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View From the Peak

by Martin Easterbrook

((I wrote the following letter to Martin Easterbrook, who was Co-Chair of Intersection, to get his reaction to the event.

"I would like a quick overview from your lofty peak of what you thought went right and what went wrong, what could be fixed if you had to do it again and what was inevitable." - Ian))

Note: This 'lofty peak' is not a good place to see how people actually attending the con enjoyed it. For instance I never got to a programme item I wasn't on.

What worked;

  1. There seemed to be a good atmosphere.
  2. We did get US, UK and European fans working together in a way that no other Worldcon has done before.
  3. Hall 4. Despite the enormous unfriendliness of the basic hall it was made fannish enough to keep up the feeling of being at a convention rather than alone in a giant aircraft hanger.
  4. Programme and Extravaganzas content as well as the evening events in the Hotels.
  5. The Fireworks.

What didn't;

  1. The acoustics.
  2. Some areas were badly understaffed. Art show and Site Liaison come to mind as places where shortage of people meant that problems were difficult to solve.
  3. We had particular problems with the Central Hotel while the Crest was marvellous throughout. Part of this was that we were overconfident about the Central because of its history as a convention hotel.
  4. The shuttle bus routes were a problem for people in some hotels.
  5. Pre-con communications amongst such a large committee were always a problem and, as expected, this showed up as a cause of many at-con problems.

I believe the con itself was reasonably successful however I think our biggest problem/failure was before the convention.

We did manage to persuade UK Fandom in advance that a UK Worldcon could be fun. If people believe it will be a disaster, and many did, then this tends to be a self fulfilling prophecy. Specifically it put people off volunteering to help us and left many of those that did volunteer rather overworked.

While this was a big problem, and one that caused an unfair burden on many people, I do not think it is an inevitable one. Just as we learnt a lot from the 'at con' problems of Conspiracy I think it is possible to learn from Intersections experiences and avoid many of the problems that we encountered including those we experienced during the run up to the convention.

Although it is tempting to see the best way of running a Worldcon as fixing all the problems you have seen in previous ones this is misleading. Fixing one problem often means allocating limited resources from another area which then develops fresh problems of its own. Anything the size of a Worldcon will *always* have a lot of problems. What is important is to build a stronger underlying structure, with more resources, which is better capable of handling those problems.

In the light of our experience I think any future UK bid needs to take a number of important steps before the bid stage.

  1. Ensure they have good and qualified people to handle the business side of the convention. This includes not only finance and budgeting but also people who are aware of the issues involved in running a company under UK law. Intersection didn't do too bad a job here but this is so important I think it must be done better by any future bid.
  2. Identify a site which is attractive to fandom and ensure that a viable budget exists for that site. Intersection did this reasonably well.
  3. Gather a core committee of between 5 and a dozen. This should include at least 1 from the US and 1 person with good European connections. Still OK so far.
  4. Gather an active supporting group of 40 to 50. Probably by distribution of a zine proposing the bid (by snail mail & e-mail) and through the usual Smoffing routes. This group will be the people who form the larger committee of working area heads. This a critical thing that we didn't do.
  5. Develop a set of aims for the convention above and beyond just running another Worldcon. We did OK here.
  6. Make sure the convention is something that a sufficiently large part of UK fandom actively wants to take part in should the bid win. In particular more detailed plans should be presented to show that the proposed convention is viable and that there is a solid basis on which other people can add their own creative input. This was where we needed to have done much more.
  7. Having won the bid use some of the extra people available (hopefully) to improve communications over those we had. There is a whole separate article which could be written about this.

Although the above concentrates on areas where we had problems I hope that overall Intersection did a great deal which can be built on.

After the convention I posted the following suggestions for ways in which this might be done to the Intersection electronic mailing list.

  1. Organising a some general discussion lists to talk over future possibilities for UK and European fandom but hopefully involving a lot of interested North Americans.
  2. Setting up a UK Web site to distribute fannish information more widely. Colin Harris has some ideas on this. This is also something I think that Fanzine Fandom and the SF Foundation could be heavily involved in.
  3. Organising a larger group of UK fans to go over to San Antonio or Baltimore (LA would be nice but I think it is too far in distance and too close in time to get many people together). Both the first and second point would support this project.
  4. A bid for a combined Smofcon/Conscription to be held in the UK/Europe sometime in the next 5 years. This would hopefully prevent us losing many of the overseas contacts we have made.
  5. Eurocon 2000. A bigger Eurocon held somewhere in continental Europe with a lot of UK & North American support. Intended to be a "jumping off point" for European fandom in the next century and a method of bringing the more adventurous of North American Fandom into mainland Europe without the dangers of having to put this through a Worldcon bidding process. Of course we'd still want our US party giving team to come out of retirement!
  6. Don't even think about it!!!

This looks a lot when written down together but only the fifth one is a 'high-energy' project. I suspect the first and second will happen naturally as the technology evolves anyway.


This page updated on 09 July 1999