Pixel Scroll 4/19/16 You’ve Lost That Scrollin’ Feelin’

(1) OPENING DAY. The PKDFest is three days long — I posted about the Friday and Saturday sessions at Cal State Fullerton. The party starts Thursday, April 28 on another campus — at UC Irvine.

PKD IN OC CROP

Philip K. Dick in the OC: Virtually Real, Really Virtual

Thursday, April 28, 2016, 10:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. (Humanities Gateway 1030)

Philip K. Dick spent the last decade of his life from 1972 to 1982 in Orange County, having fled the Bay Area convinced he was the target of various malevolent forces, ranging from governmental agencies to religious groups. In Orange County, PKD experienced the anonymity of everyday life in suburbia. He also experienced a divine vision that, as he explained in later writings, permitted him to glimpse the “trans-temporal constancy” of the universe. During his decade in Orange County, he produced some of his most enduring and enigmatic works, including novels like A Scanner Darkly and VALIS that reflect a pervasive sense of paranoia and also PKD’s attempts to make sense of his life-altering spiritual experience.

Schedule:

Opening Remarks & Welcome – 10:30am

  • Jonathan Alexander

10:45am-12:00pm

  • Interviewing Phil, Charles Platt
  • PKD in Perspective, Gregg Rickman
  • PKD on the Couch, Barry Spatz

Lunch Break – 12:00pm-1:00pm

Living with Phil – 1:00pm-2:00pm

  • Tessa Dick, Grania Davis, Gregory Benford (moderator)

Visualizing Phil (in the High Castle and Otherwise) – 2:00pm-3:00pm

  • Sherryl Vint, Jonathan Alexander, Antoinette LaFarge

Coffee break – 3:00pm-3:15pm

PKD and Privacy – 3:15pm-4:30pm

  • David Brin, Gregory Benford

Closing Reception – 4:30pm

Please RSVP to icruse@uci.edu to confirm your attendance.

(2) B.C. Things Kelly Link did before being announced as a Pulitzer finalist yesterday now appear in a strange new light….

(3) VENDORS IN SPACE. Russ Ault told Facebook readers merchants are getting a bum deal at Worldcons.

Some of us out here in the world of convention merchants have, for some time now, been getting increasingly disenchanted with the opportunity presented by the typical Worldcon. (For those unfamiliar, that’s the annual “World Science Fiction Convention”, held in a different place each year, and nominally staffed and run by a different group each year as well.) In a space that is typically similar to that occupied by a Wizard World event, at a cost of more than twice as much per attendee, they end up hosting a crowd that is just 10% to 25% of the size of the typical media or comic con – but the rates they want for vendor space (when you include the price of the separate membership) end up being commensurate with the worst of the WW shows in terms of per-live-body-square-foot results. An eight-foot table and one membership will cost you over $400, with the prospect of having a crowd of as few as 3500 to 4000 people. (Compare that to a 10×10 booth for $1500 with a delivered head count that’s typically in the area of 20,000 – which is not really a very good deal either.)

And they wonder why we bristle when they say things like “The Worldcon doesn’t owe the dealers anything.”

(4) ARTIFICIAL CHARM. Hugh Hancock foresees the “Rise of the Trollbot” in a guest post on Charles Stross’ blog.

… In “Accelerando”, Charlie posited the idea of a swarm of legal robots, creating a neverending stream of companies which exchange ownership so fast they can’t be tracked.

It’s rather clear to me that the same thing is about to happen to social media. And possibly politics.

What makes me so sure?

Microsoft’s Tay Chatbot. Oh, and the state of the art in Customer Relationship Management software….

2: On The Internet, No-one Knows Their Friend Is A Dog.

In many ways, the straightforward trollswarm approach is the least threatening use of this technology. A much more insidious one is to turn the concept on its head – at least initially – and optimise the bots for friendliness.

Let’s say you wish to drive a particular group of fly-fishers out of the fishing community online for good.

Rather than simply firing up a GPU instance and directing it to come up with the world’s best fly-fishing insults, fire it up and direct it to befriend everyone in the fly-fishing community. This is eminently automatable: there are already plenty of tools out there which allow you to build up your Twitter following in a semi-automated manner (even after Twitter clamped down on “auto-following”), and Tay was already equipped to post memes. A decent corpus, a win condition of follows, positive-sentiment messages and RTs, and a bot could become a well-respected member of a social media community in months.

THEN turn the bot against your enemies. Other humans will see the fight too. If your bot’s doing a half-decent job – and remember, it’s already set up to optimise for RTs – real humans, who have actual power and influence in the community, will join in. They may ban the people under attack from community forums, give them abuse offline, or even threaten their jobs or worse.

For even more power and efficiency, don’t do this with one bot. One person starting a fight is ignorable. Twenty, fifty or a hundred respected posters all doing it at once – that’s how things like Gamergate start.

(And of course, the choice of persona for the bots, and how they express their grievances, will be important. Unfortunately we already have a large corpus of information on how to craft a credible narrative and cause people to feel sympathy for our protagonist – storytelling. If the bot-controller has a decent working knowledge of “Save The Cat” or “Story”, that’ll make the botswarm all the more effective…)

(5) A NUMERICAL LACK. From the Dictionary of Fantastic Vocabulary, ”a compendium of imaginary words and their uses,”comes —

Anquintan, n.

a person without five

That’s what happens when someone uses double share!

(6) DO AS I SAY. Dr. Mauser says “Don’t Pirate Indies”. (But dude, your blog is named Shoplifting in the Marketplace of Ideas!)

…. Now, I understand a bit of what’s going on, there’s an awful lot of piracy going on out there, and yeah, in strictest terms, virtually every picture you’ve got on your phone or hard drive that you didn’t take yourself is some kind of copyright violation. I’m not going to go down that puritan road. But let me go through the usual excuses and explain why they don’t apply to indy books….

But I’m broke! – No, you’re not, you just can’t prioritize, or childishly can’t manage your budget. We’re talking an e-book in the $2.99 to $5.99 range. Hell, Comic books are about that much apiece these days. You just bought the latest video game for enough to buy TEN eBooks. You could stock a library for what you spent on that Con. Give up ONE Latte? (Furries are particularly notorious for pleading poverty when their favorite artists put out a $10 portfolio, then drop $50 for a single commission of their personal character in some sexual position – go fig.)

Hey, I’m doing you a favor, it’s free publicity! – Bullshit. In my friend’s case, it’s costing him plenty – hundreds and hundreds of dollars. Free publicity is writing reviews, having discussions, all that stuff they call “Word of Mouth”, and actually BUYING the book so that its Amazon Rankings go up. If you actually Love the author’s work, why are you destroying it?

(7) CAT’S PICTURES. Cat Rambo tells “How I Use Instagram”.

Still working frantically on the update for the Creating an Online Presence for Writers book, plus prepping for this weekend’s online class. One big change since the last version is Instagram‘s rocket upward in popularity. Here in 2016, it is the number two social media network in number of users, second only after Facebook.

It lets you post pictures, often with some sort of caption, and see what other people are posting. Unlike Facebook, it doesn’t play fast and loose with what you see, but gives you a stream composed of everyone you’re following.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 19, 1987 — The Simpsons first aired on The Tracey Ullman Show.

(9) MORTALITY. Rachel Swirsky has revised her essay “On Writing and Mortality”. “It was originally published in 2011. I had recently had a death scare.”

A year or two ago, an article made the rounds which had asked a number of famous authors for ten pieces of writing advice. Some of the advice was irritating, some banal, some profound, and some amusing.

One piece of advice that got picked up and repeated was the idea that if you were working on a project, and found out that you had six weeks to live, if you were willing to set the project down then it was the wrong project for you to be writing.

I dislike that advice. It seems to come from the same place that makes writers say things like “a real writer has to write” or “any writers who can be discouraged should be.” (A convenient excuse for acting like a jerk.)

(10) GOOGLE BOOK SCANNING UPHELD. “Supreme Court rejects challenge to Google book-scanning project”. As David Klaus puts it, “The court says ‘to Hell with your ownership of the books you write.’”

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear a challenge by a group of authors who contend that Google’s massive effort to scan millions of books for an online library violates copyright law.

The Authors Guild and several individual writers have argued that the project, known as Google Books, illegally deprives them of revenue. The high court left in place an October 2015 ruling by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York in favor of Google.

A unanimous three-judge appeals court panel said the case “tests the boundaries of fair use,” but found Google’s practices were ultimately allowed under the law.

The individual plaintiffs who filed the proposed class action against Google included former New York Yankees pitcher Jim Bouton, who wrote the acclaimed memoir “Ball Four.”

Several prominent writers, including novelist and poet Margaret Atwood and lyricist and composer Stephen Sondheim, signed on to a friend-of-the-court brief backing the Authors Guild.

The authors sued Google, whose parent company is Alphabet Inc, in 2005, a year after the project was launched. A lower court dismissed the litigation in 2013, prompting the authors’ appeal.

(11) WICKED AUTOGRAPH. Abe Books has a special Something available for Bradbury fans.

SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES. (SIGNED)

BRADBURY, Ray, [ Christopher Lee ].

Published by Simon & Schuster, New York, 1962 Second Edition. Hardback. Dust Jacket. (1962)

Used Hardcover Signed

…Signed presentation from the author on the front endpaper to Christopher Lee, ‘For Christopher Lee, who is Mr. Dark! With the admiration of his fan – Ray Bradbury, Mar. 21st 1964’. Sir Christopher Frank Carandini Lee, CBE,(1922–2015) was an English actor, singer, author, and World War II veteran. He was notably in ‘The Wicker Man’ and ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’ but is best known for his role as Count Dracula in a sequence of Hammer Horror films and later as Saruman in the ‘Lord of the Rings’ film trilogy.

(12) SPOCK AT TRIBECA. Yahoo! Movies’ Seth Kelley has the story: “’For the Love of Spock’ Q&A Remembers Leonard Nimoy, Talks Future of ‘Star Trek’ Franchise”.

Adam Nimoy remembered his late father, Leonard, during a Q&A that followed a screening of his documentary “For The Love of Spock.” The discussion took place on Monday as part of the Tribeca Film Festival where the film first screened two days earlier.

Variety‘s Gordon Cox moderated the conversation, which also included Zachary Quinto, EP David Zappone and film critic and self-proclaimed Trekker Scott Mantz.

Adam Nimoy, who wrote and directed the film, said that he had plenty of material. “A lot of things got left on the cutting room floor, unfortunately,” he said. But he added that his father would have approved of the final cut. “I think he would be very pleased and proud.”

(13) IMMURED. “Elizabeth Banks Unrecognizable As Power Rangers Reboot’s Rita Repulsa” says Yahoo! News.

People magazine has lifted the lid on 2017?s live action ‘Power Rangers’ reboot by revealing the film’s villain Rita Repulsa as played – beneath layers of costume and prosthetic make up – by Elizabeth Banks.

The ‘Hunger Games’ star is channelling her dark side to play the mean green witch – her first villain role – describing the character as “a modern and edgy re-imagining of the original Rita”.

(14) CROWDSOURCED BOWIE TRIBUTE. Unbound’s project Fill Your Heart: Writers on Bowie will be an anthology of writers inspired by the musician.

Our mourning isn’t over, but we want to write, we’ve got to write: to him, for him, about him. Fill Your Heart: Writers On Bowie is an anthology by some of our greatest contemporary writers. It is an anthology celebrating David Bowie with creativity. Whether a short story, a poem, a piece of memoir, psychogeograhy or creative non-fiction, these pieces will be personal responses to Bowie, to his shaping work and influence.

Edited by the novelist Tiffany Murray, this will be an important celebration, possibly a strange, mad celebration, but it is for anyone who was and is inspired by David Bowie and his work.

Fill Your Heart will be creating something new, a bold anthology that in some way shows us all how Bowie sparked each generation’s imaginations: how he made us.

Let’s spark together.

The collection is 11% funded so far.

(15) GUARDIANS. A Russian Marvel-esque superhero flick. It’s called Zaschitniki (Russian) or Guardians (English).

Set during the Cold War, a secret organization named “Patriot” gathered a group of Soviet superheroes, altering and augmenting the DNA of four individuals, in order to defend the homeland from supernatural threats. The group includes representatives of the different nationalities of the Soviet Union, which each one of them have long been hiding their true identity. In hard times, they settled down to business and gather to defend their homeland.

 

[Thanks to Kendall, JJ, Will R., Gregory Benford, David K.M. Klaus, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

121 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 4/19/16 You’ve Lost That Scrollin’ Feelin’

  1. I’ve been following the comments on Aults Facebook-page and well…

    First there is anger at bringing in too many dealers. It is awful when the dealers outnumber the attendees at any time. We can’t bring in too many dealers, those that come must have a chance to earn their money.

    Then there is an incredible rage against the bastards at WorldFantasy that don’t let newcomers in, giving dealers table to the same people year after year: “equally amazingly, nobody considers expanding the size of the dealer’s room to take advantage of new blood”.

    So if I understand the remedy correctly, the best deal is to expand the dealers room where these people haven’t got any place since before so that they can come in. And shrink the dealers room where they have got a table, so they won’t have any competition from others.

    Apart from that, at least one of the commenters seems to think that anger, bitterness and insulting the organizers is the best way to get somewhere. Not sure about that myself.

  2. I thought Kevin Standlee’s response was awesome.

    I have a lot of sympathy for the dealers, that’s a tough way to make a living. But There are lots and lots of for-profit cons out there. If the hucksters’ room at worldcon doesn’t pay off, I would think they would just go elsewhere. Free market and all that, hey, BT? (Kudos to OGH for the shortest, sweetest retort, BTW)

  3. Worldcon might be more for the membership, but the last time I looked at attending comic cons or Dragoncon, the money I saved on the tickets were more than eaten up by the additional money I had to spend on the hotel rooms since those cons didn’t seem to care about negotiating a better hotel rate for their attendees. And that doesn’t even take into account that nearly everything at a Comic Con is designed to separate me from my money…autographs, preferred seating, no hospitality suite.

  4. I also thought Kevin Standlee’s comment was awesome, and I’ve complimented Mike already, so really the only thing left is to note that an awful lot of people seem completely clueless about what Worldcon is.

    I vaguely recall the guy who thought it should be held in Dubai, without apparently knowing that Worldcon is fan run, and therefore thought that all he had to do was to get the guy in charge of Worldcon to agree to hold it in Dubai. I think it was Kevin who had to repeatedly explain what Worldcon is, whilst the Hold it in Dubai guy thought it was just Kevin playing hard to get…

  5. I’ve been making Kevin Standlee’s distinction about big cons being run for the dealers rather than the fans as a comment for years myself. Part of the reason I’m not fond of them.

    Granted, I have lots of other reasons to be not fond of FanExpo…

  6. I have to wonder how many people attend conventions for the dealer hall. I don’t really care one way or the other if a convention has vendors, but I also don’t know how typical that sentiment is.

    When I go to a convention, I’m going for the panels. I’m going to meet authors and see them speak. I’m going to listen to nerdy music and maybe see some cool costumes. I’m going to meet other nerdy people and have conversations with them about the symbolism in Babylon 5, or which is the best MCU movie, or which classic work of science fiction has aged the least well. I’m going to play Star Realms and Puerto Rico.

    Going to the dealer hall is what I do when I don’t have anything better to do. I have bought some things at conventions: Usually books, but the redhead and I have gotten some jewelry (I bought the ring that we used for the redhead’s engagement ring at a convention) and a couple of t-shirts as well. But if a convention announced that they would not have a dealer hall, it really wouldn’t impact my decision as to whether to go or not.

  7. “I vaguely recall the guy who thought it should be held in Dubai, without apparently knowing that Worldcon is fan run, and therefore thought that all he had to do was to get the guy in charge of Worldcon to agree to hold it in Dubai. I think it was Kevin who had to repeatedly explain what Worldcon is, whilst the Hold it in Dubai guy thought it was just Kevin playing hard to get…”

    I think it is was Qatar. Still up on WorldCon bid page. And since then, no one has heard of him.

  8. Instagram – I use it frequently personally and for work. I like it, and I can share posts to Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and Tumblr if I want to.

    As for sharing non-phone pics: I often use the Dropbox app for this. I often already have photos there for storage, so it’s easy to quickly share to my phone and post quickly. Of course, I can also transfer pics from my camera (a Panasonic LUMIX) to my phone via wi-if, so that’s another option.

    Having said all of that, my feed is largely a cliche of books, cats, and food, with occasional landscapes and ham radio towers/antennas (I sometimes help my dad with his toys). But, I love seeing my friends lives, especially the ones I rarely see in person

  9. Question for the assembled minds:

    My 91-y.o. mother finds herself spending more time than she likes attempting to explain aspects of American English usage to a young friend (grad-student-age) from China. The latest run-in was about the subjunctive, and it took *hours*. Mom wants me to find a website she can direct her friend to instead — “something like Fowler’s English Usage, but up-to-date”. She wants a website, not a book, because her friend will always check things on her phone, anyway.

  10. Jenora: Commercial media-cons are most certainly NOT run for the dealers! They’re run for the owners first and the celebrities second. The dealer area is viewed as a profit center for the owners, not the dealers themselves. But that’s an easy thing to miss if you’re not a dealer.

    Aaron: There’s a difference between going to a convention for the vendors and considering the dealer room to be one of the things you value about a convention. I think a lot of fans fall into the second category; the idea of browsing around and finding Neat Stuff is part (though not all) of the appeal. Ironically, I once overheard a conversation between two of the staunchest proponents of “Worldcon doesn’t owe the dealers anything” in which they were bemoaning the decline in quality of Worldcon dealer rooms. The idea that these two things might be connected wasn’t even on the map for them.

    Honestly, if people spent half the time and effort thinking about, “Okay, people are saying this is a problem, how can it be addressed?” that they do using the Tone Argument and explaining how it can never possibly be addressed at all, there would be a lot fewer people saying things are problems. (This is actually a much more general statement, but it’s certainly applicable here as well.)

  11. @Lee:
    A good point; they’re generally for-profit corporations, so that’s to be expected. The big dealers that can use the cons for public product launches certainly don’t represent all dealers.

    My point was mostly that they tend NOT to be run for the fans, at least.

  12. Irraka said:

    And that doesn’t even take into account that nearly everything at a Comic Con is designed to separate me from my money…autographs, preferred seating, no hospitality suite.

    That’s why one of the standard responses to “Why are Worldcon memberships so expensive?” is “Everyone gets to have the VIP-level membership.” There’s a very strong feeling in the Worldcon community that all members should get equal access rather than some people paying for extra privileges.

    (The site selection fee is extra because you’re paying the winner of site selection for a supporting membership; that money doesn’t go to the current Worldcon.)

  13. @Lee:
    And I presume you’re the ‘Lee Billings’ who posted a similar comment over on Facebook. You’re right; I was oversimplifying things.

  14. @Dr. Science: I am not ESL literate other than a few tips I’ve picked up teaching students in my upper level courses, but I have colleagues who specialize in it, and their grad students who are also in my classes, so I could ask them.

    I have never gone wrong steering a student to the Purdue OWL site, so here’s their page with lots and lots of links to resources for ESL students.

    https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/section/5/25/

    Here are three sites I found for my ESL students (a large number of the computer science majors who take my business/technical writing class for their major requirement are international students): I’ve seen their writing/editing skills increase.

    There are more nuts’n’bolts, how to fix X, moving toward more general principles by the third one which also includes links to exercises

    http://college.cengage.com/devenglish/fawcett/evergreen/7e/students/esl_errors.html

    https://www.scribendi.com/advice/the_10_most_common_esl_mistakes.en.html

    http://esl.fis.edu/learners/advice/mistakes.htm

    One on the subjunctive for second language learners:

    http://www.englishpage.com/minitutorials/subjunctive.html

  15. Robin:

    Thank you, that’s extremely useful! I’m passing them on to my mom. With luck, they’ll be able to get back to talking about travel, literature, food, and other topics of mutual interest.

  16. There’s a difference between going to a convention for the vendors and considering the dealer room to be one of the things you value about a convention. I think a lot of fans fall into the second category

    I suspect that for a lot of fans, whether a convention had a dealer room or not would be completely irrelevant to their decision whether to attend the convention or not.

    Honestly, if people spent half the time and effort thinking about, “Okay, people are saying this is a problem, how can it be addressed?”

    I don’t care if it is addressed, because I don’t regard it as a problem at all. Seriously, if you are a dealer and you don’t like how Worldcon runs its dealer hall, don’t come. You probably won’t be missed. It really is that simple.

  17. I remember when I came up from Mexico to travel into the US. I showed my passport to the official and he looked at the stamps.

    Lebanon, Syria, Cuba…

    And then followed this conversation:

    – How did you get into Cuba?
    – Well you know, Sweden is a nice little country.
    – Are you saying that we aren’t nice?
    * me, thinking fast *
    – No, I’m saying that you aren’t small.

    And with that he ignored my other stamps. Not sure how it would go now.

    That sort of attitude – not just from US immigration, other countries can be just as bad – is why people who travel a lot often have two passports. Back in the day of the Cold War, you had an east and a west passport. The west passport had the US visa and was used for travelling the the US and other NATO/western countries. The east passport was used for travelling to Communist countries. Nowadays, it’s only Cuba that causes these issues, unless you’re one of the few people who visit North Korea. A variation is having one passport for travelling the Israel and the US and another for travelling to Arab and Muslim countries. If you want to visit Cuba, too, you can use the passport for Arab/Muslim countries, since there is no conflict there.

    BTW, the passport authorities will give you a second passport, if you explain why you need it, e.g. because you’re travelling to countries which happen to hate each other. It used to be fairly straight forward. I haven’t had more than one passport at a time in twenty-five years now (US visa/immigration stamps and frequent visits to relatives in East Germany with the respective battery of stamps did not mix well) and it’s probably more difficult to get a second passport now. But I know people, mostly those who travel a lot for business, who do.

  18. @Doctor Science:

    Question for the assembled minds:

    My 91-y.o. mother finds herself spending more time than she likes attempting to explain aspects of American English usage to a young friend (grad-student-age) from China. The latest run-in was about the subjunctive, and it took *hours*. Mom wants me to find a website she can direct her friend to instead — “something like Fowler’s English Usage, but up-to-date”. She wants a website, not a book, because her friend will always check things on her phone, anyway.

    How about Urban Dictionary?

  19. “If you don’t like the way we run things here, don’t come” is… not exactly in line with Worldcon’s claim to be welcoming. In fact, it sounds a lot like some of what I hear out of Dragon*Con, particularly in the areas of harassment and venue safety.

  20. Lee: “If you don’t like the way we run things here, don’t come” is… not exactly in line with Worldcon’s claim to be welcoming.

    Very true.

    In fact, it’s an attitude that makes no sense sense whether the speaker is devoted to being welcoming or not. People expect there to be a dealers room at the Worldcon, and you can’t have a successful one if you alienate the dealers — who already are asked to accept a certain amount of fuss and bother to do business at the con. Also, it’s bad for business to damage relations with people whose collective participation is an essential support of the budget. (Membership income amounts to much more, but all the revenue sources are essential.)

  21. I agree with Mike. If anyone points out problems with how a con they’re a member of is run they ought to be listened to.

    They’re more likely to be listened to in a positive way if they show they understand how the convention works and don’t insult the volunteers running it, though.

  22. I fear to enter into a conversation about convention running where there is not only a vast range of experiences (and therefor assumptions) but where one person’s chance comment is then taken to mean an officially held position of everyone else. Talk about moving goalposts! What I CAN say, is that in my experiences co-heading the Dealers Room for this year’s WorldCon, I’ve seen a lot of care and deliberation going in to how best to balance the needs and costs for everyone. Limiting the number of tables vs expected attendance. Cost of booths, tables, and making it a little easier for the smaller dealers (a single table is less than if you’re getting multiples). Arranging for a discounted Dealer membership (similar to the pre-reg price). So, lots of efforts to balance the unavoidable costs in a way that’s both fair and encourages participation.
    All that said, WorldCon is still not going to be a good match for some vendors. That would s not at all the same as saying they’re not welcome.

  23. Lee: Honestly, if people spent half the time and effort thinking about, “Okay, people are saying this is a problem, how can it be addressed?” that they do using the Tone Argument and explaining how it can never possibly be addressed at all, there would be a lot fewer people saying things are problems.

    I’m happy to talk about ways that we can make the Dealer Room a better deal financially for the dealers. But I get very frustrated at the claims that dropping the Attending Membership fee would give people lots of extra money to spend in the Dealer’s Room.

    By the time I pay for flights, 1/2 hotel room for 6 days, meals, and drinks, the $200 membership is a drop in the bucket. I spend at least $1500 for a Worldcon trip (sometimes considerably more). Usually this includes at least one purchase from the Dealer’s Room or Art Show. If the membership fee was dropped $50, I still wouldn’t go spend that extra money in the Dealer’s Room. The membership fee is a red herring in the Dealer’s Room discussion.

    I’m one of those people who, when none of the current panels appeals, enjoys wandering through the Dealer’s Room seeing what sorts of unusual things are on offer. Occasionally, I’ll buy something. But if there were no Dealer’s Room, it wouldn’t bother me.

    It would be interesting to have a Worldcon include that question on their registration form: “Is it important to you to have a Dealer’s Room at the con?” because then they could get a feel for whether it’s even a viable prospect for dealers.

    Perhaps giving Dealers up to 2 discounted memberships per table purchased, and/or lowering the cost of a Dealer’s table would be an option. Perhaps figuring out how to locate the Dealer’s Room where a lot of traffic passes by is another option.

    But dropping the Worldcon membership fee is not going to bring Dealers many more willing buyers — and it would lower the quality of the experience for attendees, because the con suite and other membership perks would have to be reduced or eliminated.

    (The ridiculous claims about “I can go to 3 media cons for the price of a Worldcon membership” are a separate post.)

  24. @Dawn Incognito: LOL at Cats in Famous Movie Scenes, thanks. 😀

    @Cora Buhlert: Fascinating; I’ve never heard of two passports, except for people with dual citizenships (in which case, of course, they’re from two different countries). Is this just a German thing, do you know? BTW, Happy (belated) Birthday!

    @Worldcon Commenters: Warren Buff’s comment was illuminating, about usually having to use convention centers and why (hint: one part of it is the freaking dealer room itself). Less useful was the person complaining on Ault’s post that other people were complaining instead of offering solutions. (eyeroll)

    I go to cons for many things. I love the dealer room, and I always try to see every. single. dealer. if I have time, which isn’t a given However, I’m not going to the con for the dealer room. It’s one of my favorite parts, although many things are my favorite parts*, but it’s not actually why I’m there. Even pre-internet, it was never why I was there. It can be tough to squeeze in time to visit all dealers (or all entries in the art show!) because there’s so much else to do at a con.

    * Of course, many songs I hear are my favorite song; perhaps I’m just horrible at picking favorites. 😉

    I get the impression Ault doesn’t know much about how cons are run, and regarding “solving” the supposed problem – I’m not sure everyone sees the same problem. A dealer’s primary purpose in going to a con is to make money (directly or indirectly, but preferably directly), methinks. Fans are there for many reasons and have many things competing for their time and money, but I doubt most/any are there primarily to spend money in the dealer room; that’s just one of many things. ETA: And the ConComm has many, many priorities to juggle and expenses to balance.

    And then I think back to Warren Buff’s comment, and read @Alice Bentley’s comment above, and I think . . . things not being perfect for dealers doesn’t mean con organizers aren’t doing what they can for dealers – but they’re only one part of a vast, complex equation. It doesn’t mean they’re being ignored.

  25. Aaron:

    “I suspect that for a lot of fans, whether a convention had a dealer room or not would be completely irrelevant to their decision whether to attend the convention or not.”

    It would not for me. I really like walking around in those rooms and have found it a nice place to get know people and chatting with others. But if I buy stuff, it will be stuff I have hard time finding somewhere else. That means that I typically will not buy new books or comic books.

    And I really, really do think it would be a problem if dealers didn’t come.

  26. Cora Buhlert:

    “Nowadays, it’s only Cuba that causes these issues, unless you’re one of the few people who visit North Korea.”

    Well, I am.

  27. if you go for a mega-sized event and don’t sell enough attending memberships to cover the costs, you’ve got problems.

    That would be Baltimore Worldcon 1983, which lost so much money due to the fancy-schmancy facilities that not only did it NOT do the traditional pass-along of money, it had to be retroactively bailed out by LACon 1984 (even though they had no legal requirement to do so, they did anyway). Plus a whole lot of auctions of donations at other conventions through 1984 — the fannish equivalent of bake sales.

    So I don’t see that giving discounts to dealers is going to be good for the attendees or for fandom as a whole. And the attending membership fee has always been the smallest part of my total Worldcon expenses except for the one time it was a twenty minute drive from my house.

    I like a dealer’s room, but I go for people. I can buy stuff anywhere, any time online. Hucksters’ rooms were a necessity in the 80’s, but not as much now. When I spend the time, money, and spoons to leave the house, I want to chat with people, hear authors, generally be sociable. A con suite and interesting guests are much more useful to all non-dealer con-goers.

    Excellent comeback to counterfactual, Mike!

  28. JJ:

    “By the time I pay for flights, 1/2 hotel room for 6 days, meals, and drinks, the $200 membership is a drop in the bucket. I spend at least $1500 for a Worldcon trip (sometimes considerably more). Usually this includes at least one purchase from the Dealer’s Room or Art Show. If the membership fee was dropped $50, I still wouldn’t go spend that extra money in the Dealer’s Room. The membership fee is a red herring in the Dealer’s Room discussion.”

    Yes. That is how it is for you. But a lower membership cost might get more local people to attend. Getting more people to attend will get more people to see what is in the dealers room. So no, it is not a total red herring.

  29. Kendall:

    ” I’ve never heard of two passports, except for people with dual citizenships (in which case, of course, they’re from two different countries). Is this just a German thing, do you know? “

    No, existed in Sweden too. For backpackers travelling the Middle-East, it is also usual to get the stamp for Israel on a separate paper as to not have it in your passport.

    Nowadays, there are usually restrictions on how many passports you are allowed to have at the same time, so this doesn’t work anymore. I had two passports once, but that was when I was travelling for a year and was afraid all the stamps wouldn’t fit. It was a lot of hassle to get both.

  30. Hampus Eckerman: a lower membership cost might get more local people to attend. Getting more people to attend will get more people to see what is in the dealers room. So no, it is not a total red herring.

    That is a good point. However, most of those extra local people who might attend if the membership cost got dropped might contribute to Dealers’ income, but they will probably not contribute to making the contracted number of hotel room nights — and the quality of member perks will drop with the drop in membership fee, because those are the first things to go when a concom has to try and balance what is already a tight budget. (I still don’t have my program book from Loncon, something about which I am very unhappy.)

  31. For backpackers travelling the Middle-East, it is also usual to get the stamp for Israel on a separate paper as to not have it in your passport.

    This is the case for people from OIC countries. The Israeli visa is provided on a separate document – most of those passports clearly state that the passport is not valid for travel to or from Israel, plus the difficulty should the local authorities find out that you went to Israel.

  32. (I still don’t have my program book from Loncon, something about which I am very unhappy.)

    The little one with the timings or the big glossy souvenir book? I saw a couple of the latter in a thrift store some months ago, could keep an eye out.

  33. nickpheas: The little one with the timings or the big glossy souvenir book? I saw a couple of the latter in a thrift store some months ago, could keep an eye out.

    The big glossy souvenir book. Will you be at MAC II? I would be ever so grateful. 🙂

  34. JJ:

    “However, most of those extra local people who might attend if the membership cost got dropped might contribute to Dealers’ income, but they will probably not contribute to making the contracted number of hotel room nights — and the quality of member perks will drop with the drop in membership fee, because those are the first things to go when a concom has to try and balance what is already a tight budget. “

    I can’t really see why the part with the hotel rooms should be an argument, unless you think that people who are not local will be less likely to come if member fees are lowered?

    But Warren Buff had a great post about the costs of the cons and how they try to balance dealers fees, membership prices against the cost for convention centers and dealer space. So to lower the cost of the dealers fees would likely mean that the cost for rental will fall directly at the con.

  35. Hampus Eckerman: I can’t really see why the part with the hotel rooms should be an argument, unless you think that people who are not local will be less likely to come if member fees are lowered?

    My point is that lowering the membership fee in an attempt to encourage more local people to attend will have limited benefit — to the Dealer’s Room, possibly (and that’s not even guaranteed), but that’s it.

    (Conventions which do not make the contracted number of hotel room nights end up paying extra money to the hotel — which is an even bigger problem if you’ve lowered the membership fee, because you have less money to use for that.)

    And lowering the membership fee, as I said, means that member benefits such as the consuite get cut.

  36. @Kendall: I’m pretty certain I can apply for two passports as a business thing (in the UK). I’m planning on doing it because my current one is full of Thai entry and exit stamps, and it’s beginning to make them suspicious.

  37. I don’t think I have ever stayed in a designated Convention Hotel. They’re just too darn expensive and I’m fit enough that travelling a mile to get to the con space is between no-big deal and actually quite pleasant.
    Hadn’t occurred to me that this might be driving the con into penury.
    Still too much of a cheapskate to change…

  38. my current one is full of Thai entry and exit stamps, and it’s beginning to make them suspicious.

    “….this person must really like Green Curry.”

  39. Last time I entered the US I was also asked about the Iranian visa in my passport. But the guy was polite and interested, not threatening. I told him that it was a beautiful country, with friendly and welcoming people.

    And no one knows I’ve been to the DPRK because there is no stamp in my passport – my visa was on a separate piece of paper, which was stapled into my passport, and removed on departure. Though even if you HAVE two passports, watch out for the entrance stamp when you cross the border. My visit to the USSR was plain for all to see, by the Finnish entry stamp at Vanikkala!

  40. “Last time I entered the US I was also asked about the Iranian visa in my passport. But the guy was polite and interested, not threatening. I told him that it was a beautiful country, with friendly and welcoming people”

    I was working in New York in 2004. I remember speaking to one of my colleagues there about Syria. Syria was at that time known as one of the friendliest countries in the world. The only country that Lonely Planet thought it was safe to hitchhike in.

    “You shouldn’t say such things here.”

    He said it twice to me. Very serious. It seemed to be unacceptable to say anything nice about an arab country. But that was directly after the start of the Iraq war when patriotism was running wild and no one seemed to know what to do with it.

  41. Geez. That would be about the same time I was flying back from Tulsa with our baby daughter. The woman next to me and I got to talking. She and her husband were Syrian dentists working in the United States. She was headed back to Syria on family business. They were currently childless, which I guess might be why she wanted to hold the baby, or maybe she just thought she’d be better at quieting the kid than I was, so she held that baby from before we took off until after we landed, the baby calm and asleep as we chatted, until she handed the kid back to me on the Atlanta airport runway and the kid promptly woke up and screamed.

    ETA: Not Knowing What Else To Do, Woman Bakes American-Flag Cake

  42. Opening the dealers room to the public does require a bit of planning, particularly when vetting the facility. Ideally, there will be entrances to the dealer’s area from outside the rest of the facility and the ability to control traffic from that dealers area into the other areas of the convention.
    There is also, sadly, a need to pay additional attention to possible theft (hire a couple of off duty police – pretty easy, usually very cooperative (down to the level of “what do you want us to see and what do you want us to ignore”) and not a large expense)
    The “choke” points between public access and members only access can be used to up-sell sell day passes as well. One fairly quick way to make things easier is to have a “public access” badge that everyone coming in through the exterior entrance is given before being allowed in.
    I’d be happy with just about any kind of physical barrier, but would draw the line at curtains. Preferably you would have two separate areas, each with separate entrances to the outside world and as few access points between them as traffic flow will allow. Most convention centers can accommodate this.
    What you don’t want is “mixed access” entrances from the outside or a lot of porousness between the two areas.
    Of course, setting all of that up is pointless if the surrounding area (within say, 50-100 miles) is not well-aware of the fact that they can just “walk in to Worldcon” (or why they might want to do so).
    Vendor offering can help spice that up. It might also be desirable to tap some of the convention talent for an hour or so of meet and greet in the public areas; push the day pass for access to “everything else”.
    Orlando’s plan was to incorporate the dealers room, art show and some of the special exhibits in the public area – things that would entice and give someone something other than just “vendors!” as a reason to stop by.
    The local CVBs can be a big help; as can local radio, public access tv and, obviously, local clubs, specialty stores and colleges and universities.
    In looking at the floor plan for MidAmericon2 –
    (with no personal site review I will add and that definitely means I’m missing some detail), looks emminently do-able for the above kind of thing, in any of several possible different configurations.
    Of course, if movable walls are easy to slip past, etc., it presents a different story, but from my visits to a bunch of different facilities over the years, from hotels to sports complexes to convention centers, few locations that can handle the numbers to begin with can’t be arranged to have both open and restricted access areas.

  43. In fact, it’s an attitude that makes no sense sense whether the speaker is devoted to being welcoming or not.

    Obviously I disagree. Worldcon, like all other cons, can’t be all things to all people. Making the kind of changes that are being bandied about: To change the scale of the convention, to make the dealer’s room larger to accommodate more dealers, and smaller so dealers can have a better ratio of vendors to customers, open the dealer hall to non-convention attendees, and so on, would either be impossible or would change the fundamental nature of the convention. Some, like opening the dealer hall to non-convention attendees, run the risk of running afoul of local business license requirements.

    Basically, if a dealer doesn’t like how Worldcon does business, there are literally hundreds of other conventions they can attend. That’s one of the reasons that a diversity of conventions exist.

  44. Opening the dealers room to the public does require a bit of planning, particularly when vetting the facility.

    And when checking local legal requirements.

  45. Aaron: As a lawyer I expect you’re familiar with the principles of mediation. There’s quite a difference between giving everybody everything they want, which as you illustrate is impossible, and giving people a respectful hearing, engaging with them by providing information, explanation, and history, and finding out what among the things they want you can give them. It’s not Worldcon committee everything, dealers nothing, or it shouldn’t be, and Alice Bentley’s comment upstream shows MidAmeriCon II is taking a more collaborative approach.

  46. “Of course, setting all of that up is pointless if the surrounding area (within say, 50-100 miles) is not well-aware of the fact that they can just “walk in to Worldcon” (or why they might want to do so).”

    I guess that has to do with location. Here it would be more like 5-10 miles. At absolute most. If further away, it would be people going to the convention anyway. Not only for dealers room.

  47. “Basically, if a dealer doesn’t like how Worldcon does business, there are literally hundreds of other conventions they can attend. That’s one of the reasons that a diversity of conventions exist.”

    But I would very much prefer that they come to the convention I go to. As I will not go to the other ones. So I would absolutely want WorldCon to see what is possible to do to make dealers happy. If they are members (which they are or have been), their input is as important as that of any of us.

  48. But I would very much prefer that they come to the convention I go to. As I will not go to the other ones.

    Every dealer isn’t going to go to Worldcon, no matter what anyone does. The question is, do you want to fundamentally change Worldcon in order to attract more dealers? Some of the complaints about how Worldcon is structured now and the “fixes” that are being proposed would do that. If Worldcon were to fundamentally change to be like more those other conventions you aren’t going to, would you still go to Worldcon?

Comments are closed.