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Bondage and Knitting redux
probably a less exciting post than you would think from the title.

A month or so ago there was a little flurry about the number of bondage items at the Eastercon. I pointed out that the issue wasn't that the number of panels, it was the lack of relevance to SF/fantasy. I suggested that it would be quite wrong to have that many knitting items, and gave the example of a sock knitting workshop as the sort of specialised event that would be quite inappropriate to have at the Eastercon.

I then was informed first that there are in fact as many knitting items as bondage items, and second that there will be a sock knitting workshop at Eastercon. I expressed some surprise at this and was told that items of this kind were there because con members had volunteered them.

Today I was reading, on another site, a thread about knitting at the Eastercon. In that thread a knitter explained that she had been approached to do a sock knitting workshop, but had declined -- and she was glad that the committee had found somebody else.

Sock knitting -- like the specialist bondage ties they're having workshops on -- is not a beginner skill; this isn't a 'have a go and try out something new' workshop, it's a specialist workshop for established knitters to develop their skills.

How many SF/fantasy items do you think you will find at a knitting convention? (There might well be one -- a knit a dalek/tardis/clanger type thing, which the Eastercon is also having and which I think is entirely appropriate).

You know, there is scarcely any fannish programme, fan history programme or fanzine programme at this convention. I've talked to fans who are equally concerned about areas of SF/fantasy that they are interested in and that are under-represented. And yet we have dozens, perhaps hundreds of items on topics that have no relevance to SF other than that 'fans like to do them'. And yet, the same committee members who are ignoring swathes of the core of the hobby are going to considerable lengths to develop programming relating to non-SF hobbies.

We need to take some action here, chaps. This group of people have asked to run the Eastercon again in 2012; some of them are influential in the 2014 Worldcon bid (I should stress that I have no concerns about programme for that convention). This isn't a 'general way for geeks to hang out with agreeable company and do interesting geeky things', it's the National SF convention. We should ensure that it is so; that it reflects, in an ecumenical way, the broad SF/fantasy interests of the membership, and that the non-SF items represent an interesting alternative to the main events rather than the main activity.

Oh look - a bid chair ;-)

Been there, done that, and I am well aware that the traditional answer to this is 'run your own damn Eastercon then'. I do not think I am suggesting an alternative bid. More a sort of extended whine at the bid session that says "actually we want a programme that primarily reflects the hobby". What would be good (she said stone-soup-ly) is if someone could do a little bit of analysis on the programme.

I note, for example, that a friend of mine is on a panel which is SF related, but which is an exact copy of a panel from two years ago. It was OK, not particularly great, but OK, then. I can't imagine any active and engaged programme team thinking it was a good idea to put it on again so soon.

Let's talk about this there.

I can't understand why there are so many BDSM panels either but if they're poorly attended then I expect they will fade into obscurity.

The mode of programming this year was to go up to people and demand to know what they wanted to do. I suspect that I am not the only person to have listed a number of things. The only one taken up was a none sf related workshop. I protested vicferously and was told there was no roomon literary items. I carried on protesting and was eventually give stuff about sf. Then I saw the programme and realises why there was no space for me on sf items ( I reckon none-sf : sf is 3:2). I have done my best to help out by withdrawing the none-sf workshop.

If we can find space, a number of us are up for some guerrila programming.

Perhaps an excursion to see some SF London locations which would get round the space issue ? Most of the ones I can think of offhand are riverside .

There's a lot of grumbling about this and little data - people seem to be fixating on specific things - so I've tried to extract some empirical data by going through the online programme and classifying items as 'SF/Fan/Science' vs. 'Non-SF'. I'm assuming, for the purposes of this discussion, that science items are counted as 'relevant*' as are comics items and some of the historical items with titles that link them directly to SF. I also include the items about writing as 'relevant' since we are, by and large, celebrating the written form. Some items people might like, including Morris, whisky tasting, crisis management and Mitch Ben don't make it into the SF classification. Needless to say, some of the classifications are subjective.

The results are: 197 SF-related items, 52 non-related items.

Thus the national SF convention is being polluted by non-SF things at a rate of 21%

(note: I have not weighted for length of item).

I don't think this is worth worrying about myself, especially since some of the non-SF items are potential source material (sword/quaterstaff workshops), are favoured of one of the GoHs (whisky tasting) or are intimately related to childcare.

* [ETA] I am aware that some people, including one of those vociferous on the forum against 'non-SF items', do not not regard science items as valid for inclusion in a con or local group's programme, so YMMV on what you think is relevant.

Edited at 2010-03-30 01:56 pm (UTC)

I'll happily debate Mitch with you - chosen for his dalek impersonations and classic song "Be My Dr Who girl.." Some of the other areas are more clear cut.

Thank you for taking the time to do the analysis.

As a member of the proposed bid team - I broadly agree, although I wouldn't like to squeeze out all non-mainstream activity. (from what I have programmed, my main non sf item is balloon modelling for kids, although the easiest one to make is clearly a light sabre...)

If people noted an interest, and noted it early, and we could get enough interested parties to join in, then SF items are running. There's possibly a limit to what you can cajole people into doing where there is limited enthusiasm, and the activities suffer as a result of not being where the heart is. We have asked for interest in being involved
- on the registration forms
- on the yahoo and facebook groups
- via LJ
- in person where we are aware of people's interests

I would love to see more fan history/ fanzine interest, if we have people motivated enough to lead them.

I'll also point out there is only actually a carry over of 2 from one committee to the next (chair and finance); and that there's a 2011 bid where your opinions would also be most welcome! (I'm not committee this year, just a wrangler.)

Generally if there are people who would like to be on history and fannish items, the events will run.

Hope to see you and lots of questions at the bid session


OK, that's what I asked for above, so thank you. And yes, I was certainly fixated on knitting.

I've had a closer look at the programme too. It's really very strange. You are correct that there are a lot of items that are relevant, but a lot of them are strangely peripheral. I don't see a lot that is engaging critically with the thematic and intellectual content of SF & fantasy, rather than the shiny edges. I think the science programming is an exception here; it looks very strong.

This should have been a followup to Dave.

I heard a rumour that, for this year at any rate, the perception was that the interest in fannishly, fan history and fanzine panel items had been largely over-taken by Corflu. But, even if true, this doesn't answer your wider point about other fannish activity.

Ah. Well, there certainly *was* Corflu, but my guess is that Eastercon will probably only lose a dozen members who chose to go to Corflu instead and would otherwise have been at Eastercon, and it's probably gained a few who have flown over for both conventions. So swings and roundabouts.

I will point some Corflu types at this discussion, and suggest they comment anonymously (but giving their names) if they're not on LJ.

Edited at 2010-03-30 02:11 pm (UTC)

First of all a correction to what you say. There are similarities in the committee for this Eastercon and the one bidding for 2012 but they are not the same. I ran the programme at Orbital two years ago and if successful will be running the 2012 programme, though I am not running programme this year. At Orbital, we did have a fan stream run by Claire and Mark. If we win the bid for 2012, there will be a fan stream.

Onto the main point about items that are not SF related. We had a lot of those at Orbital and there will be a lot this weekend and at 2012 if we win. These are items that are additional to the programme and not replacing other items, and I think it adds to the diversity of an Eastercon to have such a wide range of extra items where our membership can show their additional knowledge and skills.

Who are the committee for the 2012 bid?

The results are: 197 SF-related items, 52 non-related items.
Thus the national SF convention is being polluted by non-SF things at a rate of 21%

I think we set a benchmark of 20% at our first committee meeting, so that sounds about right.

If I had a £1 for every time someone suggested (or insisted!) we include a fannish programme item and had to give £1 away for every person that was willing to participate in the suggested fannish programme items, I'd be comfortably weighed down by £1 coins.

So why didn't Odyssey get enough volunteers to participate in fannish programme items? That is a panel debate I'd like to see myself - and am very willing to take part in. I had a really nice time socialising at the fan lounge in Montreal but even there, at a Worldcon, it was severely under-utilised. I'm perfectly willing to include any SF or fan related programme items at Olympus 2012 providing there are enough people willing to take part in it. No need for guerrilla programming; just get your programme item together within a sensible timeframe and we'll pencil you in. I am also unlikely to want to move too far from the 20% allocation to non SF items. These are there to add flavour and light relief, both of which I believe are necessary for a full 4 day convention.

On another note, I had no idea I was so influential :) Myself and vindolandia are the only two members of Odyssey 2010 to be on the Olympus 2012 committee and for both of us, Odyssey was the first committee we've been on. We will be joined by 3 newcomers to Eastercon committees and two members of the 2008 Committee. As far as the 2014 bid for a UK Worldcon goes, I believe I am the only common factor between Odyssey 2012 and the 2014 bid, so I guess I must be one of those mover/shaker thingies if that commonality has got you lot all worried that I will destroy fandom as we know it :) Really, I won't...

just get your programme item together within a sensible timeframe and we'll pencil you in

I think this is probably part of the -- problem is too strong, perhaps; disconnect? -- that we've got going on here. The programme teams I've worked on have seen it as their job to come up with the items. To research the interests and strengths of the convention members -- not just based on the information con members provide, but on actually researching them, asking and Googling around -- and to come up with discussion topics that play to those interests and strengths.

Put another way, but to me it seems that in the first instance it's not convention members' role to come up with fan (or other) programme items; and in the first instance it's the convention organisers' role to come up with discussions that excite the members, and make them want to participate. Suggestions from the floor are all very well, but I wouldn't want to say I'd automatically accept them. A good con programme has its own, conscious focus, I think.

I think you'll find its hard to find any slot where there's not at least a couple of sf items on at any one time. Its a case of not counting this many itens are sf or science and this many aren't its a case of looking more holistically at the overall program. We have 1200 (and counting) people coming to Odyssey many of whom are orbital repeats and coming for the diversity of programing. Yes the program isn't perfect but its pretty damn good. No we don't have as many fannish items as we might like - but not because we don't want them but because when we approached people they often didn't want to do them. There will be differences between programs with different program managers. Bottom line is this isn't a small mexicon it a fairly major event and impossible to keep every one happy all the time but I suspect most people will be happy most of the time. G.

I will point out for the historical record that Mexicon, as well as having a literary bent, also had a policy of inclusive programme, and their test was that every item should genuinely appeal to at least 1/3 of the members.

You would not want to apply that test to an Eastercon. But if you did, Ben Goldacre, Mitch Benn and the Dr Who screening would I am sure pass it with ease.

Program (Anonymous) Expand
I suggested 'Fandom as Gerontocracy' to Greg and Judith in the first week of February. Greg and I haven't done a 'Fandom as...' since 1994, and one of the prompts to this one was actually a discussion at the Melton Mowbray about the fannish reaction to Beccon '87 and the ways in which matters of the age and length of service of fans in fandom works then and now.

So there is at least one place on the programme where we can talk about some of this stuff, for those still interested on Monday afternoon.

In response to various comments.

I tend to divide the programme into three bits. First, there's the stuff that's definitely about SF -- I would expect this to be at least 60% of the programme, preferably more. It sounds like Odyssey haven't got as high as 50%. Second, there's the not-SF-as-such-but-closely-related items -- science with some relevance to fiction, fiction with some relevance to science, and fandom/fan history/etc. It sounds like Odyssey have done well with the first of these, but maybe not so well with the other two, especially the fannish programming. 10% of the programme for each of these. Finally, there's the not-actually-relevant-but-fans-are-interested-in-this-stuff category. 10% at most, and I think Odyssey is well over that. Regency dancing, bondage workshops, knitting (from non-SF-related patterns), etc. No more than one item, or two at the very most, for any specific sub-interest.


I've just taken a look at the programme with something else in mind. How many items there are on the literary guests of honour? The results are pathetic.

Iain Banks items: GoH interview; Whisky panel; Iain Banks before the Wasp Factory.
Liz Williams: GoH interview; KK;
Al Renolds: GoH interview, KK

I'm also searching hard to find any panel or programme item that is actually relevant to their work (although there is a SETI panel).

(Deleted comment)

(although I'm having a harder time computing shopping vs beer. maybe the shopping was incredible?)

My experience has been that I no longer go to fannish panels. It has been a while since I've seen any that I was particularly interested in or was not a rehash of something I'd listened to years ago. This is why I only attend two conventions, mainly to catch up with old friends. One has no pannels at all and might be termed a relaxicon if there were fewer improv like activities. The other has panels on everything under the sun and a few things in the dark.

So from my point of view it is neat to have panels about subjects I know nothing/very little about, but it would not be a big deal to me if they were eliminated. It would just mean that I'd have one less reason to go.

I sometimes say this half in jest but do strongly believe that EVEN IF YOU DON"T GO TO THEM the type and quality of programme items will shape the atmosphere of the event and the buzz you'll get even if just socialising in the the bar. A strong and vibrant literary programme will - for example - be more likely to generate conversations of broader range and greater depth about books with your buddies (good Novacons I've had, and, indeed programmed); while decent fannish programming will energise conversations with new people from the environment you've only previously heard of by reputation (pace the last Corflu).