Zakem: Whither Midwestcon

By Joel Zakem: [The following contains my personal thoughts and should be in no way construed to be the thoughts or position of the Cincinnati Fantasy Group (CFG) as a whole or of any other CFG member.]

On August 6, 2013, an article entitled “Midwestcon’s Future To Be Decided” was posted on File770. As of early morning on August 12, only two comments to the piece have been posted. While I drafted a rather lengthy comment to address what I felt was an oversimplification of the issue, upon reflection and after consulting with several other CFG members, I decided it would be best to refrain until after the vote took place. Besides, the CFG had earlier reached a consensus to keep this issue “in-house” until after the vote occurred.

There was a vote at the August 10 CFG meeting (one of the few official votes that I remember taking place during my 40+ years as a CFG member), and Bill Cavin left the voting open until Sunday night so that CFG members who were not able to attend the meeting in person could have their say. The choices were to retire Midwestcon after Midwestcon 65 in 2014; to continue Midwestcon, if possible (important emphasis) into the future; or abstention. At a bit past 11 p.m. (Eastern Time) on August 11, Bill reported that the winning vote was to continue Midwestcon, if possible. Discussions are ongoing as to how this will be accomplished.

Such discussion is necessary because Midwestcon, like several other cons, is in trouble. This is not a new problem and there have been many informal discussions over the past several years, within the CFG and among Midwestcon attendees, as to how to change the trend. Midwestcon’s attendance is decreasing and has fallen under 100 for the past three years, with only 86 paid members in 2012 (78 actually on site) and 90 paid members in 2013 (86 on site). Moreover, a sizable portion of Midwestcon’s current membership consists of locals who do not take a room for the weekend (not that I blame them for trying to avoid the expense), which has necessitated the shrinking of our room block.

Another major problem has been the fact that various department heads are looking to step down. Finding volunteers to work within these departments has never been a problem for Midwestcon. The problem is replacing these persons with others who have the time, knowledge and desire to run the departments, who are able coordinate with the committee and hotel, and who can direct the willing volunteers. As someone aptly stated at the August 10 meeting, “the dragon has many legs, it just needs a head.”

(And before anyone misconstrues what was said, the discussion involved department heads, and not the con-chair. I am unaware of any plans for Bill to step down from his position within the CFG or at Midwestcon. Also, I do not believe I have the ability to take over the positions in question, and this should be in no way construed to be an attempt to throw my hat into the ring. I will, however, continue to help Midwestcon in my way.)

This brings us to the “if possible” portion of the vote. Midwestcon is currently in a precarious financial position, and I believe that a majority of the CFG (myself included) is unwilling to operate Midwestcon at a loss. Therefore, Midwestcon’s attendance must increase, and I believe that the CFG should be open to suggestions on how to increase membership without changing the con’s fundamental nature (though I am realistic enough to realize that some change may be necessary). Some suggestions were made at the August 10 meeting and on email exchanges prior to the vote, and I hope these discussions continue. Midwestcon was the first con I attended, and I would hate to see it fade away.