David Bell, Church Farm, North Kelsey, Lincoln, LN7 6EQ
It was interesting to read some of the inside stories of Follycon and Congregate. My own feeling is that they could have been longer and more detailed. I suppose the effects of the longer design cycle for the Contrivance programme will be masked by the effects of the Jersey site. I still have my doubts about the validity of Contrivance as a test of two-year bidding, and I can't help wondering what it will do to the 1991 bid.
I've mucked about at Masquerades a few times and I think Lisanne summed up the main practical problems very well. Depending on the con (and the scale of the masquerade) this is one programme item which should be fixed fairly early, with plenty of time for contestants to make allowances for any problems like restricted access. An out-of-town site like BECCON '87 also gives entrants a problem with grabbing a meal if the timings of con meals and masquerade get too close. (No, I didn't have a problem but I can see how it might be one). One twist she doesn't mention that could be useful is a supply of long drinking straws as Murphy, being what he is, there will be somebody dehydrating in a full-mask costume who can't get their lips near a cup!
Photography of the Masquerade is another tricky problem. I'm no expert but I think that there are a few basic guidelines for audience and organisers.
1. Flash photography isn't very effective in large rooms. If it is allowed it will only give good results at short distances. Automatic flashguns tend to over-expose the subject unless it either fills the sensor angle of view or is close to a wall. I find the modern fast films to be far more reliable. Also, the batteries don't go flat ten minutes after the Masquerade starts.
2. Photocalls can be tricky to organise. A lot depends on the space and time available. In summer daylight might be available which would be the simple answer. I think it is worth finding a fairly plain background not too strongly coloured. Flourescent tubes can put some very odd colours into a photograph, mostly green, that don't show to the eye. If you want to get technical, head for the photography section of your local library.
3. One idea, depending on the layout of the hall, would be to give the photographers a special area to work from. I've mentioned before the problem of the contestants strutting their stuff between the judges and the audience, and this may seem to add to the problems. One pro trick is to mark the floor for people to stop at but I might soon need to use spectacles to see the focusing screen anyway.
Comments on the letters: Chuck appears to be about right about computer types. The PCW range does seem to be more usable. Luckily I'm a sound sleeper but they were running a lot a Follycon. Most of the portables that I've seen have an RS-232 port fitted so that might be the best solution for the fan who brings a portable PC or Z88. But it would need somebody who knows what they are doing. The PCW8xxx dot matrix printer can turn out some passable DTP (Desk Top Publishing) work, but on the whole I think that DTP is a bit of a blind alley for convention newsletters. Try a half-line between paragraphs but most of the rest of DTP seems very slow and fiddley to get right.
I mentioned con videos. I think it is fair to say there is likely to be a lot of tape to edit together. I did a rough estimate afterwards and the way we worked at Follycon I reckon there must be close to 24 hours of tape. That will take a lot of effort to edit down to a con video. Maybe the TV programme on the Worldcon wasn't so bad after all.
After seeing Steve Glover's notes I'm looking forward to Iconoclasm. One point caught my eye about the film programme. Can I add that what has been shown locally is no guide to what has been shown elsewhere. Some films never make it out of the largest cities. Equally, some video stuff never gets into a cinema anyway. Personally I've had enough of over-muscled heroes waving around horrendously impractical swords like spare p----s at a wedding.
I never did like the method of collecting one's membership package at Albacon. Filling in those name and address slips was a pain in the lower back. I never did learn if there was any reason for them. Was it the hotel being awkward?
The Eastcon PR arrived. I think that the timing of PRs under two-year bidding could cause problems, especially for advertisers. If you give dates for PRs you really must stick to them - if not, the ads you get will be limited to the "hello, I'm Rog Peyton" type that doesn't date. Does anyone with experience of PR production have any thoughts to share?
I don't think that I'm a Conrunner, not according to James Steel's list anyway. The trouble is that not many people seem to realise that I'm a fanzine fan. Suddenly I feel terribly depressed. (Thinks: what does Owen Whiteoak know anyway?) More seriously, what about the gophers?
Your list missed out Condominium, which might suit a mixed media/mainstream con.
((The registration forms at Albacons are there to try to ensure that the convention has up to date addresses for mailing out the next con's PR1 and to try and find out how people got to hear about the con in the first place. I've got three years' worth of these cards sitting at school that I was going to give to a class as a database project, but never quite got round to it. In any case, the vast majority of replies to the question "How did you find out about the convention?" are along the lines of "from a friend" or "at another convention". So much for saturation leafletting and a total media blitz.))
Helen McCarthy, 147 Francis Rd, London, E10 6NT
The 2 CONRUNNERS were much appreciated and enjoyed and passed on to friends who will find them useful. I am now able to write you a bit on why l'm not going to Jersey, though I'm afraid it's slightly spurious since I had decided to go and only circumstance is preventing me. Steve and I have two very dear friends who are getting married in Japan this year, in a fullscale Shinto ceremony, and we have been invited. 0bviously we intend to go come hell or high water, and just as obviously anything else that involves expense or my using up annual leave has to be cancelled for the rest of the year. I'm really sorry about this, not least because the committee were kind enough to ask me to chair the 1991 bid session at the con and I felt very flattered. What's more, I think Contrivance is a brave and innnovative bid of the type that should be encouraged. It's so easy to get into the comfy rut of the same towns, same hotels, same cons, so that what should be a lovely, challenging, fun experience becomes the fannish equivalent of the inevitable annual two weeks at the same old boarding house in the same old seaside resort. New places, like new ideas, can shake you up and give you a fresh perspective.
Is Contrivance really all that expensive? I don't think so. After all, last Easter I paid nearly £30 for the train fare to Liverpool, plus £22 a night for three nights in the St George. That's almost £100 this year. I can fly straight to Jersey from Heathrow and stay three nights in the con hotel for £120. I could have knocked £18 off my Liverpool expenses if I'd gone by coach, but I could reduce my Contrivance expenses to £87 plus getting to Poole if I went by ferry. Yes, it's a lot of money if you're unemployed. but any other con will cost you as much unless it takes place in your home town. I suppose that because London fans are used to travelling fairly expensive distances to all but the Essex Beccons, we don't see it as a dreadful fate.
I heard last weekend that Contrivance has over 800 registrations. and they deserve every one of them. They're a good committee who have worked very hard to give us something new and to keep costs in line with other Eastercons as far as inflation will permit. Sneers of "yuppie fandom" are really irrelevant. Aside from the consideration that financial elitism. if it exists in fandom. is really no different than ideological or any other kind of elitism, very few of us can claim to be poor in the real sense of the word - maybe we can't afford all the books we want or go to all the cons we'd like but we're not starving or denied access to medical care and education. It seems rather babyish to be whingeing about the expense of having to go to Jersey instead of Liverpool or Leeds when half the world is starving to death and has to walk miles every day for clean water.
Jonathan Cowie, [address redacted by request]
I feel that Eastercon programmes still need plenty of work done on them - Contrivance was properly (as opposed to poorly which has, sadly, been more often the case) organised. The Contrivance hotel was perhaps the most welcomimg Eastercon hotel since the mid-70s. Jersey was Fandom's (remember the poll) most exotic choice for its Eastercon. All this meant that Contrivance was bound to be a good convention.
In terms of programme: the committee failed to attract many pros to the convention and many regulars who add to the event were not there (eg: Holdstock, Bayley, Brunner, Greenland, Shaw, Priest, Tuttle, G Jones etc). Though the programme was probably a good Mexicon programme, apart from the standard token items beyond the literary field (ie a Star Trek group and Dr Who item), there was almost nothing on the media front (the SF film script item was the exception). Apart from one item on the greenhouse effect (brought forward an hour so I missed it) and the Jersey zoo presentation (unfortunately not put into an SF or futurological context which would have attracted more people), there was zilch for the science loving fan. In short, a brilliant convention, I had a really great time, but it had little to do with the programme even though it was a multi-stream one.
Parting shot: given that Jersey is an island semi-autonomous state (another land); given that it was invaded (a theme not uncommon in the genre); given that it was culturally dominated by money etc. (culture clashes are another SF theme: why was Jersey not utilised to a greater extent in the programme? Just a thought.
Ethel Lindsay, 69 Barry Rd, Carnoustie, DD7 7QQ
Congratulate Mike Molloy on that excellent likeness on No 9, and the accurate cover on No 10.
The banquet - I take the point that this can be a major headache - but I don't recall the menu being a very big problem. As for selling tickets - I've been at cons where if you did not buy your ticket early you did without. After all there can only be a set number. Nor do I recall anyone having to run around selling tickets at the last moment. I called it a focal point and that was what it was, without it something else should take its place. Incidentally, as far as I know they are still present at American cons.
My reason for not attending the Jersey con is easily summed up - I can't afford it. Supposing I have any money left after attending Holland I would love to attend the Glasgow con in 1991.
Looking back over umpty um years I think the programme item I most enjoyed was "This is your fan Life" - but that was in the days when the whole audience knew the jokes.
Not having attended Follycon I wish Michael Day had explained the "Tea Party". Sounds intriguing.
((The tea party was an indoor picnic with sandwiches, scones, cream cakes and, naturally, tea/coffee. It was accompanied by cabaret and the presentation of awards.))
John Brunner, The Square House, Palmer St, South Petherton, TA13 5DB
Having (somewhat to my surprise, it being a rare event since Marjorie died) put in a reasonable day's work, I find myself with time to spend on letters before I break for dinner, and your latest CONRUNNERS fall under the hand. I'm Impressed! Back in '67, when I last served as GOH at an Eastercon, things weren't organised with anything like this degree of efficiency. I'm tempted to say they weren't organised at all! It was The Hawthorns in Bristol that put me off Berni Inns for good - the only con hotel I ever endured where if one of your party wanted meat, another fish, and another an omelette, you had to eat in three separate restaurants!
Since '67 I've had a couple more GOH dates in Britain, one of which was definitely less than fun (Dave Wood could tell you how on that occasion, before my GoH talk, I had to fetch my own chair and table - I know, because he sent a photo of yrs trly in situ, which I keep in my study.)
But I do most sincerely wish that expertise of the kind you're disseminating could have reached the organisers of the foreign cons I've been to this year: Budapest where they offered to introduce me to Erich von Daniken and I said they had better not because I'd be inclined to spit in his face; Katowice where I had to argue with the committee before they let me do any work, like give a public reading for the fans; and Clermont-Ferrand where the plans Alain Paris and I made to organise a writers' workshop were twice wrecked because he and I were efficiently stranded out of reach of where it was to happen.... Oh, to attend a con in the UK run as well as you make them sound these days!
((I also got a couple of postcards from John last year with addresses of people he thought might benefit from a CONRUNNER mailing.... If anyone else knows of suitable candidates for CONsciousness raising, let me know.))
Chuck Connor, Sildan House, Chediston Rd,Wisset, Nr Halesworth, IP19 0NF
Conrunner 9: Vince Clarke's comments about Mancon are very correct. The fact that it managed to get hold of a pre-release copy of MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH (the film was shipped from France under commercial security services, and the director rode with it), the fact that it was cheap - if a little austere - and the fact that some of the committee were grinding axes as opposed to just doing their jobs, is never taken into account. I have a good half mile of spooled tape on this from one of the old Mancon committee, obtained a few years ago, but have said that it would remain in my archives as a personal piece only.
That's something I'm thinking of reviving - something that was called the FANED TAPES, where people were impromytu interviewed with a tape recorder, mainly for my own collection, but also with an eye for publication. As an audio project only, I feel like reviving it. You have been warned....
Other things. Dave Bell makes a comment re repro rooms and collation, which I feel, with a bit if forward planning can be broken down to minimal time loss. If you work on 2 cols per side, and four sides per newspaper, then all you have to work with are 1 or 2 duplicators (or photocopiers if it comes to that). On the first one run off page 1, and at the same time on the second machine run off page 4. Swap round, first machine running page 3 and second machine running page 2. That means that the newsletter will be completed on the second running of the machines, and collation can then take place while the second run is being completed.
Collation itself will work with either 3 or 4 people maximum. 2 people, one for the first sheet, the other for the second sheet, follow each other round the collation table. Following them is the third(and/or fourth as well) with the little bambi stapler, stapling the final thing together. Sum & total persons required for this exercise - 5 to 6 max.
Sorry to keep going on about this but it looks very much like some knowledge of fanzine production & construction is being lost, and I'll do my damnedest to keep things going and stop people making costly mistakes (did you know that some Gestetner machines have an ink trap that the tail of the stencil can catch? This can lead to little black blobs and/or black inky lines appearing on the underside of the printed sheet as the ink is deposited on the roller, which then marks the next page through the machine. The way round this is to stick some paper over the trap itself - which is actually an open gap between the drums and the screen itself).
Oddly enough, although there have been such things as DUPLICATING WITHOUT TEARS (no longer in print, unless someone's re-done the thing again), there has never been anything dealing with photocopiers - and I'd've thought that such a thing was a boon to conventioneering, especially when preparing such things as camera-ready copies, and roughs from that kind of copy. How many people know what "camera-ready" means? Or screening material for photocopies (photographs can be screened and then copied on a a normal bog-standard photocopier, and the results are, or can be with care, akin to newspaper quality i.e. the kind of repro you get when a newspaper runs a full page glossy colour ad on one side and prints its usual rubbish on the other). And, if it comes to that, what of the old table-top litho machines that used photocopied paper plates?
Part of the trouble is, as you say in your editorial for this issue, conventioneering fandom has grown up from the ramshackle, shoestring & chewing gum, lickityspit base, and in some respects it doesn't like having to gain certain areas of knowledge because they've been able to make do in the past. Like fanzine production, it has gone from the old manual typewriter to the wordprocessor, but it stills hangs on (like one of these little terriers that are all teeth and sod-all else) to the duplicator as a means of production. It would be more logical to produce a copy on a disc, and then shoot that disc through the post, with people printing off the material as, and if, they saw fit. True, there are different formats, but the possibilities are there.
Keeping on your editorial for a while, the only traditions that are being passed on by the conrunning fandom is that which pertains to conrunning and cons themselves. The only real connection between the two are conreps and CONRUNNER itself. True, there are people who intermix, but the gulf is getting bigger, and there will come a time when the two will fracture away from each other. ("Blow winds, and crack yer cheeks! There will be a whaling - er, sorry! There will be a wailing and a ger-nashing of staplers...)
Whatever, I don't think you're sounding like an old fogey by voicing your fears - it's just the same as moi talking about fanzines. You have to talk about things, and even repeat things over and over, before people will take any notice.
Moving to a different area, and one that should concern most concomms, and that is the question of supporting memberships. The question in question is why have they been dropped? There must be more than I who are prepared to support a convention - even if they know full well they'll not be attending it come the finish - because there is a wealth of material, not only in the PRs, but in the con booklets and suchlike, that would pass them by if they didn't sign up for the thing. Okay, so what extra work is involved in mailing something out after the con has finished? That's the only real work that's extra to the usual mailing of PRs and the like. Is it that supporting members are seen as a burden on the concomm's time? Or is it that people can't be bothered with the thing? Most of my con material has come from auctions or from people splitting their collections up, or just raking out old material they don't want any more. There is a mass of material, dare I say it? (dare, dare), good material at that, which is being put over to just a limited number of people. How many people can look at the first NOVACON programme booklet? The timetable and the events are totally different to any convention in existence today, yet it worked, and worked well. There could well be information to be gained from these things, and I for one am a little disappointed by the lack of access to it all.
((The reason I have in the past advocated scrapping Supporting membership was that it made the text for any publicity over complicated as you had to explain what it meant to people. In any case, we discovered with Albacons that a very small number supported and then didn't attend, and that was usually due to unforseen circumstances rather than not wanting to in the first place. With memberships now heading for the £20 mark I would encourage the return of Supporting to help spread the cost.))
I think the problem is, for me, that I'm very much on the edge of confandom and, although enjoying it, I'm seeing things from a non-con point of view. The numbers of attendees are getting bigger, there are more people on what I call the Con Circuit, making it more of a kind of a (large) closed circle. Several people have commented on the need for a (barfo-de-barf!) Neo Room to help people going to their first con or two to ease into the atmosphere, to have someone to explain things, to initiate them into the event, if you like. (The reason for the "barf" comment is that I have detested the term "neo" because it has gone from its original meaning to something derogatory.) What has happened to the spirit that gave birth to the old Knights of St Fanthony. Hell, has anyone reading this (other than older fans like Ethel, Vince and the like) ever heard of them? Have you ever seem a copy of BLAZON? You couldn't really miss the second issue if you ever came across it! The Knights were set up to greet people at conventions, to break the ice if you will, and it was a hard won honour to be called a Knight as well. And now people are talking about a similar thing in the form of a Neo Room. The trouble is, that's all they seem to be doing - and these are the people who can't (not won't, but can't) do much about it other than talk. They are not part of the inner circle of conrunning fandom - sorry, did I say "inner circle"? Well, you know what I mean...
But the fact still remains. I'm only raising it here as a point of conversation. I wouldn't mind doing at conventions, and I know of others who wouldn't mind either. My only restriction is work and travel, which have kept me from all conventions this year, but I'm sure a contact list could be drawn up and kept circulating, so that there would be no need to call on concomm personnel for extra duties, or even draft into the concomm more people than would be manageable. No doubt this, coming from a mere fanzine fan (and "straight SFer" as well - and you never answered my question as to whether you were "bent" or not... In relation to your SFnal comments in CONRUNNER 8, I hasten to add, dearheart!) will be just put to one side and left alone. So be it....
((My leanings are distinctly straight but I have to admit that I simply don't read SF books much these days and probably get more SF input from TV and film. I just don't have the urge to get enthusiastic about any particular media presentation and become a "fan" of it. Hope that answers your question...))
Moving on to CONRUNNER 10, and some comments on Steve Glover's piece on programming. Having been on a few panels, one of the best ones for interaction and audience participation was the one headed by Steve Higgins at YORCON III. We decided to get rid of the tables that the other panels had used, and actually came out on to the floor of the room. That worked well, though I could well understand if someone were to say that that would block the view of the panel for those at the back of the audience.
The circular idea would work well, though there could be a danger of "siding" behind a particular panellist - which could unbalance any arguments/discussions. Provided that this can be avoided, then it would make a better system of interaction than the old up-front line ups.
I also agree with Steve when he says that there should be more thought put into the film programme, not only in the selection of material to be shown, but also when it gets shown. Most often, it's looked on as a second runner, as opposed to something also to be planned in as a bona-fide programme item. It could be said that not everyone wants to watch a film, but then not everyone wants to go to all the programme items. Films can be used to break up a run of talks, workshops and panels.
Videos, on the other hand, should (where possible this is) be screened on one of those big commercial sets with a large viewing surface - and providing the fittings are there (or fittings to attach the units are there) then why not go for the old overhead three-gun set ups that are available? Cost is one thing, true, but anything would be better than a mass of people grouped round a (by comparison to the audience and the viewing space) small TV set in a dark room.
Games, silly or otherwise, I leave to the experts, but it would be nice to see them on their own separate programme.
Alistair Reid's piece seemed to end in mid flow. There were some good ideas in there, but it didn't come to any kind of conclusions. It just stopped, and that was it. And, sorry to sound so bloody picky, but couldn't you have asked Michael T Day for a rewrite? No offence, but it was rather poorly written, even for snap-shot diary styled entries. That might sound a little harsh, and if you're going to publish something you should at least be happy with it, but it didn't have any atmosphere, nor the taste of what the convention was like. Mayhap you'll disagree with me on this, but that's how I feel about the piece. Okay, so maybe he's notthe new Shakespeare, but a little more writing wouldn't have gone amiss.
Sorry to be a little negative there, I still feel that CONRUNNER is a good thing, and thanks for keeping me on the mailing list. One last question, what's your print run, and how many are distributed at conventions? This is just curiosity on my part, as I got a letter about some of my comments in CONRUNNER, before I got the copy of the zine (mentioned in passing in a personal letter, as opposed to any kind of actual reply to anything raised.)
((Michael Day has been good enough to send me three conreps so far of which I've used two. In CONRUNNER One I stated an editorial policy of not editing (which I have to admit I have slowly drifted away from and now shamelessly chop bits of letters to fit them neatly into the page....) and I also stated that I wanted to encourage people who didn't feel that they were "fanwriters" to actually put pen to paper and let us share their thoughts. One other policy I stated was that I wasn't going to run conreports - but I asked Mike to jot down his impressions of conventions so that conrunners could get an insight into what appeals to an average congoer and how he spends his time. Although the reports lack the polish we associate with, say, a Simon Ounsley reverie on Novacon, they show quite clearly that the programme remains the focus of con attendee's activity.
CONRUNNER usually has a print run of 200 (though it has been as high as 300) of which I post around 40 abroad and try to give out the rest at conventions. Those on the mailing list I don't encounter at the convention get them posted to them (eventually) and they usually number around 30. After giving due warning last year I trimmed the mailing list from 190 down to 160 so that there are always about 40 copies available for anyone who wants them.))