The greatest, and most offensive, paradox of all time is: What happens if a unicorn takes a maiden's virginity? But the next-greatest paradox has to do with New York Comic Con and its ilk.
And it is this: Why is an event that should be a celebration of the future and the imagination so old-fashioned and same ol', same ol'?
Don't get me wrong — when Meredith said she'd give me a ticket if I could cover a screening this weekend, I was thrilled and delighted, and I had a good time. And I appreciate that some of what does drive me nuts about Comic Con has everything to do with me and nothing to do with it: I burned out on festival concerts at least half a decade ago, strip clubs discomfit me unless I'm pretty intoxicated, and while I am a capitalist, the Mall of America makes me feel guilty about it. And with its crowds and $4 bottles of soda, paid models and attendees in slinky costumes getting ogled by grubby dudes, and yards upon yards of questionably utile merchandise, your average SF con replicates all three of those places rather aptly.
But, y'know, it's OK that it's not exactly my bag. Obviously, based on the billions (slight exaggeration) of people crammed into half of the Javits Center with me, it is many other folks'. Nonetheless, I think the question broached above is worth asking. Because it seems to me like, if cons like this weekend's have been around for almost four decades now (the San Diego Comic-Con started in 1970), they sure haven't changed much:
• There are booths, with things at them. People sit behind the tables at the booths, or stand in front of them.
• They generally give away cheap schwag, like flimsy introductory comics and pins and maybe (if they're going all out) DVDs or pens; none of it is exceptional or really useful beyond five minutes of entertainment value. I would be sincerely surprised if a solid 90 percent of the schwag didn't end up in a landfill or (I hope) recycling facility within a week.
• And of course, there are boobs. Everywhere. Except in the places where there is already ass instead — girl ass, that is, naturally. I don't wanna sound like a sensitive ponytail man — and Lord knows I have built my commenting career here on a steady diet of seventh-grade sex jokes — but whatever our individual opinions about it are, it seems to me only fair to acknowledge that your average con's depiction of sexuality is more or less one-sided and, while hardly on the level of most Internet reality porn, leans closer to "exploitative" than to "healthily lusty." That we may be inured to it at this point doesn't make it less true.
So now that some of you are annoyed enough to stop looking at Internet reality porn to log in and comment (and I know your pain — I had to do the same thing to get this thing written), let me suggest some things I think would be cool to see at cons of the future — so that they'd really be more like Cons of the Future:
1) Thinking beyond the booth. Sure, you may need someplace to set up your stuff, and you may not have the money to trick it out, but why leave yourself subject to capricious Fate and whomever she happens to send walking by? If I were trying to get noticed in a giant room full of people dressed as everything from Norse gods to extragalactic holy men, the last thing I'd do is sit still. I'd have a crew out on the floor, and not just passing out flyers. They'd be handing out food or toys or carrying a video camera and doing quick Q&As — anything to get someone's attention — and then passing out a flyer.
2) Awesome (cheap) technology. Better still, what if you passed out a bunch of gadgets like those buzzy remotes that restaurants use to tell you your table is ready, marked with your booth location? And then signaled the people carrying them, either individually, in small groups, or — for an awesome effect — all at once, to show up for a kickass presentation or giveaway? There'd be some overhead, but if you pulled it off, you'd make an impression. And even if that wasn't doable, heck, instead of a crappy poster, give out a few branded USB thumb-drive key chains with something fun on them — at least those'll get used for a lot longer than a week.
3) Live entertainment. The SF-and-fantasy crowd is full of people who are incredibly creative, even if they don't have the money to make a summer blockbuster themselves. How tough would it be to put on short plays throughout the day? Or a Spock Vs. Q–style dialogue? Or story readings, or poetry slams, or interpretive dances, or mini concerts, or video confessions?
4) Live interactive entertainment. And for that matter, since we can play games while we're browsing the Web, why shouldn't we be able to play games while we're browsing the stalls? Some creative wizard should come up with a live-action-role-playing-style game you can play and score points at — and even meet new people during — while you buy trade paperbacks and attend panels.
5) More sexy dudes. There. I said it. Everyone's always paying lip service to how SF ought to be more accommodating to people who aren't heterosexual men, but since the aforementioned boobs aren't going anywhere, let's at least balance them out with more testosterone than a blue evil He-Man android statue. And they don't have to be Fabio clones — actually, they probably shouldn't be. Someone should hire a few buff tan dudes who look like trainers at expensive health clubs, strap leather baldrics on 'em, and see what kind of response they get.
Commenter Moff's real name is Josh Wimmer, and he can usually be found at scribblescribblescribble.com/blog.