In the days before science fiction and fantasy went mainstream, a group of UBC and SFU students had one big idea: host a large convention with all of the notable writers, movie stars and artists in the genre.
This convention was originally meant to be a one-shot event, but since its debut in 1971, there have been 37 editions of the Vancouver Convention (VCON). It is now Vancouver’s largest general-interest convention. This year’s VCON was held from Sept. 28–30 and featured a post-apocalyptic theme.
Unlike similar conventions in the U.S., VCON doesn’t focus exclusively on popular media and celebrities.
Rose Wilson, the director of the art show at VCON, said she tries to feature artists who stretch the boundaries of the genre — in her words, “more than dragons and kitty cats with wings.”
“We’ve never been able to describe VCON [to] any satisfaction,” said R. Graeme Cameron, who helped put together the first VCON when he was 18 years old. “It’s a general-interest convention, which means there’s a little bit of everything going on.”
The faces behind VCON have changed; it is no longer run by either UBC or SFU clubs, but rather the West Coast Science Fiction Association, a society created specifically to manage the convention. The association hopes to expand VCON enough to one day host Westercon, the largest science fiction convention in the West Coast. The last Westercon was held at UBC in 1990, and had over 3,000 attendees.
Could there be another Westercon at UBC in the near future? It is definitely a possibility, but as Cameron was quick to note, it all depends on the fans. “General-interest conventions have been dying, [so it] could go either way,” he said.
But the convention certainly doesn’t lack a loyal fanbase; many attendees have been drawn back to VCON year after year since its inception. Michael Walsh, who was a reporter for the Province in 1971, has fond memories of walking into the convention for the first time as an outsider.
“[There was a] great deal of energy being expended in pursuit of — I wasn’t really sure of what at the time, [but] I wanted to know more,” he said. Forty years later, he’s still coming back.