In March of last year, I issued a challenge to web-savvy, convention-loving SF fans for someone to create an SF convention database.
One man was brave enough to accept my challenge, and the result is Nathan E. Lilly’s Convention Finder website. The site’s been up for a while, but it’s now, as they say, fully-functional. So I emailed Lilly to get him to tell us a bit about the project in more detail.
The Convention Finder is a way for fans to locate events of geek interest within a radius of a specific postal code, Lilly said. “As you know, doing a search by state really doesn’t let you know which conventions are the closest,” he said. “If I’m in Philadelphia I could end up being closer to a convention in New York or Delaware than similar conventions out on the other side of Pennsylvania. But, if I search by postal code I could find every convention within a certain radius, regardless of which state they’re in.”
There are currently about 160 entries in the database right now. “It was designed so that anyone could come to the site and submit an event," Lilly said. “After an event is submitted it’s reviewed and sometimes edited (mainly for length). My main problem right now is with double submissions.”
The site is already quite robust, but Lilly has other plans for it in the future. “I’ve just finished a major update: the primary concern of which was annexing Canada and adding RSS feeds so that local organizations would be able to take advantage of the site,” he said. “Two minor plans that I’ll share will be the ‘advanced search’ that people have been clamoring for and a map of the US & Canada that shows the convention distribution. I’d also like to eventually add convention reviews and articles to the mix, but it’ll be some time before I get to the point of building some kind of fanzine section and ratings system for the site. But the other additions (the details of which I’m keeping close to my chest) will be to help make the site intensely useful for convention goers, and hopefully to get people going to more and more conventions.”
And who is this mad genius behind the site? Lilly has been a science fiction and fantasy fan since was watching Star Trek on his father’s knee. “I dual majored in college: Fine Art (in which I focused on Electronic Media) and Philosophy—which led directly to my career in web development,” he said. “By night I fight crime, er... I mean I develop websites for SF/F/H professionals and organizations through GreenTentacles. I joined fandom via the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society in 2000. I’ve worked on the PSFS website, previous Philcon websites, and a number of sites for Planet Xpo (Great Bird of the Galaxy Con, James Doohan Farewell Tribute, etc.). I conceived of and launched the Paranormal Restraining Orders website, which I’d really like to turn into an anthology but I don’t know where to begin to pitch it to a professional publisher. In April of 2007 I designed and launched SpaceWesterns.com, which I edit (and which is coming up on the minor milestone of 100 feature articles).”
The first convention that Lilly attended was GenCon in 1999. “The first Science Fiction convention that I attended was World Con/Millenium Philcon,” he said. “For the longest time Philcon was the only convention that I attended (mainly because I was on the committee), but then a few years ago I began to branch out to Lunacon and Balticon. Eventually I hope to work up to making a circuit.”
Which should be considerably easier to plan now that Convention Finder is around.