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I'm starting to wonder ...

If WorldCon is superfluous.

I honestly don't believe that they had 6000 in LA. Sales were down and lots of mid-westerners weren't there.
Smoffish politics seem as vicious and partisan as Party politics and as un-productive.

It would appear that there are no amateurs left in fandom.
Dealers and artists seem to be mostly pros now. So many of the dealers I spoke to are motoring their way cross country to Dragoncon. They spend their lives going between ren faires and craft shows. Artists don't come to cons any more. they mail their art and it's mostly prints.
And now, it seems, that folks won't come and speak on panels unless they are paid. (I'd call getting your membership comped plus a comp for your SO is getting paid.) Except for the filk track which doesn't count as programming.

I'm tired and I didn't have as much fun as I should have.

It used to be fun here.
I guess I'm a dinosaur.

GHR

Comments

( 29 comments — Leave a comment )
also_huey
Aug. 29th, 2006 06:38 am (UTC)
And now, it seems, that folks won't come and speak on panels unless they are paid. (I'd call getting your membership comped plus a comp for your SO is getting paid.)

Er, pardon me, but that's demented.

If I'm a writer, struggling to get by on what a writer makes, there's no way in hell I'm going to take time out of doing what I get paid for so I can drive further than an hour or two's drive away from my house in order to attend some function, when I'm not even getting gas money for my trouble - and if it's halfway around the planet and I'm expected to magically crap my own plane tickets and hotel room tab, don't even bother sending me the invitation.

Applause and con-sex do not pay the morgage. Unless you're looking for that handful of folks who are both 1) successful enough to pay their own freight, and 2) egotistical enough to want to go just so's they can hear their own voice (and I think the only person to whom both of those applies is Harlan Ellison) then it's unreasonable to expect out-of-town professionals to show up just because you're giving them a free con badge or two.

For other opinions on the subject, see sclerotic_rings post here (scroll down to "We'd like you to attend our convention/conference/lecture. Would you be interested?") or Randy Milholland's FAQ here (scroll down to "Q: How come you're never at a con in my area / Are you going to be at [insert name of con]?"). The question basically boils down to "I think your time isn't just worthless, it has negative value, ergo you should be happy to spend money on plane tickets and hotel rooms just so you can donate some of it to my convention; will you?"

I'm entirely unsurprised that people say 'no'.
tarkrai
Aug. 29th, 2006 12:37 pm (UTC)
And this points out the difference between a fan and someone who makes money from fans.

Mind you- you can still *be* both- and going to cons always has to consider the financial/time off costs.

But if your decision tree doesn't include in there somewhere, "ooh, COOL, I *wanna* go cuz x, y, and z will be there!" I maintain that you're more on the pro side than the fan side.

Gretchen wasn't venting about compensating panelists. She's venting about compensating the spouses of panelists, in order to entice them to be there. And by association; there's some sadness that it's had to come to that to ensure enough panelists to even *have* the convention.
also_huey
Aug. 29th, 2006 08:07 pm (UTC)
But if your decision tree doesn't include in there somewhere, "ooh, COOL, I *wanna* go cuz x, y, and z will be there!" I maintain that you're more on the pro side than the fan side.

I wasn't speaking for myself. The social aspect is definitely part of my decision tree. My current wife and I managed to finesse work-sponsorship to a tradeshow-junket-slash-vacation where we got married. I was just pointing out that it's not unreasonable, if you're putting professionals on stage, to pay them, and in something more valuable than con-badges.

Dunno if this is coincidence or not, but in a recent post, Hanne Blank seems to agree.
tarkrai
Aug. 29th, 2006 10:15 pm (UTC)
I don't disagree with you, specifically. That is, after all, what a professional is- someone who is paid for what they know/can do.

The difference I'm trying to illustrate is that if you're going anyway because you *want* to; volunteering your time is what was more common, and appears to be more rare these days.

I've been on the receiving end of "hey, spend all your hard earned dough and come to my con!", too. But, as always, I make the choice based on what's doable.
billroper
Sep. 1st, 2006 03:24 pm (UTC)
I think that you've confused being a Guest of Honor at a local or regional convention (where it's normal to pay the guests way) with being a panelist at the Worldcon, where the normal situation is that you pay for your registration and if the con has a surplus you are reimbursed later. The latter is what daisy_knotwise is speaking of here.

The Worldcon and professional authors have a symbiotic relationship. The Worldcon delivers five to six thousand fans, predominantly readers of SF, to one place. The panels and readings are an opportunity for the authors to market themselves to those readers.

(Assuming, in this example, that the authors have no other interest in attending Worldcon.)
filkertom
Aug. 29th, 2006 08:28 am (UTC)
Of course more people have gone pro. We're putting our lives into this; it's only logical, fair and reasonable to try to get something back.

And there is indeed a problem I've noticed a lot the past two years, when it's been more important: Some (not all, but some) conventions want to get by as cheaply as possible. (Can I get a "No, duh"? Thank you.) I think back with great fondness to the days of the Sieglings running MarCon; they had an awe-inspiring war chest and weren't too afraid to use it.

I also have a slightly different perspective, as my primary commodity to offer is not expertise but entertainment. Sometimes I identify with the "Something Wicked This Way Comes" chorus in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Both in the movie and in the making of the movie, I shudder to think how much work went into that... and then frickin' Dumbledore talks over their applause, not even saying "thank you" to the students who stood up there harmonizing with frogs for his background amusement.

I certainly feel that way at Dragon. I mean, we've managed over the past few years to get a decent niche, and there are some very good fannish and funny and Celtic music acts there... but the goth bands get the hype and the stage time. They're cramming six or seven funny-music acts into the ballroom, sure... for a total of two hours with setup and teardown for each. I will bet money that Heather frickin Alexander gets maybe one set on the music concourse stage, maybe, and at least two in the Hyatt's third basement. I speak from experience. The advantage of Dragon is that it's so big that there's almost no way not to make money if you can get any face time. And, honestly, the Dragon con-com folks are very nice and very helpful and they do offer what they can... but they're going for media audiences, and that cuts into their entertainment budget, which I think is kinda nuts because the media celebs just sit there and there's several dozen of them and after awhile there's overload and let's just say I have very bad memories of the one Motor City Comic Con I did.

A number of conventions [a] don't think much of filk and [b] don't want to offer much recompense but [c] want to work my ass off and [d] just naturally assume I'll do several hours of performance in a row, often with no set-up, immediately after a panel that refused to break up at its scheduled time and immediately before another panel that refuses to let me even get off the "stage" with dignity.

I've been trying to explain to them that performance is work. For precisely the same reason, some panels are more work than others. And, dammit, if you want me to keep several dozen, or several hundred, convention attendees happy and thinking well of your con, give me reason to do so, and frickin' tell 'em I'm there. I work cheap, really. (And I still, in this economy, get conventions asking if I'm coming to such-and-such, sometimes at the last second. Oh, of course I'd love to drive eleven hours one way with $3.00/gallon gas and no guarantee of expenses. I've had to barter with conventions because (horrors!) it might cost them something for me to come sing for them.

You know I'm not an egomaniac, Gretchen. But sometimes I'm the biggest draw these cons have. And they quibble over the badge.

I may have to drop "The World's Fastest Filker" at some point, if only because I've been making it a point (a contractual point when possible) to be referred to as "Music Guest" rather than "Filk Guest" so I've got a chance of getting some audience, or at least getting past the general prejudice against filk. And it's yet another point against hyping my serious songs, of which I'm writing more and getting more comfortable doing in concert, because those songs have the taint of filk, which immediately shoves me down past the writers, the artists, the gamers, down into the area of the involuntarily-drafted-into-service children of gofers on the Respect-O-Meter. My hardcore fans like 'em, but to get noticed by some of the bigger (and, ironically, sometimes stingier) cons and the not-filk attendees I have to be All Comedy All The Time.

End rant. :)
catalana
Aug. 29th, 2006 03:00 pm (UTC)
And it's yet another point against hyping my serious songs, of which I'm writing more and getting more comfortable doing in concert, because those songs have the taint of filk

That's a shame - I love your serious songs; I think one of the things that makes you such a gifted writer is that you can write both roll-on-the ground hilarious sons and incredibly stirring serious ones. It's rare for people to do both really well. (Roper also has this ability, and I think it's one of the things that makes him such a good performer.)
mia_mcdavid
Aug. 29th, 2006 09:33 pm (UTC)
Filk
"I've been making it a point (a contractual point when possible) to be referred to as "Music Guest" rather than "Filk Guest" so I've got a chance of getting some audience, or at least getting past the general prejudice against filk."

See, now, this whole general prejudice against filk thing makes me so sad.

1) any number of great filkers (I use the word unashemedly) do both serious and funny stuff, and write both serious and funny stuff. Leslie Fish. Frank Hayes. Juanita Colson. How did filk become synonymous with bad parody? I can guess--I suspect it followed from "He filked her song", as a linguistic construction. It's still an awful shame.

2) filk is part of our history and tradition as fen. To denigrate filk is to denigrate fandom. Let us not be ashamed of who we are.

3) filk is some of the best fun I've ever had with my clothes on. Worldcon filks. Chicago chaos filks. GT filks. It's just wrong that such a joyful thing should get such a bad rep.

Best wishes . . .
tigertoy
Aug. 30th, 2006 01:45 am (UTC)
Re: Filk
I suspect it followed from "He filked her song", as a linguistic construction.

I beg to differ; I've been aware of everyone except self-identifying filkers looking down their noses at filk as being bad for as long as I've been in filk (plus old war stories from before then), but I think "filk" as a transitive verb is a newer usage.

I think that there's a general impression in non-filk fandom that filk is bad because, to be quite frank, 25 years ago the vast majority of it was pretty bad. The people who were in fandom then, stuck their heads in on a filk once and ran away screaming, haven't bothered to notice that it's changed enormously, and they now make up a majority of the SMOFs and con-runners, so people who are new to fannish politics and want to score points, you adopt that attitude. And, of course, once you know that filk is unpleasant to listen to, you have no reason to expose yourself to any. Plus, this attitude is still perpetuated by what passes for filk in some parts of the country. I am rather disgusted, for instance, with the attitude of some well-known people in the Minneapolis crowd to filk -- but my disgust was tempered quite a bit by what I heard when I actually went into the officially designated filk room at the Minicons I've attended, before I left and found the real filk, which was whatever "music circle" Dave Clement was in.
mia_mcdavid
Aug. 30th, 2006 03:01 pm (UTC)
Re: Filk
"I think that there's a general impression in non-filk fandom that filk is bad because, to be quite frank, 25 years ago the vast majority of it was pretty bad."

Not in my experience. I came into fandom in Chicago 28 years ago. Gordy Dickson of blessed memory was still filking. So was Poul Anderson. Ann Passavoy and Frank Hayes were filking. Leslie Fish and Juanita Coulson and Roper were filking. Howie Harrison was still singing The Birdie Song. There was a ton of good stuff happening.

Of course, we were all young and enthusiastic. "Banned from Argo" hadn't been sung often enough to be trite yet. We were willing to sing about rockets and dragons unselfconsciously because we were so glad to have them and to have each other to appreciate them with. We are all older and more cynical now.

"I am rather disgusted, for instance, with the attitude of some well-known people in the Minneapolis crowd to filk -- but my disgust was tempered quite a bit by what I heard when I actually went into the officially designated filk room at the Minicons I've attended, before I left and found the real filk, which was whatever "music circle" Dave Clement was in."

Oh, no, that wasn't a filk. I live in Minneapolis now, and almost nobody with a guitar in a convention hotel at 4:00 AM will admit to filking. Almost everyone in the Cities is far too cool to filk. One can understand the dynamics of the things, but it's very much too bad.
tigertoy
Aug. 31st, 2006 02:13 pm (UTC)
Re: Filk
I should re-phrase that. When I first got into filking, there was one artist out there with professional quality recordings -- Leslie Fish. All filkers were fans who happened to have a bit of a musical bent. The technical quality of the average performance was far, far lower than it is today, and while it was good enough I could enjoy it, I can accept that it was painful for a lot of people who never hear any music performed below the near-perfect quality of commercial recordings. Today, many popular filkers were gigging professional musicians first. There are hundreds of excellent recordings available. The quality of musicianship at the filks I attend is far higher, and anyone who actually attends what I think of as a typical filk today and says that most of the songs aren't performed well enough to be worth listening to is simply not worth talking to about music.
mia_mcdavid
Aug. 31st, 2006 04:00 pm (UTC)
Re: Filk
"The technical quality of the average performance was far, far lower than it is today,"

Yeah, but we sure had fun.
tigertoy
Aug. 30th, 2006 01:54 am (UTC)
I may have to drop "The World's Fastest Filker" at some point,

I have to say you need to tread very carefully around that; if you come across as being too good for filk, you could lose a lot of loyalty in your filk audience.
madfilkentist
Aug. 29th, 2006 09:44 am (UTC)
I'd call getting your membership comped plus a comp for your SO is getting paid.

That's the second time I've heard about it, from two rather widely separated sources, so I guess it's true. So Craig Miller was saying that LACon had to practice triage on program participants because the budget was so tight, and yet the con could give out memberships to people whose only contribution was being married to someone who was on some (non-filk) panels?

Argh.
reddragdiva
Aug. 29th, 2006 10:07 am (UTC)
"I'd call getting your membership comped plus a comp for your SO is getting paid."

It's evident they disagree.
pheltzer
Aug. 29th, 2006 12:24 pm (UTC)
I think a distinction needs to be made... are you talking about various and sundry "Guests of Honor" or whatever they want to be called expecting to be compensated or are we talking about everyone else who sits on a discussion panel wanting to get compensated.

The way I look at the panelist part... these are people who were going to be at the convention anyway and have something of interest to share with the rest of the attendees. Comp them their badge, give them access to the green room and call it a night.

If you've specifically requested someone attend the con who wouldn't otherwise be there, you've bumped them into a "Guest" slot and you need to be prepared to do more for them if they so request.

And before I get my head bitten off... by panelist I mean anyone who provides some sort of service/function for the con where they interact with the rest of the membership and are for all intents and purposes "On stage" for a given timeframe.
johnridley
Aug. 29th, 2006 12:37 pm (UTC)
That's probably where I'd draw the line as well. If someone is coming only because they were asked to come and do something, then they need some compensation. But if someone who was going to attend anyway comes to a discussion of something they're knowledgeable about, I don't think they should get paid just because they're facing the back of the room rather than the front. It wouldn't even cross my mind to ask for compensation for sitting on a panel.

This sounds like another step down the road of conventions moving away from the volunteer-run membership groups and towards a bunch of people paying admission to be entertained. As you say, that's going pro. There's nothing wrong with going pro, and there's nothing wrong with panelists not giving away their time if that's their decision.

I think there's not really anything wrong with a convention deciding to go with paid entertainment, but they shouldn't try to fool anyone, including themselves, about what they're doing, which is to move away from the traditional convention formula and towards an entertainment event, more akin to a commercial trekkie convention.
tarkrai
Aug. 29th, 2006 12:28 pm (UTC)
Yes, Victoria; the demographic has changed. (Gretchen- I totally agree with you. I'm just giving my reasons for agreeeing with you... ;)).

I mean, let's just look at your post, and the responses above.

We have someone who goes to Worldcon to connect with her *community*; posting about how many aspects of that community no longer seem to exist.

We have an author ranting about his pocketbook.

We have a professional musician (filker cum pro) who also points out the costs of fandom.

Some additional commentary on spouses of panelists getting comped. I agree- that's being *paid*.

NO commentary whatsoever on what Worldcon is FOR.

Folks, Worldcon is supposed to be worldwide SF/F fandom coming together in a huge melting pot of ideas, conversation, music, laughter, and forward thinking.

Professional authors didn't go to Worldcon to get face time to market their new book- they went because their *friends* went. They went to recognize excellence in their own ranks.

Yeah- that's changed. I agree- it's sad to see.

Discussing the costs of surviving and marketing oneself in this venue are all well and good- but I feel they are off-topic. I don't think they were what Gretchen was getting at.

Worldcon is supposed to be an extension of the joy and fun of connecting (yeah, con-sex too... *g*). IMO it *has* suffered over the years due to the increase of media attention; Dragon*Con and its ilk.

And there's no hope of carving our worldwide community function back out unless *someone* raises a hand and says, "Umm... excuse me? This was not what I came here for."

Gretchen, if you're a dinosaur, I'm just as extinct as you are.
tarkrai
Aug. 29th, 2006 12:31 pm (UTC)
Professional authors didn't go to Worldcon to get face time to market their new book- they went because their *friends* went.

And before I get *my* head bitten off- of COURSE they went to market their stories, too. I just don't feel that Asimov, Heinlein, Pohl, Dickson, Kornbluth, et. al. made it their primary motivation.
filkertom
Aug. 29th, 2006 01:24 pm (UTC)
I realized something of that -- not exactly that -- after I posted. And you're right, and I suppose we should all be breathing a little sigh of relief that SF/F has been mainstreamed enough that many of us don't need fandom for a support group as much as we used to.

I do think that some of it depends on which con(s) we go to. I mean, I go to Dragon 'cause it's money; I go to 'Fusion, 'Clave, MarCon, OVFF, and MillenniCon because I get to see friends. InCon, ConGlomeration and the Chicago cons are half-and-half. Obviously, any con has some of both, but those tend to be my primary tip points.
oreouk
Aug. 29th, 2006 01:51 pm (UTC)
Oh good - you articulated that better than I could, but it pretty much sums up my feelings. The idea that one would not come to worldcon unless one was being paid blows my mind, but I see it from the standpoint of liking to go to Worldcons and if something crops up that I can usefully get involved with then I do that. If I get money back then that's great but it's not expected.

Unless things have changed here without me noticing, we don't do the comping people for being involved thing, apart from giving them a t-shirt and the gopher hole, unless they're actually guests, at which point I don't know what level of remuneration is involved and how far beyond costs of travel and the hotel room it's gone. Phil and I were quite surprised when he got money back from Torcon for having had a set there.

I like that and hope it continues for as long as possible in UK (and whatever part of US it still applies to) fandom, because I don't want to be part of a fandom that's *only* participatory for the money.
pheltzer
Aug. 29th, 2006 02:20 pm (UTC)
I don't think Worldcon has become irrelevant. I think it's a victim of it's own success. Because of it's size it requires larger venues. The larger venues tend to be in larger cities. With the larger cities come larger prices, both for convention space as well as hotels, food, etc. Add in travel costs and vacation time to attend and it becomes quite the expense.

So if I'm spending that sort of time and money to essentially "go on vacation" I want there to be more to do than just sit at the convention all day every day. Which then drives the event to more tourist friendly locations that can provide outside activities. But if people are splitting their time between the convention and various and sundry outside activities they're not really at the convention being part of the "community" if you will.

Of course I think Worldcon could become more relevant by actually spending a bit more time outside the US borders. Otherwise it looks to become a glorified, travelling regional convention. Yeah I know this flies in the face of what I was saying... but if this is truly going to be a "World"con other people should get to play in the sandbox on a more regular basis. We don't always do it right, or best for that matter. Just because we did it first isn't a good thing. It's like having a World Series where teams from only two countries compete. That's a pretty narrow view of the world
tarkrai
Aug. 29th, 2006 05:44 pm (UTC)
I didn't say that it had become irrelevant- my point is just that the demographic has been slowly changing for years; and now many of the larger effects of that change are noticeable, and regrettable.

It's all Apollo's fault. Making SF *relevant*, fer chrissakes. Now the mass media is involved. sheesh. (yes, tongue is REALLY in cheek, here... ;) ).
pheltzer
Aug. 29th, 2006 06:12 pm (UTC)
Sorry the irrelevant was aimed at Gretchen's original statement and then your follow on that no one was actually addressing the points that she raised.
blueeyedtigress
Aug. 29th, 2006 04:37 pm (UTC)
A few years back, there was a kerfuffle abuot "the internet will replace cons!" Well ..... no.

But I think maybe, just maybe, the internet will replace Worldcon.

Small regional conventions have the hugs and backrubs and panels and hucksters and family-reunion-feel. The internet has the Grand Overview, the You Can Buy Anthing Here!, and the More Pros Than You Can Shake A Stick At scope. Just like Wordlcon (used to be).

Just a thought ..... ;]
tarkrai
Aug. 29th, 2006 05:39 pm (UTC)
*cough*

And I read part of that as ...The internet has the Grand Overview, the You Can Buy Anthing Hentai!...

broken brain. it hurts.
blueeyedtigress
Aug. 29th, 2006 08:34 pm (UTC)
Hrm. Feeling a bit hentai yourself lately, brother of mine? ;]
scs_11
Aug. 30th, 2006 01:53 am (UTC)
I hit Worldcon about once a decade. And frankly, I don't miss it all that much. The ease of modern communication (like, say, livejournal) has made it easier to stay in regular touch. The rise of specialty cons that draw folks I want to see means I can see many of my friends in a much less crowded environment. And with the relatively low cost of transport, I can afford to go off to some other part of the country just for the fun of visiting folks. So why pay Worldcon membership rates and hotel costs to do it? For the cost of a Worldcon I can usually hit two or three smaller gatherings where I'll have a much better chance of seeing those folks I want to see.
catalana
Aug. 30th, 2006 03:16 am (UTC)
I'm always a bit surprised when I get a membership or something comped for doing stuff. Okay, yeah, when I'm on 5 panels and have a concert, they're working me hard. *grin* But getting comped just for doing a concert? It's nice when they do it, but it's not why I come. I don't have any aspirations whatsoever to be a professional musician - I come for fun.

(And, okay, it was awesome to get to do a panel on consciousness since I have professional qualifications there...but that was the fannish part of me going "Wow! I can contribute! People care!" rather than the professional in me thinking I should get something for it. (Of course, Philosophy isn't what I'd call a really lucrative discipline, anyway. I'm not likely ever to make buckets of money for talking about consciousness. *Grin*))
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