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Conventional Wisdom

No, there aren’t too many pop-culture gatherings in Utah



If you haven’t noticed, there’s another major geek convention in town this week. With the billboards, Facebook posts and ads everywhere, it would be hard to miss FantasyCon, but did you know that the 67th annual West Coast Science Fantasy Conference (Westercon) is being held simultaneously and just across the street? And did you know that if you’re so inclined, your badge for one event will get you into the other?

Aside from these two geeky conventions, we’ve got other annual gatherings like Salt City Steamfest, SaltCon, Anime Banzai, ConDuit, Anime Salt Lake and other smaller, more specialized conventions. And that’s not even mentioning the big daddy of all the area conventions: Salt Lake Comic Con, coming back at us in September after its two record-breaking debut events. It’s the third largest comic-con in the United States, and it calls our fair city home.

You’d be forgiven if you scratched your head and wondered, “What makes Salt Lake City (and surrounding areas) so special? Why are we getting all of these conventions?”

For me, the answer to that question is easy: We have a diverse population that’s thirsty for genre entertainment. We’re a creatively stimulated group of people, encouraged to love reading and writing and movies and crafting from an early age. There’s a reason Utah ranked as the nerdiest U.S. state in a recent survey conducted by the real-estate website Estately, and Salt Lake City is ranked pretty consistently as one of the most creative cities in the country.

The bigger question is one that I think more people are asking, and might take a little longer to answer: “Can Utah support so many conventions of this size?” While I can’t say yes for certain, I do think we have a very good chance of supporting all of these events—events that are occurring on a more and more frequent basis.

For one, we have a very sizable and active community dedicated to the geeky arts. The geek community here has plenty of figureheads that help mobilize and marshal the crowd into being very social. These people range from the crew at (disclaimer: I’m bragging) Big Shiny Robot! to the guys over at the Geek Show Podcast, from the local comic-book stores and their efforts, all the way to the crew at the Salt Lake City Main Library, doing everything they can to foster a culture that loves to read and participate.

Also, many of the stereotypes about Utahans are generally true. We’re often just a little bit naïve, wide-eyed with wonder and easily wowed. Some might count that lack of cynicism as a bad thing, but I assure you, it’s a strength we don’t play up enough.

We truly enjoy meeting the stars of our favorite movies and TV shows and the creators of our favorite comics. And we love it the same way we love seeing all the movie stars flock into town for the Sundance Film Festival every year. Some among us might be jaded, but it’s that same sense of awe that keeps us reading comic books and watching Star Wars that will keep us coming back to these conventions, whether they’re held annually, quarterly or even weekly.

So, for my part, I say “Bring on the conventions!” Anything that brings us closer as a geek community is great in my book. If you approach anything with too much cynicism, it’s sure to blow up in your face and kill your enjoyment. I’ll check mine at the door and see you at the next convention.

Bryan Young is the editor-in-chief of

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