Welcome to CONRUNNER 3, the fanzine entirely devoted to issues concerning convention organisation. It is available on request (as are issues 1&2) from:
Ian Sorensen, 304a Main St, High Blantyre, Glasgow, G72 0DH.
Please note the change of address. Published in November 1985.
|Film programmes||Jonathan Cowie|
|Stewarding at Conventions||Sue Stuart|
|How to Treat Your GoH||Mat Irvine|
|The Future of Silicon||Me again|
|The Use of Computer Technology||Steve Bull|
Let's start CONRUNNER 3 with a big subject: Worldcons.
I've never been to a Worldcon. I'd like to go to one, and now that Britain is to host the event in 1987, I expect I'll manage to attend (though I suspect it takes place just after I return to work after my summer holidays). However, much as I applaud the Conspiracy committee's initiative in winning the bid, I don't feel moved to offer my unswerving support in the running of the convention. It's not that I've anything against the people, nor do I wish I was in charge of it. I'm simply not interested in a project which, by it's nature, requires a professional approach to the work.
I like to think that most convention organisers use a professional (in the sense of competent) approach to their local cons, but Worldcons seem to be a different order of things entirely. The workload is such that an evening or two a week plus a few weekends will not cover it. Hence the need for true professionals i.e. people doing convention work full-time, presumeably on a salary.
I don't like the idea, principaly because my main reason for enjoying fandom and conventions is the total anarchic amateurism of it all. It may be that you don't agree that there need be professional/ full-time commitment. Indeed, the Conspiracy committee may be totally amateur, but I know from Eastercon experience that, in the run-up to the con, there are people taking time off work left, right and centre. It shouldn't be neccessary, but it usually is.
Even if the Worldcon does not use professionals, the sheer bulk of the work needing done requires a large, committed workforce. Everyone can't be on the committee so there must be some sort of hierarchy with channels for communicating decisions downwards and results upward. Such a system relies on efficient communication between the decision makers and the people who implement their decisions. There is much scope for breakdown in communications, or for impractical decisions to be thrust upon the backs of the workers who then labour to little effect, other than building up frustration. Similarly, the top level may be cut off from the actuality of the work being done, and may be faced at a late stage with either misguided initiatives or complete inaction which is not detected until too late. Fans do not generally take to being given orders, and all sorts of hassles are likely to develop as personalities clash. While everyone may agree with the overall objective, the route to it may be the subject of much disagreement.
OK, I know I'm doom-mongering. I'm sure the Conspiracy committee have thought about this and have a system of organisation that brilliantly overcomes the problems most conventions generate. I feel, however, that I have to record MY reasons for being a bit wary of too much involvement. I like the "group of friends putting the show on in the barn" idea of conventions. I hate the idea of real professionalism creeping in. (This is an emotional response I freely admit). I foresee the potential for enormous problems, and haven't got the time, energy or commitment to face them myself. The best hope for success lies in the Worldcon committee becoming a more visible presence and getting everyone moving in the same direction as them. That way we will all be able to help in whatever way we think best. Let's hope they agree it is best.
One man who seems equal to any task is Colin Fine, who sent me a letter containing the following plea:"I enclose some papers relating to the Worldcon rotation system. As you will see, the committtee appointed last year to consider the matter did sod all. It has been re-appointed with a new chairman and I am on it. I would like to stimulate discussion on the matter over here - with Conspiracy and the Holland in 1990 bid, there's more immediate relevance than there has been for some time. Would you publish (or probably abstract) it in CONRUNNER? It's not exactly what you are usually concerned with, but I can't think of a more appropriate organ in this country."
Not being the sort who can resist being called the most appropriate organ in the country, I read through the five pages of reports enclosed and have cut them down to a readable length. If you want to comment on the topic then you may do so in CONRUNNER, or direct to Colin Fine, 205 Coldhams Lane, Cambridge, CB1 3HY.
First of all, a quick run down of the situation at present: there are three North American zones, and the Worldcon is held in rotation. Non-North Americans can bid at any time. Bids tend to be announced about five years in advance and hotels etc generally booked three years ahead.
The review committee made a number of assumptions: they were looking forward to 1990 - 2005, the lead times in securing hotels will not decrease and may increase to four years, attendence at North American Worldcons will continue at the present 5 - 10,000, the world fan distribution will remain about the same, the one hotel con is dead, commercial promoters will be strongly resisted, and Worldcons will be aimed at the whole world, not just one section of it.
There follows much to-ing and fro-ing on rotation proposals. The main points centre on deciding whether to allow greater freedom for any city to bid, but make it impossible for that city to vote itself back again and again. This leads into deep waters as you try to define the extent of the "exclusion zone" around a city. i.e. Should Boston be stopped from bidding when nearby Baltimore hosts the Worldcon? Should the zone be defined in miles or kilometers?
Many permutations of lead times for bids and numbers of bidding zones are possible, but all the objections, whether for 2 year bidding in 4 zones or 3 year bidding in 5 zones, hinge on the objection that they limit the freedom of a group to bid or enable a city to vote itself back. Other tacks include dividing the world into hemispheres and non-North American bids can only bid when it's their hemisphere's turn. This would always entail European conventions bidding against strong East Coast bids. The wildest idea was to have lots of Worldcons simultaneously, linked together by videos and computers. This would enable everyone to go to the Worldcon!
Anyway, that's my synopsis of the proposals. I'm sure all the participants think it is a serious business, worthy of careful consideration; and I suppose it is. But who can take this quote seriously? "No group representing a metroplex within 100 km of the host metroplex may bid for a worldcon to be decided by the host metroplex." Or perhaps "The fewer the zones, the more that non-North American bids will face competition from un-wimpy zones i.e. Popeye zones."
The basic question remains: should there be strict rotation which limits the number of bids or should anyone be allowed to bid, subject a limitation on self-perpetuating convention committees. Also, bear in mind that the huge surplus generated by some Worldcons (like the one in L.A in 84) could provide a gigantic slush fund with which to advertise their next bid. I always favour greater freedom of choice myself, and would rely on the inate good sense of fans to change the system if someone started abusing it. But I can't see that simple idea keeping a whole committee in work for a year, so I'll leave it to Colin to look at the next round of proposals. Don't forget to add your own comments.
The Worldcon is Flat!
A "Holland in 1990" bid has been announced. I've been asked to act as Scottish agent by the bid committee, and have gladly accepted the job. (Yes, I know I said I didn't want to get involved in running Worldcons, but I do like collecting money!)
The committee consists of Kees (chair) and Angelique (secretary) van Toorn, Lynne Ann Morse (publicatons), and Roelof Gudriaan (treasurer). They hope to attract wide support from all over Europe, and I wish then every success with the bid. I think that the more Worldcons that are held outside the USA the better they will become as fresh ideas will be given a chance.
The contact address is Postbus 95370, 2509 CJ The Hague, The Netherlands. Pre-supporting membership costs £4, $5 or 15 Guilders. If you want to send sterling to me make the cheque payable to Ian Sorensen and I'll bank it until there is enough to make bank handling charges insignificant. The bidding should be decided at Brighton in 1987, which is good for Holland because they are up against a very strong Los Angeles bid.
The Operation Was a Success, but the Side Effects Killed Him
A final word on Worldcons (honest!). I would like to know more about the effect Worldcons have on British fandom. I've been told that after the last one in 1979 there was an upsurge in numbers of fans but a marked decline in fan activity as fan editors and conrunners reeled away to recover. Should we start preparing now for the new fans we can expect in 1988? How many of the "old guard" will survive? Will CONRUNNER 10 ever appear?
On that depressing thought, I'll wrap up this editorial and let you get on with reading the articles so kindly provided by the contributors. If you want to comment on any issues affecting conventions or on an item in this edition of CONRUNNER then please write me a letter. Better still, expand it a little into an article. By the way, d'you like the cover? All my own work (well, I had a little help fom a computerised mouse.) Jim Barker, move over.
Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.