There’s been a lot of talk lately about the greying of science fiction fandom—particularly when it comes to the World Science Fiction Convention, where it is more obvious than elsewhere—and whether those already attending conventions are driving away those who could help cons thrive. But amid all the gloom, I felt a ray of hope at LoneStarCon 3, the Worldcon that ended a few days ago in San Antonio.
Yes, there’s been a lot of complaining about various aspects of the weekend, but it must also be noted that this happened—
There were so many Worldcon newcomers this year that the committee ran out of FIRST WORLDCON ribbons for attendees to affix to their badges and had to print up new ones halfway through the con.
So there are people out there who want to be part of this special thing we have. How do they make them feel welcome?
One thing I made sure to do was approach every person I noticed wearing a FIRST WORLDCON ribbon and say … well … “Welcome!”
I told them I was glad they’d decided to join us, and asked the catalyst that caused them to come this particular year. I told them I hoped they were having a good time so far, and said that if they had any questions, I’d try to answer them. I shared an anecdote or two about why I fell in love with Worldcons so long ago.
I asked them what science fiction they loved, and if it didn’t happen to be a thing I also loved, I DID NOT JUDGE THEM FOR IT.
If I saw they’d gone so far as to volunteer (as I could see many were during the Hugo Awards ceremony), I said, “Good for you!” or something similar, and thanked them for helping make the whole thing come together. Sure, I partied with my friends, too, but at the same time, I tried not stay within my safety bubble, not to have the newcomers see us as a collection of cliques. I reached out to as many unfamiliar faces as I could, particularly those faces above the name tags adorned with that ribbon.
Not a big thing, I’ll admit. There are many far more complicated fan issues that still need to be solved. But this outreach—or let’s not call it outreach since that sounds so clinical; let’s call it kindness—is one small thing we can each easily achieve. I hope that whatever else we do as we seek inclusivity, we at the very least let the newcomers know we’re glad to see them.
It’s a start.
After all, we were them once.