Welcome to Conrunner 19, the fanzine for people who are interested in (reading about) running science fiction conventions. As usual it comes from Ian Sorensen, 7 Woodside Walk, Hamilton, ML3 7HY, UK. Telephone 0698 282288.
Novacon Disco Infernal by Marcus Rowland
A Year in Conventions
Helicon by Jonathan Cowie
SMOFcon and Dangercon by Ian Sorensen
Lunicon by Mark Nelson
Electrical Safety by Marcus Rowland
Sticky-backed Plastic by Andy Croft
ConMunications - your letters
There wasn't an issue out at Easter because I had too many work commitments and the next issue will be the long awaited "Second Best of Conrunner", which I am still piecing together in spare moments.
And that will be that.
As the number of articles flooding in is barely a trickle, and I'm not involved in running any cons at the moment and thus a little out of touch, I am going to suspend publication of Conrunner. I've hinted in the past that I might do this but you wunnerful people kept sending enough interesting material to make it happen. Now you don't, so Conrunner won't.
When I began publishing in 1984 it was to provide a central forum in which matters relating to conrunning could be discussed. There are now many such forums, ranging from the electronic bulletin boards to Eastercon and Worldcon apas. Many of the regular contributors are already involved in Intersection and will no doubt be able to air their views in the Glasgow in '95 APA "Teaching Nessie to Tapdance". With the growth of conrunning in the eighties there has been a multifold enlargement of the knowledge base available to anyone starting their first con, so the need for a publication as a source of information has declined.
That said, if I feel that there is a need for an independent voice looking at what's happening in conrunning, then I'll be back.
I'd like to thank the people who have contributed to Conrunner over the years: it was your zine as much as mine. Thanks especially to those who sent their contributions on disk or clean typescript for scanning!
After many months of trying to negotiate an acceptable deal, Albacon '94 is scheduled to take place at the Central Hotel, Glasgow from October 21-24. Attending membership is £25 (until April) from Michelle Drayton, 10 Atlas Rd, Glasgow, G21 4TE. Although not yet officially announced, the room rates will be under £20 per person per night inclusive of breakfast.
Most of the committee from Albacon '91 are involved along with some new faces. I expect that it will be much the same mix as before, with lots of video rooms on one floor and the larger function spaces used for the rest of the programme. No guest has been announced, but I was slightly worried that one name being mooted was a horror/dark fantasy writer rather than the traditional SF writer.
Another cause for concern is that it is scheduled as a 4 day convention, which is traditional, but it isn't over a local holiday Monday let alone a national one.
In the year since the last issue much has happened with Intersection: some good, some bad. Co-chair Vince Docherty has stepped down and been replaced by Martin Easterbrook. A lot of cheques weren't cashed when they should have been. Two PRs have come out. The mailing address has changed to Glasgow. The office location and staff have moved to London. The number of staff has increased, at last. And the group that owns the on-site hotel has announced a billion dollar deficit for the past year. (It has been suggested that now would be a good time to put in a bid to buy the hotel outright.)
Everything is, in other words, perfectly normal for this stage in a Worldcon.
I've spoken to a fair number of people involved in the convention and they are all still pretty confident that they can pull it off, as long as they get enough backing from the rest of fandom, which is the problem faced by every Worldcon. As was pointed out to them before the bid, they have no right to expect the rest of fandom to drop what it's doing and join in. So there is always a long battle to win over new staff members. To overcome it, everyone involved must continue to recruit other volunteers and the indications are that this is happening, but too slowly. There's less than 2 years to go.
There have been people dropping out already, and there will be many more before the convention, so every job must have a deputy shadowing it and someone must be checking on the status of every part of the organisation very regularly. Of course, this will not happen. People will get new jobs, move house, have kids, emigrate, gafiate, die or simply lose interest - all without telling anybody else. And nobody will notice, and take action, until the situation has become critical: usually in the last 10 weeks. At this point the people who are already working their butts off will take on the extra burden of covering for the lost colleague, putting them under more strain and increasing the likelihood that they will drop out.
Worldcons really screw you up.
It is already clear to me that there are tensions, as is to be expected, within the Intersection organisation. It always happens when there is a group of committed people working in different ways to a common goal. What they need to do is throw off their British reserve and talk freely with one another (at least as freely as they talk to me) about how they really think they are doing. I remember when I was drafted in to the Conspiracy committee that I was shocked by some of the methods used in running certain aspects of the con, but didn't like to say anything, being the "new kid on the block" when all the rest had been working together for 3 years. I wish I'd spoken up then and it might of saved some of the hassles we encountered. Of course, it might have generated bigger hassles by getting peoples' backs up.
There is a fine line between telling someone they are doing a bad job and doing a job badly. If they are doing it badly you could suggest another way of tackling it. If you just say they are doing a bad job it doesn't leave much scope for face-saving or positive comment. At Worldcon level section chiefs should be good people handlers first and competent workers second: even in amateur run conventions proper management is necessary. (Having said that, one of the complaints I've heard about Intersection is that too much of the inter-staff communication is couched in management course jargon which obscures rather than precisely defines the subject under discussion.)
Simon Ounsley reports in his fanzine The Black Lagoon the discussion that took place at Mexicon between a group of fans concerned about the lack of information about the fan programme of Intersection, and Steve Glover (who is running it with Jenny) and Chris O'Shea representing the committee. What he missed out was that, after a while, it became obvious that there was a communication problem between the Glovers and the committee. Steve kept repeating that he and Jenny had been spending vast amounts of time trying to contact other fan groups to sub-contract media, Trek and comics fan programming to. As Chris didn't say anything, I eventually had to tell Steve that there was already someone else, Helen McCarthy, who was doing that particular job. Steve was, well, gobsmacked when this was confirmed by Chris. As far as the traditional fan programming goes, there seems to be a large hanger to be used for lounging, drinking, exhibitions and performance. This sounds to me like a recipe for disaster: people talking in a lounging area don't like being hushed by people trying to hear what's being said on a panel item.
The Progress Reports are no better nor worse that you'd expect in terms of content - this far in advance you don't have much detail to present to the members about the programme or booking accommodation but what you can do is start to impart a sense of style or invoke a theme for your convention, and I don't think they've managed to do that yet. To win the bid they dwelt heavily on the Scottish aspect - kilts and whisky anyway - and to Americans this is probably good enough. British and Scottish members will need something more. An attempt was made in PR 2 to pick up on the delightful device adopted by outsiders of not referring to Intersection by name, but to call it The Scottish Convention, in line with the theatrical superstition about Macbeth. Unfortunately, the bit of cod Shakespeare tucked away at the bottom of page 22 as an introduction to the volunteer form will make no sense whatsoever to foreign members, or British ones, who have not been exposed to the joke before. Better that some editorial reference had been made to it earlier in the publication, and perhaps its adoption as part of the official logo.
While on the subject of logos, the posters that Chris O'Shea made up for distribution in the summer were an excellent example of how not to do convention advertising. They were, as you'd expect these days, nice DTP production, but from a distance looked like an advert for a small press literary magazine called Intersection. There was nothing to indicate SF, no artwork other than a globe on a Scottish flag. As an advert at a convention, where the SF content is assumed, it was a non-eyecatching example which would be ignored in favour of the more visually interesting posters for other cons. If it was used outside the convention world I doubt that anyone bothering to look at it would be able to tell what it was all about. (Sorry Chris, this isn't meant as an attack on you, just a general plea for a more objective view to be taken regarding publicity for cons.) People who do not regularly attend conventions are used to buying tickets for events, not memberships, so you have to explain what it means. This is why I always prefer there not to be a supporting membership rate: explaining what it means can take up most of the text space on a poster.
The PRs are well produced but have had their share of typos (PR1 changed Glasgow's patron saint from Mungo to Mango and it's top museum from Pollok to Polloch, PR2 claimed to have an advert for Boston in 1988) and most of them can be put down to the production problems associated with having your proof reading done in the Netherlands. The problem I have with the PRs is that they seem to have little editorial presence. Articles are slotted in with no particular rhyme or reason for them. In PR2 there is an excellent article on the history of conventions in Glasgow (OK, I wrote it), but it was meant to be split over 2 issues: as it stands it takes 5 pages out of 24, rather too much prominence, even for such a brilliant piece of writing. Another great writer, Dave Langford, has a single page essay (presumably reprinted from some other - paying - publication) which is simply chucked in on page 9 without any introduction or editorial fanfare. This is a guy who has won the best fanwriter Hugo every year since VinĘ Clarke was a lad and deserves to be showcased somewhat better than he is here.
The distribution of convention literature is a nightmare. Not only do people move without telling anyone but the post office loses batches of mail with alarming frequency. When it comes to distributing booking forms, it is imperative that everyone has an equal chance of getting the accommodation they want. This means mailings have to be timed correctly to allow responses by a deadline from all over the world. I was worried by the way in which PR2, distributed at ConFrancisco at the end of August, was posted from the States to arrive in Hamilton on October 4th. Yes, I know it was cheaper to do it that way, but it does make me feel that I am a second class member having to wait so long. A worldcon needs to keep its members happy and wanted, because there are so many good reasons why they should simply stay at home that weekend.
At present there are very few people in Glasgow who are involved. This is something that the committee will have to address soon. I am not working for Intersection in any capacity, but I am friendly with most of the committee and will happily do them favours on a personal level. As the convention approaches I do not want to get sucked in to the organisation as the local expert, so they need to recruit more Glaswegians. Local people might not be any better at doing things than anyone else, but they have a better idea of what can be done in the area: what is the cheapest van hire, where art boards can be borrowed, when transport stops running, what streets are safest at night and so on. I act as a consultant on many such issues for many different Intersection staffers, but, incredible as it may seem, I don't know everything. They need more Glaswegians involved now to ensure that plans don't conflict with reality.
I don't want to run the Worldcon. I don't even want to tell anyone else how to run the Worldcon. I don't want to see friends get damaged by the experience either, so I will continue to help and advise as need be. If everyone out there adopts an Intersection staff member as their buddy then we may all amke it through this in one piece, without splitting fandom and without destroying lives.
I live in hope.
I've started piecing together a publication whose working titile is The Second Best of Conrunner. It won''t actually be reprints from the zine, as done in 1987 in The Best of Conrunner. Instead I'll be taking all the ideas that have been expounded over the years and turning them into checklists of "things to do" under heading like Finding a venue, designing a programme, publicising the con, running the committee, publications, technical etc. This publication will probably cost a few pounds, final price to be determined by the print costs. I'll advertise it in news zines and at conventions when it's ready.
To those of you who are receiving this for the first time, sorry you missed the last 18 issues - where were you? I still have miscellaneous back numbers, usually about 5 of each, and will send them to anyone who wants them. You can find out what's in each issue if you phone me (see top of page 3).
See you at a convention sometime.