While many fan conventions focus on booking the biggest celebrities or offering the coolest merch, when Hilton George was dreaming up the concept for Blerdcon, he wanted something where everyone “gets a plate at the cookout.” He imagined a con that was inclusive of nerds and geeks of all races, genders, sexual orientations and preferences, and any other category of people commonly used to define and divide.
At the time, George thought that surely such an event already existed. “I didn’t think I was going to have to make it,” he said. But try as he might, he couldn’t find one that matched his vision. So last year, with the help of a passionate team of volunteers, he orchestrated the debut Blerdcon, a three-day-long event that overwhelmed all of their expectations for what a first year convention could be. The secret to their success is simple, George said: “We built a convention that we wanted to attend.” They were far from the only nerds who had been dreaming of such a thing as Blerdcon. One woman, whom George believed was in her 60s, approached him during last year’s event and said, “Thank you, I’ve been waiting for this my entire life.”
Blerd may be a portmanteau for “black nerd,” but it would be a mistake to pass up the convention just because you don't identify as one. All nerds, as well as the merely nerd-curious, are welcome not only to attend Blerdcon, but to join the blerd community. Blerdcon offers a space to geek out over Marvel’s Black Panther movie or your first anime obsession, but also to have difficult conversations about issues that those in the nerd community are only beginning to acknowledge, specifically the place for, and treatment of, minority and marginalized fans. It is a chance for “people to connect through their fandom before they hit the trip wire of whatever is supposed to divide us,” George said.
The theme for Blerdcon 2018 is “Reunion.” No one wants to geek out in a vacuum, yet even within the nerd community, so many are still looking for their tribe. Last year, many attendees found their tribe at Blerdcon; maybe this year, amidst the panelists, vendors, and over-the-top costumes, you’ll find yours.
Blerdcon 2018 happens July 27–29 at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City in Arlington. Full schedule, ticket packages, and room discounts available at blerdcon.com.
Photography by Lesnick Photo