ConCarolinas 2003 Review
I’ve finally recovered enough to type up my thoughts and reflections of probably one of the most exhilarating and frustrating experiences I’ve ever gone through.
ConCarolinas started from me in 1998-1999 when I was approached by one of the members of SECFi (South East Convention Fandom, Inc.) about something called the Charlotte WorldCon Bid. They wanted to bring to Charlotte one of the largest literary Cons in the world in 2004. For those that don’t know, they give out the Hugo awards at the WorldCon. WorldCon travels from city to city and each city that wants it has to bid 3 or 4 years in advance. SECFI is a group of fans with a lot of experience with many southeast Cons that came together for the soul purpose to bring something like WorldCon to Charlotte.
However, the odd thing to me was that most of these people involved in the Charlotte WorldCon bid were not from here. There were people from Tennessee, Charleston SC, New Jersey and other remote places. They wanted local help (Read: Money) and hoped to choose a ConCom out of the group of Charlotte contributors. Well, unfortunately, I had not even heard of WorldCon until then and really didn’t give a crap about it. There was nothing about it that would say this belongs to the Fans of Charlotte.
They (by way of a guy name Irv Koch) tried to tap the Guild for help, but I am sure everyone that knows the Guild is aware of their perceived apathy (really, they are just simply broke college students who can’t afford the time or money to invest heavily in fandom). They sucked some money out of me as well as a few others and went on their way to fail at getting the WorldCon bid.
However, despite the failure, the SECFI group really did do a strong effort of fundraising and still had money left over even after all that. They came back to me and the other Charlotte area supporters and asked us to help them get a general sci-fi con started in Charlotte so that they can try for something else like a DeepSouthCon or NASFiC bid. They were going to lend us the start up money and help us get this Con going. Thus, ConCarolinas was born.
The first year we actually did it was 2002. (Side Note: This is where the infamous Blake came on board.) I was Gaming Coordinator (because of all my experience with MACE and StellarCon). I also ended up as Vice Chairman. We put together a 2 day preview Con to test the waters. I, and Vice Chair, ended up doing a large portion of the work for gaming and operations, including making and laminating the badges, doing the tri-fold programs, lining up a few local guests and dealers and a ton of other little things, while the Chair got us some guests and planned fandom programming. 2002 turned out to be awesome. We raised enough money for the second year which would be a full-blown 3 year Con. Important Note: In 2002, a vast majority of our attendees were gamers.
Planning for the 2003 Con should have started immediately after the preview Con, but it didn’t. Our Chair moved out of town and ended up doing a lot of travel for his new Job. I was busy with real-life and StellarCon was towards the beginning of 2003. Our Dealer manager had to drop out because he was too busy with StellarCon. Many others were simply sheep waiting for a leader to tell them what to do. Well, just after StellarCon, Fred and I end up talking about me taking over as Chair and seeing where we can take what’s left of this Con. We had no dealer room to speak of (that I knew of), an unsure guest list, a program list that was very vague and gaming had not been started yet.
I had less than 3 months to actually plan this Con and pull it all together.
So the result was what a lot of people ended up seeing May 30 through June 1, 2003. It was pretty amazing, despite the little SNAFU with Blake (which really had little effect on the overall Con altogether).
Highlights for me:
My first year as ConChair really was overwhelming for me. In a span of 3 months, I had two newspaper articles written about me and the Con, was on TV once (FOX-News), and was involved in a filming of a movie. It was pretty amazing to me and I really didn’t know how to take it.
Dealers Room – Me and another guy (Keith) basically slapped together a dealers room that overflowed to another room. Despite the number of dealers, they all were happy and at least broke even.
Gaming – Gaming was good but a little less active than I would have liked. It was by no means dead. It was probably a little more attended than StellarCon Gaming. A few GMs ended up not having players (me included) but the big events were well attended, and the RPGA/RPN were always busy. Two or three GMs didn’t show, or didn’t show for specific games, but I can deal with that. The Board Game Room seemed always busy with one or two games, even into the late hours of the night. The amazing turnout for the L5R Kotei (100+) simply blew us away and saved our financial-ass (or a large portion of that ass).
The movie – I was approached a few weeks before the Con by a small film production outfit (Creative Power Productions) who asked for our permission to film some footage at our Con. Well, not thinking about what the movie might be about all that much, I enthusiastically said “Sure!” Well, it was the week before the Con that I got confirmation from them that they were going to do it. That’s when I was explained the nature of the movie. It was called “Fluffy’s Fantasies: Two Men Are Better Than One.” In the simplest terms, it was a foot fetish film, with no nudity, but some “sexually-charged” scenes (no nudity, I remind you). The heroine is stuck in Charlotte with no baggage and the only place she can stay is a hotel that has a sci-fi convention going on. She goes into the dealer’s room and finds Dr. Fluffy who has a magic potion that will allow her to fulfill any fantasy she wants. This turns out to be a foot fetish fantasy with two guys (did I say no nudity?).
Now, nothing inappropriate was filmed during normal hours of the Con. And nothing overly inappropriate was filmed after hours either. My wife was even in the movie as a desk clerk at the hotel. I had no problem with it. But the problem was that we didn’t really mention ANYTHING about it in the program – not even a statement about it, and we should have. The problem with not saying anything was that a few rumors flew around and a lot of stuff was said that was NOT true.
The bottom line is that I would not let my wife get involved with anything that I felt would be inappropriate and I trust my wife’s judgment in that realm as well. The truth is these guys were probably some of the nicest guys I had ever met and they were VERY accommodating. They worked their ass off to work around our schedule and do what they needed to do. These guys were actually raising money for a scientific research project they are doing, so this is not their focus. They’ll take this movie and sell it online and wherever else they can sell it, for a fundraiser for their project. These guys were gamers and fans themselves. They were involved with several Cons years ago and are now just getting back in. They totally enjoyed themselves at our Con and I would not hesitate to have them back.
Rocky Horror – Yet another event that almost blew up in our face, but I was able to salvage it and it turned out to be a HUUUGE success. They had a blast and we had fun having them. I can’t say that I am biggest fan of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, but they were very cool, and again, I would have them back.
David Weber – I can’t say that I was the biggest literary fan either coming into this. I read, but I don’t read a lot. A large part of this Con, according to our founders and supporters (SECFI) needs to be literary. Well, I had not heard of David Weber before this, and had not read any of his books. Fred had lined him up as a guest, before handed things over to me. I decided, since I was Con Chair, to buy one of his books before the Con – the first Honor Harrington books, “On Basilisk Station”. I have to say, he is awesome. It’s like Babylon 5-style politics, with tactics of a good military book, set 500 years in the future. And he turned out to be an awesome guest.
Saturday Night partying – Apparently with the combination of the Klingon Karaoke, 80’s Night Dancing (which ended up moving to another room when Rocky showed up), Rocky Horror, the SCA traveling party, and Klingon Bloodwine, there was plenty of partying going on. I, being the old coot that I am, bowed out of any partying or even late night gaming to go to bed around 2 AM, so I could be somewhat coherent the next morning. After all, I was in charge.
LARP – As I understand it, there was some problem with the LARP group, which I can imagine is partially due to egos between the local Charlotte groups and the group running the LARP. However, I also understand, due to problems with planning, many things didn’t get done right and many words were said, tempers flared, and things didn’t end well. Well, it never fails – there is always a problem with the LARP and usually gets fixed in some way or another, once all the bad-tastes are washed out over time.
Overall, the Con was a huge success. We beat all estimates for attendance and money. We have enough money to cover next year and then some. I have to thank the Guilders, old and new, for all their help. Also the ConCom, because even after all our in-fighting, we came together and did a damn good Con. Other than Blake, there was no one that walked away unhappy (Ok, maybe one or two LARPers, but they’ll get over it.)
Next year, there will be some changes. Gaming will be spaced out more so that they have more time to go to the dealers room and eat, etc. I am going to shave down the space for next year (expanding for L5R, though), and be a little for discriminating about what big events we support. The dealers room will be done right this year. We’ll have an art room. We’ll have different guests along with a few return guests. I think the SCA along with some fantasy LARP groups are planning a little mini-Renfest in the back of the hotel, outside. So much to plan and only a year to plan it.