ConCarolinas 2019 / Deep South Con 57 thoughts, experiences & rebirth
I have a ton of thoughts swirling through my head about this past weekend. ConCarolinas 2019 was a interesting for me. ConCarolinas has been a whirlwind of emotions for me over the years. My wife and I put 11 years of my life into it, helped it grow to what it is today, and then we were betrayed by people that we thought we could trust and basically pushed out. I resigned in 2012 bitter, angry and hurt. This all came full-circle this weekend.
Last year was a year of chickens coming home to roost. Between a certain con chair in Columbia getting smacked down for their unprofessional behavior, to this one person at ConCarolinas getting pushed out herself for the very same reasons she pushed me out, it felt a good to see a little payback hit people I knew deserved it. The committee that took over wanted to (1) revive something that they truly loved and (2) honor it’s past as best it can. There was a lot of trepidation about this year. Primarily because of the lack of experience in the group, but also because we were not sure if it could come back. I was not encouraged by the coalition of people in the group and the money situation was pretty dire. However, they were out to make changes, fix things and repair its’ reputation (which was considerably sullied by the last regime).
I kept my distance primarily because I can’t stand working within a committee. I learned my lesson. I had no intentions of changing my stance with them – third party contractor through JustUs Productions. I thought I could help at first but it took less than a week on their Discord for me to realize I want nothing to do with a committee.
This year was also DeepSouthCon for ConCarolinas, for the second time. I chaired the first one in 2010, one of my proudest convention years. We were able to achieve the highest attendance for a DeepSouthCon up until that point. They stopped publishing the attendance numbers on the web site after that year … for some reason… The sad part was that the DeepSouthCon side of things was sort of dropped into the laps of the current committee, who did not really appreciate or understand the prestige or importance. At the same time, that prestige and importance has diminished over the years. Very few fans that attended ConCarolinas knew what DeepSouthCon was. And apparently, there was some controversy when CC got it the second time, which did not help things.
ConCarolinas 2019 started out a little rough, partially because of my own assumptions, and partially because the hotel had a new guy in charge. My rooms were not correct at all, I left the schedule poster at home and had to go back, and I was under assault with stupid questions as soon as I walked in. I really wanted to start out nice and calm but that did not work out. Added on to that was the same old kind of data mistakes I used to make with the schedule – some games somehow got assigned to the wrong room, I missed a few names on my GM list. Utterly frustrating. Real life continues to kick my ass. This is one of the reasons why these mistakes were made – mistakes I should not have made. Things I have done a hundred times slipped by the wayside. It did cause some issues outside my area and I regret that. I hate that people were also misdirected but I got those fixed as soon as I could. I document these mistakes here simply so I can attempt to remember and not make the same mistakes twice. I did have several people helping me and things came together just in time.
Once things settled in, things went well. I dealt with quite a few new gamers, and quite a few people that had not heard of MACE before. This was encouraging.. The sinergy that I once had with MACE and ConCarolinas seemed to be surging again. Some games made while others didn’t. I estimate about 70% games made. Not everyone used OGRe. I made some extra efforts to supply signage and instructions on how to do things. Most of those seemed to work.
ConCarolinas 2019 reminded me of the days when I ran it. I did not check out anything on the fandom side but everyone seemed to have a good time. The DeepSouthCon side of it probably needed a little work and I will comment on that more later. However, they were not the people that bid for it, so they were not the one that wanted it. So it was sort of treated that way – kind of an afterthought. After what the con went through, I can understand it. They have a lot to work on, but what con doesn’t. Most seemed to have fun. There were several things absent that were unfortunate, mostly because of drama and con politics. But they made up for it. They did better than last year in terms of numbers. They sold out of badges and shirts, and made money. Gaming did well too and if all goes well with the committee, they will have us back.
My games were very fun. Both tables were full. My first game was Call of Cthulhu, which I have not run in a long time. I love getting back to this game because it is perfect for a con game, especially at night. This one was recommended to me from Facebook, called A Light in the Darkness, available on DriveThruRPG. I plan to write a review there but it was quite fun and I had some great players to embraced their roles. Based in World War II (one of my things), the players were Seabees at the tail end of the war. I loved the John Wayne movie The Fighting SeaBees. It was a survival horror and the group really embraced it. I decided to add a few of my own elements to increase the creepiness and they worked.
My second game is the first in a new trilogy for Savage Reich Star. That is starting to be my go-to setting for Savage Worlds. I ran a trilogy over the past 3 years, one adventure at a time, but each one I had to plan out year by year. I did not have an overall plan. This new one has a story arch that is planned out. I may get all three done by the end of the year. Building the terrain may take more time, however. This first one – Child of the Angel – took them to the heart of Germany pursuing an old puzzle trail left behind by one of Hitler’s inner circle.
This went very well, although a little long. I got a lot of story out and the players grasp the whole setting well. I could tell they were getting tired but I did my best to keep their attention. The problem with Sat night games is most players really tired by the last slot. Two of my players were in my previous game so I understand their exhaustion. I plan to run this one and at least one more at MACE.
What is gratifying is the players did not stop talking about my game afterwards. The next day and on Facebook, everyone talked it up. Now I don’t always need my ego boosted but it helps keep the passion for the hobby going. I do enjoy telling a joint story together and when the players “get it” and embrace what I am trying to do in that story, it’s even more satisfying.
Every year since the early 60s, DeepSouthCon gives out two major awards – Phoenix and Rebel – and another optional award called the Rubble. When I was a DeepSouthCon Con Chair, I gave them to Jerry Pournelle , one of my favorite authors. This was one of my highlights of my con running life. We also gave the Rebel award to Albin Johnson – founder of the 501st.
The Rebel Award is a lifetime achievement award for a science fiction fan who has done a great deal for Southern Fandom. They gave it to Jeff Smith (JustUs Productions) and myself. Between me and Jeff, we have been involved with almost 100 cons, not all gaming MACE events. Many of them were in fact fandom events, although those giving us the award probably did not know that. I suppose they saw the body of work that they knew of, between the both of us and gave it to us.
The Rubble award is given to the person who has done the most *to* southern fandom in the past year. This is intended to be less an honor and more of a ribbing but good-natured. The Rubble is not an officially-sponsored award and some cons don’t even do it. I didn’t when I was 2010 con chair. According to the staff who I talked to later, I got that because it’s my fault for bringing a certain person that nearly bankrupted the con, into the committee in the first place.
Both I consider an honor and an apology for the stuff I want through 6 years ago. I was bitter, angry and had a hard time getting over it. It took a while but everything has come full circle and all the chickens came home to roost. I consider this closure. Does that mean I will come back? Heck no, my fandom is all but dead. I would not have my heart in it and would just treat it as another task to get done. Additionally, they are paying me a small fee to run gaming. I am not going to drop that to take the same abuse and deal with the same crazy people all over again for free. Nope, my time is too valuable to me.
The DeepSouthCon bid and the SFC
While there at the con, I attended the DeepSouthCon meeting to see how it went. There were 11 people there. It was one of the smaller meetings the SFC members had been to, but really, the ones I have seen were pretty small too. The Southern Fandom Confederation and DeepSouthCon have been around since 1963, travelling from con to con promoting southern fandom. What they bring to a con isn’t really much anymore beyond a hassle, though. Very few additional attendees, the Heart tournament that is rarely attended and the expense of the awards. Their is prestige and all that from the history but very few people know what it is now, so what good is the prestige except for a handful of elitists.
The whole concept of the SFC and DeepSouthCon is centered on regionalism and in particular, the South region. In this day and age, does that matter as much? And as divided as we are now, does it serve to divide us further into regions? There is less pride and more stigma about the South now, with all that is going on. And this comes from a big fan of the South. I didn’t grow up in it but I moved to it as soon as I could. With lots of roots in the South, I am proud of that aspect of me and my family but within fandom, it’s less a source of pride now-a-days, at least to the lefties that seem to dominate it.
Can you inject a sense of pride back into Southern fandom without drumming up the stigma? Or is that stigma something only I perceive? Perhaps with this age of the internet, regionalism is less of a thing to relate to. Or maybe it’s just me. The name is DeepSouthCon and maybe this regionalism is more of a thing in the Deep South – Gulf States – and less as much in the Southern Atlantic States. I do remember someone mumbling about it coming up to the Carolinas and how that is not Deep South back in the day.
Either way, somehow the SFC and DeepSouthCon has to somehow reinvigorate itself, make itself relevant again. The committee members I met at ConCarolinas all seemed like they were doing the best they could but I am not sure they have time to try and revive it. They had no clue how to make it relevant again. In fact, they seemed insulted when I suggested that it wasn’t. It needs to be updated to a new model. With the terms “confederation” and “rebel” in their vocabulary, I don’t think it’s going to be relevant to Millenials or beyond. Don’t get me wrong If you know me, I am no screaming lefist tearing down Confederate statues. I still own my Rebel flag. But I can understand the otherside and their want to purge history of things Confederacy. Not that I would want it, but I get where they are coming from.
I don’t know. Regardless, it’s not going to be me that does the work. My fandom is dead (close to it) and I do not have any desire to join that committee.