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Worldcon v. DragonCon

So the two big conventions of my fandom just wrapped up, and a lot of people have things to say about them. I gather from mzmadmike's comments on FB that the dealer's room at D*C was...less than optimal, shall we say, and the concom's reaction to the complaints ran somewhat along the lines of "Oh yeah? Well, wait until NEXT year, you ungrateful bastards!" My personal take on D*C is that if you go there (even now that the alleged pedophile is gone) you ought to be aware that you're paying someone so you can have fun, because it's a for-profit con, so once they have your money they could really care less what you think, and if you don't come back next year, then so what? There's thousands more where you came from. Literally. D*C is HUEG LIKE XBox, very nearly on the scale of SDCC, which I have zero interest in attending either, because I have better things to do than wait in lines so I can get in other lines - even assuming my legs would hold me up that long, about which I have my doubts. I'll stick to smaller cons, thanks.

On the other side of the fence, michaellee linked to a couple of blog posts by Chuck Wendig and Andrea Phillips bemoaning a number of things they don't like about Worldcon, mainly:

  1. The lack of young people

  2. The lack of ethnic minorities

  3. The lack of media/anime/YA programming

  4. The expense

  5. The way the Worldcon is run (the SMOF problem)

I am sure I'm going to surprise nobody when I say my gut reaction to all of these is "Quit bitching and start organizing." Stomping off to Dragon*con is not going to fix Worldcon or fandom in general any more than leaving angry "HELP HELP I'M BEING OPPRESSED" comments on somebody's blog1, because people have been doing these very things for decades, and we still have the same complaints year after year. Phillips's post in particular was especially irritating; apparently she felt that she should have been greeted in a warm bath of fannish embraces and ushered into the Inner SMOF Councils despite apparently not knowing a damn thing about SF before she was born or exerting any effort to find out how WSFS runs things. Which is not, by the way, some closely guarded secret available only to those who have submitted proof of their middle-aged Caucasian Protestant status, sacrificed five catgirls on the altar of John W. Campbell Jr., and memorized the entirety of Lovecraft's The Dream-Quest Of Unknown Kadath. Why, look: it's right here on the Internets. You want to change the Worldcon? Learn the rules and start getting all your friends together. The Old Guard isn't going to live forever, but why wait until they all die before you do something? I'm not saying it's going to be easy. You'll actually have to exert effort and spend money. A lot of money.

And speaking of money this was PARTICULARLY irritating:

Worldcon rewards people with social status for volunteering; the people who volunteer get to Be Somebody in the community. (Thus prioritizing people who have the relative privilege to spend that time on volunteer works and not, say, a second and third job, which is kind of a class issue with fandom and a whole other ball of wax. ...Let's pin that for another time.)

"...a class issue with fandom..." What the fuck? Who else is going to be actively involved in running conventions except people who can afford it? Listen, honey, SF fandom -and especially its conventions- has always been a bourgeois pursuit. It costs money to rent hotels and convention centers, and it takes time to attend concom meetings so you can organize and execute the convention - which as you point out in a stunning example of cognitive dissonance, is not exactly possible if you're working two or three jobs.2 Dragging Marxist pseudo-analysis into this accomplishes nothing besides obfuscating the issue and making people like me think you're an idiot. Theoretically, you can pay staff members to work on a convention so they don't need a second/third job, but you better be ready to justify that to concom staff who AREN'T going to be so "privileged", to say nothing of the IRS, which has not been in the warm mood lately when it comes to non-profits. It's a disaster waiting to happen, unless you want to go the for-profit route, at which point good luck getting volunteers. Yeah, everything ought to be free and equal and wonderful, a Utopia of fandom - only it's not. It never has been, never will be, and any attempt to operate as if it were will end in tears and (very likely) lawsuits.

Everything starts with getting involved. If you can't afford to get involved, then too bad. You're going to be on the outside looking in, and as they say in Holy Mother Russia, tough shitsky. SF fandom has managed to stagger along, getting older and greyer (except where it isn't) and whether the media fans want to admit it or not, the entire expanse of media and anime are rooted in the soil originally plowed and sowed by guys like Hugo Gernsback, John W. Campbell, and Fred Pohl, who came up with the ideas that became stories that became TV shows and movies and comics and actual STUFF in this world of ours. And maybe if you took the time to read some of that, you'd be better informed and inspired to do new things yourself. It wouldn't hurt.

1 Or making LiveJournal posts, for that matter. :v
2 Which is why I'm not on staff at any of the local conventions. I literally can't afford to be doing that stuff right now.


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 4th, 2013 08:05 pm (UTC)
some considerations off of this
It's all well and good to encourage people to start new conventions, but a better way to approach that would be providing those folks with the tl;dr guide to convention creating. Most people don't have the experience or the know how in terms of what kinds of moving pieces it takes to set up a convention.

It'd be good to have something that was an idiot's guide to con forming. This should probably include:

- considerations for and against for-profit conventions.
- how to get the ball rolling on incorporation
- basic features and how to staff/run them
- troubleshooting interpersonal BS
- scheduling for cons OR why you set up Thursday and break down Monday
- getting and keeping function space
- seeding and growing a community to support the convention
- care and feeding of volunteers
- basic book-keeping
- skillsets needed and how to divide them
- checks and balances on both the corporation board of directors and the staff
Sep. 4th, 2013 08:22 pm (UTC)
Re: some considerations off of this
This stuff is all out there, actually; you have to look for it a bit, but it is on the Internet. Some things, on the other hand, are best learned by actually putting your shoulder to the wheel and doing it yourself.
Sep. 4th, 2013 08:24 pm (UTC)
Re: some considerations off of this
I'm just thinking that asking people to start their own cons without pointing them at resources is a bit pointless.

In regards to class:

Time is money. The poorer you are, the less time you tend to have, unless you're investing all your waking hours into con-running - which I have seen people do. That having been said, teaching people about how to get funding going to start conventions is valuable. It does take some initial investment.
Sep. 4th, 2013 08:53 pm (UTC)
Re: some considerations off of this
That's not what I'm doing here, though. People are whining that Worldcon doesn't look the way they want it to look and the Procedures Are Some Kind Of SOOPER SEKRIT Hidden Knowledge. Which is bullshit. WSFS has its constitution, rules and business meeting minutes posted on their website for everyone to see.

Time is indeed money, and I think people who devote all their waking hours to running cons are batshit crazy, unless they're making money off it. As for startup cash, it all boils down to getting the staff and supporters to buy in early. Which is and was why buying in early got you the reduced prices.
Sep. 4th, 2013 10:01 pm (UTC)
Re: some considerations off of this
I don't think most people are organized enough to parse said constitution and rules and exploit them, sadly. It's just not a context they're used to.
Sep. 4th, 2013 11:25 pm (UTC)
Re: some considerations off of this
True; for all the emphasis on "critical thinking" in the Education-Industrial Complex, there seems to be a terrible shortage of liberal arts types who can actually think, period. Of course, if you start with the presumption that Robert's Rules Of Order are some kind of hideous oppressive patriarchal construct, well...good luck there, Sunshine.
Sep. 4th, 2013 08:06 pm (UTC)
Nah, Worldcon is a crap waste of time.

DragonCon is nerd Mardi Gras

My sales were decent for what was involved, and I'll be doing it again with a bigger setup--this was a test.

As a guest, they give me free badges, free food and guest badges and banquet tickets. Worldcon expects me to pay.

And you know what you call a for-profit operation? "Professional."

WorldCon usually fucks the dog and then makes excuses.

There's no point in fixing WorldCon. They're less relevant every year, by their refusal to get out of the SF ghetto and embrace other media, self-pub, movies, apps, games, comics.

There were more notable numbers of "minorities" at D*C than at most cons, because the interest is in fans, not in demographics.
Sep. 4th, 2013 08:23 pm (UTC)
mzmadmike, this is you, right?
Sep. 4th, 2013 09:35 pm (UTC)
It is. I'm not sure why it won't let me log in.
Sep. 4th, 2013 11:27 pm (UTC)
Hm. Weird. Account expired, maybe?
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )



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