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History is important. Studying it and (hopefully) learning from other peoples' horrible mistakes in the past keeps us from repeating those mistakes, and moves us a little further along the road of progress to a happier, healthier, more productive society. That's the theory, anyway. I've made occasional posts about the theory behind the organization of Anime Detour, a subject of interest to me and a half-dozen other people maybe, but fortunately some of those people are running Detour's parent corporation at the moment and are the kind of people who do learn from history.

For this reason, I present the annotated version of the press release sent out in 1997 when the High Resolution Minicon Proposal (hereafter abbreviated HRMP, sod all that typing anyway) was announced to a less than enthusiastic fandom. I came across this press release about six years later, after the effects of implementing the HRMP were clear to everyone who wanted to see - and quite a few folks who didn't want to. I couldn't resist the temptation to make snarky comments (in red) and serious comments (in blue). On re-reading this, I don't feel the need to substantially change any of the comments. Minor edits have been made for grammar and suchlike things.

This was originally going to be printed in an issue of Enur, a fanzine intended to dredge up all manner of Minnesota fannish history and print it in one embarrassingeducational place, but huladavid and I got distracted by illness, shiny objects, cows, and an anime convention and never quite got around to doing it. So, here it is. Enjoy. Or at least learn something.

[press release header crap baleeted]

Minn-stf Board Approves Revised
High-Resolution Minicon Proposal

Decision sets long-term direction for Minicon:
smaller, less complex, more fannish
After meeting three times in a cat-filled room (see footnote #1), the Minn-stf Board of Directors reached agreement on the future direction of Minicon. The Board acted on behalf of the Minnesota Science Fiction Society (Minn-stf), and of Minicon, which is sponsored by Minn-stf.

The Board approved the revised version of the High-Resolution Minicon proposal presented October 2, 1997 by Alice Bentley, Steven Brust, Karen Cooper, Liz Cooper,
David Dyer-Bennet, Beth Friedman, Fred A. Levy Haskell, Susan B. Levy Haskell, Lydia Nickerson, and Geri Sullivan. The Resolutionaries will be responsible for organizing the committee and running the convention, beginning with Minicon 34 in 1999 (see footnote #2).

How the decision was made
Traditionally (if what we've done for the last three years can truly be called a tradition), the current Minicon leadership (the Exec) works with Exec members from the previous two years to identify the leadership for the following convention -- the one 18 months in the future. This group is called the Exec Selection Committee (ESC). The ESC forwards its recommendation to the Minn-stf Board of Directors (which is elected each year by the voting members of Minn-stf). The Board traditionally approves the ESC recommendation. That did not happen this year.

Six people served on the ESC this year: the Minicon 33 Exec (Erik Baker, Victor Raymond, and Martin Schafer) and three members of the Minicon 31 and 32 Execs (Kay Drache, Cat Ocel, and Glenn Tenhoff). The ESC's work, which included several meetings and discussions with the proponents of the High-Resolution Minicon proposal, represented the most comprehensive and arduous consideration of the future of Minicon since the convention's Long-Range Task Force work in 1990-91. The ESC's input was very helpful to the Board in reaching its final determination. The Continuity proposal offered by Erik, Victor, and Martin presented a strong alternative view of Minicon. While the Board didn't choose that path,
the groundwork laid by that proposal was useful in developing the final proposal adopted by the Board.

…i.e., we stole the ideas that looked good and round-filed the rest.

The ESC's work also prompted significant changes and fine-tuning in both proposals. Those changes, combined with additional information the Board requested from the proposers, led to the Board's decision.

Before reaching its decision, the Board considered a massive amount of input, including: 1) the ESC report; 2) responses to the Minn-stf Minicon survey distributed with the August Einblatt; 3) the Minicon committee's responses to the High-Resolution Minicon proposal and to the focus statement; 4) additional proposals put forth by several club members; 5) responses to the High-Resolution Minicon proposal from fans near and far, including several fans with many years of convention-running experience; 6) discussions on the Minicon-L
electronic mailing list and at recent Minn-stf meetings; and 7) close examinations of the entrails of local, organically-grown fruits and vegetables.

The Board deeply appreciates the wide variety of input and the careful consideration so many people are giving to Minicon's future. Although in a legal sense Minn-Stf owns Minicon, and is certainly responsible for it, the effort that so many people -- in the Twin Cities and in places thousands of miles from here -- have put into passionately expressing their feelings about Minicon reminds us that, in a very real sense, we are merely stewards of something that has come to mean a great deal to a great number of people. We thank them for their efforts, both now and in the future.

That having been said, it’s our party and we’ll run it the way we damn well please.

This is a long-term commitment
In choosing the High-Resolution Minicon proposal, the Board is making a long-term commitment to reducing the size and complexity of Minicon while sharpening the fannish focus of the convention.

There’s too many people we don’t know showing up at Minicon, and we’re not having enough of our kind of fun any more.

The Board believes Minicon cannot continue to run as a very large, unfocused convention, without grave risk to the convention, to Minn-stf, and to the greater fannish community.

The way we’ve been doing it isn’t working.

Focusing the convention will require a multi-year effort on the part of the entire Minicon committee and by the convention's membership as well.

Most of you can help by staying home or going somewhere else. Please.

The Board is committed to following this direction for at least the next five years, and to guiding Minn-stf and Minicon through its ongoing involvement with the club officers and the convention's leadership.

Which is to say that the people running Minicon have been acting too darn independent and we need to rein them in.

The first two years will be a time of significant transition for Minicon under the leadership of the High-Resolution Executive Council. While evaluating Minicon's progress will be an ongoing process, the Resolutionaries have committed to giving the focus plan two years to show signs of working. If it does, Minicon will establish a committee structure that supports this focus on an ongoing basis. If the focus doesn't work, the Board and the Resolutionaries will consider taking different or additional steps to achieve Minicon's goals beginning with Minicon 36 in 2001. If necessary, we'll consider moving that year's Minicon to the "other" Twin Cities: Clarkesville/Kubrick City.

Apparently the sole criterion of success was whether the attendance decreased or not, which it did. By the time Minicon 36 rolled around it was evident that according to this criterion the HRMP had succeeded too well, and steps needed to be taken to stanch the bleeding. The “Next Generation” exec was a weak attempt to do this. It failed, as did the tag team of
[info]lsanderson & Laura who ran Minicon 38 and 39. Whether Greg Ketter can manage to pull Minicon 40 out of the HRMP death spiral is a good question.
(2010 update: He appears to have done this, and Minicon appears to have stabilized at around 400/500 people.)

The High-Resolution Minicon -- An overview
Starting with Minicon 34 in 1999, there will be a number of significant changes in the style of Minicon. Instead of struggling to run a 3,700-person Minicon, the committee will work hard to sharpen the focus of the convention on activities and events that pull fans together, and that celebrate our common interests and passions.

An impressively vague statement if there ever was one. In practice, what it meant was stripping all the programming out of MNSTF that was of interest to anyone who entered fandom after, say, 1975: masquerades, media-oriented programming…you get the picture.

Minicon will concentrate its efforts on science fiction and fantasy, and the subculture that has evolved around them. By so doing, we hope to attract the hundreds and even thousands of interesting, creative, and congenial people, from the Twin Cities and from elsewhere, who have invigorated Minicon over the years. We feel that Minicon -- the official convention of the Minnesota Science Fiction Society -- must scale back and sharpen its focus on SF and fandom lest we lose this core.

In view of what happened starting with Minicon 34, it seems obvious that “SF and fandom” were very narrowly defined indeed. In fact, David Dyer-Bennet’s essay on what a trufan is seemed to be the guiding manifesto of the HRMP, and DDB’s notion of trufandom began and ended with literary SF, e.g. books and magazines, but not media tie-ins. Whether this is in fact the actual core of fandom is a legitimate
question, but not one open for discussion with the Resolutionaries, who already had their minds made up on the question.

Of course, in doing so Minicon is not going to be conducting any inquisitions, Spanish or otherwise. Our one basic value is still tolerance and hospitality... Our =two= basic values are still tolerance and hospitality and a fanatical devotion to Science Fiction and Fantasy... Our =three= basic values....

What need for an Inquisition when the border guards are so effective?
Word got around very quickly in Minnesota fandom that “fringefans” were no longer wanted at Minicon – and fringefans apparently made up most of the 3700 members of Minicon 33. Pretty much anyone who wasn’t a filker, a pro, a publisher, or a friend/groupie of one of the preceding qualified as a fringefan, it seemed.

One obvious expression of the High-Resolution Minicon philosophy will be in programming. Minicon will run programming on the "editorial" model, in which the job of the department is to assemble a mix of high-quality programming items: exciting and surprising programming about all kinds of SF, even (yes) media SF, designed to enliven the rest of the convention with the kinds of conversations for which we attend conventions in the first place. This approach will also entail considerably fewer program items: perhaps four tracks plus readings. Minicon will work closely with its guests and build program items that engage their interests and talents for the delight of all. There will be fewer "main-stage" or "extravaganza" events – there won't be a masquerade, for example. Minicon 34 will also drop the convention television channel on the hotel system. The policy will be to reduce emphasis on technically complex extravaganzas, while striving to promote rich and informative
interactions between fans.

This was a noble ambition, actually, and one echoed by Charles Piehl more recently at Anime Iowa when he reminded the fans that they were members, not customers. If the HRMP had been more about increasing the number of participants and reducing the number of spectators, it might have been an easier sell and a less traumatic event, but unfortunately, the Resolutionaries had made it clear that their first priority was less quantity. This caused suspicions about the qualities they were looking for in the remaining fans.

Another expression of the High-Resolution Minicon philosophy will be in the approach to hospitality. Hospitality is more than just setting out chip-dip and freshening drinks -- it's about creating and maintaining a comfortable environment in which conversation, communication, and magic can happen. It's providing places where people -- newcomers and old-timers alike, old friends and new friends -- will feel welcome; where they will feel comfortable sitting and swapping stories and sharing experiences and getting to know each other better. Places where we can bask in the glow of our shared and passionate interest in the things we have in common -- our love of science fiction, fantasy, and fandom -- and where we can dazzle each other with our differences -- our tales of the specific, special areas of interest that are unique to each of us.

It would have been hard to find a group less suited to this than Minnesota fans, whose addiction to “Minnesota Nice” is every bit as bad as the mundanes they allegedly abhor. Between the not-terribly-subtle emphasis on getting rid of “fringefans” and emphasizing the “fannish” focus of the new Minicon, it didn’t look to a lot of people that newcomers, especially different newcomers, were going to be all that welcome.

Although this is what the committee will be striving for, this sort of hospitality is not something that can simply be "provided." It can only be achieved with the cooperation and efforts of the entire membership of Minicon. "We" can't "give" it to "you" -- but together, we *all* can make it happen.

Of course, *all* of us will be less numerous than we used to be, so being hospitable will be easier – since there won’t be so many strangers around any more.

It is the Resolutionaries hope that this philosophy of hospitality will pervade not only the Con Suite, but all convention spaces. Open parties that foster this approach will be given priority consideration.

Especially if they’re being thrown by publishers.

It's likely that the tighter focus of the convention will mean that some people who preferred the old model, with its wider and more diffuse scope, may no longer find that Minicon is providing activities that meet their interests, and these people may decide that it is no longer to their taste. We expect that Minicon will shrink as a result. The size reduction will be welcome; it's one of Minicon's new goals.

Good riddance to you, you fringefans. Don’t go away mad, just go away. And stay away.

But anyone who feels excited or intrigued by a smaller (yet not *small*), more fannish SF and fantasy-oriented Minicon is certainly welcome, and we encourage all such fans to try us out.

So long as somebody in the charmed circle of trufen already knows you and can vouch for you, of course.

Minicon will of course continue to welcome active fans from all corners of the international fannish community -- Minneapolis fans, Boston fans, Seattle fans, Brit fans…

…as long as they’re our kind of people. Preferably the sort that hang out on rec.arts.sf.fandom and still think the “Minneapolis in ’73” meme is funny.

…media fans, furry fans…

…so long as you stay in your corners and don’t annoy the rest of us. While you’re at it, could you lose the tacky costumes? What? Oh. Don’t you drobes have a Creation Con or something you could be going to?

…fanzine fans, neofans, electric fans…

Oh, look, we made a funny!

…and the rest.

Not that we really want them here either, but we have to at least pretend to be open and accepting.

We will also encourage people who don't know much about fandom, but who are interested in checking it out, to come to Minicon and see whether they want to join the community.

After we’ve checked them out, run a background check, vetted their dossiers and taken testimony from their sponsors, we’ll decide if we want them around in our neighborhood or not.

We hope everyone who is interested in Minicon will follow and participate in the ongoing public conversation about the convention. Progress reports will include detailed information so that everyone can see how the convention is shaping up and decide if it's to their taste.

Not that we actually care what you think at this point, but appearances are so important.

We are all responsible for making each convention as wondrous and magical as humanly possible...and then some. That's what Minicon is all about.


Tough times, difficult decisions
Choosing this new course of direction was not easy, nor was it a step lightly taken. The Board recognizes and appreciates the deep passion and high regard Minicon members have for the convention. Hundreds if not thousands of fans haven't seen the problems. To them, Minicon is a delight, and the natural response to claims that the convention is broken is, "Don't be absurd; it's fantastic." The Board is well aware
there is much that's "fantastic" in every Minicon, and is sympathetic to the view that "anything with fantastic parts surely cannot be broken." But the Board also recognizes and appreciates that running Minicon has stretched the organization's resources for several years running, and recognizes that the convention must change it if is to continue to survive and thrive.

This severely underestimates the intelligence and perceptiveness of Minicon’s members, many of whom knew damn well there were problems. Many of them also had different ideas about how to attack those problems, but unfortunately they weren’t in a position to influence the MNSTF Board.

While hundreds of fans make Minicon happen by volunteering at the convention, we've had mixed results attracting and retaining committee members. On average, almost half of the people who join the committee don't return for a second year.

This says volumes about the way staff were treated. There seems to have been an attitude among most MNSTF honchos in this period that staff and volunteers should be happy to spend their copious free time working their butts off so other people could have a good time in return for which they would get…nothing. This kind of collectivist nonsense should have died with the Reagan Administration, but some people are evidently slow learners.

In recent years, several departments have been run by people with little or no experience, usually with unfortunate consequences for both the department heads and the convention. It's not so much a lack of willing, energetic workers as it is the fact that Minneapolis fandom is predisposed to informal communication. We'd much rather party than hold meetings, and our natural style has not adapted well to running what's sometimes called "the Easter Worldcon" year after year.

And of course, instead of changing our management style or finding people whose style is more conducive to this sort of thing, we’re going to insist that the problem is insoluable.

The history section of the revised High-Resolution Minicon proposal has detailed information about issues that the group feels Minicon must address. The Board be taking an active role in helping guide Minicon through this transition and will also be reviewing Minicon budgets on a regular basis to help ensure the financial well-being of both the convention and the club.

The Board applauds the efforts to focus that have already been made, especially those now underway for Minicon 33. The High-Resolution Minicon will continue to repair and improve the convention, reducing its size and complexity. We
recognize that this focus may not be of interest to all of the current members, but the Board believes it offers the best hope for the future of Minicon.

The Board encourages all fans who care deeply about Minicon to work with the Minicon 33 committee to make our 1998 convention a success -- and to then continue working with the Minicon 34 committee as it undertakes this major transition starting in 1999. We thank everyone for the enormous effort that goes into creating each Minicon. This includes the Minicon Exec, the department heads, the general committee members, the hundreds and hundreds of volunteers without whom the convention would not exist, the active, participating Minicon membership that holds the convention
so close to its heart, and...the elevator boy. It is a privilege to serve the organization and we hope our decision contributes to the health and well-being of Minicon and the greater fannish community as we enter the new millennium.

Margo Bratton, Dean Gahlon, Polly Peterson, Martin Schafer, and Geri Sullivan

Footnote #1:
The Board met three times after receiving the recommendation of the Exec Selection Committee. Such meetings traditionally occur in smoke-filled rooms, but the club's Recording Secretary and Official Happy Deadwood, Fred A. Levy Haskell wasn't included, so we opted for cats instead. (Fred's allergic to cats; if we'd wanted terrific minutes of our deliberations, we would have had to meet elsewhere.) Board member and hostess Margo Bratton served angel food cake with blueberry topping at the first meeting. The second time, she offered chocolate mocha. And for our third meeting -- the one where we reached a decision, it was light and airy angel food once more. Yum.

Footnote #2:
The revised High-Resolution Minicon proposal and other proposals considered by the ESC and the Board are available on the Web at: http://www.mnstf.org/mnstf/minicon/esc/
(link dead, don't bother) Hard copies of the revised High-Resolution Minicon proposal are available from the Minn-stf Board for $5 to cover photocopy and mailing costs. Ask Geri Sullivan directly or send your request, check, and mailing information to: Minn-stf Board, P.O. Box 8583, Lake Street Station, Minneapolis, MN 55408. (Reading copies will be made available to the Minicon committee and other Minn-stf members at the October 12 Minicon meeting and on an ongoing basis.) Copies of _Pleasures of the Dance: A Collection of Norwegian Carpenter Songs_, compiled by Oscar Tritt, are no longer available.

Oh look, more funny.

The moral of the story is pretty simple. These people fucked up their convention and alienated thousands of people in the process. Don't be like these people.

(Cross-posted to animedetour )

EDIT: Note to visitors from Facebook who haven't been here before - anonymous comments are screened and generally not approved if you can't be arsed to sign them. We occasionally get an influx of anonymous cowards here, and I see no point in encouraging them. That having been said, press release text has been edited from black to pink so you can read it more easily in this LJ.

Tags: history, laffo, the bush of fandom

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