Posts Tagged ‘conventions’

E-mail: Infinitus 2010, Call for Proposals

January 12th, 2010

The following was sent to me via e-mail and I thought it might be of interest to people:

Greetings Past Presenters!

We at HP Education Fanon, Inc. and Infinitus want to thank you for your past involvement with HPEF events and would like to invite you to submit your proposals for Infinitus 2010. Due to popular request, our Call for Proposals deadline has been extended to Friday, February 12, 2010. We welcome submissions from all of you as we are anticipating another amazing symposium and look forward to making you a part of it.

Our CFP can be found here: Please email if you have any questions or concerns.

Thank you,

Robin Martin
Chair of Formal Programming
Infinitus 2010

Dragon*Con panel report: Dwight Schultz and Dirk Benedict

September 10th, 2009

Post by sockii (Nicole Pellegrini)

I only made it to one full panel at Dragon*Con this year, and that was the A-Team “Reunion” Q&A with Dwight Schultz and Dirk Benedict (actually, it wasn’t much of a Q&A, but I’ll get to that later…)

I had to rush to get to where the panel was located in the Hyatt from my dealer’s table in the Marriott. I was surprised that, when I got there about 10 minutes before the panel was to begin, there was a HUGE line to get inside! I really didn’t expect that for an A-Team panel. Nevertheless, the room was fortunately a fairly large one (seating 200 maybe, and it did fill up) and I was able to score a single seat fairly close, in about the 5th or 6th row. Much to my amusement, as I was sitting down the woman next to me pulled out a blue baseball cap. I then noticed her tan pants and converse sneakers, matching my own, and discovered that I was sitting next to a die-hard Murdock fan, much like myself.

An H.M. Murdock fan at Dragon*Con

Dirk and Dwight came out a few minutes late to an enthusiastic response from the crowd. They were both lively and in good spirits, their off-screen camaraderie as evident as always. Indeed, they talked for some time about their off-screen friendship and how that was rather rare in Hollywood (a place Dwight described brilliantly as being full of “malignant narcissism”), and also how that had been strengthened during a time after the series’ end when Dirk was going through a bit of a personal crisis. They talked a lot about the beginnings of the A-Team: how Dwight was “fired” after the pilot episode and then re-hired after the screening results came in; how Dirk was supposed to get the part of Templeton Peck from the start and what it was like to join the show after the early filming had been done; what it was like first meeting George Peppard and what he and Mr. T were both like off-screen. Much of this wasn’t necessarily new information to anyone who’s seen Dirk and Dwight at cons before, but they are always fun stories to hear them tell: and both Dirk and Dwight do some hilarious Mr. T impersonations!

Dwight Schultz and Dirk Benedict

They also talked about practical jokes played on the set, and some of the difficulties in the later seasons with Peppard and T that lead them to take on larger parts to carry the action and dialog (Peppard and T would only work 10am – 4pm, so Dirk and Dwight would go on late into the evening to fill in extra screen time as necessary.) On a more personal level, Dirk talked for some time about leaving Hollywood and why he had decided it was more important to be a full-time father to his boys than continue pursuing an acting career. This got a loud round of applause from the audience, as did Dwight’s mention that he had been married to his wife, former actress (now a therapist) Wendy Fulton, for 27 years.

The two of them talked for so long that there was only time at the end for maybe a half-dozen questions or so. I don’t remember the specifics of what was asked too well, although one person did bring up the James Bond-spoof episode The Spy Who Mugged Me, which got Dwight to do his great Sean Connery impersonation for a little bit. There was some mention of the potential A-Team movie but both expressed doubts it would ever really get filmed as there has been talk about it for so long, with so many different scripts proposed, and both were skeptical about the tone it would take. A number of people (myself included!) spoke up with thanks for The A-Team being their “first fandom” and the entire reason they were still in fandom today, which was really nice to hear. I managed to get in a brief question at the end for Dwight as well, asking if his talk radio show would be making a return any time soon, which he answered no, except for some fill-in positions, and deferred from going into any further detail during the panel since he didn’t want to/have time to get into politics there. Oh well; I wanted to ask because I wasn’t sure I’d have a chance to get away from my dealer’s space later in the weekend to catch him on the Walk of Fame.

They finished up soon afterwards and did mention they were heading right over to the Walk of Fame to do some autographs. So after checking in at my dealer’s space to make sure things were going ok there without me, I dashed over to the Hilton to get in line. Dwight recognized me right away and apologized for not answering my question further during the panel, so we talked then a little bit more about his talk radio work, what had become of “Dark Matters” and working with Don Ecker; how he was doing fill-in work at TRN on occasion and was still hoping to get a full-time/syndicated show in the future. I didn’t want to hold up the line too much longer (and later went back on Sunday to talk with him some more about other things) but I did get him to pose with me for a photo.

Dwight Schultz and sockii!

I also went to get Dirk’s autograph and a photo after that as they were seated right next to each other. Dirk’s line moved verrrrrrry slowly as he is quite chatty with people (and a lot of Battlestar Galactica fans were there asking him all sorts of questions.) He was nice as well, though I find Dwight a little more directly engaging and easy to talk to (as you come up to his table, Dwight gives you a big smile and reaches out to shake your hand. He really seems pleased to meet each person that comes to see him, instead of just doing this thing for the money.)

So that was my big A-Team adventure for Dragon*Con! Later on I posed for an official “staged” photo with both guys, and caught part of Dirk’s solo panel, but Friday was definitely the fannish highlight of the con for me. As an A-Team fan who had only had the chance to see Dirk and Dwight separately before, and neither for at least ten years, I was really thrilled to see them both here and hope that they will come back and do Dragon*Con again in the future (and hey, next time give Dwight a solo panel! I’d love to hear him talk more about his other genre work…)


To learn more about Dragon*Con and attending the convention in the future, check out my Guide to Dragon*Con.

DragonCon is coming! Are you excited yet?

August 26th, 2009

I know I am! DragonCon is the largest annual convention that I attend regularly (as an artist, vendor, and also just a “plain” fan). This year I’m especially looking forward to getting to see two of my old favorites from The A-Team, Dwight Schultz and Dirk Benedict, who will be there. I’ll be curious to know what they’ve got to say about the latest rumors around a new movie, such as the possibility of Chris Pine taking on the role of Murdock.

I know there’s also going to be an effort to stage the largest “Thriller” dance in tribute to Michael Jackson ever, which ought to be a scream (in more ways than one).

If you’re going, please be sure to find the Spacial Anomaly Gallery table in the dealer’s hall to stop by and say hello! And remember, as always, your help in sharing your experiences at the con here in the wiki during and after the con are always appreciated.

Comic-Con is underway! Please help us record what happens!

July 23rd, 2009

The San Diego Comic-Con (wiki) is currently underway. The largest convention of its kind in the United States, this convention plays a vital role annually in promoting and previewing what’s to come in the fields of comics, anime, genre movies and television, science fiction and fantasy artwork and gaming…just about everything under the sun when it comes to media and comics fandom.

FanHistory would be thrilled if any attendees at the convention could help us document the event this year. Please consider helping to improve the main article on the convention, which sadly is little more than a stub currently. Scan in some flyers you’ve collected at the convention and upload them to our Comic-Con International images category. We’d also love some photographs taken at the event, a copy of the souvenir book, and/or any daily news bulletins published at the convention.

Write up any convention reports or blogs while at the convention? Please add links to the Convention reports for 2009 article, too. This helps us provide a spectrum of experiences from the event.

Dealers and artists, add yourselves to the list of those attending–and then consider creating a page about your business and work to help promote yourself with our simple Dealer article template.

There’s much you can do to help us record the history of this great event. Not sure where to start? Just leave a comment here and ask away for more help–all contributions great and small always are welcome.

What’s popular on Fan History for the week of July 5 to July 11!

July 13th, 2009

Some things in our top actually changed. A lot of this is the result of individual linking. I’ve also included our top blog entries in this week’s wrap up. They don’t generally get as many views as articles but do go towards demonstrating that some of our more news related posts get a fair amount of traffic. Most of these news related posts are unrelated to fandom news that is featured on LiveJournal communities like metafandom. Interesting stuff.

Fan History’s Most Popular Articles
11,152 pages were viewed a total of 44,564 times

  1. Draco/Hermione – 1,013
  2. AdultFanFiction.Net – 905 views
  3. Cassandra_Claire – 488 views
  4. Naruto – 339 views
  5. FanDomination.Net – 324 views
  6. Sakura Lemon_Fan-Fiction Archive – 298 views
  7. Merlin – 249 visits
  8. Digimon – 234 visits
  9. FanFiction.Net – 234 visits
  10. James Nicoll – 223 visits

Fan History’s Most Popular Blog Entries
124 pages were viewed a total of 939 times

  1. Michael Jackson fanfiction: is it out there? – 477 views. Entry by Sidewinder.
  2. The high cost of conventions – when will it become TOO high? – 66 views. Entry by Sidewinder.
  3. Panic at the Disco break up – 48 views. Entry by sidewinder.
  4. Update: Permabanned users policy change – 48 views. Entry by Laura.
  5. Does familiarity breed contempt (and breakups?) – 29 views. Entry by Sidewinder.
  6. Laura’s link building philosophy – 22 views. Entry by Laura.
  7. Not a parody? Then not fair use. Precedent is bad news for argument that fan fiction is legal! – 16 views. Entry by Laura.
  8. Torchwood post-Children of Earth – 12 views. Entry by Sidewinder.
  9. Pictures from Chicago’s Pride Parade – 10 views. Entry by Laura.
  10. Why Australian fansites – and fans – need to be careful with Shotacon – 10 views. Entry by Sidewinder.

Fan History’s Keyword Traffic
Search sent 13,821 total visits via 9,244 keywords

  1. adultfanfiction – 333 visits
  2. adult fanfiction - 176 visits
  3. fandomination – 105 visits
  4. michael jackson fanfiction – 90 visits
  5. naruto wiki - 79 visits
  6. bandflesh - 77 visits
  7. michael jackson fan fiction – 75 visits
  8. restricted section – 71 visits
  9. adult fan fiction – 63 visits
  10. draco hermione – 58 visits

Fan History’s Referrer Traffic
Referring sites sent 2,519 visits via 500 sources

  2. – Replaced Chickipedia
  8. – fandom_wank traffic began to taper off. 47 visits.
  9. – 47 visits. Links to her blog entries on her LiveJournal.

The high cost of conventions – when will it become TOO high?

July 8th, 2009

This morning I read an interesting blog about the increasing costs of conventions, which posed the question, “How much is too much?” As in, at what price do fans begin to balk and refuse to keep paying? Will they ever do so, or will they keep shelling out whatever amounts of money conventions and big name guests expect them to?

The blog was questioning this matter because it was just announced that Patrick Stewart would be appearing at this year’s Dragon*Con in Atlanta–but that he would be charging $200 per photo-op. This appears to be a record high price at such an event, although not a complete anomaly in the science fiction/media-convention industry where autographs, photo-ops, and just seeing the main-draw celebrity guests have become premium ticket items. Leonard Nimoy has been charging $65-75 an autograph lately, and attending his panel at a recent convention in Florida cost you $125-250 EXTRA, above the regular admission price of the convention. Mark Hamill is reportedly charging $100 per autograph as well, and the upcoming TwiCon for Twilight fans has caused some controversy over their prices and autograph policies. Within conventions there are no set prices, so a guest charigng $20 per autograph could be sitting next to someone charging $60–and many fans won’t know that price until they’re in line and ready to buy.

Is it all just getting to be too much? To the casual fan, I should imagine so. The days of spending $25 to get in to a convention for the weekend, attending all events, and getting at least one “free” autograph from each of the main guests seems long gone, at least on the celebrity/for-profit con circuit. The convention industry is starting to remind me a lot of the concert industry, with prices skyrocketing and the best seats only going to those with the fattest wallets (remember those Torchsong Chicago auctions for front row tickets that sold into the thousands of dollars?) Just like many music fans can only afford to go to small club shows these days and support local bands, maybe saving up to go to one big concert a year (and if they’re lucky, being able to even GET a ticket better than the nosebleeds), con goers are having to be more picky and choosy in what conventions they can get to–if they bother still attending at all. Meanwhile the smaller, independent fan cons can barely afford media guests if they want them–or if they can, those media guests charge high prices per autograph, giving none away for “free” to attendees, still increasing the cost for everyone.

And it’s not just the fans who are suffering. When attendees are nickled and dimed for every aspect of the con experience, paying out what can easily add up to hundreds if not thousands of dollars on photo-ops, autographs, guest banquets and cabarets, they have less left to spend on the independent artists and vendors who used to rely on the convention economy for their livelihood. Is the diehard Patrick Stewart fan who just spent $200 on that photo going to have anything left to go to the artshow and bid on a piece of fanart of Jean-Luc Picard? Or a Star Trek fanzine? Or an original book of science-fiction stories from a small-press publisher? What about the convention charities, which often depended on attendees opening their wallets to give to a good cause?

Con attendance is already suffering as airfares, gas prices, and hotel costs rise with every year. Many fans can no longer attend like they used to, and with things like autographs now costing so much, I can imagine the situation will only get worse. It becomes a downward spiral of rising prices and diminishing returns for all involved, and seems to fortell to me yet another ringing of the death knell for conventions as many fans once knew them. All we may be left with soon are a handful of “mega”-events that come with mega-pricetags for all attendees, and a few remaining small scale conventions which only serve local fan communities, unable to support or reach out to a wider audience in fandom. And that’s a change that makes me sad to contemplate.

Animethon: An ANIME convention that’s only for the non-yaoi/non-yuri people

June 27th, 2009

Whether you like it or not, yaoi and yuri are fundamentally part of the Anime community.  You can’t remove it.  (Though white washing it out of American translations of manga and when dubbing anime into English has been tried.)  It is not going to go away.  So if you’re going to run an anime convention, you have to deal with this reality.  Unless the event is explicitly billed as a child friendly event with no adult content allowed, members of the anime community are going to expect that yaoi and yuri are going to be tolerated.

Sadly, Animethon‘s organizers failed to get this message.   Rather than claim to be a convention that is child friendly, the organizer decided that the convention would be anti-yaoi by prohibiting same sex kissing for cosplay events on stage.  Heterosexual kissing was still allowed.  She wasn’t discriminating against gays and lesbians because she has gay and lesbians friends and she likes them.  (Thanks but no.  That’s a cop out.  I have Gay friends =/=  I am tolerant.  It is insulting to our intelligence.)  When called out on it, she finally decided to allow same sex pecks on the cheek because heterosexual friends of the same gender give pecks on the cheek.  That’s her ode to tolerance.  Makes her a special kind of fandom snowflake where heterosexual same sex kissing is okay but homosexual same sex kissing is not.

She then spelled it out quite clearly: Animethon is not the place for large population in the anime community who like, read and watch anime and manga.  If you want that, go to Yaoicon.  (Because anime isn’t about the gays and lesbians and yaoi and yuri.)  Frankly, I think that’s a good idea.  If there is anyone in Alberta, Canada thinking of going to Animethon, don’t and tell the organizer why.

First there was Torchsong Chicago. Now there is TwiCon…

June 11th, 2009

What is it with conventions and problems with their guests of honor lately?  Guests haven’t not been able to attend.  Expectations for attendance by the masses regarding the guests of honor have been off the mark.  High prices for tickets lead to expectations that concoms don’t seem to be able to meet or convey effectively to avoid disappointment.

Two conventions have dealt with this recently.  First there was Torchsong Chicago. Then there was TwiCon. Below are extracts from both articles on Fan History to convey the problems both conventions are suffering:

Torchsong Chicago:

There was also mixed reaction from the risque antics which John Barrowman apparently got up to during his satellite-link appearances in both the Q&A session and the Cabaret.[21],[22],[23] There were later requests from John not to post/share some of the more raunchy aspects of what went down publicly, for fear of negative backlash from the British press, and again, some fans reacted negatively, feeling they were being manipulated.[24],[25] It was also pointed out that the video feed was copyrighted and the con management did not want photos of the feed posted due to copyright concerns.[26] Accusations of jealousy were made over some of these issues of requested silence and non-posting of photos.[27]


In 2009, the cost of membership was listed as $255/person.[1] On June 9, 2009, it was announced that only one “free” autograph would be included with the membership, and attendees had to reserve their free autograph of choice in advance (beginning June 19). There would be a limit of 2 autographs and one photo-op per attendee, and each guest would only do 65 photo-ops. Many fans were upset by this announcement, feeling they had been mislead on how the autographs and photos would be handled and given the cost of membership to the convention.[2]

What is going on with conventions these days?  Have people become used to the idea of megaconventions like DragonCon and ComiCon in San Diego?  Do high costs of running these events drive up the expectations to the point where they are not managable?  Did the connectivity of the Internet just make the drama involving conventions easier to access?

Whatever the reasons, this sort of convention drama is not going to go away any time soon.  If you’re attending a convention, look at issues that attendees at other conventions have dealt with.  Be prepared and have some sort of plan in case of a worst case scenario.   Know your rights and understand refund policies before you purchase a ticket so that you don’t get any surprises like the people attended Torchsong Chicago and those who will attend TwiCon.

Torchsong Chicago

June 5th, 2009

A lot of my friends are big Torchwood fans, and a number of them have been planning on attending Torchsong Chicago this weekend, especially to see prominently advertised guest and main series star John Barrowman.

Well, at the last minute it’s been announced that both John and Kai Owen will not be attending (John due to injury, Kai for undisclosed personal reasons). Understandably, there is huge upset over this, particularly given the very high cost paid by many attendees for the event, photo-op tickets, and a cabaret that was advertised primarily as a showcase for John. The convention organizers are so far insisting that absolutely no refunds will be given, not even partial ones, which no doubt they’ve covered their butts legally in their ticket sales to do this, as most all conventions do. Yet given the high prices paid by some for the event — upwards of $1,410 a person in an auction for front row seats and $500 for “Premiere Memberships” — one wonders if they’ll really be able to get away with that or if there might be so much public outcry (and potential legal troubles) that they may have to relent. Even if not, I doubt many Torchwood fans would go to another event sponsored by this same promoters again.

Who knows what will happen yet? I’ll be following the fall-out and looking forward to reports back from my friends — some of whom were already in transit to the Chicago area before news of the cancellations was released.

MediaWestCon: Art show review

May 27th, 2009

I have been an exhibitor in the MediaWest artshow, on and off, for the past 12-13 years or so. And to be totally blunt it is very sad to see the way the art show has gone downhill during that time, especially in the past 2-3 years.

And by going downhill, I don’t mean the quality of the work exhibited: there has always been and still is a full range of technical art skills presented, from extremely talented pro/semi-pro artists to beginning/young amateur artists. Crafts from jewelry to knitting to etched granite were on display along with paintings, drawings, and a large amount of photography and photo-manipulations. But the amount of art and the number & variety of artists exhibiting has dwindled dramatically. This year I don’t think the art room was more than 1/3 full–both the tables for 3D art and panels for 2D. Even some of the artists who are regular, big contributors like Jesse McClain only had one panel’s worth of submissions, instead of taking up a full standing bay as she usually does.

So why the downturn? Easily the first reason is the terrible, last minute way the convention handles space reservations for artists, which has only gotten worse and worse each year. This year the Progress Report with the art show reservation form was not mailed out or put on the website until May 3, 2009, and interested artists were told they only had until May 10 to submit reservations! (Never mind that after that date, an update mentioned space still available. No kidding!) Artists also need to have a supporting membership to hang art–and the con rules/website state that memberships can only be bought up until May 1. Also it can take a long time to actually RECEIVE your membership number after paying for one–good luck getting it to you in a week’s time.

Another problem, especially for artists who might be considering mailing in artwork, is the inability to get your multi-part forms mailed to you in time. The convention should seriously consider going to forms that could be downloaded by artists on-line, even if yes, that would then require the artshow staff to create a computer database to keep track of art pieces and bids instead of multi-part forms. But that too could avoid a lot of problems at check-out with pieces missing, winning bids being mis-reported, or not reported at all. But for the past three years running, it has always been about 50-50 whether I would actually receive my forms in the mail before leaving for the convention–and when they did arrive, it was usually with only a day to spare. This basically completely rules out the possibility of mail-in art being submitted, making the only option for artists who can’t attend to be to find someone who is attending to agent your art. (One small thing done this year to help with future issues about the forms is artists were given forms for next year at check out. Great for the regular, small group of artists who habitually show and attend. This will do nothing to help with new artists who weren’t here this year.)

The convention, if it intends to continue to have a good art show, needs to work to correct these registration and paperwork issues if they are going to have any chance of attracting new artists to exhibiting. There might be an impression that the convention is only for “fan-art”, but that’s definitely not the case. Some of the pieces which seem to consistently sell the best are animal/wildlife art, fantasy, and jewelry. This year I submitted some of my astronomical artwork instead of any fanart, and sold 5 of the 8 paintings I showed (along with at least 2/3rds of the jewelry pieces I submitted.) Of course, a fanart oil painting I’d shown for the past two years in the artshow, never getting a bid (at a very low starting bid), I sold off my dealer’s room table this year at a much better price. Go figure! So perhaps the artshow isn’t even the best place for artists to exhibit and try to sell their work at the convention…

That said, there are also buyer issues as well which could be discouraging to new artists, as MWC certainly has a very clique-ish feel to it and that carries over into what (and from whom) people will buy. This year I was agenting for a new jewelry artist who does wonderful work, was all priced very reasonably — and she only received 2 bids out of the 16 pieces she’d shown. I’ve seen a lot of hesitation regularly from bidding on “unknown” artists at MWC, no matter the quality of the work. So it’s an environment of buying from your friends and known fellow fans more so than buying the best, most interesting art.

I’m sure the art show staff has to be aware of these issues at this point. What I’m less sure of is whether they care at all enough to do anything about them. As the entire convention feels like it is just going on because it’s been going on for almost thirty years, there for the fans who remain but not working to bring in new blood, I have my doubts and am not sure I’d recommend the convention to artists who haven’t been regularly showing there already.

WisCon panel on self promotion for science fiction authors

May 24th, 2009

At WisCon panel on self promotion for science fiction author. The presenters include Madge Miller, Marrianne Kirby, Catherine Lundoff and Nayad M. They are either professionals in marketing or are published authors.

Advice they have given includes:

Do not rely on a publicist to do it. They work best when you help them with their job.

Self promote with a buddy. It makes you feel less self conscious.

Readings are not necessarily time wise. It might be better to try to do readings with other authors. It can help draw a bigger crowd.

Doing conventions can help make you a more recognizable name.

No one thing is the magic bullet. You need more solutions.

Don’t try to do so much self promotion at once. It can burn you out, especially if you don’t see results. Try to focus on one project at once. That is what professionals do.

Check out who has expertise in promoting. Get advice from them. Use your community to find good ways to promote.

Realistically, most science fiction authors are not going to get a publicist. Think about how you would present yourself at a job interview. Treat things like readings and panels as if they were that. This includes not showing up drunk to your panels. (People do it.) Don’t hog conversations.

Make an effort to fake an interest in other people’s work. Otherwise, you come across as being me me me and can be a turn off. You don’t get the personal connections that way. Personal connections really can help sell the book as those people may go out and tell people how fantastic you are.

If you can pair a book reading with a non-profit event, it can help generate additional interest and help sell the book. It generates good will.

You should almost put on a writer professional cap at conventions. You need to portray almost a different version, almost like acting but more like projecting yourself. This way you can get attention.

Women in American culture get told that self promotion is tacky and icky and they should not do. Women need to get over that. If you put on a professional hat, it becomes easier to self promote.

If you are going to do a reading for the first time, practice with people you like and respect. They can give you good feedback. Start out with something structured to help overcome your own fears. Ask your friends to tell you when you commit your own weakness like stumbling over words, rambling, etc. Non-professionals can give you feedback if you are being boring. Also think about timing of your reading. More than 35 minutes makes keeping your audience hard. Think about breaking up longer readings into parts. Practice your timing. Know when you can stop, look up at the audience and where to pace yourself.

Consider wearing makeup so that you look brighter than life and larger, to enhance your stage presence.

What are bad ideas?

People who do book forts at panels at conventions can be a problem. It is better to be graceful and just flash the book. It is a bit selfish to promote the book the whole time. (Though this may be depend on the panel and why you are on the panel. If you are on a panel because of that book, it can be different. A book fort may be overkill but a single book might not be that bad.)

Many people who feel insecure put others down. They try to stand on the bodies of other authors by putting them down in order to self promote. This can hurt you. It is better to be nice.

Don’t give a speech if you’re on a panel. Moderators should direct traffic and have questions to help steer questions. They should not read four pages of notes.

Advice for people starting out to increase chances of success?

At conventions, sign up for panels you are interested in. The more practice that you get, the more comfortable you will be when you become published.

Online presence is importance. You need a website. Determine where you want your name out. Have a blog. Look at what other writers are blogging about to get ideas for what to write about.

Realize that it takes a long time to build an audience. A year out is a good idea is when to start building. You have a chance to build conversations, to let people know you have a book coming out. Ask people questions. Always be authentic online and in person. Be authentic to who you really are.

Talk about things that you are interested means like minded people as they will likely like your fiction.

Working on a blog, creating a community, talking to reporters as a form of self promotional activity can help you get a book deal. Why? Because you get to make good connections who can help you accomplish your goals. It isn’t necessarily fair that we respond to the people we know but it does help getting published in the first place.

It is never to early to get online. You should get yourself associated with things that involve your audience.

Twitter, FaceBook, LiveJournal, GoodReads are all ways to interact online.

Twitter. Authors can tweet. Read up on the etiquette of tweeting before you start. If you do the wrong thing, people will snicker. Twitter is very real time. If you are going to be on it, you need to really commit to it. Follow people and respond to him. Personal details can really help connect you to your audience.

Twitter can go horribly wrong. Updating shop listings every time you do that can be a pain. Don’t over do the URL plugging. Twitter is an online service that allows you to send 140 characters. Twitter started off as phone but now is on the web. You should ReTweet interesting comments by people you follow. Be good to others who might be able to be good to you. ReTweets asking can get info out to a large audience that say your book is coming out.

You can actually talk to people on Twitter and make connections with people you might not otherwise make. Doing this may result in getting a follow back. Be authentic. Don’t become an annoying fan.

Anti-Twitter panelist prefers to blog. She finds it annoying. The information is not useful to her. Who cares that you walked your dog? Not enough info there to want to follow up on. It is a stylistic personal preference. Digest of Tweets on LiveJournal is annoying. If they didn’t follow you on Twitter, why would they want it in another medium?

Cross posting to Twitter and FaceBook can be annoying. There are different rules and etiquette. FaceBook tends to be less cluttered.

FaceBook is kind of nice as a networking tool. It isn’t necessarily great for blogging on because audience attention isn’t high. If blogging, post it elsewhere.

On a self promotional level, finding these services annoying is irrelevant. It is about trying to reach people in the most beneficial and effective towards meeting your goals. If your audience on FaceBook is helpful, then you might want to update there even if you are not comfortable. Find where you can compromise to self promote. This is what is comes down to. The tool is about getting results, not your personal feelings.

Consensus is that you really, really need to have a blog. Try to develop a readership. Mix up the content to help develop a broader readership: Personal life, professional life, writing life. Good to have blog attached to your website. Why? It helps with Google ranking. It means you can keep adding fresh content to your website. Twitter feed can help keep your content fresh.

If you are not going to engage authentically, then don’t.

One of the highest read blogs was that of a chinese erotic model who updated regularly. Try to update once a day to maintain the audience if you want to develop a huge audience. If you don’t want to blog, consider doing message from the author. Dead blogs are a turn off to the audience. People will drop you from their feeds.

Blogging is a big time commitment. When you’re doing fiction, you may not have the same correlation with blog success. You need to find balance. You need to find what works for your life. Penelope Trunk gives good advice on how to blog effectively. Though Penelope is extremely controversial so take it with a grain of salt.

MediaWestCon – Day 1

May 23rd, 2009

Just a quick missive from MediaWest. First day seemed very, very quiet. While there was the usual feeding frenzy for the first hour in the dealer’s room, after that it pretty much turned into a ghost town the rest of the day. The art show looks very sparse this year – only the most usual suspects hanging their work, and some of those even with half of what they usually show on display. Lots of empty tables and panels so far. Even the dealer’s room had a number of no-shows, or people only coming in to set up at the end of the day Friday.

Flyers out in the lobby are also quite sparse–though there certainly are quite a few for Star Trek and Kirk/Spock about. Haven’t had the chance to check out the room sales and doors yet, hopefully later today when I also have my first panel.

Will have to see how the rest of the convention goes…

Off to MediaWest tomorrow…

May 20th, 2009

Tomorrow I’m off to MediaWestCon, which should be interesting this year in a number of ways. I’ve heard some speculation that with the changes in the host hotel (now a Causeway Bay), along with the continuing and ever-growing sluggishness of the organizers dealing with convention matters, that we may be nearing the end of MWC’s run. Probably not this year, but perhaps next as 2010 will be the con’s 30 year anniversary.

Of course, this is all speculation at this point. We’ll have to wait and see what happens or what the word is this weekend.

Still, I am curious about a number of things this year, including:

* How will sales be in the dealer’s room and art show, given the current economy? (Especially in Michigan, with so many car manufacturing plants closing shop.)

* What will be the hot fandoms this time around? Will everyone be talking about Star Trek, or is the film too new to get a lot of “official” scheduled time and attention? What about Torchwood, Merlin and other buzzed-about shows?

* Will hot topics in journaling media fandom, such as Race Fail and Dreamwidth Studios be talked about at all? Or are they off the radar for the more “old school” fandom base that makes up the bulk of MWC’s membership?

I’ll try to post some daily blogs from the convention with my impressions on these issues, as well as anything else that comes up, and of course update with photos and other items from the convention after I get home next week.

Star Trek: The Next Generation of fans?

May 6th, 2009

The summer movie season is about to start with one of the most anticipated releases in scifi fandom in some time: the new Star Trek movie. Trek fandom has been abuzz about it for some time, although the anticipation has been mixed with some anxiety: will the film do The Original Series and its beloved characters justice? Will it sacrifice the heart of Trek for big Hollywood pizazz?

A more critical question, in my opinion, and one I have heard echoed in some Trek fandom circles, is whether the film can do anything to revive what is, in many ways, a dying fandom. It has been several years since the last Trek series, Enterprise was on the air–a series which in and of itself had alientated many longtime Trek fans and had did little to keep interest strong in the franchise. Trek conventions are few and far between these days, with few (save Shore Leave and Farpoint) except the massive Creation Cons still being held. With the exception of a few still-strong shipping and slash communities, notably Kirk/Spock, fanworks production is greatly diminished.

That said, there does seem to be some steady growth in Trek livejournal community activity in recent months–perhaps due to the movie? The presence of popular Heroes actor Zachary Quinto as Spock may do well to bring in some crossover fans. But the long-term impact on the fandom will take some time to see.

I will be curious to see what the buzz about the film is at this year’s MediaWest, which will be taking place at the end of this month.

Another convention gone…and what of the future?

April 7th, 2009

I was very sad to learn recently that Eastern Media Con would be going on hiatus this year. EMC was one of the most enjoyable cons I’d attended the past two years–it had a lot of the fun, friendliness and lack of pretensions that I’d enjoyed about the old Eclecticon, but with some great more “modern” amenities and features.

Of course, their reasons for not running it this year make total sense: the bad economy, past con debt, and more difficulty than ever in finding a hotel willing to offer the features wanted by fans at a price that fans could afford. I remain hopeful they’ll come back in 2010–after all, many small cons seem to do better on a bi-annual schedule where people have more time to plan and save between the cons they want to attend, and they become more of a special “event”. But I really begin to wonder how much of a future there is for any con besides the large corporate ones these days.

I only have three shows scheduled for myself this year at this point: MediaWest, Shore Leave, and DragonCon, and this may be my last time at Shore Leave and even possibly MediaWest depending on how things go (Shore Leave has been on a slow decline for years, and MediaWest, while still “holding on”, I’m curious to see for how much longer. The old host hotel is going through renovations which may make it less fan-friendly and more expensive; the con comm does not seem to be bringing in “new blood”, and various other issues leave me concerned.)

There are other issues plaguing the convention scene also which could have some effect on their ability to keep going, as well as attracting new fen to attend. At this year’s Lunacon, there apparently seemed to be some conflict between “old school” science fiction fans and some younger fans in attendance, who felt very off-put by some of the behavior encouraged and/or tolerated at the event. A LiveJournal rant after the fact lead to over 1,000 comments–many from others with long-standing peeves about convention attendee behavior. Others felt unfairly called out for “being themselves” in what they had always considered a “safe space” for fans, many of whom may or do have social skills issues that give them trouble finding acceptance in mainstream culture and society.

So, what are conventions to do? Should conventions try to become more mainstream, shunning and criticizing those who refuse to give up their old “nerdly ways” because it may be turning away newer fen? Will the old guard of science fiction cons–Lunacon, Philcon, Balticon, etc.–become as extinct as the dinosaurs in the not-so-distant future, because they seem to refuse to change with the times? Do conventions have any real future in a world where the internet has already made fandom more “mainstream” and accessible to all?

These are all the things I keep pondering, as I have no clear answers or ideas myself.

Convention/fan relations? You’re doing it wrong.

February 19th, 2009

Previously I I blogged about FaerieCon and my experiences there as a vendor/attendee for the past two years. I was aware that the venue, the Pennsylvania Convention Center, had more than its fair share of problems as far as the con organizers, vendors, and attendees were concerned. It certainly wasn’t especially “fae” in atmosphere, and being a union facility everything from setting up your booth to running a single line of electricity could become quite expensive.

But that said, it did have some advantages location-wise, at least for those from and/or familiar with the Philadelphia area. It was no more than a block or two’s walk from the Greyhound bus station (and numerous Chinatown bus routes). A block or two from multiple subway and regional rail routes (including the route that serves the airport–an under $6 fare). Under a $10 cab fare from 30th Street Station. For those reliant on public transit (or who use it whenever possible for convenience/environmental/cost factors), it was great. Also being smack-dab in the middle of Chinatown, and near Reading Terminal Market, cheap and good food was in quick, easy walking distance. Yes, the “host hotel” rates were expensive, but the city itself is full of lodging choices for any budget, again within easy public transit reach to the convention center. The nearby Trocadero theater made for a fabulous location for the Good and Bad Faerie Balls.

Nevertheless, I had heard talk of moving the convention, and did agree that it might be a necessary choice. Even being in the heart of the city, it seemed attendance was never in the range that it could or should have been to make the PACC location profitable (for anyone). A different location — say a hotel convention facility in the area, even the nearby ‘burbs — should provide cheaper facilities, and I had imagined might provide cheaper prices for exhibitors, hence I was actually considering trying to work the show again this year as the fees for it were my primary reason not for returning.

But then last night I received an update email, which made me rule out the possibility of going back entirely.

Because the convention is now going to take place in Hunt Valley, Maryland (oh, they say it’s Baltimore, but I’ll get to that in a moment) at the good old Marriott Hunt Valley Inn. And let’s take a look at how they “promote” this change of venue on their website (the same as the email), which manages to be both highly insulting to Philadelphia and its resident fen, but inaccurate in many ways as well…

LOCATION: Baltimore, MD
- Easier Access for all of our Fans
- A Safer and more Hospitable City

First off, Hunt Valley is NOT Baltimore. It is, by YahooMaps 17.5 miles (approximately 22 minutes by car) away. This might be easier access to some with cars, but it is not easier access “for all”. I know from a great deal of experience that it is about a $40+ cab ride from the train station in Baltimore to that hotel. It is 45 minutes away from Baltimore by light rail and an awkward walk (especially if you have any luggage) involving crossing a 6-lane high-traffic road (with no pedestrian sidewalks as this is commuter suburbia).

And let’s talk about “safer and more hospitable”. What a way to insult Philadelphia and its residents. We can examine some actual statistics from 2005 that ranked Baltimore the #2 most dangerous city with population over 500,000 in the U.S.; Philadelphia was ranked #6. Baltimore is noted for its consistently higher than average crime rates.

Oh, but that’s right, the con isn’t really in Baltimore anyway. It’s in Hunt Valley, which probably doesn’t have that much crime given it’s mostly full of business and industrial parks. Except perhaps pedestrians getting hit trying to cross those roadways!

DATE: November 6-8
- No Ren Faire Date Conflicts
- The perfect Holiday Gift Shopping Event

It’s nice it doesn’t conflict with any Ren Faire. But the new later date puts it two weeks before Philcon, meaning again that many Philadelphia-area fans are less likely to attend for budget/scheduling reasons.

And as someone who has worked retail for many years, nothing truly becomes “holiday shopping” in earnest until Thanksgiving weekend onward.

VENUE – Marriott Hunt Valley
- Just 10 Minutes from Downtown Baltimore!

Ten minutes perhaps by helicopter.

- A modern, beautiful hotel.

I guess they’ve missed how many of us have laughed our heads off at the rather hideous remodeling of the hotel from several years ago, with the nausea-inducing carpet patterns, odd lighting choices, etc.

- FaerieCon owns the WHOLE Hotel for the Weekend!
- After hours, you can party all night!
- FaerieCon Special Rate Rooms are just $99.00 a night;
that’s 50% off Philadelphia rates!

I also know that hotel tends to fill up pretty quick for conventions. Nearby overflow choices are somewhat limited and generally in the $130+ range.

- Free Parking on Site! – saving you up to $40 a day from Philly

Again, good for the car people. For the rest of us, not so much…

- All Activities – including the Masquerade Balls – take place in the Hotel!

I’ll miss the Troc.

- Hunt Valley is an Experienced Convention Host – Balticon and others are held there.

I’ll grant them this is true. But I will say it has very limited – and expensive – dining choices. Their snack bar is similar to Aramarks’ at the PACC in terms of selection and price. The hotel’s main restaurant, the Cinnamon Tree, is overpriced and inconsistent at best in quality. There are numerous chain and other restaurants in driving distance, but it’s been my experience that being suburbia, they are mob scenes Friday & Saturday nights — especially when you throw a convention into the mix.

- Full Guest Facilities: Bar, Restaurants, Gym, Outdoor Areas, etc.

OK, I just have to laugh at the outdoor areas bit. The outdoor areas basically consist of the lawn around the parking lot. The most I’ve generally ever seen people use these outdoor areas for during conventions is a smoke break.

And let’s also talk about the fact that their exhibitor prices have only gone up, not down. At a non-union facility, now which has a much more limited capacity for bodies on premises than the PACC did. This to me is the final insult upon injury. Even with all my personal beefs about the location, I can still afford (and profit on) working a convention like Shore Leave at that hotel — because a vendor’s space can be had for under $300. Even if I have upwards of $400 in travel, lodging, and food expenses, I can still make a profit when my expenses are under $700. Here, FaerieCon is charging just about DragonCon-level pricing for space, for an event that will not possibly get that kind of turnout.

I really have to wonder what is up with how they think they can justify that. And I will wait and see if I can get any answers from the event staff to explain it all…

It’s a shame, too, because I had been considering even just attending this year, without vending. I really enjoyed the craftwork, the music, and the atmosphere of the convention in the past. But at the considerably higher cost for me to now even attend (let alone exhibit), given the state of the economy currently it’s just not something I have the budget for, even if I wasn’t insulted by the way this change was announced.

The 2.0 World, and its impact on fandom

February 4th, 2009

An interesting new on-line journal launched this month, Live 2.0, which focuses on the changing face of live entertainment: sports, music, theater, etc. The premier edition pointed out how, in our current technological age, so much of where entertainment consumers spend their money and how they spend their money has changed. Stewart Copeland, drummer of The Police, is interviewed in a fascinating look into how the ‘record album’ (or these days more likely the compact disc) has become so inconsequential as compared to the live concert as far as a musician earning his keep. The concert promoter now trumps the record executive. As Copeland points out,

“The idea of a concert as a catalyst for selling a CD is bass-awkward now. You make a CD and go through all that hassle and give it away, as Madonna has done her deal with not Universal, but Live Nation, and as Prince gave away his album, and as Radiohead [has done]; it’s the other way around now.

Let’s just make a record so that people will like us and come to the show.”

The future for a musician is much more in finding a niche market, for the big, big names like U2 are much fewer and far between, and marketing must embrace not just advertising in a few music papers but the internet, television, radio, and even “making sure you get your tune onto Rock Band or Guitar Hero”.

Russ Stanley, VP of Ticket Service and Client Relations for the San Francisco Giants, is also interviewed and talks about how the team has stayed on top of current trends to successfully market the team and grow ticket sales. “Embrace creative ideas” and “Think Technology” are the first two points raised, showing how simply doing things as had been done in the past no longer works.

So what does any of this have to do with fandom? Well, think about it. For a very long time, one of the long-standing models of live, in-person fan interaction and communication was the convention. Fans would travel the state, the country, even the world to meet other fans in person to discuss their favorite books, movies, television series, or simply be able to spend a few days with people who shared their interests in parts of fandom, be it slash, fur, science fiction, etc. Beyond these conventions, many of these fans had few ways of interacting beyond letter- and/or fan-zine communications, fanclubs, and other mail-based activities. Conventions have thrived for most of a century, beginning (arguably?) with Philcon in 1936, with few alterations in their models for content, marketing, attendance, and organization.

And yet, I believe few today would argue with me that the convention as modeled in the past is dying. Hotel costs have skyrocketed, and many such facilities are no longer interested in the business of renting out all of their meeting rooms at a low rate for an entire weekend to a convention when they can fit in 3 or 4 shorter events, weddings, church groups, or what-have-you over the same amount of time, get large catering contracts and other extras out of the deal. The internet has made communicating with other fans of shared interests much simpler and faster, and possible from the comfort of one’s own living room. There’s no need to trek to MediaWest every year to buy the newest fanzines to get your fan-fiction or art fix; there are more stories than anyone could possibly read in a lifetime available on-line. Convention dealers face lower profits due to the availability of much genre merchandise on-line and often at discount prices via ebay, Amazon, and other large vendors. Many smaller, local conventions find themselves suffering and dying out, or at least facing dwindling attendance numbers where only the largest events that offer wide varieties of programming seem to thrive and continue, such as DragonCon or highly commercial events such as those put on by Creation Entertainment. Cosplay and gaming may continue to give members of those fandom interests reasons to continue attending live events, but they are but two parts of a wide spectrum of fandom interests.

So perhaps it is time for fandom to look towards other models of live interactions and events, such as the BarCamp. Much more interactively generated by “users” (ie, attendees), the BarCamp breaks with the more rigid convention model, can take place in a wider variety of venues (utilizing, say, university facilities or business spaces), and looks for corporate sponsorship to cover costs instead of asking for membership fees from attendees. BarCamps embrace Web 2.0 ideas and technology to stay on top of current trends instead of lagging behind them and clinging to outdated models of interaction. Anyone can start up a BarCamp, and without the high financial burdens or risks involved in even organizing a small convention where hotel blocks must be guaranteed, meeting rooms booked, other conventions attended in order to promote your event, or even guests contracted.

This is part of why I will be very interested in seeing how Camp Fandom comes together for this year, as a fandom-specific event taking place utilizing the BarCamp model. Will other fandom camps follow, perhaps specific to certain fandoms, genres and interests, just as conventions in the past did? It will be interesting to see.

What other impacts will the “2.0″ world we live in have on fandom, and how fans consume and interact with our canon sources, be it movies, television, music, sports, etc? These are interesting questions to consider, and I’d be curious to continue this discussion and see what others think. I think we’ve already seen the “niche” market affect media fandom in the sense that we are no longer a world where only Star Trek, Star Wars, and a few other large name fandoms rule fandom-generated content. There are “niche” fandoms for virtually everything these days, and communities for sharing works about them. Even within each individual fandom, like say Harry Potter, there are communities, mailing lists, and fanworks for every sub-interest imaginable: genficcer-only, slash and het pairings of all kinds, AUs, any kink imaginable…you name it. And those involved in large-scale fandom activities such as running multi-fandom archives, conventions, etc, need to be aware of the wide variety of users that are potentially out there beyond what they might be familiar with inside of their own niche, and decide who they wish to serve: only those within their special interest, or the ever-wider world of fandom out there today.

Gifts for the fangirl/fanboy in your life…

November 29th, 2008

The holidays are just around the corner. People are writing for ficathons, creating fandom Advent calendars, sending out holiday cards, doing Holiday feedbacking, writing holiday themed stories, creating holiday themed fan art and vids, and gift shopping for the fans in their life… That shopping one is the one I’m going to focus on. :) If you’re a fangirl/fanboy, what should you be asking for or what should you be buying for the fangirls/fanboys in your life?

* A Netbook. I have this particular model but there are a number of other models and companies out there making them including this one on Tiger Direct. If you’re going to a convention and want a place to dump your pictures, this works. It is portable enough that it can be shoved in a large purse or messenger bag and light enough not to way you down. If you’re waiting to meet up with another fan at a coffee shop before a movie, small and functional enough to take out and surf the Internet for five minutes. It is great for viewing fan vids and reading fan fiction in bed. You can hop on it and blog about the meet up you went to while taking the train home, not having to wait until you get home. It won’t replace your regular desktop or laptop but great for that person who wants to be able to continue their fanac on the road.

* Paid time on a favorite service like LiveJournal, InsaneJournal, Salon.Com, RockFic, IMVU, NetFlix, DreamHost, etc. Paying for them means you frequently don’t have to view ads and/or gain access to features not available to non-paid members. If you’re really devoted to a service, like I am to LiveJournal, this can be a great gift that a person can use all year.

* Gift certificates to a favorite bookstore, comics store, music store or electronics store. Yeah, they can seem lame an impersonal but one of the advantages is that you won’t accidentally buy them season 2 of CSI when they really just needed season 3 of CSI to complete their DVD collection. Or that you buy your favorite manga fan a volume of manga that they’ve read already or they hate because you totally misread their taste. If you’re doing this, you can be really creative, show your fangirl/fanboy something new by introducing them to some place new and support local businesses. If you’re in the Elgin, Illinois area, skip Borders and Barnes N Noble. Instead, get a gift certificate for Books at Sunset.

* Homemade coupons for things you might not be willing to do otherwise. The coupons can be for things like attending a convention so your fangirl/fanboy doesn’t have to go by themselves, attending a movie with them, sitting through their favorite television with them and not complaining about how bad the show is, letting them use your printer so they can read their favorite stories in print, going to a comics or manga store with them, offering to let them TiVo their favorite show on your machine and letting them watch it on your television, etc. This is about doing what makes them happy and it can be greatly appreciated, especially for the more introverted geeks who aren’t comfortable attending social functions on their own.

* Printing the fangirl/fanboy’s creations. If they are a fan fiction writer, compile all their work in a Word file, format it and then print and bind it using a service like Lulu or Kinkos. Consider printing up 5 total copies so that they can share that present with their fandom friends. If they are a fan artists, find their favorite piece and do a large print of it and frame it. For some fans who hope to go pro, this can be a glimpse into what could be for them: Seeing their work in print, seeing their work on display.

* Event tickets. I’m a huge sports fan. I have a friend who is a fan of musicals. I have another friend who loves seeing bands play live. And I have yet another friend who loves actors and attending conventions. If you got me tickets for the Chicago Bears, Bulls, Blackhawks, Cubs, White Sox, Rush, Sky, Bandits, Fire, I’d be ecstatic because I love seeing these events live. I’d be even happier if you got a pair and went with me. I know the same would be true for my music, actor and musical loving friends.

* Other electronics. These can be expensive but can really help enhance a fangirl/fanboy’s fannish experience. A DVR means they can catch things that the might not be able to watch otherwise. An iPhone means they can listen to music, find events, catch up with fan related news when they are far away from the computer, and be super hip. A flat screen television can save them space in their apartment and be a step up from their tube set. It can also help increase their screen resolution so that they can swoon, giggle, sigh and flail over Johnny Depp that much better. A GPS device can get your fangirl/fanboy to conventions, movies, meetups with out getting lost all the time and calling you for directions. A wii can help your fangirl/fanboy continue with their latest gaming obsession or get fit so they can look good for that meetup. Guitar Hero means your favorite music fan can jam like and with their favorite bands.

Besides these ideas, what else would you recommend for your favorite fangirl/fanboy? Or as a fangirl/fanboy, what do you want to get this holiday season?

Fandom as a business

October 27th, 2008

I spend at least two to eight hours a day working on Fan History. On a busy day, I could spend twelve hours day. About a third (1) of that time is spent talking about effective ways to market the site, how to improve the content, policy decisions and revisions that need to be made, how features we implement will be received by certain communities, discussing the risk/reward of these various strategies. My favorite places to have these conversations include twitter where I have access to some great people who follow me who can offer a business and wiki perspective, and via phone, AIM, e-mail or another messenger where I can have one on one conversations with users, with fandom and business people. I also love to have these conversations on my LiveJournal as a result of posting about my insecurities regarding what I’m doing, explaining the process of what I’m doing and soliciting alpha and beta feedback on features and policy we’re launching on a semi-public platform. (2)

I was having one of these conversations (3) recently on LiveJournal about a bot we’re planning on launching soon. One of the issues that came up was that, in making the decision to create this bot and launch this bot, we are going to ruffle some feathers because it goes against the norm in parts of LiveJournal related fandom communities. We decided to go ahead with it anyway because, as a business decision, it made sense. Risk/Reward was weighted. We discussed different, for want of a better term, market segments (groups and cliques? subfandoms? fannish subcultures?) inside of fandom, and their potential reactions to this bot. We also review previous decisions that were comparable, response to that and determined that overall, if we take this step and that step, our response rate should be ninety percent favorable. The ten percent unfavorable are not part of our potential audience, have a negative view of Fan History anyway, were largely informed of the means of protecting themselves in the previous discussions about Fan History. We can afford that as such articles increase our participation on the wiki, help users overcome a barrier for entry by not forcing them to create articles from scratch and get a lot of quantitative and qualitative information which will help us to better understand fandom. That’s how we made our decision. It was a business one.

That sparked further conversation which asked the question: Should fandom be treated as a business? Should business models be used as ways to assist in the decision making process as it pertains to sites, projects and people where the decision is based on a fandom?

There is a good argument for most fans that the answer should be no. Fandom is a hobby. Fans engage other fans and the source material for pleasure. The goals of most fans don’t necessitate a business approach.

But for certain subsets of people involved in fandom, fandom is a business and decisions need to be made based on that model. These people include fans who invest a fair amount of time and money on their sites, convention dealers, convention organizers, fans who have incorporated or report earnings from fandom on their taxes, anyone running a fansite with over 50,000 unique visitors a month, fan artists who sell their work, costumers, startups operating in fanspaces, freelance writers who also are fans, professional bloggers covering entertainment and fandom issues, professional writers and the list goes on and on. There are just a huge number of people who need to treat fandom as a business. These are people who cannot afford make decisions based on their perceptions of how “fandom” will respond, what fannish norms are and act as if they are operating on the same level as the casual fans who have much less of an investment legally and financially in fandom.

Why can’t they afford to do that? Because for a lot of fans who are in fandom for pure enjoyment, they have a general goal of not making waves, of finding ways to participate that don’t create additional strife for themselves, where they can express their love of canon, of finding a ways to enjoy the source more, of connecting with like minded people. Those are great goals for fandom. But if you’re on that other level, your goals are different. They include such things as covering the cost of materials, hosting, travel expenses. They include trying to make money, to profit off or maximize your profit. The goal might include trying to increase traffic, increase media exposure, increase interest in your project. The goal might be to create the biggest information resource, to create the best information resource, to use that information to get a job. These aren’t necessarily compatible goals.

If you’re a fan, you might shut your mouth and avoid controversy at all costs. If you don’t, your enjoyment of fandom might decrease. If you’ve got a financial or business stake in fandom, you might not have that luxury. You might need to wade in to that controversy or find a way to use it to your benefit. It can increase your traffic and your visibility which can help your bottom line. (4) By alienating a certain group, you might gain acceptance by a larger group who will enjoy what you’re doing who might not otherwise have been exposed to you had they not heard about it from the people who disliked the business. From a risk/reward perspective, it makes sense.

If you’re a fan, the rules might be that you might be constrained by personal relationships. You don’t want to offend your friends, alienate people who could help you be happy in fandom. These rules on a micro level mean you can’t say and do certain things. If you’re a business, the rules are different as you’re generally operating on and being judged on a macro level. On the micro level of fans, it is generally viewed as unacceptable to copy some one’s work and to archive it on your personal web space. On a business level, this behavior is generally much more acceptable and tolerated. Google makes copies and derivative copies of most people’s content. Fans don’t react negatively because this is being done by a corporation and the overall good is viewed as worth the loss of control of their content means that they can have copies of their work available should something happen to their own copy. It also makes their and other people’s content much more readily acceptable. The business aspect depersonalizes this and makes it acceptable. Thus, if you’re a fan with a financial stake in fandom, you need to depersonalize these activities and treat your fansite and activities like a business because of the dual standards in fandom. By acting like and treating your fansite like a business, your activities are judged by a different set of standards which more generally are friendly towards probable business models. If you treat it like fandom, you can’t get away with that.

If you are an artist who makes their living off of fan art, it behooves you to treat fandom like a business. Some parts of fandom have real problems with fans profiting off their fan created works. If you immerse yourself in that culture, you are going to have a problem of trying to make money off a community that is intrinsically hostile to what you’re doing. How can you then make a living off your art? If you’re treating fandom your fan art like a business, you find conventions that allow you to sell or auction your work. You find auction sites that allow you to sell this type of content. You create a site which talks about your art experience, has a gallery of some of your work, talks about your inspiration, might have a blog and talks about where you can buy your art. You create art that you think you can sell. You do this by researching what fan art does sell, finding out what fandoms are popular, possibly doing a few free pieces for big name fans so that you can help build an audience, leaving comments in reply to people discussing your work and avoiding places that are hostile to this business plan. You’re open and honest about what you’re doing. You learn enough of the legal defenses so that if some one calls your art illegal that will lead to a crack down on fans who aren’t trying to make money off their work, you can defend yourself. You can still act like a fan and if your art becomes established enough for its quality, you can play the fandom game more on a personal level with out it hurting your bottom line as your audience will be more focused on the product than you as a person. If you do the opposite, if you play fandom games first and then try to become a professional fan artist, people are going to have to get over all your fandom baggage as part of the purchasing decision process… which means tat when you play in fandom, you’ve got to weigh how you behave in that context of losing potential sales. What is the risk/reward for making fandom wank? Make Failure to these tasks will hurt your bottom line.

If you’re a fan who is spending upwards of a thousand dollars a year on your fansite, in creating art, in making costumes, organizing a convention, publishing fanzines, you have the added issue that you will probably have to treat fandom as a business unless you have some other means of income or are independently wealthy. From my point of view, Fan History costs me a fair amount of money to maintain. I have web hosting costs. I have development costs. I have advertising costs. I have legal and incorporation fees. I have taxes. I have networking costs. I’m fortunate in that my job provides me just enough money to cover these costs and my basic living costs that I can afford to spend all this time on Fan History. I’m also lucky because my job is fandom related to the extent that many of the things I do professional connect back to what I do for Fan History as a business. Because I love what I do, I am willing to make the sacrifices I need to in order to see things through. If I didn’t have my job, I would likely be unable to maintain Fan History. Many others who treat fandom as a business have similar issues. Fandom is their job. It is their career. For people in those positions, it is difficult to treat fandom as a hobby, as a source of personal enjoyment. When making decisions, we’re talking about people who aren’t making decisions about what makes them happy but about their personal livelihood. If you have a problem with a person in fandom, good advice might be to retreat and avoid them. If you’re in fandom as a business and you have a problem with a person in fandom, a business decision might be made differently. Why? If you were giving advice to some one about a co-worker or boss who were annoying, always putting you down, who were slandering you, whose activities at work were threatening your ability to do your job, you probably wouldn’t tell them to just ignore their boss and do whatever they feel like because doing so could result in them getting fired. Fandom as a business livelihood is the same. You make decisions differently.

The reality of making decisions in fandom based on business models can feel really cynical if you’re a fan who bases your decisions based on what heightens your fannish enjoyment. If you’re making business decisions in fandom, the whole process can be really frustrating as your actions might not be judged as business decisions but rather as actions in fandom evaluated from the perspective of what facilitates an individual in fandom’s personal goals. How do you handle these two things perspectives existing together? I don’t know… but the easiest way to start is to remember both perspectives exist and for fans to work with people who are changing their perspective.

1. About 1/10 of my time is being involved with Fan History and FanworksFinder as a user. The remaining time is spent implementing various policy decisions, tutoring people how to do them, doing work for pay that relates back to the activities I do on Fan History, publicizing the site, dealing with admin issues, searching for money or trying to keep abreast with fandom news.

2. If you’re interested in what I and what Fan History LLC are doing, then feel free to follow me on twitter or friend me on LiveJournal.

3. This is a locked conversation on LiveJournal. In order to view it, I need to have friended you in order to view it.

4. Which isn’t to say that this is just the purview of people with business interests in fandom. Plenty of fans enjoy controversy and plenty of fans have a stake in creating controversy in order to further their own standing in the community. The purpose in doing those activities is just different and should be acknowledged as such. FanLib benefited from controversy because it increased their potential audience. Some fans benefited from creating the controversy because it helped solidify group cohesion and reasserted their status as important people in the fan community.

$15, airlines and fandom

June 12th, 2008

This afternoon, I found out about United’s $15 surcharge for the first bag you check.  I’m not a big traveler.   It doesn’t necessarily affect me much.  This fee has the potential to hurt parts of fandom though.    Convention season is in full swing.  Science fiction conventions, anime conventions, furry conventions, media fandom convention: The season is under way.   These conventions need dealers.  Dealers can make or break a convention, help spread the rep of good cons, pan bad ones.  They also help infuse convention committees with early cash to help conventions cover their early costs.  A number of dealers fly to conventions.  Most of them check luggage.  With the increase in airfare, the $15 is just one more fee for them to eat which can hurt their bottom line.  If transportation costs get too high, because of fees like this one, it means  that they will likely pass on a number of conventions.    That has possible ramifications across the whole convention circuit and will make running conventions more difficult.

MediaWest con report: Pre-planning, Thursday, Friday

May 30th, 2008

In April, my primary activity involving Fan History was in promoting the wiki on-line. The results? Fan History‘s traffic was up 254% on the year.

And then May. For Fan History, May was a jammed pack month. Trying to continue to promote Fan History on-line. Switching over from VPS to a dedicated server. Big daily increase in traffic. Administrator turnover. RecentChangesCamp. ACEN 2008. MediaWest 2008. Following up on all three, all of which were different types. Camp. As a press attendee. As a dealer. For most of the month, I didn’t know if I was coming or going.

MediaWest was the third of three events I had for the month and the one I was most nervous about attending. I’m a fandom history geek. The more I learn, the more I know nothing. I knew just enough about Fan History, well, to make me really nervous. The FanQs trace their roots back to friction with science fiction fandom awards. MediaWest as a touchstone to off-line fandom in the past and the present. Paula Smith, who named Mary Sue and did a whole bunch of other things for fandom, would likely be there. This convention was full of people who I knew of, had heard of and respected for their place in fandom history.

Did I mention I was all flaked out about attending this convention? I just want to be sure that my audience knows that. I pestered a number of fandom acquaintances about the whole thing. What was it like? Would people know who I was? Did the convention have an audience that would be open to Fan History? How should I handle it if I ran across people I wanked/fought with before? Would I be on my own or would I have friends there? Could I survive the politics of fandom? The answers I got from my acquaintances were at times highly contradictory. Nervous. Nervous.

My prep work for Fan History and myself, pestering my friends aside, included printing up stickers. I already had handouts from ACEN 2008. Sidewinder had printed everything else up. I just had to pack my clothes, rent the car, make sure I had a hotel room. I think, if you’re a dealer, you should do more. But I’m me and May was stressful.

I left Illinois around noon, arrived in Lansing after an uneventful four hour drive. I got in, called my room mate who told me to check in, and then called Sidewinder, to find out when she would arrive in. I had four hours to kill so I called Kay. I talked to Kay, offered to pick up her and her friends from Tim Hortons so they wouldn’t have to walk. Then I killed time with them at Tim Hortons and their hotel room. That involved some interesting conversations. FanLib is still very much a sore point with some people. Legal issues involving fandom are very interesting. My dad’s cookies are mighty tasty. Sara Sidle on CSI may or may not be hot but don’t mess with another fan’s OTP. … Especially when said fan is a Harry Potter fan. Also, yeah, it frequently comes down to who we find physically attractive. When Sidewinder got in, Kay showed me the Dealer’s Room and I sort of helped Sidewinder unpack and foisted wine and cookies off on her. I also set up my table with all the YAY! flyers and hand outs Sidewinder had printed. Then I went out with Sidewinder and Dave, her Doctor boyfriend guy, and ate a nice local bar where we had appetizers, alcohol and pub grub. My pub grub included pizza. (And said pizza later became Sidewinder’s breakfast.) When I got back, I spent a long time chatting with my room mate about a great many things, including how we met in fandom.

Woke up early Friday. Got myself some donuts and hot chocolate from Tim Hortons. Pretty tasty. Real donuts. Not southern style krispy kreme ick. Went back to the hotel. Uploaded some pictures I took the day before. Killed time. Then moseyed over to dealer’s room with my laptop to kill time. I talked to a lot of really nice people. I made Nicole talk to a lot of really nice people. I learned more about the Blake’s 7 fandom than I knew before. Conversations began to blend. I offered to drive get food. I went to Wendys. I bought food. And then I got back and lost my keys. This involved much drama. I had to report my keys lost. I had to ask con security and the hotel to keep an eye on them. I stressed and flaked myself out. I have to applaud everyone involved at the convention and hotel for being very helpful and kind. (I didn’t find my keys until Sunday afternoon. Much drama involved with that. And I was extremely embarrassed at where they did turn up.) I didn’t do any panels because I was manning Fan History‘s dealer’s table. Lots of plugging that Fan History was working on becoming a fandom directory, that anyone could edit it, that we have no notability requirement, that having some friction in who is telling the history can be good for the history and cited the Rescue Rangers article as a good example of this. Friday night, went out can’t remember where. Had appetizers maybe and ribs and chicken and a Mike’s Hard Lemonade. Sat around Sidewinder’s hotel room/dealing out of her room room and talked fandom shit for a bit. Then went back to my hotel room and repeated with my roommate and her friend. Went to sleep really late.

ACEN 2008

May 19th, 2008

Over the weekend, I attended ACEN 2008, an anime convention held in Rosemont, Illinois that attracted a crowd of over 12,000 anime fans.  It was held in a convention center that I hadn’t attended a convention at since 1999 or so.  Huge was an understatement from my point of view.  As a non-Anime fandom identifying fan, I suffered almost immediate culture shock.  My brother prepped me for attending by saying to think of it was a convention like I’d see in Genshiken.  Yes, that felt pretty accurate.  Everything depicted in Genishiken was pretty much there, except that it was filled with an American audience as opposed to a Japanese one.

I passed on most of the big events, something that I started regretting by the time I got home Sunday afternoon.  I didn’t go for the experience and talk with people like I should have.  There were a lot of people who could really have helped my understanding of fandom had I had the courage to approach more people. The few conversations I did have were interesting, entertaining and enlightening.  The panel I did went pretty well and hopefully I can get Fan History involved with more panels in the future.

My selection of pretty poor pictures can be found here.

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