Small Fan Conventions In A Late Pandemic World

post pandemic convention

Fantasy and Reality Weave Together at Atlanta’s JordanCon

There are several fan conventions coming back this summer, and one of the most specific and interesting ones is JordanCon. JordanCon is a convention that was originally held to celebrate the works of Robert Jordan, author of the Wheel of Time book series in 2009. It expanded from the Wheel of Time premise to become one of Atlanta’s premier literary conventions celebrating local and regional artists, but also hosting guests such as Stormlight Archive scribe Brandon Sanderson, King Killer Chronicle writer Patrick Rothfuss, and Star Wars Bestselling author Deliah S. Dawson.  This year’s JordanCon, held July 16-18, 2021 at the Croguestwne Plaza Ravinia on Atlanta’s north side, continued the tradition of celebrating high-fantasy, while dealing with the real-life considerations of the late-pandemic world.

“We found ourselves in a position where we HAD to have the convention this year to avoid massive losses which would have bankrupted the organization,” said convention Chair Jennifer Liang, “We thought long and hard about how to deal with public safety, and decided to avoid any risks.”

Limiting attendance to 500 attendees, including those attendees who had pre-purchased memberships for JordanCon 2020. And the fans came, they wore masks, and they had fun. JordanCon has long been recognized for bringing fans from around the world.  This year, there was not an international contingency, but there were representatives from every region of the nation and attendees introduced themselves from Seattle, Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Phoenix, and many points in between.

The fandom at JordanCon is primarily, as noted, fans of Robert Jordan, but that’s not the whole story. While the core remains the World of Rand Al’Thor, it has embraced the writer who completed the Wheel of Time, Brandon Sanderson. Sanderson completed the Wheel of Time after the death of Robert Jordan and has gone on to expand the Mistborn series and the insanely successful and well-received Stormlight Archives. Sanderson, explained JordanCon was his first convention since the pandemic began and he came to support “his friends.”

The community has a reputation in general fandom as being a sane, welcoming fandom. As one commentator told me recently, “I’ve never seen such a well-adjusted fan base,” referring to the online JordanCon and Wheel of Time Community. While no community is perfect, this fandom seems to lack the rising dysfunction that has appeared in other fan communities.

While the fandom was excited to be at Jordan Con, the public health and social distancing practices were very serious and represented the more strict range of policies:

  • A membership cap was in place
  • Masks were required in all convention spaces
  • Rooms were set up to allow for social distancing, with seats 6 feet apart
  • There was a daily temperature check each day to enter the convention space
  • Vaccinations were mandatory, last injection dated no later than July 1. Of course  exceptions were made with medical documentation.

“Unless you have a medical reason that you cannot receive the vaccine, you will not be able to attend JordanCon 2021 without proof of vaccination.” explained Jennifer Liang, the Tiara Wearing Chair of the convention before the convention, “this is to ensure the safety of everyone in attendance, and we cannot make exceptions.”

That seemed like a lot of hoops to go to talk about the Wheel of Time, but the fandom responded overwhelmingly positively. There were no noticeable mask issues, and all the processes went very well. One attendee said, “We are fans who have read through 14 Wheel of Time books. This is worth it.”

JordanCon, indeed, was worth it. All fan conventions exist to give communities to celebrate the things they love with people who also love that thing. Their attendees find homes there.  The real story of JordanCon is the real story with scores of conventions around the country: finding the right way to welcome everyone back safely while still providing an amazing entertainment experience. Jennifer Liang and all her directors and volunteers found a balance that worked for the Wheel of Time and literary fandom of JordanCon.

The range of Covid-19 precautions at conventions varies.  Some require masks for those unvaccinated, some do not enforce social distancing, some have canceled or postponed AGAIN for another year. Every convention runner needs to make their own decisions about proceeding in a world fraught with concerns of either not doing enough to prevent the spreading of the coronavirus or doing too much and hindering the fun and alienating attendees.  JordanCon risked erring with caution. Other conventions will find their own answers.

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  1. I have never heard of this convention or Robert Jordan, himself, but very interesting article. Thank you for sharing this information.

  2. I’m happy you had fun! I will be going to my first convention in December 2021, which I’m looking forward to. Los Angles Comic-Con starts on Friday, December 3rd, 2021, which will be the bomb!

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