December 5th, 2020


Long Day's Journey Into SMOFCon

SMOFCon 37¼, the single-day mini-convention held on the Saturday of the weekend that was originally scheduled for SMOFCon 38 in Montreal (now rescheduled for 2022), was held online today. I was one of the members of the five-member organizing committee (Jannie Shea and me from SMOFCon 38 Montreal 2022 and James Bacon, Vincent Docherty, and Marguerite Smith from SMOFCon Europe Lisboa Portugal 2021). As we did not establish a single leader, all five of us were styled "co-chairs."

I was there from when our virtual Con Suite host, Terry Fong, opened the doors just before 0500 Pacific Time (the official convention time was North American Eastern Standard Time / UTC -5), when we co-chairs welcomed the early arrivals. I was one of the five people present at the bitter end when either Terry or Jannie (I didn't catch who) turned off the lights at 2100 PT. (The other two were Sharon Sbarsky and Lisa Deutsch Harrigan.) In between were five program item and many hours of sitting around the virtual Con Suite.

The five program items were Question Time for the coming Worldcon bids, then for the two seated Worldcons. (There were about 120 people attending these items.) After a break, we moved on to Question Time for the two seated SMOFCons and for those groups bidding to host future SMOFCons. (About 70 attending.) We had an hour after that (I sat in one of the virtual Con Suite rooms eating lunch) before the two non-bidding panels: An hour chat with the co-chairs of CoNZealand, and 90 minutes about pivoting to a virtual convention. (I lost track, but I think it was around 80-90 people at those items.) Advance registration was about 250, but I don't have figures on how many of those actually attended.

After programming ended, it was back to the Con Suite, and also time for dinner, as Lisa had made us some pizza bread. As I'd hadn't had much to eat, I tore into it with gusto. The good part about the virtual convention experience was that (aside when I was the one speaking of when I had some sort of moderator-related task), I could go make me a cup of coffee, tea, or hot chocolate or toast a bagel or such. OTOH, I did not want to be away from the computer more than was necessary, particularly at times when all of the other "co-chairs" were actively part of the program or technical supervision of the program item, leaving me as the remaining "watcher."

The Con Suite had over twenty "breakout rooms" for discussions. I'd booked a "room" for a Westercon 74 Tonopah drop-in meeting, where we spent a couple of hours talking about developments for Tonopah. Lisa and I were both there, and I continue to be encouraged and excited by the great group of people who have so far volunteered to help us bring Westercon to Tonopah in (now) 2022. There's still room for more growth, though, and in particular we're going to need more (clean) hands helping with our hospitality functions, as in a post-pandemic (we hope) environment, cleanliness and food safety will have to have a higher priority. We used to laugh about "Con Crud," but we really need to try and eliminate it.

By the end of the Tonopah meeting, people really started fading out, and the various breakout rooms started to dwindle until only the die-hards were left in the Con Suite "lobby."

I'm glad I helped make this virtual SMOFCon happen. I'll be happier when we can start meeting in person again. In the meantime, it was good to see our friends and to talk to others who I've not met before and who would have never had the chance to attend SMOFCon in person.

But for now, it's time for me to try and get to bed and not think about 4 AM alarms for Sunday.
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