Defining the problem

Steve Davies

It was at Sou' Wester in 1996 that I was asked to take part in a debate entitled "Is Fandom A Two-Tier System?" I was speaking against the motion and it seemed to me that there was no real scope for argument. From my point of view, Fandom is divided up into so many groups and tiers and movements and clubs and cabals and so on that it might as well be one homogenous mass. This was not, however, the opinion of the majority of the audience. From their perspective, Fandom was indeed a two-tier society and one in which they felt they had drawn the short straw. In particular, many of them suggested quite vociferously that there was indeed a "Smoffia" who ran all the conventions and who never invited these good folks to take part.

This was something of a blow to my world-view. It has been an article of faith for many years that all you have to do is volunteer and you will instantaneously find yourself lumbered with lots more than you bargained for. I found that some of these people had written offering to help and, many committees being dens of disorganisation, their offers had been mislaid or ignored. Quite a few, on the other hand, felt that "the SMOFs" should have known that they were good fellows and should have asked them to join. Some of them, unfortunately, had a reputation for being completely incompetent and would never be asked to be on a committee in a million years. The rest just didn't know what to do and, when I suggested that they should start their own bid committees, replied that they didn't know how. It is for them that this manual is really intended. If it acts as a checklist or entertains more experienced conrunners, than that is a bonus.

Firstly, though, very few people get on committees through just being asked. Most people get on because they have shown themselves to be competent in various areas of convention organising. The rest were there when a new committee was being put together and just got roped in. The only way to ensure that you are there when a new committee is formed is to do it yourself and to make sure that you rope in a few competent people with experience. Putting together a committee and bidding for the Eastercon isn't a great deal of work. Of course, if you win then running the Eastercon is a lot of work, but then you should be able to get plenty of help. Of course, as a new committee, you should really start a little lower. Run a 100-person convention first, and if you're still talking to each other then bid for the Eastercon. However, I'm going assume you're too impatient for doing things sensibly and you're going straight for the jugular.

Updated 9 April 2002