Thanks for CONRUNNER 11 and although I'm really a dyed-in-the-wool duplicator fan (the result of wearing a pullover whilst handling inky stencils) I must say your new format looks neat. Pity you didn't, in the editorial, say how big a type-face would be perfect for your new style.
Reading CONRUNNER as a comparatively rare attendee at Cons (I didn't go to Jersey because of the cost, but then few of your readers are old-age pensioners so I won't dwell on it), I get the impression that there's a certain blurring of the lines of distinction between Cons. Couldn't there be a sort of grading system set up so that people knew what they were going to and, possibly even more importantly, what was expected of the organisers? For instance, Grade One would be the BIG Con - continuous 'main hall' programme items plus continuous film programme plus continuous video. plus small-hall/fan-room items, plus this, that and the other - games machines. exhibitions, etc. etc. Grade Two would skip the video and only have films at night. etc., down to Grade 5. such as the Mexicon, which would have one 'main hall' programme - and which, incidentally, is the sort I personally prefer, simple soul that I am. Oh. sorry, there was a video room at Mexicon - the only time I looked in there was one person watching, so I was evidently at a Con with kindred folk.
This grading would help those who put on Cons to select what they wanted to do, and no one would be disappointed that the Con didn't live up to expectations.
I was interested in this throw-away remark that "conventions are now the repository of fannish traditions and not so much the fanzines". I suppose that by not defining 'traditions' you've left yourself an out, but my own view is that conventioneers are like nomadic tribes carrying on by word of mouth lessons learnt by their forefathers, and it's only when us scholarly types come along and put things down in writing in fanzines that there's any sort of coherent body of knowledge in the fannish sphere. Do you not agree, oh editor of CONRUNNER?
((I suppose CONRUNNER is an in-coherent body of knowledge, oh guardian of the
fannish mythagos? - ed.))
A passing thought. the 'short-fall' at CONSPIRACY was about £9000. Attendance was approximately 4500 I hear. So a measly extra £2 per attendee would have saved no end of embarrassment. Shows you the sort of tight-rope Grade One con organisers walk.
I also agree with Steven Glover (CON 10) and Chuck Connor (CON 11) that the old idea of four talking heads and an interlocutor talking literally over the heads of the audience in due for re-vamping - I'd like to see the idea of 'initiators' in the audience tried out. There's only one snag - the sound system. You're not going to be able to afford a system of overhead mikes like BBC 1's QUESTIONTIME, and you'd need some quick-running gophers in the audience with hand-mikes for it to work. Incidentally, the button-mike system at Mexicon didn't work too well in this hard-of-hearing-fan's opinion, and a lot of the stuff from the audience just wasn't audible. We're not all Greg Pickersgill, who doesn't usually need a mike.
A final thought. We're all aware that cons are almost the only source of new fans - the sort of miracle that brought Harry Bond into fandom, finding a neglected fanzine in a schoolroom is one of a kind - and I was wondering if it would be possible to offer a distinguishing mark to first-timers if they wanted it, an extra badge or a different coloured one, so that old-timers could pass the odd cheery word now and then, reassuring the boy or girl that they weren't amongst a collection of raving idiots. This would only be available if they asked for it of course - we don't want to make the newcomers conspicuous if they can't bear it.
Thanks for a stimulating read Ian
You will be hearing officially about our change of venue at the Tun If you are down this August. In case you aren't, I'll tell you now. The general manager of the Clarendon without even warning his own staff cancelled despite frequent communication with us by post, telephone and actual physical visits, has broken his contract with us and withdrawn the use of the Clarendon Suites. Very luckily. we've already re-sited EASTCON at the ADELPHI in Liverpool, and in fact have saved a substantial sum in the cost of the venue compared to what we were going to pay the Clarendon. It's a hotel fandom knows, so hopefully we will now get the support that has been lacking.
Again, luckily our deal with the Clarendon also included the hotels, and they are just as mad with the Clarendon as we are, and most sympathetic towards us. They know that we cannot hold the con in Birmingham without a venue. Between us we are making life as difficult for the Clarendon as possible, believe me! Some of the mail that has been flying from us and the hotels back and forth is highly amusing. You must remind me to bring the letters to Novacon, and let you read them!
We've also expanded our committee to our full con working one with the additions of Mike and Kathy Westhead and Tim Illingworth on the programming side, and Martin Easterbrook as co-chair with me. Kim Campbell is our new Treasurer with Kevin Anderson probably taking over Security, and Vince Docherty doing Memberships. We have lost Douglas due to his move to Manchester.
I was interested in your article about Eastercons. Your sentiments echo mine exactly. If people are prepared to put such an effort into knocking us and persuading folk to not attend, then it says little for their opinion of a democratically elected convention. Obviously they put their personal "sore loser" values against the wishes of fandom. This to just the sort of tactics that the Mary Whitehouses of the word employ with their attitude of "I know better than you what is good for you." Why should small factions of fandom hold the rest of us to ransom. If they feel so strongly that EASTCON is not for them, surely they also realise that the proper and democratic way to change things is to put their energies into getting a bid for '92 together and presenting it to fandom at EASTCON.
Maybe the format of the Eastercon is changing again, back to the smaller cons that existed when I joined in '77. Perhaps fandom no longer wants the large cons of 1000 people. Maybe, but fans should remember that they also get the kind of con that they support. A con of only 400 to 500 members can only offer a simpler programme than those we have been used to over the past few years. The more support we have. the better a con we can give them.
Thanks for your comments about Eastercon, which are timely and, it would seem from the rest of the piece, brave. I didn't know that members of the Brum group had been actively involved in slagging us off and persuading people not to attend the convention, but I'm really surprised that anyone would choose to be involved in such destructive, infantile behaviour. This is especially true since the criticisms you mention are the same ones the Brum group made of the site at the bidding session at Follycon and they all applied equally to the Adelphi. "Dangerous major roads. hangout for local prostitutes" is about as accurate a description of Lime Street as you can get; yet as far as I know no-one in the Brum group (or elsewhere) suggested that going to Follycon would be a bad Idea for those reasons, and Follycon was a really good con which I enjoyed enormously.
Of course there's been a lot of gossip flying, this being a fannish sine qua non, but I didn't know any of it actually had a basis in fact. Anyone can be caught at a bad moment, with maturity and fairness not much in evidence, and say some stupid things; you seem to be indicating something nastier, orchestrated and sustained. Are the slaggers off in the Brum group just peeved because we made a successful bid for a con on their patch without first asking their permission? Are they really happy to work actively for the failure of EASTCON 90, knowing that If they succeed they'll involve every individual member of our committee in heavy personal financial loss? Or don't they feel that their behaviour carries any kind of responsibility for its consequences? If any of the Brum group are reading this, I'd be delighted to hear the answers to those few questions.
One of the problems which dogs any form of organisation in fandom is that, however much we organising bodies may protest we're there to "get the job done", most of us aren't - we're there for the same reason everyone else is in fandom, that we want an emotional response from it. We want to be loved, or admired, or looked up to, or even feared; we want to be part of the inner ring, parade our influence, delicately point out how people will put themselves out just to help us and how we can bring a unique importance to this fanzine, this con, this party. Some of us are conflict junkies, never content unless we're fighting some desperate battle; some of us are so unwilling to risk revealing the hint of an inadequacy or a vulnerability that we hide behind a shield of cool, contempt or indifference, occasionally flinging a barbed shaft over the edge but never emerging to allow any involvement or admit any responsibility.
Is the Eastercon on the verge of a seachange? I think it may be. but whether the end result is something rich and strange or just the sort of minor tribal warfare common among fans of many kinds is still doubtful because we don't want to admit that what we'll get will be what we've chosen. Avoiding choice is a choice too, and we can't escape its consequences or disclaim responsibility for them. Is the "generalist con" going to disappear and be replaced-by smaller and tighter "specialist cons"? (And if so, will Britain ever again convince fandom against all past evidence that it has the skills to run another Worldcon?) Does the voting at the Contrivance business meeting show that the wind is whispering round the gates of the last British Eastercon? How long do we have before the wind blows the gates down? Or will it not blow them down, but blow them open, so that the Eastercon is finally and universally accepted as the convention with a place for every kind of fan and every kind of fandom?
Still, notwithstanding poetry, paranoia, and personal passion for bloodletting, EASTCON 90 isn't going to fold, so the Brum group and anyone else who is stupid and mean-spirited enough to wish the Eastercon ill had better just resign themselves to that fact. The Eastercon, the one occasion on which fans of all sorts are encouraged to come together and share an event, is too important to be destroyed by the nastiness and personal prejudice of any one fan grouping, and if we want to keep the Eastercon those of us who believe in it are obviously going to have to fight for it. The EASTCON committee (individually and collectively) has already survived far worse things than a bit of fannish mudslinging; we'll do our utmost to put on a good Eastercon and if there's any way we can help you do the same in 1991, just let us know.
(the following is part of a letter written by Helen in September and refers to the incident mentioned in Lisanne Norman's letter quoted in the News section of the editorial. I hope you are following this, questions will be asked later. - ed.)
We did have one little "political" incident at UFOria. but as we decided to ignore it. It didn't cause much fuss. However, it connects with something that happened to Lisanne and Stuart at Greenwood. the Robin of Sherwood convention they attended to publicise Eastcon. so bear with me while I tell you about it.
Stu and Lisanne took a pile of leaflets up to Greenwood and planned to ask for some programme time to explain that EASTCON 90, as the Eastercon, welcomes fans of all sorts of SF and anyone who wasn't going to - or couldn't afford the trip South to Elydore, the media con being held over Easter at Shepperton, would be very welcome there. However, one of the Greenwood committee, Donna Lauchlan, asked Lisanne - as did another Greenwood committee member known as Tam - not to publicise EASTCON 90 at all at Greenwood! The reason given was that EASTCON was "in competition" with Elydore because both run at Easter, and as several of the Greenwood committee (including Donna) were also on the Elydore committee they didn't want another con stealing their potential members.
Now, Lisanne and Stuart both felt (and I agree) that this was a little unfair - Elydore is listed in several "mainstream" SF listings despite the fact that it runs at the same time as the Eastercon, simply because their publishers believe that fans have a right to choose what cons they want to go to; most of fandom works on the principle that cons and zines will co-operate to give information on as many other cons and fan group meetings as possible, rather than restricting that information on political or any other grounds.
Besides, given that Elydore can take perhaps 400-450 fans maximum, and EASTCON 90 maybe another 1100, while the overall size of congoing fandom may well be 2-3 times that if all mainstream and media cons and their "overlapping* attendees are taken into account, there are plenty of potential attendees for two Easter conventions, without anyone feeling they have to stop one sort of fan from knowing about other sorts of con or that their con is threatened by the existence of others in different fields. Many media fans would not dream of missing Elydore - surely the Elydore committee can't think that just hearing about an alternative will make their attendees desert in droves? They can't think much of their own con if they believe that.
However, Stu and Lisanne complied with the committee's request not to leaflet the con or make any public statements about EASTCON 90. The number of fans they talked to privately over the weekend all agreed with them that the ban was a little arbitrary, though one, Marion Van Der Voort of At the Sign of the Dragon, did tell Lisanne that she thought Donna was annoyed because Conrunner, which she gets. had urged all fans to support EASTCON 90 and Donna may have seen this as a dig at Elydore. (You didn't know your writing had that kind of power. did you, lan?)
Now, this all sounds pretty juvenile, small beer compared to some of the epic bitcheries of fandom: stay with me, it gets even smaller-minded. When Lisanne and I did the EASTCON 90 committee pitch at UFOria 2, we decided to mention the matter to our largely media-fan audience, purely to say that we regretted the Greenwood committee's decision, wholeheartedly supported the existence of other cons whenever they are run, didn't see ourselves as in competition but complementary to other cons, and wished Elydore every success. We still felt we had something to offer the many, many media fans who DON'T plan to go to Elydore, especially as EASTCON 90 is in Liverpool and Elydore is in the South East, and so we assured them they would be welcome and have a good time at our con.
A short while later we found, penned on the back of an EASTCON 90 flier, a (naturally anonymous) notice proclaiming that "ELYDORE is THE Eastercon - accept no substitutes!". urging all fans to attend the BEST con, and giving the organisers' address. Given the ignorance this displays of con history in Britain - EASTCON 90 is the 42nd Eastercon and therefore, if any one con is THE Eastercon, EASTCON 90 surely has a better claim than one which has run for less than five years - and the silliness of the way it was done - why not stand up and talk to the audience, Lisanne and I during our pitch? - it looks as if Elydore may need a creche more than we do.
Freedom of information is very important because nothing so restricts freedom of choice as lack of information. I'm sorry to see any con committee trying to prevent fans from getting more information about fandom. UFOria 2 would have happily taken Elydore fliers for stuffing or for the bumph tables had they wished; we took fliers and membership forms for many other groups, and also made information tables and programme time available. The fact that this was worth doing is evidenced by a letter I've just had from Jackie Ophir of Horizon, a Blake's 7 club. saying that not only had she had a great time at UFOria 2 but also picked up a number of new members and given out lots of fliers and info - even though it wasn't a B7 event. Lots of people at it were interested in other aspects of fandom including B7. The same seems to have gone for the 2 Trek groups represented at the con and for Six of One. Do other conrunners see themselves as "in competition", unwilling to advertise other cons? Or do they think there are enough fans to support a number of properly-run, well-budgeted cons on a wide variety of sites?
((I was astonished to hear that Donna had interpreted my call for support for EASTCON as a remark intended to deprive ELYDORE of members and apologise for any offence this might have caused. My comments made in the context of the apparent knocking of EASTCON in certain quarters and were an attempt to stop them. On the wider issue of which con to go to at Easter, I'm quite a Thatcherite and think you should be free to choose. Only trouble is, I never seem to have much choice myself - ed.))
Interesting new format to CONRUNNER. Just as I acquired my first PC IBM compatible and looking forward to sending future locs via disk, you'll start messing about with Apple Macs. Christ! life can be pretty bloody ironic at times. Nevertheless, I find the new CONRUNNER a fondlable little mag, like my cat, It remains on your lap no matter what and is easy on the eye. Read it from port to stern in one sitting.
True what you say about some people's reaction to Eastercons. and most other cons come to think of it. A lot of acrimonious banter is oft heard before, during and after the event. Any derogatory remarks I might have uttered were rapidly stifled after the trauma of Conspiracy. I lost half a stone and some say my looks and hat suffered. Fans who have the guts to organise and run a con have my admiration. So, you mightn't like the location. Be grateful that someone has the energy and enthusiasm to take on the thankless job. At least we HAVE a con to go to - no matter where it is. A con is what YOU make it. An awful lot of time can be wasted on bitching.
I read a conrep on Novacon 18 recently. Don't ask me who wrote it or the name of the 'zine. Truth is I don't know and I do not wish to know. This guy donated a whole page to some puerile comments on some of the fans sitting around him during the Saturday lunchbreak. He sank to depths unplumbed when venting his hatred on some poor sod's sweater. Thing is, he wasn't a bad scribbler pity he used his talent in such a negative manner. I attend cons to ENJOY them and I take 'em where I find them. I enjoy the company of fans, they're a likeable lot - odd - but likeable. Much better to spend a con talking to them than going to see a film you can see any time of the week. (What happened to Ye Gerbish anyway?) Why, even Mr Pickersgill grunted a grudging greeting (nice bit of alliteration. huh?) as we shared a pee at Follycon, and that after a mere twelve years of fandom! If I craved conformity and wished to emulate the expected "norm" of our society, I'd go to a football match, watch neighbours and write letters of praise to the Sun.
I was wondering when the question of racism would raise its multicoloured head. For those who do not know it, I hail from a country where discrimination is vital to an economy where swimming pools, big houses and servants to clean them are the lot of the privileged minority. So far I've been approached by two fen who agree with South Africa's insane policies. It's as if I was a catalyst that could ratify their opinions. Intolerance is a privilege of the ignorant.
I'm often asked why I live over here. In fact, it's become somewhat of a cliche when I meet someone for the first time. Story goes that my good ol' dad was a leetle too indiscreet about his thoughts and had to make a quick exit to this - the mother country - as it was then known.
And here I am, you poor sods. Once only have I encountered outright discrimination at a con. I was talking to a young lady when Chris Baker (Fanghorn) hooted "Get away from my sister you racist bastard!" I did, however, sneak a dance with her when he left to see if his artwork was selling. It always bloody does.
Good idea to have feedback from "grassroots" fans like Mike T Day. His comments could prove useful to future conrunners....
Thank you for once again letting me see CONRUNNER - You must be pleased to know that your fare to Holland is paid for. I have already made enquiries and find that I can get a return fare from Edinburgh for £103. This is cheaper than from Glasgow.
I think that Helen McCarthy is a bit strong on people who could not afford to go to Jersey. She should try calculating the cost from other parts of our island. It also depends on how you use the word "poor'. I do not think it only means that you are starving. The word I would choose to describe that is 'destitute'. There is a difference! I cannot call myself poor as I have my superannuation as well as the State pension (now £45 per week) but I rarely end the month with more than £50 in my account. I did not go to Jersey because I wanted to go to Holland - and reckoned it would take me two years to save up. I was getting on nicely when I had to buy a new fridge-freezer and that was £200 and back to square one. So I am not poor but I have to choose between A or B I cannot have both!
Diets for minorities at Cons. I can remember that Mike Rosenblum used to bring all his meals already fixed for him. Of course he was a vegetarian. Odd to see mention of St Fanthony after all this time. Somewhere I still have an Eddie Jones decorated certificate that proclaimed I am a LADY. My word!
I find time for a quick skim through the new CONRUNNER and am for once not impelled to request copies for the committee of the last con I attended: Finncon, in Helsinki, where more events started on time than I can remember anywhere else - amazing! (A fine con too.)
On the video side: for a hotel with internal TV, consider what I found once in the USA a 12-hour SF/fantasy programme on tape, run twice and changed daily, viewable in rooms and also on public screens. Saves lots of trouble!
((I also heard from Wilf James, who attended both Finncon and Intercon this summer and sent me copies of his trip reports. He too found the Scandinavian cons enjoyable. Chuck Connor, who took my plea to send larger print letters to extremes, provided me with a crayon picture of his house and a multicoloured scrawl of a message enquiring if the print was large enough now? The answer is yes, and 3 out of 10 for the picture. David Bell commented on the apparent failure of two-year bidding to solve the problems besetting Eastercons. Anyone feel brave enough to try to revert back to one year bidding?))
This has been CONRUNNER 12. Published November 1989. The next edition will be published at Easter 1990. Letters and articles should be sent by March 1st 1990 to 7 Woodside Walk. Hamilton. MLS 7HY.