Starfuckers and the cons that feed them

I hate starfucker conventions, and I hate most of what they stand for.

There you go, kids, career suicide by a barely midlist genre fiction writer. Just what you wanted for your reading entertainment.

But it’s the truth. I hate the conventions, and you know the ones I mean, where the main focus is getting as many people run through lines to have autographs and photo ops as possible, with the least possible interaction with the people you’re there to “meet.”

For the record, Dragon Con is not what I consider a starfucker con, nor are any of the cons I attend as a guest. That’s not always been the case. Fandom Fest is definitely a starfucker con, with some programming glommed onto the side of it, and a horror con tacked on for good measure. Mad Monster Party is a starfucker con with a badass party attached, and people seem to love it.

I just don’t. If it’s your thing, that’s awesome. If you can actually manage to connect with someone for the ten seconds you get to talk to them, or if you want to support them and thank them with your dollars for the joy they’ve brought into your lives with their work, that’s your choice. For me, I want people to enjoy my work, not the spectacle of meeting me (and God knows meeting me sometimes turns into a goddamn spectacle).

There’s gotten to be a lot of talk all over the place about everybody charging for autographs, all kinds of folks from writers, to comic artists, to Magic:the Gathering Artists, to actors, etc.

Here’s my promise to you – I will never charge money for an autograph on a book that I’ve worked on unless you’re obviously just getting it autographed to increase the value of it. If you’re a fan, and you’ve spent money on my book, or even if you got it as a gift, or just happen to have it, I promise I’ll sign it for free. Personalized or not, your call.

Now if I ever convince someone to hire me to write comics and you show up with a stack of twenty copies of Issue #1 and want them all signed, none personalized, then the first one’s free and we’re gonna have to talk about the other copies you want for eBay.

Because I understand that sometimes people are just in it to monetize a signature, and that’s not cool to the artist/actor/writer/musician. When I did Mad Monster Party a few years ago, I think Corey Feldman was only personalizing thing, he wouldn’t do just a signature. Because he wanted to sign things for his fans, not for eBay. And I respect that. And I understand that people have costs to recoup associated with travelling to cons. God knows I understand, I just dropped almost $2K to go to Dragon Con.

But if you’ve bought something of mine, and aren’t looking to monetize it, then I’m not going to charge for an autograph. I just don’t think it’s right. I also will not charge for photos taken with me, because if you want my ugly mug in your camera, you must really be a fan. And I sure as hell will never charge just to come up to my table and meet me, that to me seems the height if hubris. I do admit that if I’m ever famous enough to where a convention pays for me to be there, and I’m working for the con all weekend, I may not be in charge of what the convention charges for those things. But I won’t ever do it, personally.

This is inspired by a bunch of things that I’ve seen this past year – a blog post by a dad who paid almost $300 to have his kids’ picture taken with the Weasley family from the Harry Potter movies, a comic artist at Heroes Con charging for signatures on anything you didn’t buy from his table, a Magic artist charging for signatures on cards he did the art for, and a general growth across all parts of the creative industry of a desire to get as much out of the fans as we can, all because somebody else is milking them, and they’re willing to pay it.

Well, maybe, just maybe, you should give something back to the fans who allow you to have the life you have. I’m not saying give away free shit, but certainly if someone who loves your work enough to carry a heavy-ass hardback all the way across a convention center to get it signed, give them a little personal attention and a moment of your time, instead of trying to get a couple bucks out of them for the minute and a half you spend with them. You’ll make more in the long run by modeling yourself after folks like Mark Poole, Brandon Sanderson, Pat Conroy, Orson Scott Card and others I’ve seen or heard of staying long after signings to make sure everyone’s stuff is signed, or just folks that are super-accommodating to their fans.

I know this is long, and I know there are parts where I seem to contradict myself, but it’s a complicated issue. At the end of the day, being at a convention is for the fans, and we’re all fans, too. It does us well to remember that, and to wonder how we’d feel if we walked up to a creator with our favorite book, comic, or Magic card, only to be greeted with a sign telling us it’s $3 for a signature.

So before you try to squeeze more blood from the stone of fandom, maybe ask yourself if you’re giving enough back. A lot of you are, but maybe a few could look outside their wallet a little more.

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