“BayCon: Women of Wonder” took place Friday, May 22 through Sunday, May 24, 2015, honored women in speculative fiction and raised money for About Face, a charity that raises money to help combat self-esteem damaging messages women and girls receive from the media. Panels with names like “Cosplay Is Not Consent” and “Can Online Misogyny Become Teachable Moments” bought issues that face women in fandom and con-culture to the forefront.
The fun, family-friendly event has a literary focus, and offers multiple mixers for mingling with other attendees in a festive environment, combining social awareness with partying with purpose and after-hours adult activities.
“Baycon is the only place where you can Regency dance, participate in live gaming, meet writers, have your art and writing critiqued by professionals working in the field, costume, witness sword and fencing demonstrations, and debate trends in science-all in one weekend,” said Emerian Rich, HorrorAddicts.net podcast hostess, author, and BayCon panelist.
With the Hugo Awards scandals fresh in the minds of many, diversity is a hot issue. “The Hugo Tug-of-War” and “The Persistence of Racism” were among BayCon’s panels this year. The Hugo Award controversy is over attempts to make the world award more diverse nominating female writers and people of color. There was a backlash by those who saw this as a form of affirmative action. BayCon saw this as an opportunity for renewed commitment to diversity.
“I was impressed by the diversity of the programming and the variety of the attendees’ interests. I added a whole lot of new authors to my reading list,” said author and first-time attendee Loren Rhoads.
However one feels about diversity, appealing to female audiences makes economic sense for literary conventions. Lit Chicks are an economic powerhouse. In 2012, 58% of the money spent on books came from women. In the USA, Canada and Britain men account for only 20% of the literary fiction market.
Competition from other local conventions like Fanime, held the same weekend, made a substantial dent in attendance. BayCon is a niche literary con, less consumer oriented than fandoms-centered conventions.
“It’s a smaller but long running con not backed up by corporations. People have gone for so many years it is damn near a family tradition now. It was good to see old friendly faces and snarl at my dear antagonists from 10 years ago. Things don’t really change,” said long-time attendee Desdemona Sarai Marie Negru.