I finally made it to a Westercon! It’s been years since I’ve been to a general science-fiction/fantasy convention. The last one was WorldCon/LACon IV in 2006, but I was distracted by a summer cold and lots of DayQuil. Before that was the last Loscon I attended in 2002. So while I remembered how this sort of event is usually run, I wasn’t sure what to expect.

A Bit of Background

Westercon is a fan-run convention that travels around the western United States and Canada, similar to WorldCon on a smaller scale. It’s usually held during the Fourth of July weekend. This year it was held in Pasadena, California, and combined with the filk convention ConChord 23 to form WesterChord, Westerconchord, or simply Confirmation.

I’ve been to a couple of Westercons, but not anything you’d call recent. I remember attending one in San Diego and one in Anaheim, having a dinosaur-themed T-shirt from one year, and picking up a particular issue of The New Teen Titans in San Diego, so I think the two I attended were San Diego in 1986 and “Conosaurus” in Anaheim in 1989. Yes, it’s been twenty years since my last Westercon!


I had no trouble finding the Pasadena Hilton, but getting inside was a little tricky. The entryway was under construction, so they were routing people through one of the ballrooms, which had been set up for some sort of banquet. (More about that later.) The hotel was vaguely familiar from my memories of Loscon in the 1980s, but has been remodeled to add a coffee shop and a restaurant in the middle of the conference center. The Starbucks was most welcome, though the con was good at making sure pitchers of water and plastic cups were available in each panel room and the main hall.

Since I was only there for the day, I didn’t explore the area looking for restaurants or other activities. I just relied on Starbucks and the ad-hoc pizza, sandwich, pastry and salad counter that had been set up across the way.

Anyway, I found registration easily, but the onsite sign-up forms were on a table behind a planter. I wasn’t the only one who walked straight past them.


It was a much smaller convention than I’ve become used to in years of attending the big comic-book events like Comic-Con International, WonderCon, and Wizard World. Even Long Beach Comic Con pulled in 6,300 people its first year, but I’d count the attendance here in the hundreds.

Attendees were also older than Comic-Con on average, mostly 50+ rather than mostly around 30. Certainly there were plenty of younger fans at Westercon, and there are plenty of older fans at Comic-Con, but there does seem to be a generation gap of sorts between the two types of conventions, at least in the southern California area. At least this con seemed more alive than the last few Loscons I attended — and a lot less bitter!

Maybe it’s the literary focus. LASFS has always been very book-oriented, and there were a lot of writers among the con guests. One of the book dealers even had an entire shelf set aside for books by authors who were guests at the con.

Continue reading

Just noticed that the 2010 Westercon will be in Pasadena. I’m reluctant to travel on the Fourth of July weekend, so next year’s con in Tempe, Arizona is out. Though at least it won’t be Las Vegas on a holiday weekend, like this year’s. And it’s close to Comic-Con. Plus — middle of the desert in July? Not if I can help it!

Pasadena, however, is within driving distance if we stay in the OC/LA area. It might be worth keeping an eye on.

I’ve been trying to decide whether to go to Wizard World Los Angeles this year. On one hand, it’s close. On the other hand, I just went to WonderCon last month. The astonishing thing is that a one-day ticket for WWLA costs almost as much as a 3-day membership to WonderCon. This got me thinking about comparing convention prices.

So I looked up the comic conventions in the area, plus the other two Wizard World cons that have prices up.

Convention Thu Fri Sat Sun Full
LA Comic/SciFi (a.k.a. The Shrine) $8 N/A
WonderCon (advance) $12 $12 $10 $30 = $10/day
WonderCon (onsite) $15 $15 $10 $40 ≈ $13/day
Wizard World LA, Philadelphia $25 $25 $25 $45 = $15/day
Wizard World Chicago $25 $25 $25 $50 ≈ $17/day
Comic-Con Intl. (way ahead)* $60 = $15/day
Comic-Con Intl. (advance) $25 $30 $35 $20 $75 ≈ $19/day
Comic-Con Intl. (onsite) none

And to compare to some non-comic-focused conventions, some nearby, some just big:

Convention Thu Fri Sat Sun Full
ConDor (advance) $25 ≈  $8/day
ConDor (onsite) $20 $25 $15 $50 ≈ $17/day
Loscon (advance) $35 ≈ $12/day
Westercon 61 (advance) $60 = $15/day
Gen Con Indy (advance) $35 $35 $35 $35 $60 = $15/day
Gen Con Indy (onsite) $45 $45 $45 $45 $75 ≈ $19/day
Dragon*Con (advance) $65 ≈ $16/day
Dragon*Con (onsite) $90 ≈ $22/day
Worldcon/Denvention 3 (advance) $200 = $40/day

It’s interesting to note that WonderCon (San Francisco) and ConDor (San Diego) are extremely cheap if you sign up far enough in advance. Also, when you expand to more general cons, San Diego Comic-Con is right in the middle of the range, with several conventions being more expensive. I’d guess that the more volunteer-based cons like Westercon and Worldcon probably don’t bring in as much money from exhibitors, so they’d be more dependent on memberships to keep afloat.

In compiling this, I discovered that this year, Comic-Con International isn’t going to be selling any memberships on-site. It’s going to be pre-registration only.

I guess they’re expecting it to sell out again like last year, and don’t want people to count on something they won’t be able to deliver. Plus I’m sure it’ll simplify matters for the con, since they won’t need to deal with taking money for registration.

Update: Added Loscon for nostalgia’s sake. Also fixed some links; GenCon rearranged their website sometime in the last 4 days, and I somehow typed in the wrong domain name for ConDor.

Note: These are the 2008 prices, except for the ConDor advance price, which is for 2009. All prices were obtained from the events’ websites except for the way-advance price for San Diego Comic-Con, which is simply the price I paid last summer for this year’s con. For shows with multiple membership packages, such as Wizard World, I selected the most basic package that lets you walk in the door.

*CCI always has a booth selling pre-registration for the following year’s convention at an even lower price.