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The difference between a worldcon and a Worldcon [Sep. 3rd, 2010|08:48 pm]
dalekboy
[mood |thoughtfulthoughtful]

The below is my opinion. No one has asked me to write this and if you have any problems with what I'm saying, take it up with me and no-one else.


There are a lot of pro-authors at this con, a chunk of whom I have met at other Worldcons, conventions and events. What has been amazing to me, and gratifying because I have some dear friends who have been responsible for the program, is that every one of them without exception has said that this is the most interesting and diverse Worldcon program that they've seen in ages.

Now I haven't been responsible for any of it. They have no reason to tell me this beyond simple conversation and the enthusiasm they feel for the program.

These people have been around for years, been to a lot of conventions, and they are seriously impressed, not just because it's a good program, but because it's a program so good they want to go to a lot of it. They've also commented on the way the programmers worked with them very favourably.

I mention this because there's stuff that has not been allowed to happen here.

The base reason seems to come down to - this is Worldcon, and you aren't allowed to do this, this, and that, because we don't do things that way. This is why the madcap entertainment events that are pretty much a staple of the evening program at many Australian conventions aren't happening here, because Worldcon doesn't do that.

I think the elephant in the room here is this - what is the bloody point of having the Worldcon in different countries if they have to do everything the same? Seriously, why even bother? It's like travelling all over the world and instead of eating in a variety of restaurants, only ever eating at McDonalds.

I would think the reason for having a World convention that moves from country to country would be to experience those other fandoms. Yes, there will be stuff you don't like, but there will also be the surprises. It's the difference between having a worldcon and a Worldcon.

I'm not saying that there isn't a lot of good advice to be given, a lot of experience to help avoid common perils and pitfalls, but there is a huge difference between offering help and knowledge, and dictating terms. And let's face it, even with all that pressure to do things in very particular ways, there are still Worldcons that are utter disasters.

So if even with all the pressure to do things the 'right' way it all goes hideously wrong, is there any point to trying to force the cookie-cutter convention on people? Why not instead help people to run their Worldcon, complete with all those exciting differences? Help them find ways of introducing people to the unique ways they celebrate they genre in their country, not to mention the individuality of the country itself.

Or is this need for things to be just so yet another example of that old fannish paradox, that the people who are in theory looking excitedly at a new and different future, are deathly afraid of anything remotely resembling change?
linkReply

Comments:
[User Picture]From: arcadiagt5
2010-09-03 10:54 am (UTC)
And nothing like a Trailer Park either. Surely with Grant here that could have been a fabulous draw card and hilariously entertaining.
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[User Picture]From: vegetus
2010-09-03 11:57 pm (UTC)
You assume Grant would have the time/inclination to do something like that. As with all volunteer-y events don't expect someone else to do it- volunteer yourself :)
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[User Picture]From: arcadiagt5
2010-09-04 01:00 am (UTC)
Given How much Grant HAS done for AussieCon I wouldn't have expected it anyway. I was just using it as an example of the types of events that don't seem to "fit" into worldcons.
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[User Picture]From: vegetus
2010-09-04 01:18 am (UTC)
Yes I know.

But my point still stands.
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[User Picture]From: drew_bowie
2010-09-03 10:54 am (UTC)
The only thing I have to say just now?

Well fucking said sir!
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[User Picture]From: arcadiagt5
2010-09-03 10:54 am (UTC)
Oh yes, hoping to pay a visit tomorrow!
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[User Picture]From: callistra
2010-09-03 03:52 pm (UTC)
There's going to be a couple of gynaecon panels...
:-)
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[User Picture]From: arcadiagt5
2010-09-03 09:30 pm (UTC)
Yes but the gynaecon panels cover serious topics and are therefore worthy and allowed.

Raw Cordial or Danny's magical hat of mystery (I hope I remembered that right)? Not so much.
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[User Picture]From: vegetus
2010-09-03 11:59 pm (UTC)
I think the magical hat belonged to John.
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[User Picture]From: arcadiagt5
2010-09-04 01:02 am (UTC)
Quite possibly. :)
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[User Picture]From: dalekboy
2010-09-04 01:45 am (UTC)
Yep, John and/or Grant came up with the idea. Various actual hats have been used with a variety of owners.
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[User Picture]From: kaths
2010-09-03 09:50 pm (UTC)
What kind of things?
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[User Picture]From: dalekboy
2010-09-04 02:20 am (UTC)
Kind of hard to say. It seems to be a case of when you try to do something that 'is not done,' you get told you can't do it.

I got given a few examples, but the only one that really stuck was the evening program one, because that makes a fairly substantial change to what can be done.

Oh, and I got the impression that if something was well organised but not the way they'd have done it, there complaints and some changes were enforced.
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From: ozdragonlady
2010-09-03 10:33 pm (UTC)

Not allowed?

This is Melbourne, not Denver ... hop in there and have your own version of whatever is "not allowed" - what are they going to do? ignore you? After all, whether "private event" or not, these are public places. A spontaneous event in a public lounge space can hardly be prevented.

*thinking of causing a flash-mob event* .... hehehe
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[User Picture]From: cheshirenoir
2010-09-04 12:11 am (UTC)
Another "Hear hear" from me.

Mind you I'm happy to see some new ideas make it through. Sad, however, that my suggestion for a "Delia Derbyshire" didn't make it through.
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[User Picture]From: vegetus
2010-09-04 12:15 am (UTC)
Why isn't it "allowed"? Is it that noone volunteered to run it, or is it mentioned in the terms of agreement for hosting the Worldcon, was it blocked by the committee (and if so was that blocked because of tradition or something else), or is it the well of negativity inherent in fandom or something else?

Do you think if Worldcon wasn't so US centric in the location this would happen? Could this be changed by forcing the con to be held in different countries (or regions) every year? Though as I've commented elsewhere you could hold a SF con in the middle of the bloody nowhere or even in Dullsville and people would still go and rave about how great it was.

Is the geography of SF something people find of interest? Is there actual variation because of culture or because of the label of the convention? Would you find some of the "banned" things happening at a ComicCon, Eastercon or a World Fantasy Convention? Is it the traditional demographic of a type of convention causing it to stagnate? How does Worldcon compare to similar conventions in getting in new people, and how well does it retain the old? How judgmental are people about "things going wrong" compared to other fandom groups?

Shit, I could have written my thesis on all that!

Or I could just default to "pfft, fans don't like change and cling to their traditions with their dear life." Which might not actually be the case.
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[User Picture]From: dalekboy
2010-09-04 01:57 am (UTC)
It really seems to come down to, "This is the way we've always done it, so don't you dare try and change a thing."

What I find offensive about the programmers being told they weren't to run evening stuff is that the rooms are paid for for the entire day, and end up sitting there empty for the evenings. It's a huge waste of cash.

Also, for people who are shy and don't have friends at the con, this leaves them with nothing to attend beyond parties, which can be just too intimidating if you're shy.

And there is always the background threat of your worldcon being taken away from you and run by folks from overseas. I remember there was a real concern for a while in '99 that that might happen. So there's a very real feeling of 'our way or the highway.'

You raise a lot of good stuff that I'd love to talk with you about, but I'm flat out at the mo'.
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[User Picture]From: stephen_dedman
2010-09-08 10:00 am (UTC)
Agree with pretty much all of this, particularly evening programming. My first Worldcon was Conspiracy in 1987, where the hotel management prohibited parties (gee, that sounds familiar) and the only after-dinner options were filk and the video stream. If people are willing to be on panels or other events against the masquerade or the Hugos, why shouldn't they be permitted to do so?
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[User Picture]From: smofbabe
2010-09-11 09:39 am (UTC)
I would very much like to have more details about what was asked for, and what was refused and by whom. I do know that when I was asked in Program Ops for a room for an evening program ("Pirate People"), I provided one. While the Masquerade and Hugo ceremony are generally not programmed against any more than the GoH speeches are, other nights are generally more flexible.

And there is always the background threat of your worldcon being taken away from you and run by folks from overseas.

Frankly, I heard this from a few other people and I am pretty steamed about it. In several major areas, Australians initially volunteered to run areas and then decided it was too much work and bailed out. I think that the Australians who make this complaint should realise that they owe a debt of gratitude to the people from overseas who took over areas due to Australians reneging (in one case, literally the day before the convention) rather than complaining about not enough Australians running things. It especially annoys me when (present company excepted) Australians who never put their own hand up to volunteer to help feel free to complain about the lack of Australians running things.
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[User Picture]From: angriest
2010-09-12 08:19 am (UTC)
I don't want to participate in a mass post-con blamestorming session. I just wanted to confirm that I was specifically instructed not to develop any panels or presentations for the evenings.

I have also heard the whole "the American SMOFs will take over your Worldcon if they don't like how it's run" thing, and not just in relation to Aussiecon 4. I think it's just one of the running myths that comes from so many US fans working on the convention, no matter what country it gets held in.
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[User Picture]From: smofbabe
2010-09-12 08:27 am (UTC)
Ah, yes, it's true that we didn't plan to run regular programming at night (which, btw, is not in any kind of worldcon locked-in tradition: some worldcons do and some don't). However, I thought Danny was talking about some sort of special local-themed evening happenings.
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[User Picture]From: redbraids
2010-09-04 03:08 am (UTC)
Is the geography of SF

Oh yeah!
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[User Picture]From: jocko55
2010-09-04 01:31 pm (UTC)

Why bother to subvert the dominent paradyme.

I have had the feeling for a while that A4 is a Big Mac Worldcon, with fresh Australian and some imported ingredients organized to a standard recipe and producing a product just like those back at head office, who will be happy that the standard model works in a foreign land. This is not a bad thing, as we know the standard model works safely and cleanly and our franchisees are quite able and organized. For me, well I don't eat Big Macs and A4 is an chance to catch up with friends. see you'll tomorrow.
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[User Picture]From: mireille21
2010-09-04 01:28 pm (UTC)
"...what is the bloody point of having the Worldcon in different countries if they have to do everything the same?"

Ditto. This is what I was saying back in '99 and I still feel very much the same now.
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From: (Anonymous)
2010-09-05 12:04 pm (UTC)
I was thinking about this in the car on the way home and I agree entirely.
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From: (Anonymous)
2010-09-05 12:08 pm (UTC)
That was me - Rachel H. Can't be assed logging in.
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[User Picture]From: kremmen
2010-09-09 07:11 am (UTC)
A4 had some of the standard items (Hugo awards, masquerade, etc), but failed to have some of the others (con suite, dead dog party, etc). Some of this makes economic sense. A con suite (i.e. place while provides softdrink and nibbles all day for free) would indeed be very expensive, given how our hotels behave. Some of it makes no economic sense at all. Having rooms paid for and not using them is quite inane. A dead dog party would have cost very little. (Though, as I guessed by the announcement of the volunteers' party at the closing, that and the hallway outside pretty much turned into a de facto dead dog anyhow.)

As you've mentioned, some of the problem is fear. How much divergence from the norm would cause the powers that be to try to sweep in and kill it? Who knows? A4 would have been much better off a month later in decent weather. Some few SMoFs would have been annoyed if A4 wasn't on their chosen US-centric date. Would they have cared enough to try to, say, run an opposing bid? I doubt it. But then, I'd let them if they were that obsessed. My preference is "do it well" in front of "do it here". The egos running A4 would (understandably, even though I don't agree) have those preferences the other way around, and hence buckled to most demands for keeping to the US McWorldcon standard.

When you ask whether it's fear of change, you have to be more specific. If change means taking away, altering or moving something, yes. Generally, fans will object to the things they want and expect being taken away. (It was obvious that lack of a dead dog pissed a lot of people off and soured the end of A4.) They won't object to new things being added.

Does fun evening entertainment ever happen at Worldcons? You bet. At Montreal last year, the convention centre opened up their rooftop area for us on the night of the international fireworks display a few blocks away. Sure, the con wasn't providing anything beyond rooftop space, but they could have just ignored it too. The 2004 Worldcon had a brilliant first night evening programme. It was possibly the best start to a Worldcon ever. If anyone feeds you the bullshit about Worldcons never having evening programming apart from the Hugos and masquerade, point them at that. It's just a cop-out.
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[User Picture]From: smofbabe
2010-09-12 12:12 am (UTC)
Some few SMoFs would have been annoyed if A4 wasn't on their chosen US-centric date. Would they have cared enough to try to, say, run an opposing bid? I doubt it.

Before you start making claims, I suggest that you try looking at the facts: check out the dates for the past several worldcons and you will see that they have been run on several different weekends other than the one used by A4. Your claim is completely bogus - the date for Aussiecon 4 was chosen by the committee because it is the latest of the traditional worldcon (not *US* worldcon) dates and meant it would have the best chance at decent weather. It had nothing to do with somehow annoying "some few SMOFs."


Edited at 2010-09-12 03:07 am (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: kremmen
2010-09-12 08:04 am (UTC)
"Traditional worldcon dates" is exactly the same thing. Whose tradition? Who cares? Certainly not Aussie fans, 90% of whom never attend a worldcon outside Australia.

Where have the last several Worldcons been run? Oh, in the Northern hemisphere. The US-preferred traditional dates work fine for other Northern hemisphere cons. It totally makes sense for other worldcons to stick with US tradition when there is no downside for them. Would anyone want Glasgow to hold a con other than in summer? I doubt it.

Winter/early spring dates can be okay for a local con here that's in one building, but worldcons are long and spread over an area. Walking back to the Hilton from the Crowne Plaza at 2am was predictably nasty. October/November would have been lovely. Why would anyone choose "traditional" Northern hemisphere dates that pretty much ensure crappy weather here for a Melbourne Worldcon? Tradition is an appalling answer that basically amounts to "because that's what US SMoFs expect".
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[User Picture]From: angriest
2010-09-12 08:20 am (UTC)
Is it SMOFs dictating that, though, or a convention committee's perception of the desires of the "rank and file" international fans?

I don't know the answer myself.
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[User Picture]From: kremmen
2010-09-12 11:21 am (UTC)
That is indeed unknown, as I said. How much divergence from the norm would upset enough of them? Nobody knows unless they test the waters. Even then, I'm sure it's not an absolute. The attitudes of the long-term US fan base are going to be made up of many judgments concerning different aspects of the con.

smofbabe claims that "voters and attendees have a right to expect that you pay some attention to worldcon tradition" and yet leaps to the fanciful and disingenuous conclusion that I'm paranoid to think that those exact attitudes don't influence the con committees, but I'm sure you won't fall for that.

I'll certainly admit that I can see why that fear is there, as a worldcon is a big, expensive undertaking. Let's face it: it's the easy choice to keep the US fans happy. Nobody wants theirs shot down, or even to receive less help from the experts, so they will tend to err on the side of caution.

It will be interesting to see what happens if the NZ bid becomes reality. Many of us are going to attend a worldcon in our own country no matter what, so A4 being timed to attract US fans makes some sense for pure numbers, even if it was detrimental to the experience. However, NZ is close enough be on the radar for many Aussie fans, but far enough and expensive enough not to be an automatic entry in the diary. If the choice is to pick winter for the Americans or to pick a pleasant time of year that everyone will enjoy, I wonder which way they will go?
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[User Picture]From: smofbabe
2010-09-12 11:44 am (UTC)
I did not think you were paranoid to think that worldcon tradition should influence con comittees. I do think that you tend to see conspiracies involving "US SMoFs" where none exist. This isn't the first time you've invoked this bogeyman.
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[User Picture]From: kremmen
2010-09-12 12:59 pm (UTC)
Wow. I don't actually think this is a huge issue. It was just an example in response to the original post. However, if you do think it's worth discussion, how about keeping to something of substance, rather than all the attempts at emotive and/or ad hominem distractions. "Bogeyman", "paranoia", "conspiracy", "this isn't the first time", blah, blah, blah.

It's pretty clear to me that my use of the word "few" should be a hint that "conspiracy" is an inaccurate characterisation of my opinion on this. If I'd said "lots and lots", that might have been a fair response.

What is the difference between "conspiracy" and "influence", except for one's subjective assessment of the merit of the effect? (... and your desire to frame your opinions as inherently good and other people's as bad.)
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[User Picture]From: smofbabe
2010-09-12 01:09 pm (UTC)
It's not a matter of my opinions being good and other people's being bad. I just prefer to see claims based on facts rather than guesses and suspicion.

And, actually, no, I don't think it's worth much further discussion.
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[User Picture]From: smofbabe
2010-09-12 08:24 am (UTC)
Keep in mind that you are part of a parade of worldcons that are coming before your con and after yours. Significantly changing the months in which worldcon is run would, among other things, screw up the Hugo nomination and voting intervals, and also mess with the next year's worldcon dates and timing.

In addition, a large number of fans came from overseas for this convention, and Northern Hemisphere summer is when they tend to be able to get leave.

Finally, it's not like the committee submitted some other dates that were knocked back by some mysterious cabal - this mainly seems to be your own strange paranoia about "US SMoFS."

If you want to run a large Australian-centric convention and bring in guests, feel free. However, if you bid to run the worldcon, it is a trust. That doesn't mean you have to slavishly adhere only to things that have been done in the past, but at the same time, voters and attendees have a right to expect that you pay some attention to worldcon tradition.
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