>In the late ’80s, I attended some major science fiction conventions and a bunch of smaller ones. Here are the highlights:
- 1986 – World Science Fiction Convention (WorldCon), Atlanta, Georgia
- 1987 – Official Star Wars 10th Anniversary Convention, Los Angeles, California
- 1988 – WorldCon, New Orleans, Louisiana
- 1989 – WorldCon, Boston, Massachusetts
- 1991 – WorldCon, Chicago, Illinois
Most of the big cons were attended by publicity reps from the major Hollywood studios. (The only name I can remember is Jeff Walker from Warner Bros). Remember, back then, you couldn’t go to YouTube or Apple to see upcoming movie trailers. You had to wait for publicity stills to be published in a magazine (probably three months after the studio released them). When the studio reps did their slide shows about upcoming science fiction, fantasy or comic book-related films, the rooms were packed.
I thought that would be the coolest job in the world. Of course, I’d already graduated from college, and I don’t even know if UWF had a public relations degree back then. (They have a great program now.) I have no idea what these guys did when they weren’t traveling to science fiction conventions to talk to geeks about movies.
A few years after my first convention (that Atlanta WorldCon), I was offered an unbelievable opportunity to live that dream. A friend of mine (we met at the Star Wars con in ’87 and later worked together at Walt Disney World) brought me a flyer for the Sci-Fi Channel. Imagine! A television channel that would show SF movies and TV shows all day, every day. (Too bad we don’t have one now.) This was something that I’d dreamed of, but I certainly didn’t have the money or connections to start a TV network. I wrote a passionate letter saying that I’d love to work for them, and they offered me a job!
This was before the Sci-Fi Channel ever got on the air. First, the cable companies had to be convinced to carry the channel. You have to have an audience (or at least a potential audience) before you start broadcasting. SFC reps would travel around talking to all the different cable systems, large and small, rural and urban, and try to get them to sign an agreement to put the Sci-Fi Channel on their line-up, if and when the Channel launched.
It was my job to encourage fans to write to their cable companies, demonstrating their interest in watching an all-sci-fi network. I spent all day, every day responding to letters from interested people, taking phone calls, making calls and writing letters, mailing packets of flyers to conventions and fan clubs, and speaking at conventions, mostly the ones in Central and South Florida within easy driving distance of Sci-Fi HQ. It really was a dream job.
It also led me to my husband. One of the conventions I was able to attend as a Sci-Fi Channel representative was the big one, ChiCon, the World Science Fiction Convention in Chicago in 1991. Several fan club leaders I’d been working with were going to be there, so it was chance to meet them face to face; distribute flyers, posters and buttons; and to answer questions at my very own panel. (I didn’t have a slide show.) The president of a big Doctor Who fan club in the midwest was an SFC supporter, so I had arranged to meet him, and when I went up to his room, his wife and a couple of friends were also there. One of those friends and I hit it off, and two weeks later, we were engaged.
Over the next few months, USA Networks decided to buy the Sci-Fi Channel (which consisted primarily of all those signed agreements from the cable systems), and I didn’t know if I’d have a job or not. I wasn’t sure I wanted to live in New York anyway (I’d spent a couple of days there on my home from the Boston WorldCon, September 1989, and it smelled). So, I resigned, got married, and moved to Missouri, where they never feed you snakes before ripping your heart out and lowering you into hot pits.
Fast forward and I’m now working in the public relations field again. The whole ball game has changed, and I don’t know if the studios still have people who travel to conventions to present slide shows (if so, now they’re Powerpoint presentations), show video clips, and tell the fans all the wonderful things happening in Hollywood. I’d still love to have that job.
I can safely say that I am who I am, a happily married wife and a public relations professional, because of my experiences at those conventions a long time ago in states far, far away.