The Beginning of the End? – RAVEN OAK

The Beginning of the End?

It looks like GeekGirlCon will be my last event this year after an announcement this morning cancelling Anglicon 2018. I don’t know if this is the beginning of the end for the con, but the announcement gave me a serious case of the blues as Anglicon was the first convention I served as a panelist and vendor post-getting published. A year later, it was the first convention where Elise and I worked together as Books & Chains.

I came to Doctor Who late in life but once I was hooked, I was hooked. I mean, I cosplay the TARDIS all the freaking time. I accepted my Ozma Fantasy Award as a TARDIS. Some of my favorite quotes are from the show.

From Season 2, episode 2:

You want weapons? We’re in a library! Books! The best weapons in the world!

From Season 3, episode 6:

Some people live more in 20 years than others do in 80. It’s not the time that matters, it’s the person.

From Season 6, the Christmas Special:

In 900 years of time and space, I’ve never met anyone who wasn’t important.

From Season 1, episode 13, which seems rather fitting these days:

You don’t just give up. You don’t just let things happen. You make a stand! You say no! You have the guts to do what’s right, even when everyone else just runs away.

And my absolute favorite, from Season 5, episode 13:

We’re all stories, in the end. Just make it a good one, eh?

Doctor Who is a show that brings together people of all ages and all walks of life, of all cultures and diversities. It’s rich storytelling and universal themes and humor at its best, so it makes sense that a convention dedicated to a show like this would be as diverse and universal.

My first year at Anglicon, I was a panelist on  7 panels, including the ever-popular QI game show, and I vended in the dealer’s room with author and friend Janine Southard. The next year, I was on more panels, ran QI with a Dalek contestant, and vended again (this time with Elise). I’ve talked up the convention to so many people, helped hand out flyers for it at multiple conventions, pitched dozens and dozens of panels, and otherwise put a lot of time into helping it be successful. Obviously not as much time as the con-com (convention committee), but it’s not a small amount either.

Last year, there were some bumps.

The Kickstarter wasn’t clear, and some people felt they didn’t get all the rewards they were promised. There were budget concerns and stress related to selling enough tickets to pay the bills (which is a concern for most non-profit, volunteer-based conventions). But for me, the hardest parts came from two incidents that hinted at bigger issues.

In the Dealer’s Hall, a vendor spent the weekend yelling abusively at his dogs before kicking one. The incident was witnessed by many vendors and attendees in the room, and it was reported by several people, including me. The vendor was warned but allowed to continue business. Animal abuse is not something I’m okay with–ever.

But the hardest incident came with programming. I had pitched a panel on the new Doctor being a woman and called it Graduation Day, referring to the idea that women were graduating from being companions to the Doctor to being the actual Doctor. I saw this as a positive. Someone else pitched a similar idea, but the title and description read as a negative, as something unnecessary. Programming accepted both panels and decided to make me the moderator of BOTH. I love a good debate, so the idea of moderating the other panel didn’t bother me. Unfortunately, my co-panelists (two of which were con-com or involved in the convention) made me sit in the corner of the room, almost behind the projector screen, rather than allowing me a seat at the panelist table. They also ignored everything I tried to say by talking over me (loudly), made oral sex jokes in a room with children, and decided to spend a good chunk of time discussing fan films rather than the actual topic. It’s never a good sign when one minute into the panel, one of your co-panelists says, “Do we really need to debate this? No! Let’s talk about something else, like this fan film…”

Attendees came to hear the topic, not watch an off-topic fan film. I tried to steer the conversation back to the one at hand, but two men intimidated me. They talked over me and made it clear, I had no place on their panel.

I’m not someone who is easily walked over at all–it’s one of the reasons I have a good reputation as a moderator–but the men were so abrasive and rude that my anxiety triggered. I don’t do well with shouting, which they had to do to talk over me. The idea of being delegated to the corner and not being allowed to be part of the discussion was horrific and beyond rude. Without getting into more details, it was the kind of harassment that speaks to the inequality in our country. I reported it in detail to the programming person, who reported it to con-com, where it disappeared in silence. No apologies. No comment. Nothing.

Imagine if the incident had been something worse…like sexual assault. Would it be just as easily dismissed because it involved two members of the convention committee? I’m not sure of the answer to that question, which makes me sad.

I debated over whether or not to talk about this publicly, but with the cancellation of Anglicon, I feel it necessary. A lot of drama has popped up with the cancellation, including the fact that the hotel wasn’t notified before the public. The DoubleTree Hotel found out that the con wasn’t happening when people began calling to cancel their hotel reservations. That’s unprofessional on a lot of levels. I’m worried that it, plus my experiences last year, are indicative of bigger issues behind-the-scenes. I’m worried that perhaps this cancellation is because of more than just numbers.

You know I love Anglicon if I was still planning on attending after last year’s issues. I had hopes that Anglicon would fix its mistakes and return to being the convention I’d grown to love. But this cancellation makes me wonder if it’s too late. Most cancellation fees from a convention’s contract are high. Those alone could bankrupt a convention, let alone one already having financial difficulties. (I don’t know many conventions that have annual Kickstarters in order to function.) 

Having a major guest cancel is tough. You’ll lose attendees with the cancellation, and if you don’t have many memberships to begin with… but this is the sort of decision that kills a convention. Many conventions would scramble to find a new guest rather than cancel. I don’t know if any effort was made to do so, but several folks who were involved with Anglicon at varying points saw its failure coming.

Anglicon died once before, yet it regenerated and returned. Can it do so again?

I hope so. And when it does, I hope better people are involved in its regeneration.

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