Mr. Tony Lee, author of many Doctor Who and soon MacGyver stories, has posted some thoughts on guest behavior at cons, basically saying that if you are a paid-for guest, you should stay a guest after hours, and not just on the show floor.
I’ve seen ‘celebrity guests’ at conventions make children cry because they wanted to say hello to their icon at a time when they weren’t signing, or on a panel – only to be told to ‘**** off.’ I’ve seen other such guests drunk in a convention bar and insulting fans – the very same fans who’s fandom got them invited in the first place – and mocking costumes, outfits or even physical characteristics. I know a couple of writers, artists and actors who I would deem as socially impotent, and I’ve seen them too destroy the belief that a young fan has in them by blowing off a panel because the hall was too crowded, the ‘wrong type of fan’ was in or (more often) shouting at them in a bar. Writers and artists are a solitary bunch – used to working alone. It makes sense that we don’t do well in crowds. But to actually attend such an event and not acknowledge the people who got you there? Insane, in my opinion. And I saw way too much of it in San Diego.
In my opinion, and it’s something I try to live to, if a convention pays for me to fly out to them, puts me up in a hotel? Then I’ll damn well earn that faith. I’ll do panels, signings, meet and greets, whatever’s required. And more importantly, I’ll spend time in the lobby with the fans, in the bar with the fans. Because a convention in a hotel is usually a 24 hour experience. I want to ensure the fans have the best time ever, and come back to the convention next year. I did a convention last year where out of the fifteen guests, I was the only one who actually did this one night – and it was one of the best convention evenings I’ve had. When I do San Diego, New York, even places like the MCM Expo, I’ll hang out in the evening with the fans who I’ve met at these conventions, often over other writers, artists and editors. Not because I don’t like the writers, not because I really like the fans (though many of these are now solid friends) – but largely because I’m still working. I’m still wearing the tie.
I can see both sides of this. While remaining friendly and approachable at all times is a very valuable skill, some socially awkward (or even downright scary) fans don’t respect boundaries, and remaining on “after hours” could be misconstrued.
On the other hand, Tony’s idea of having a “uniform” (tie and waistcoat) that signifies when he’s “on duty” makes sense too.
What does everyone else think?
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.