably passed each other in the halls or maybe even chatted, who knows? I loved it, it was the first con I'd ever been to, and it set the bar for pretty much any con I went to after. I only knew a couple people from online before I went, but people I met were just lovely and helped me settle right in. Like you, I remember zines being the only way to read fanfic at the time, and being surrounded by them, and getting to chat with fellow fans in person (especially for smaller fandoms with no online presence), was heaven. I stopped going because travel was getting harder to do. While I was there long enough to notice that the later years weren't as active as my first ones, I never got to see it really decline the way you describe here. I suspected something similar, but hearing the details makes it sad :(
Jul. 18th, 2018 10:30 pm (UTC)
We chatted in the side courtyard, I believe. :)

I used to buy my year's worth of zines at this con. At least half were free because I 'tribbed, so that helped! :)

The energy was incredible! The first year was the best, but many years after that were great. Even in the sad later years, I still had fun. It just turned out that it was a lot of money and aggravation (flying) for dwindling returns.

I have fantastic memories, though! :)
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )


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