This is Conrunner 14, a fanzine about convention running. It is available while stocks last to anyone who wants it from Ian Sorensen, 7 Woodside Walk, Hamilton, ML3 7HY (phone 0698 282288). Published November 9th 1990.
|D West Replies|
The last issue of Conrunner was dominated by "The Main Event", in which D West set out his views on the state of conrunning in Britain today. When D offered me the article in the first place he said that he wanted "to stir things up a bit": I reckon he's succeeded! This issue is dominated by your responses to that article. I gave D copies of all the letters and invited him to respond, thus saving the correspondence stretching into the next issue (though I'm sure it will). Gosh, Conrunner is getting to be almost like a, a fanzine! Well, if "The Mad 3 Party" can win the best fanzine Hugo then there's hope for little old Conrunner yet. Not many articles this issue, so get writing and send me stuff for number 15 which will be out for Speculation at Easter.
Farewell to an Old Friend
Conspiracy '87 has at long last paid all its outstanding debts and been wound up. Justin Ackroyd, Australian agent for the con, turned up at Confiction with around £1500 of Conspiracy money which, by a strange coincidence, was exactly the amount owed to various fans and organisations. Vince Docherty's worldcon bid did not feel they needed the use of a ready-made company, so Science Fiction Conventions Ltd was formally declared an ex-company. It is no more. It has ceased to be etc. etc.
Permanent Floating Convention Rescue Club
This summer I heard that rescues were being arranged for two convention: Illumination and Speculation. Speaking as a Speculation committee member I would like to politely but firmly decline to be rescued. Speculation is doing just fine - the memberships are rolling in, the hotel has survived redecoration, the programme is all but finalised and the committee are still on friendly terms. It seems that since Eastcon there have been people itching to "rescue" conventions - a laudable ambition where required, but if a convention was having problems I can think of nothing more undermining than having someone going round recruiting for a rescue committee. If Illumination was having some difficulty (and I have heard absolutely nothing to suggest it was) then they have 16 months in which to sort it - I reckon that's sufficient time for anything. Were an Eastercon to have difficulties, with the venue for example, they could use the bidding session at the previous year's Eastercon to put forward alternatives to the members and take it from there.
The "rescue fever" noted above stems, I think, from the size of British conrunning fandom. We now have so many people interested in conrunning that there aren't enough cons to go round! I'm slightly worried by the same people appearing at every con doing the same job - I reckon there's a danger of them thinking of it as "their" job and resenting it being done by someone else. Talking to many "young" fans I get the impression from them that they think you need to have worked many conventions before you are "allowed" to run one yourself. OK, it helps, but let's not do anything to discourage newcomers having a go - and that includes giving them too much advice! At almost every con at which I give out Conrunner someone asks to be put on the mailing list "so that they can learn how to run conventions properly". Some chance. Later in this issue there is an article about setting up a first con which I'm sure many of you will look at and think "no, they should have done it this way...", whereas I think "good on you, you worked out your own way of doing it". I'm all in favour of people thinking about what they are doing and not just following formulas. (In a couple of Frank Herbert books the hero works for BuSab - the Bureau of Sabotage: set up to stop government becoming too efficient. I like that idea and, if conventions become too similar through employing the same ideas or people all the time, I might have to start a BuSab of my own. But what if that gets too efficient....?)
I achieved two personal firsts this year: I attended a Worldcon and travelled abroad. Yes, I went to Confiction. OK, so I have been at a worldcon - Conspiracy - but I didn't actually see any of it; Confiction I had time to sit around and savour. It felt like a big Eastercon: very pleasant but, probably because of the conference centre size, lacking a buzz. I was disappointed in the poor showing from the USA - only about 500 attended, so I didn't get a chance to talk to all the fans I wanted to meet in Brighton but couldn't. It seemed that the only interesting Americans there were the ones involved in bids. In total there were over 3000 members: 2300 attending (of whom 700 were British, 550 US, 360 Dutch and over 100 from Eastern Europe). The Perry Rhodan day brought in an additional 400 day members. There were 250 day members over the other days.
The con was staffed mostly by Brits who did an excellent job. The newsletter was particularly good and the revised programme listing they published was a godsend. Most major cockups concerned the programme which had been made up largely on assumptions about who would be present rather than on confirmed acceptances - so many items were cancelled or had totally different participants from those advertised. Most people enjoyed the con enough not to let such things worry them. The sun shone, the trams ran on time and the atmosphere was European - whatever that means.
There were few fanzines of any description. (I was given three: one in German, one Swedish with bits in English and one from Steve & Jenny Glover.) I heard of a further two European zines. I know that here are fewer zines being published these days, but I would suggest that the people who are doing them are not going to Worldcons as well. Talking to Mike Glyer near the end of the con he said that most Americans stayed home because the economy was in such bad shape and they simply couldn't afford a foreign holiday (and doing zine's I suppose). This may have repercussions for the Glasgow '95 bid, though they took 200 memberships at the NASFIC in San Diego the week after Confiction.
The aforementioned bid did very well in The Hague, taking around 400 pre-supporting memberships. Their parties were well attended (could the more than adequate supply of whisky have had something to do with that I wonder?) and people seemed to like the idea of a Scottish site. All they have to do is beat Atlanta in the ballot. Atlanta, for those who have forgotten, have a huge surplus left over from Confederation in '86 from which to draw bid expenses - Vince Docherty and chums need to sell memberships like crazy just to pay their's. I understand that it will cost something like £30,000 to sustain the bid over the years until the vote in Florida in 1992. I'm sure the bid committee will work hard for every penny, but can't help feeling that £30,000 could be better spent on other activities.
To help raise money, Vince is launching a "friends of the Glasgow bid" club. For £19.95 per year interested fans get an exclusive T-shirt, copies of the bid newsletter (done in APA form) and special opportunities to part with more cash. There may be certain advantageous membership terms offered to "friends" but these have not been decided on at this stage. See press for details.
The week after the Dutch Worldcon I attended a Star Trek Con in Heriot Watt University campus on the outskirts of Edinburgh. The venue was pleasant but isolated (chosen in great haste when the original site in Bradford became unavailable). The programme was what you'd expect at a Trek con - mostly Trek - but it was worth going just to chat to guests Joe and Gay Haldeman and meet a surprising number of familiar faces. The people who found it had a good time, but the vagaries of the licensing regulations forced the con to move into the Sports Hall on the Sunday as the rest of the campus was "dry"! Joe and Gay rated it as the best Trek con they'd attended, but then, at the last one at which Joe had been a guest they had been totally ignored by everyone, including the committee!
Anyone looking for a venue in the Edinburgh area with a great management attitude could do no better than the Kings Manor hotel. The manager was last seen wearing a Star Trek uniform and, in return for a donation to the con charity, waiting on his own staff! Concert 2 was the event lucky enough to have this management paragon. The convention itself was attended by around 120 and had a varied (literary, comics, media, filk and costume) programme. The hotel provided cheap food (vital as there were no nearby shops/restaurants) and reasonable bar rates. The hotel could cope with up to 200 at a pinch.
Isocon 4 ran for 3 days at Glasgow University Union. A first attempt by the two university SF societies it suffered from a lack of publicity and a too ambitious programme. Let's face it, when you expect 150 members and get about half that, a programme with Main, Alternative and Video streams does seem a bit excessive. I fear they have been overly influenced by programming at Albacons in the past. Pete Dawson gives his view of it elsewhere in this issue.
I was annoyed to discover that many people received the Novacon PR containing the hotel booking form over two weeks before I got mine. As the hotel is pretty small I was concerned that my chances of getting into the main hotel would be poor, so after a week I got a photocopy of someone else's form. I have since discovered there was a fairly good reason for the delay and don't wish to heap blame on anyone, but I think a committee should do its utmost to ensure that booking forms go out to all members at the same time: hotel bookings are one of the things that fans get most steamed up about.