On a foggy Saturday morning in Seattle, Geek Girl Con opened its doors for the third year at the Washington State Convention Center. A two-day event held October 19-20, the show bills itself as a “celebration of the female geek" and attendance skewed heavily toward the female demographic.
Attendance went up again this year to about 4,300, from 2,300 in the second year and drew about 600 attendees in its first year. Though the convention does not track male/female purchase data during ticket sales, the post-con survey indicates that 20-25% of attendees identify as male, and 75-80% self-identify as female. The age of attendees is typically over twenty for adults or under six for kids, as many parents brought their female children along. Indeed the show describes itself as “a safe place for anyone who identifies as female," and offers a show where female pop culture fans can enjoy themselves without having to deal with the kind of inappropriate behavior often found at the larger conventional pop conventions.
Each year, the event has grown substantially and sold out of attendance passes although the official policy is to have Geek Girl Con grow little by little. “We really want to ensure that anyone who would like to attend our convention has the opportunity to do so,” says Suzie Rantz, press correspondent for the convention. “Many of our attendees love the sense of inclusiveness at Geek Girl Con, and they appreciate that they can approach their favorite creators for a conversation. If we get too big, we might lose a little of that sense of community. It’s a hard balance, but one we are certainly thinking through.” The WSCC is also home to Penny Arcade Expo Prime (PAX), a gaming convention that attracts 60,000 plus attendees over four days, so there is plenty of room to expand over time.
The event brings together creators and fans to network, empower each other, and discuss current issues within the female communities of “geek industries” such as tabletop, computer, and console gaming; genre and comic book publishing; fashion; and academic studies in pop culture. Exhibitors and panelists included representatives from such companies as Bioware, Zhurosoft, Seattle Experimental Theater company, and digital storage company EMC-Isilon, all local to Seattle.
The event attracts mostly local Seattlelites, though there were visitors from Canada and as far away as New York City. The ads in the convention booklet were mostly local as well, something unusual to bigger conventions. With both ads and exhibitor-booth prices low, freelancers and small businesses had a solid chance at gaining return on investment. Prices for booths in 2014 will range from $75 for Artist Alley tables to $325 for dealer/exhibitor booths.
While there were several self-publishers selling trade book novels and comics, there was a lack of mainstream publishers represented at the show. Indie publishers were mostly male. The con, being small, suffered a bit from a lack of big name creators as well, though women well-known in small comics circles were present, such as comic writer, artist, and geek industry freelancer Bonnie Burton. With so many other geek conventions in Seattle, the event’s marketing could benefit from a star to brighten up its scene; and any publisher looking to promote books for women or by women would find a ready audience and test marketplace.
Next year, however, GGC dates will overlap with New York Comic Con, which may hinder its growth and make it difficult to attract national exhibitors as well as big name comics and pop culture creators. However, the convention holds networking nights and other events all year round, so check the website geekgirlcon.com and twitter feed @geekgirlcon for current events.