Welcome to CONRUNNER 4 the fanzine for people who would rather run conventions than do fanzines. It comes on a wing and a duplicator from Ian Sorensen, 304A Main St, High Blantyre, Glasgow, G72 0DH. Copies available on request and as Wordwise files if you supply a disc (special offer for all you hi-tech freaks out there).
Not too big a response to Conrunner 3, so I'll be looking for more contributions this time round; my stock of articles is now exhausted.
Clean Air Zones - Judith Hanna
Malice an Afterthought: Novacon 15 - Steve Hubbard
Equipment for conventions
Choosing a venue
Conventions and law
The Editorial (1) - Worldcon update.
Last edition I started with Worldcons and, sure enough, here they come again. Those of you who remember Conrunner 3 will know that I came out pretty strongly against personal involvement in the running of Worldcons in general, Conspiracy 87 in particular. You may also have just received the Conspiracy Progress Report 1 in which the Steering Committee lists one Ian Sorensen in charge of publicity. I would like to make clear that this is a mistake: it should be Ian Sorensen and Anne Page.
So how come little old Ian's got himself involved in Worldcon? Beats me. Everything I said in Conrunner 3 still stands - I don't like the idea of a convention so big it requires full-time commitment to run, so I'm splitting the job with Anne. I think that communications between the Steering Committee and the people who implement the decisions is going to prove a major problem, so I'm going to help out as best I can - there is some suggestion of using Conrunner as one of the communication channels. And I still like the idea of a committee being a group of friends who put on a convention for fun, so Anne and I are trying to get as friendly with the rest of the Conspiracy team as a 400 mile gulf allows.
If anyone thinks that I've been nobbled by Malcolm Edwards then they're right. A lengthy letter outlining the philosophy of Conspiracy, a thick layer of flattery, a call to arms and I was won over. The fact that I had already decided to give up running Glasgow cons after Albacon III was simply serendipitous.
Having got that off my chest, on to other matters.
The Editorial (2) - Mexicon/Novacon
Mexicon 2 took place in the redecorated Royal Angus in Birmingham at the start of February. The comment on everyone's lips during the convention being that it was the best Novacon for years. This says much about the state of Novacons these days. Being a newcomer to them (Novacon 11 being my first) I don't feel qualified to speak on the subject of the good old Novacons of yore but I do think that the current level of disorganisation (example from last year: the film projectors had not been booked on the dya the convention started) and the lack of direction is going to rebound on the Brum group who keep it going for the sake of the cash it generates: one year it will simply make a whopping great loss. I have no idea what led to Martin Tudor declining the honour of Chairing Novacon 16 and Tony Berry taking it on, but I see that as another danger signal. Conventions should not be run because they have to be; they should run because somebody has got some good ideas and wants to try them out.
I'm sure Tony has some really great ideas, and wish him well. He did what was necessary at the infamous closing ceremony of Novacon 15 when Phil Probert walked off, and he has been around long enough to know the score. It really depends on the team he assembles round him. I'm tempted to volunteer just to see if Novacon could be jolted into a new lease of life. It seemed to me that Novacon 13, which was largely the work of "outsiders" was the best one of late.
(Little aside: A while back, just after Albacon won the bid for '86 Mike Molloy and I were talking about how Glasgow seemed to have the best, most experienced team working in convention circles at that time. In addition, we had so many people wanting to be involved in running the conventions that it was making the committee size a bit embarassing. We envisaged Albacon expanding to take over the rest of the British conventions, especially Novacon which, with its single minimal programme, looked like it could be run by one of our trainees with one hand behind their back! Coincidently we heard that the Novacon chairman was selected by the Brum group and he then chose the rest of their committee. We thought that it might be fun to swing the vote so that someone from Glasgow or acting under our command became chairman. Our object in this was simply to put the frighteners on the Brum group and perhaps jolt them into a bit of action to halt the decline of Novacons. After consulting fellow Glaswegians who agreed it would be worth it, Mike and I took out memberships in the Brum group (the others were meant to do likewise but chickened out.) Nothing seemed to happen, despite a few plants spreading rumours about a Glasgow takeover. It looked like £5 down the drain. However, at Novacon 15 I had a chat with Phil Probert who mentioned that he'd been warned by many people that he'd better keep a tight rein on the convention because, (would you credit it?), there was meant to be a plot by some Glasgow types to hijack Novacon and hold it in Scotland! I just about managed to keep a straight face.)
Back to Mexicon, which is a perfect example of a group of people knowing what they want to do with the event and working hard at getting it together in an imaginative way. The programme was chock-full of interesting items, all of them given attractive titles (a very important point I feel) and featuring interesting people (a result of their policy of inviting a huge number of writers; indeed, as was pointed out in one of the convention newsletters, 10% of the membership consisted of authors!) The timing of events was not as strictly controlled as at Mexicon 1 but this worked largely in favour of keeping interesting items going rather than keeping people waiting for a late start.
The Angus seemed to cope well with the number of people (about 350) but the dealers were unhappy at being split between a row of syndicate rooms out near the lifts. The (now regular) complaints by the dealers caused the committee a fair bit of aggravation and the dealers were pacified by an offer of reduced table charges (I'm not sure if they actually got them free). The fan room (with superb displays by Christina Lake and Peter-Fred Thompson) was in the large Ariel Suite in the dealer's stead but was under-used for much of the weekend. It looks like the function space at the Angus precludes its use for any con over about 300 which wants to do more thamn have a single programme area. The main hall, Ariel suite and scattered meeting rooms on the second and fifth floors are simply inadequate.
The Editorial (3) - Security
One small incident at Mexicon leads me into another cause for concern - convention security. A hotel wall-mounted house phone disappeared from the space beside the lifts on the Saturday and only re-appeared after it had been noised abroad that it would be incompatible with the British Telecom system. So, in the end it all worked out fine. But at Albacon 85 the same thing happened to two house phones in the main foyer. They never showed up again. It is partly the fault of the hotel in using phones connected by a standard BT jack into a wall socket, but there is a real problem with security generally.
Much was made of the heavy handed approach taken by people not imbued with fannish values who did the security for Seacon 84. They seemed to think everyone was guilty until proved innocent. They did not hesitate to challenge anyone who appeared not to be obeying the rules of the convention as they had been given them. So they asked to see badges, and tried to evict anyone without one. Nothing wrong in that is there? Everyone knows that you MUST wear a badge at a convention. They had the right attitude, but the wrong approach. I'm afraid that the days of the small convention where everyone knew everyone else are fast receding and working on the assumption that everyone will behave like a good fan is fast becoming dangerous. At present I don't see any need for gun-toting professional security guards at every con, but committees should definitely have a more visible security presence. All this involves is a rota of committee and/or gophers wandering around checking everything is ok, especially in the bar and late at night. Not looking for confrontation, merely reminding people that they need to conform to the minimal rules laid down to safeguard their own enjoyment of the convention. Obviously, the larger the convention, the more important security becomes. The Worldcon will be employing a security firm to patrol secure areas at night but I have no idea how general con security will be handled. Bob Jewett is forever doing "security patrols" at Glasgow conventions and coming back with tales of very strange goings on which I hope he can be persuaded to tell us about in a future issue of Conrunner. Anyone out there got any ideas?
The Editorial (4) - Policy
Just a few words for those of you you have't come across Conrunner before: it is meant to be a forum for the discussion of any issue related to conventions. Any contributions will be very welcome. So far I've managed to get an issue out twice a year and hope to continue this frequency, but only if I get help. This issue has a fairly high proportion of articles written by me and I don't want to turn this into an Ian Sorensen soap-box. I have very definite views on running conventions but like nothing better than hearing other people's ideas on it. So, if you have anything to say about conventions then drop me a line to the address given on page 1 or phone me on 0698 826207 after 5pm.