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Barrett Manor

Julie Barrett is a freelance writer and photographer based in Plano, TX.

Here we go again

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett


Well. I had this huge post and I deleted it. It was just coming out wrong.

Long story short: FedConUSA kind of imploded over the weekend. You can go to their site, read their statement, and spend hours picking through the message boards if you're interested in what happened.

As I mentioned on Friday, I'm on the concom for FenCon, a local literary SF convention that is preparing for their fifth year. As I said Friday, we are a separate organization. We harbor no ill will towards the other organization, and hope the best for them.

Our problem is that we started to get inquiries from fans wondering if we were that group and what in the heck were we doing. So we're trying to get the word out that these are two separate organizations.

This isn't the first time a convention has faltered or simply gone under here, and it probably won't be the last. Conventions are expensive to operate. There seem to be two main kinds of conventions these days - the non-profit fan event run on a shoestring and the extravaganzas with many media guests. Believe me, one can go under just as easily as the other. Sometimes when stuff happens, you have no control. There was one convention I was involved with that looked like it was going to make money ... until the eartquake hit. I kid you not. As I recall, the executive committee managed to pare budgets and get the event to break even. A good time was had by those who attended.

We had a spate of con competition here in the early to mid 1990's that was brutal. Local guys were trying to become the top dog, and national outside organizations would try to get dates just before local, fan-run events. The upshot was that the fans would go to the fan-run events, but had no money to spend. When the fans have no money to spend, the dealers won't come back, which kills a significant part of a non-profit con's budget. Dallas has spent a lot of time and effort to get the fan-run conventions going again. We're all friends and attend each other's events. Competition - if any - is friendly.

You have to understand that these smaller, fan-run affairs generally don't charge for autographs or photo ops or reserved seating. We have a "friend" level at FenCon that provides a few goodies (like a T-shirt or tote bag) plus a "friends only" signing with the headliners. However, this isn't the only signing. There are plenty of opportunities for fans to get autographs and pictures with not only the headliners, but all of the guests. I think that's a very important distinction. These smaller cons don't always have a plethora of media guests (they may have one or two if they can afford it), but there are plenty of opportunities for the fans to mingle with the guests, ask questions, etc. Fans do have an opportunity to "buy" autographs - in the charity auction. But that's above and beyond the other open autograph sessions, and the money from the charity auction goes straight to the charity.

Heh. That turned out to be a little more long-winded than the post I deleted. Don't go checking the Google cache; I killed it before I hit the "post" button.

Just to sum up: I feel bad that a convention had to implode on our doorstep, but it happens. It's going to be up to others to the autopsy on that one. I'm not even going to speculate. I hope, though, that they will be able to refund everyone's money. Sure looks like they're going to try.

And now I'm off to do real work and finish the laundry!

(Oh, and pardon any typos. The heat is really doing me in today.)

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Filed under: Conventions            
6/16/2008 4:52:54 PM
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