UPDATE: Dress-up is not required, so come one and all!
When I first heard about the upcoming San Antonio Steampunk convention Ætherfest a few weeks ago, I was excited. I noticed that Steampunk had been gaining a larger and larger presence at anime conventions, and it was good to see that they were going to try their own thing. Having more geek conventions in San Antonio is also a Good Thing and I was looking forward to supporting these guys and learning more about what the whole Steampunk scene was about. Thus, I went to the Ætherfest webpage to read up on it. It featured the usual parade of guests, events, and dealers, and everything appeared to be business as usual until I got to the FAQ, which included this little tidbit of info at the bottom of the page:
After reading that, I don’t feel like attending Ætherfest anymore. The paragraph above does not make me feel welcome as a guest. One of the points of a convention is to get folks that aren’t into your particular flavor of geekdom to see what it is all about in the hopes that they embrace it, or at least understand what its really about. Telling people that they might not be welcome because they aren’t dressed up is sending the wrong kind of message to your potential attendees. Yes, it does say: “we’ll try our best not to look peeved,” but that isn’t entirely reassuring. Indeed, the thought of spending a day being looked down upon by a bunch of self-important nerds in costumes and opera glasses is not my idea of a fun time.
If this message was intended to be delivered “in character” then okay, fine, I get the joke. That said, lots of other people will not, and when you’re starting a new convention, you don’t want to give people a reason not to attend. Admittedly, I’m probably making a mountain out of a molehill here, but I hope somebody sees the point I’m trying to make.
If Ætherfest is supposed to only be for hardcore Steampunk fans (steam-core? steam-elite?), then okay fine, do what you like. If, on the other hand, you are looking to get as many people to show up as possible and grow your fanbase, then this is not the way to do it.
Come on guys, we’re better than this!
UPDATE: Apparently some of the Aetherfest folks read the post. They agreed that their wording does come off as a tad ‘elitist’ but their intention was to poke fun at other cons where dress up is required, which is what I had guessed. They have posted the following disclaimer on their homepage and look forward to seeing everybody there for a jolly good time!