Vinc Clarke, 16 Wendover Way, Welling, Kent, DA16 2BN
David Bell was asking about attendance at cons (presumably Eastercons as others are sometimes limited) since Novacon started. I would say this was barely possible; the programme books give figures that are two or three months out of date and usually include supporting as well as attending members. I think the only fair method would be to contact those fans who actually ran the con - rather you than me! Anyway, here are figures according to programme books: (Comments in italics are mine - ED)
|1972||Chessmancon||Chester||233||Niven||too small hotel|
|1974||Tynecon||Newcastle||4-500||Bob Shaw||SF Monthly mag mentioned it|
|1978||Skycon||Heathrow||437||Sheckley||actual attendance around 600|
|1984||Tynecon 2||Newcastle||212||Mexicon 1|
On a purely personal view, I don't think who is GoH (fan or pro) means a thing. The total for the Eastercon has crept up steadily; I don't see how you can get really accurate results without a lot of trouble, but if the figures all have the same degree of wrongness it hardly matters. The things that go wrong don't have any effect on attendance figures - why should they? Te suckers have already paid. There may be a deep-seated trauma in the fannish psyche so Manchester practically damned itself for a generation, for instance, for a lousy '76 con, and one can't see the Metropole Brighton being used again for years. There was curious dip, it appears, on Yorcon 3; maybe because it was made known that there were two hotels in use, not just the one.
David Bell, Church Farm, North Kelsey, Lincoln, LN7 6EQ
Well, I think I shall stick by my prediction in the last Conrunner. I was told part-way through Follycon that it might not be far out, though more likely to be an over-estimate. But one complicating factor I hadn't considered is the external image of SF. How much of the growth in conventions is the result of the film and comics? This will be debated, I know, at Albacon '88. But ten years ago everyone was trying to copy the success of the first Star Wars movie, Blake's Seven was on TV, and Dr Who then seems better than it does now. Against that is the way in which various groups of media fans I know had never heard of the Worldcon until I mentioned it.
On repro rooms
One thought on repro rooms and newsletters: would it be quicker to put out two single-sheet newsletters rather than a multi-sheet newsletter that has to be collated and stapled? Collation is one of the most tedious and soul-destroying parts of producing a zine and highly labour-intensive. Drop that and you remove a production bottleneck. Yes, it does seem to mean that you can't produce sheets simultaneously but there is no reason why side A could not be run off on one duplicator and side B on another. Just split the run into two batches and exchange the batches. I have a feeling that doing it that way could save a lot of fan-hours - I remember at one Albacon feeding collated newsletters into an electric stapler "liberated" from your school. Weren't there 8 or 9 people collating and stapling?
New ideas for con programming will be quite a challenge. One or two of the old ones are certainly worth reviving, such as the Ultra Quiz that appeared at Mexicon 1, though perhaps the single stream programme made it appear more popular. But it had the virtue of getting everyone involved. I preferred Beccon '87 to Follycon so far as the banquet/tea party/awards went. Everything just seemed a little more satisfying.
How about a "Treasure Hunt"? Communications would be the problem I suppose, and possibly showing the video. I'm not sure who would replace Anneka Rice. I think it would be possible without the helicopter. Glasgow, for example, has old fashioned police boxes (well I think I saw them there) and various more-or-less well-known buildings. Run the hunt on Friday and show the video late on Sunday?
This might be a very silly idea. Re-create great convention panels of the past, but not with the same people. This could range from an extension of Beccon's Ghost of Honour Speech to something very odd. How do you think Michael Moorcock would answer the charge that his later Jerry Cornelius books are incoherent rubbish? What if Harlan Ellison were taller? Dare you risk a debate with Hugh Mascetti as Rambo?
Mad idea number 3: a panel of hotel staff talking about their experiences at conferences and conventions. (It might not be so mad for a conrunning con).
Let's look at some more specific ideas for panels. There are quite a few books out which are sequels to earlier works by another author. In some cases the original author is dead or seriously ill. In others the original author could write a sequel if he wanted to. This seems a topic which can be discussed. How important is recreating the original style? Can it be a good as the original?
Postal gaming - most of the commercial postal games have a science fiction or fantasy background, and the computer technology needed to run them is relatively cheap these days. Incidentally, this area is one example of old systems being used to support the latest technology. That too could be the basis for a panel discussion.
A final thought on programming. Is the actual siting of the programme items too rigid? Obviously you wouldn't choose a room for every item at the last minute, but for fringe items where different sized rooms are available it could be worth trying some sort of flexible siting. Obviously the rooms would need to be close together, the programme items would need not to require much technical support, and it wouldn't be worth the hassle unless the rooms were of noticeably different capacity. But filking for beginners was packed to the limit at Follycon.
At Follycon I had a lot of fun on the tech crew video section. I had done a little cine and lots of stills shooting so I suppose it was unsurprising that I ended up carrying the camcorder. I was told that they are known as "lead parrots". Since nobody came round to strangle me in wasted tape I suppose I did a decent job of it.
More or less by accident there were several extra cameras about the masquerade. Some we knew about in time to arrange angles to give plenty of useful shots and tapes are being passed around. If any con wants a masquerade video made they can't rely on people turning up but I reckon it is well worth getting them into a team if they do. The official video gets some different shots and the enthusiast gets a good seat and I suppose a copy of the final result.
I think we learned that a bit of planning is a big help. I know I should have taken some notes when I dropped in on the masquerade run-through. There are all sorts of little things that could have been improved. Some of it is another aspect of the old problem - do contestants play to the audience in general or to the judges? Where does a video fit in? Personally, I think it is a mistake to have judges facing the audience and the contestants in the middle.
I seemed to see a lot of Follycon through a video. For the first time I think I heard most of the GOH speeches. So if I'm at a con and they want me under a camera I'll do it. I hope I can do it better. Is it too early for Eastcon? Ready when you are, Mr De Mille....
Ethel Lindsay, 69 Barry Rd, Carnoustie, DD7 7QQ
Many thanks for Conrunner 8 and apologies for the thanks being belated. I guess it was because this issue didn't excite me into print as much as the others. Yet it is a publication that continues to fascinate me because I can't understand why something so helpful as this did not come out sooner. I remember hearing that at one time there was a confidential exchange of information between the chairmen of Worldcons. I guess, in the beginning, it was useful to keep them confidential - but I've always yearned to read these communications.
Jonathan Cowie's letter was most enlightening as to why Conspiracy was so short-staffed. It seems such a pity - do you think maybe the committee was just too big?
I would be interested to hear from your readers what they would feel if The Banquet was brought back. Am I alone in thinking that it made a good focal point?
((Ah! The Banquet. I've never been to one myself so I can't comment on the experience as a consumer, but as a convention organiser I can tell you that it is a major headache. The hotel want to know in advance what menu you will be having - and people's tastes are so different these days. You then have to give them accurate figures by the day of the banquet itself. This entails hounding members to buy the tickets and ties up staff to do so. The food is generally poor value for money anyway. I think Albacon '87 and '88 had the right idea - simply take over the hotel's restaurant for a "convention meal" - it's cheaper and you get more choice. The problem is that you don't have all the trappings of a banquet like a top table to focus the event. At Clonespiracy the whole convention (70 people) took over a Turkish restaurant for the night and had a great time. I doubt if it could work with any greater number.))
Heidi Lyshol, Maridalsvn. 235 A, N-0467 Oslo 4, Norway
Reading your fanzine set me thinking. I'm on the committee for the Norwegian conventions Intercon II, to be held on 4 - 6 August 1989, and I've got this distinct sensation that I'm in deep water.
We're trying a new organisation model this time - at all previous Norwegian cons (we've had 2 a year for the last 2 years, and before that one a year) there has been a large disorganised committee of people who did much of the work, not just the organising side, but the actual running around and shouting. This con comm only consists of 3 people, one of them the experienced conrunner Johannes Berg. This seems to be working - we have no deconstructivists among us, and a committee this small means that everyone can be present at the meetings.
Nevertheless, I'm getting apprehensive of the projected scale of the convention, and would like tips and advice from people who've done it before. Conrunner seems to be an excellent place to find this. Incidentally, attending membership of Intercon is free for non-Scandanavian residents. It will be held in Oslo on 4th-6th August next year and our guest will be Samuel R Delany. (One third of the programme will be in English!)
((I'd be interested to know how applicable ideas on British conrunning are to a Norwegian conventions. I guess there's only one way to find out.....))
And that wraps it up for this issue. Thank you to all the contributors and the correspondents. I am constantly amazed that so many people are interested in Conrunner. I'm sure that it must prove something about the mentality of the conrunning fraternity. With any luck the next edition will be out in time for Novacon, but much depends on the results of Conscription's workshops being made available soon enough. Still, if it's not out for Novacon then I'm sure that the Conscription surplus will be sufficient to do a mailout!
Please keep writing letters of comment, but better still, articles for future editions. Conrunner 11 will be published at Easter for Contrivance in the Channel Islands. Perhaps someone who won't be attending would like to write an article explaining why they decided not to go.
CONRUNNER 9 was published September 1988 by Ian Sorensen, 7 Woodside Walk, Hamilton, ML3 7HY. (This is my NEW address as of October 28th).