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Gathering of the clans, er, chieftains

michaellee has been pimping this website aggressively of late, and I have some gut reactions. I'm posting them here because, well, I'm not really part of Twin Cities fandom any more. My future in fandom, such as it is, will be defined by whatever I do here in the Baltimore/Washington are. So I don't think it's my place to shit up League of Wonders with my comments.

With all due respect to Joe, I think he's trying to reinvent the wheel with an amazing new polygonal design. Bringing together representatives from the major fan groups to collaborate on joint projects sounds like a good idea at first blush - but what, exactly, are those projects supposed to be? A couple of the projects mentioned seem to me (despite the nod to voluntary membership) more like a prelude to lumping all the fan organizations - or at least those large & organized enough to be running conventions - together in one group, a group that will be wealthy enough to buy a clubhouse.

There was a time in my life when I thought all SF societies ought to have a club house, but I was about half the age I am now and relatively naive about fans and fandom. Yes, LASFS and NESFA have clubhouses, and possibly there are others, but does anyone seriously think Twin Cities fandom is large enough (and well-off enough) to afford such a thing? Sure, VFW halls are available for what look like reasonable prices, but that's just the purchase price. Who's going to maintain that hall? Is the parent org (let's just call it MTC, Misfits Twin Cities, because we all know who the 800-pound gorillas on the proposed Board are going to be) going to hire a caretaker? What about the bar? Are we really going to store all the stuff for Convergence and Detour and the other five Twin Cities conventions in the hall?

There is a reason fan groups tend to meet in peoples' living rooms and occasional hotel function spaces, when they aren't hanging out in neighborhood restaurants helping the local economy. It helps build community and cohesion on a small scale, in a way that conventions don't. One of the things I've learned in 35 years as a fan is that big things grow out of small groups of people who know and trust each other well enough to want to work together on those big things. Are you really going to get that out of a clubhouse that belongs to some bunch of wannabee SMOFs that most people who attend Detour and Convergence (to say nothing of Marscon, Minicon, Diversicon, Arcana, and Consume) will never have met, much less had a good conversation with, in their lives?

If you're getting the impression that I think MTC as Jon's described it is a Bad Idea, you're damned right I do. The current parent organizations of Convergence and Detour are essentially creatures of the convention staffs, and the idea that they represent the average SF fan or otaku is a sick joke. Admittedly, most of the 5000+ members of those convention (I'm assuming there's about a 2000-fan overlap) could probably care less who's filing the Form 990s with the IRS as long as the Consuites have plenty of pop and munchies and the yaoi/Raptor panels happen on schedule, but you could cause a lot of trouble for both organizations if you started showing up to meetings with 20-30 friends on a regular basis. Every dollar spent by Misfits and ATC comes out of those fans' pockets, and if it isn't going to the convention or back to the community*, I submit that it's being pissed away. Sure, the IRS says those 501(c)(3)s can spend money on buying a clubhouse or renting office space. They can also pay salaries to the directors/Regents, too. Does anyone think that's okay? Didn't think so.

I'm willing to stipulate that Jon means well with his proposal. I'm not at all sanguine about the notion of a "coordinating organization" that has the power to grant or withhold seed money and/or assistance. There's no reason ATC and Misfits can't work together to do things that they both have a common interest in doing, and the same goes for SF Minnesota and MNSTF, etc. I don't think there needs to be a new organization to do that, and I assert that there are plenty of reasons not to start one. Especially if the idea is to set up a Geek Community Center.

Protip: We already have those. They're called "libraries".

*With a nominal amount for hookers and blowadmin expenses.


( 32 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 10th, 2009 04:12 am (UTC)

What's wrong with administrative expenses? It might be some of the only expensing that they ever do...

Jul. 10th, 2009 04:15 am (UTC)
As a former chairman, I am of course quite solicitous of the admin expenses. :)
Jul. 10th, 2009 01:09 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the stipulation!

But seriously, I'm not gonna curl up and weep if you DID want to come over and as you say "shit up" the site. Quite comfortable listening to other adults say adult things directly to me.

That said, the idea is evolving, by no means set in stone, and can be let go of if it has to be. I'm strongly disinclined to stop pushing after only six months of conversations.

Perhaps one term I'd like to see us let go of is "clubhouse." I for one am thinking quite a bit bigger than "clubhouse." Old school building, maybe. New construction maybe. But something more the size of a real community center--a Y or an office building or a Campus! Not a vfw hall or converted house.

Can Twin Cities fandom afford it? No. Only in a most cobbled together way. That's why Instead, we launch a capital fund campaign, and get lots of people to pay for it. Including corporate people. Our networks are growing all the time (Your "5000" figure is too small, actually), and we can an should represent our community in some corporate board rooms where they are used to donating substantial sums to community organizations.

Anyway, you're in the conversation now, by dint of saying something public and by virtue of your experience. Experience which despite any appearances to the contrary, I for one appreciate and respect. What next?
Jul. 10th, 2009 01:36 pm (UTC)
That's why Instead, we launch a capital fund campaign, and get lots of people to pay for it. Including corporate people.

What's the incentive for corporate sponsors to spring for this? It seems like a hell of an assumption - and a risk, mind you, to get companies involved for no gain. Are you going to offer them advertising? How much? How are you going to deal with the (inevitable) howls of protest from local fandom after taking this sponsorship? And how far are you willing to allow these corporate sponsors to dictate terms to you?
(no subject) - burnunit - Jul. 10th, 2009 02:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - wombat_socho - Jul. 10th, 2009 02:51 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - porcelainsakura - Jul. 11th, 2009 07:11 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - wombat_socho - Jul. 11th, 2009 10:44 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - phoenixalpha - Jul. 10th, 2009 03:01 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 10th, 2009 03:05 pm (UTC)
But seriously, I'm not gonna curl up and weep if you DID want to come over and as you say "shit up" the site. Quite comfortable listening to other adults say adult things directly to me...Anyway, you're in the conversation now, by dint of saying something public and by virtue of your experience. Experience which despite any appearances to the contrary, I for one appreciate and respect. What next?

TBQH I was reluctant to drop five paragraphs of largely critical :words: into a comment, and planned to drop a link to this post over there this morning.

Thank you for the compliment, but I'm just a regular member of Anime Detour these days and don't speak for the convention or its parent organization. I do think that a lot of the commenters on your original post are caught up in the sense of wonder (see what I did there?), don't realize that their experience as Convergence/Minicon members is not universal within TC fandom, and are likely to find the larger fandom not nearly as excited as they are about this.
Jul. 10th, 2009 03:09 pm (UTC)
(no subject) - burnunit - Jul. 10th, 2009 03:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - wombat_socho - Jul. 10th, 2009 03:58 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - burnunit - Jul. 10th, 2009 06:15 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - wombat_socho - Jul. 10th, 2009 07:04 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - huladavid - Jul. 12th, 2009 03:39 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - burnunit - Jul. 16th, 2009 11:11 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - wombat_socho - Jul. 17th, 2009 01:09 am (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 10th, 2009 02:21 pm (UTC)
My persepctive
I am one of the leaders of the Klingon Assault Group. KAG is an international organization with active chapters on 5 continents. We also are the parent of many splinter groups. The thing that is true about KAG and the groups that sprang from them is the same about TC fan groups. They all have different agendas and purposes. I wanted, about 10 years ago, to try to get all the various Klingon groups working together, it didn't work. The leadership and members of the Imperial Klingon Forces are not KAG members for a good reason, they hate KAG and want to do things their own way. While not a perfect parallel to the TC fan scene, I think the lessons are the same. If something works, don't tear it down and rebuild it.

The other issue is something you note: the ConComs of the various groups are not the same as the fans of the conventions. While it differs from group to group, they are an Inner Circle that is happy to be separate from others. While that works to run a con, though making it difficult to become friends with the individuals, I have real doubts that multiple Alpha Personalities can work together.
Jul. 10th, 2009 02:47 pm (UTC)
Re: My persepctive
Well, what did you learn? You have an experience from which others could benefit. Was it simply that "they hated you"? Or do you have an idea of what it would have taken to make it work back then? What things would have had to break your way, or go differently? I'd like to know what lessons we can get.

This is absolutely not about tearing down and rebuilding. If you think it is, you are mistaken. It is intended to find a structure and place for existing, stable groups to work together on purpose, rather than on accident. No rebuilding, please.

All right, I'm not going to shit up Wombat's LJ much more, I plan to copy/paste some of this very conversation and put it into a post over at the site, because I think it's really got some good points. If you want me to stick around here and reply I can, but I bet you didn't really want me crashing this party to explain myself.

Re: My perspective - wombat_socho - Jul. 10th, 2009 02:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: My persepctive - qob - Jul. 10th, 2009 02:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 10th, 2009 02:40 pm (UTC)
I, for one, could give a care about working with other conventions and so forth. I'm also extremely skeptical of any kind of revenue sharing plans.

Anime Detour does fine on it's own and I don't think we should be branching off for no reason.

I guess this is kind of a selfish attitude to take, but whatever. We don't do what we do for other organizations, we do it to make local anime fans happy.
Jul. 10th, 2009 02:58 pm (UTC)
I fully understand the "let's build a supergroup" drive, but I agree with you, if something works as is, adding a layer of hassle and bureaucracy rarely helps.
(no subject) - wombat_socho - Jul. 10th, 2009 03:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 10th, 2009 03:52 pm (UTC)
Extremely (extremely!) tangential comment:

Consume is history. The MiNNstf relaxacon has been Convivial for the last three years and is again this year.

Just trivia in case you're interested. :-)
Jul. 10th, 2009 04:00 pm (UTC)
I appreciate the correction. As you may not know, I've been in Virginia for the last couple of years and was not aware of the change.
Jul. 12th, 2009 02:58 am (UTC)
I think there was another comment but
it got deleted? I was going to reply
but it may not be necessary?

In any case, I very much would like access to details of bad experiences and failed attempts at other organizations, both from you Kevin as well as other commenters here.

I also think not every detail of what we are talking about over at the League proposal site is clear. It absolutely falls to us to explicate thoroughly. For example the bureuacracy references and oversight concerns in the criticisms here are ones I believe are not entirely accurate to the actual intentions. But they aren't entirely laid down yet, either. As Kale mentioned in his comments, the time to help shape this into an acceptable organizational model is Now, after all.

And of course if there is a victory condition out there, and it turns out we are right and we find it, I sincerely hope we reflect our higher ideals when we get there! I have no intentions of abandoning the hope yet, and no desire to win at any cost. I'm realistic enough to acknowledge this may not win everyone over, and am Willing to say we'd prefer to win With you, but admit we may have to without you. I hope to prove you wrong and to have no hard feelings when we do!

Jul. 12th, 2009 03:46 am (UTC)
We should talk.

I'm reluctant to go into much detail here in LJ, which is why I've tended to make roundabout references to people, which I'm of two minds about. I have to admit there's a part of me that really thinks that names need to be named if only so the history gets out. There's a part of me that wants to go "off line" do to this, but it might be cleaner to do it where everyone can see the conversation.
(no subject) - wombat_socho - Jul. 12th, 2009 04:52 am (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 12th, 2009 04:45 am (UTC)
There was, but I thought better of it and moved it to its own post.

To the extent that I have a role in this, sitting in my apartment in Alexandria VA, it's the role of kibitzer. I'm trying to point out things that y'all may not have thought of, throw a light on the rocks and shoals along your course, and if I come off as a cynical, negative old fuck, well, I am what I am.

I think you have some interesting ideas and concepts. I also think that there are a lot of ways to screw this up and not too many ways to make it work. I do wish you and michaellee well, but so far it looks like y'all going straight for a cliff.

( 32 comments — Leave a comment )



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