Exploring the Ephemeral Archive

Curator's Note

This week brought together academics writing about queer geek spaces, in honor of Gaylaxicon’s 30th and OutlantaCon’s 10th anniversaries this weekend. In 1988, Gaylaxicon was one of the first sci-fi fan conventions to focus on the LGBTQ+ community’s specific needs and desires. Other fan conventions like BentCon, GAYmerCon, HavenCon, FlameCon, NautiCon, OutlantCon, and more recently ClexaCon following suit. I wanted to bring a little historical perspective to this week’s programming and so I did a little digging through the electronic archive looking for the ephemeral media and visuals that is associated with cons like badges, programs, con theme art, logos, awards, fanfiction anthology covers, chapbooks, and photos of cosplay, events, and game shows.

I was looking primarily at Gaylaxicon and OutlantaCon as these two cons are celebrating major anniversaries this year. Looking through this ephemera, the digital footprint of these two cons, I was struck by how different the programming content was as compared to something like Comic-Cona or Atlanta’s DragonCon. As much as the Gaylaxicon and OutlantaCon are focused on media with LGBTQ+ representation at its core, the programming itself often includes general information about queer life including explanations of terminology, (LGBTQIA+, poly, pan, etc.) as well as queer fandom specific issues like slash, kink, and the “bury your gays” trope.

Yes, there is an explicit focus on queer representation within and interpretation of Sci-fi/Fantasy media texts, as well as of fan works that transform mass media into queer art. However, the cons are more than just a niche within a niche, they are a merging of cultures. Instead of cosplay contests there are couture fashion shows, there is the geekification of queer mainstays like drag, fashion, clubbing, and even glory holes. There is also the queering of geek culture through game shows like Project Cosplay, Queer Eye for the Geek Guy, games like Twister and the Match Game.

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