March 26th, 2001

self portrait

Stuff and nonsense

Friends of mine are going to be working on putting on the local science fiction convention, Minicon, next year. I went to the "organizational meeting" on Saturday mostly to hear what it would be all about. I had heard previously that two relatively young friends of mine were working on a bid for the convention and went partially to hear what other groups of folks might be thinking of doing the same.

Turns out, there were no other bids to run the convention. ("No Award" was proposed as an option, but soundly defeated.)

A few years back, there was a hue and cry raised in the local sf community about this convention. It was, at that time, an avalanche of an affair. Every Easter weekend, thousands of fans and those who were friends with them, would hurtle through the weekend, gathering up anything in their path. Largely, it was a good time but, like any other time you get a few thousand people together, there were problems. And problems mean someone has to handle them. The people running the convention were stressed, and turnover in that group was growing. All that meant that the convention was losing expertise and that built the vicious circle.

I used to help run Minicon. Specifically, I helped run the Parties department, which largely meant organizing and running the con-suite, our 24-hour hospitality suite. I have some fond memories of those days, and some not so fond. I eventually had to stop helping run Minicon. I think I got out before I burnt out and was healthier for it.

So a group of people, many of whom were friends of mine, got together and came up with a plan to stop the vicious circle. They called their thoughts the High Resolution Proposal, or something like that. The general view was that while Minicon was ostensibly the sf convention of the local club, it had become the de facto Mid-west Spring Alternative Culture Festival. Most everyone involved was OK with that, as far as it went. What the High Resolution group pointed out was that while the club generally liked Minicon, it no longer had the resources to put it on successfully. So rather than let it blow up and harm the club, they proposed doing only those things we really liked and had resources to put on year after year. This was the only thing I'd heard in the years since I'd stopped helping run Minicon that made me think it might be OK to work on it again.

The unfortunate truth is that fairly innocuous proposal came out through various means (as well as various interpretations) as: if you like X, go away! (I think the strongest actual message I got that was close to this was, "If you only like X, go away. )

The, rather unfortunate, result of that was that many people chose to not attend Minicon and attendance dropped dramatically. Probably more than many who proposed the changes ever dreamed it would.

Part of the bid my friend Erik put forth was the idea that, in making Minicon more focused, that things may have proceeded too far. He hopes to reintroduce some things that have not been part of recent Minicons. He also proposes to add more volunteer staff to make those things work. He is blessed, in a way, to be working on building up from a strong core. There are good people that have worked on the last few Minicons and many of them will be returning to help next year. So there should be little, if any loss in those areas that Minicon has continued to offer the last few years. Where new things are considered, they can be evaluated based on the resources that present themselves. If there are people that will organize and run a film/video room and funds necessary for such a function are within the budget goals of Minicon, then, by all means, present such a feature.

For the world at large, it probably looks a bit unusual for so many people to care so much about what goes on or doesn't go on Easter weekend in Minneapolis. For many, however, this convention symbolizes their chosen family or at least their connection to it. All the things that families can fight over, we've fought over. All the ways that families can love, we've loved. Here's hoping that the emotions involved don't get in the way of us all having a great time.
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