Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee

I've Had Better Days

It's very disheartening to see things you've worked on for most of your life rubbished by people who are convinced they know much better and that could certainly do a much better job of it if they could only be bothered to do so, but they have better things to do with their time.

One of the reasons I agreed to run Events for Interaction was that I wanted to show that some of my pet peeves about Worldcon Events were not "just the way things happen." I worked to improve certain areas, building on best practices that I observed from other Worldcons, and made myself a nuisance to both my management and my staff, but I think I accomplished those things. (Credit where due: to Vincent Docherty and Collin Harris for not killing me when I became particularly obstreperous, my deputy division manager Cheryl Morgan for helping me manage many of those plans and making them possible, and particularly to the Events staff who not only didn't mutiny and keelhaul me under the Armadillo (Interaction reference; you probably had to be there), but carried off a great set of convention events.)

That means that when I gripe about Worldcon Events, I do so knowledgeably and can point to one Worldcon in particular and say, "Don't say it can't be done, because I helped prove that it can be." But there are other areas on which I've never worked directly and that I can only theorize. For instance, I've speculated about Registration in lots of ways, but have never run it directly myself, so when I suggest changes and am told by people who have done the work, "It won't work, and here's why," I don't have enough information to refute the claim and in fact am more likely to have to accept it.

I also don't think that Worldcon is All About Me. I had to put up with exactly that attitude from one particular member at ConJosé — someone who even managed to try the patience of my co-chairman, Tom Whitmore, who is far more congenial and able to suffer fools more than I am. Worldcon is not about any one particular person, from the Chairman to the staff to the program participants to every other member of the convention. And that means that sometimes the concerns of individual members are not going to trump everything else the convention does. You may think that unreasonable. Well, given the nature of Worldcon, like every other fan-run convention, the best way to Show Them All is to do it better yourself and not to flounce away insisting that of course you were right all along, but you have more important things to do and Worldcon runners are all fools and knaves for failing to recognize your obvious genius.

Don't assume that the people running Worldcon are Out To Get You, or that they're engaged in a conspiracy to Destroy Fandom As We Know It or are marking time until they all die and hope everyone else just would Go Away. They're not. Complaints that they won't stop everything they're doing to change the convention to suit you don't mean they're trying to wreck the convention. They're trying to get along with what they're doing. Sometimes they won't do it right, but your assumptions of malice and incompetence don't help matters.

I invite every person who has a complaint about how Worldcons are organized to put themselves in the Chair's seat and say, "How would I run this?" Extra points for saying how you would do it in practical terms, especially if what you want to do costs either money or people points. And if you have a Grand Scheme that will use a significant amount of the convention's resources, explain how you plan to guarantee that you won't bankrupt your convention and cause a bankruptcy court to decide that you didn't exercise due care, thereby "pierce your corporate veil," going after your personal assets, not just the convention's.

When you've done that, you might think through why Worldcons are notoriously conservative organizations. They simply can't afford to take large risks. Small ones (a hundred dollars or so to pay for the online text coverage of the Hugo Awards), yes. Large ones ($200K in a mass media campaign in the local area that will "pay for itself" by drawing an extra 2000 members to the convention), no.
Tags: fandom, worldcon
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