2021 Natcon BM minutes

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This article includes the minutes of the Business Meeting of the 60th National Australian SF Convention (the Natcon in 2021), which took place virtually via Zoom at 4pm Canberra time (AEDT), Saturday, 16th October, 2021. And is scheduled to resume at 4pm Canberra time (AEDT), Sunday, 28th November, 2021.

These minutes should be considered unofficial, having yet to be approved by the 2022 NatCon Business Meeting.


An agenda was produced, circulated to various email lists and made available to attendees.


Attending: Peter Lyons (chair), Nathan Phillips (minute taker), Cat Sparks, Doug Burbridge, PRK, Samara Morgan, Gillian Polack (partial), Alan Baxter (partial).

0. Peter Opened the meeting at 13:09 Perth time.

1. Confirmation of the Minutes of the Previous Meeting.

Doug moved the minutes of the previous meeting be accepted, and Samara seconded. The minutes were accepted without objection. Prior to addressing the matters on the Agenda, PRK asked for clarification on the validity of votes for non-Standing Committee members.

Due to the number of attendees, it was agreed by all present that voting would be open to all involved in the meeting.

2. Business Arising from the Previous Meeting.

No business arising from previous meeting.

3. NatCon Standing Committee Report

Peter delivered the report as follows:

This year the standing committee experimented with holding online meetings. These proved useful for onboarding new committee members, and initially encouraged early attention to business. However, while we had the intention of starting nominations for the Ditmars early, we did not manage to do this. Additionally, liaising with conventions to attract a bid for the 2022 NatCon did not prove to be successful. Fortunately, there does seem to be a bid now; this still leaves us with a bid for 2023.

The pandemic did not seem to have as obvious an impact this year, until Conflux had to be cancelled. To their credit, the Conflux committee have committed to awarding the Ditmars and holding this Business Meeting.

However, having two NatCon cancellations in a row further highlighted the issues noted in last year's report. So, it is vital that the incoming Standing Committee work with conventions and the community to address these issues. This Business Meeting should provide the chance for broader input from the community.

Cat motioned to accept report, Doug seconded the motion, and it the report was accepted unanimously.

4. Site Selections

a Site Selection for the 2022 National Convention

Peter raised the issue of no current applicants to host the 2022 NatCon. Cat indicated that the Conflux Committee had a number of mechanisms in place to host NatCon in 2022 due to the cancellation of the 2021 Convention, and was willing to host.

Cat motioned to accept, Doug seconded, elected unopposed.

The Standing Committee confirms that Conflux will host the 2022 NatCon.

b Site Selection for the 2023 National Convention

Peter indicated that due to uncertainty around conventions, there were no current applicants for the 2023 NatCon.

Samara raised the question of whether the wording of the constitution could be changed to allow more flexibility around bids for NatCons. Following discussion over the current wording of the constitution and the exact wording that would be beneficial, it was determined that while changing the wording would be beneficial, the exact wording may require a separate meeting.

Further discussion around the nature of the a Convention Handbook also raised possible benefits to changing the wording from ‘printed’ to ‘published’. It was determined that in principle, wording that allowed either a two year or one year notification period would be beneficial, as would the changes to the Convention Handbook wording.

Action: Decide on wording changes to be decided at a separate meeting, tentatively for January 2022.

5. Convention Reports

a. 2020 – Swancon 45

Doug presented the SwanCon report as follows: Cancelled due to government restrictions. A small virtual convention was put in place, with Ditmars and Business Meeting held later in year. Memberships were rolled forward to 2021 but considered active in 2020 for voting purposes. Doug confirmed that 2023 would be the next SwanCon, which will skip to SwanCon 47

b. 2021 – Conflux 16

Cat presented the Conflux report as follows: Conflux 16 was cancelled shortly before government restrictions were put in place that would have cancelled it regardless. The decision not to hold a virtual con was taken due to the overwhelming opinion that the face-to Reports accepted without opposition.

6. Ditmar Subcommittee report

Peter delivered the Ditmar Report and noted a much more successful turnout in nominations and nominators than 2020. Peter also noted that a clearer definition of ‘active in fandom’ would be useful, with a number of questions raised as to whether it was raising a problem, or whether members of fandom were unable to vote for any reasons relating to the definitions.

Cat agreed that the due to the changing environment in which fandoms meet and interact, a revision of definitions would be useful in ensuring the Ditmars still met their intent.

A discussion followed over the virtues of the current system, and the risk of publishers and relatives of authors creating voting blocs, or situations similar to the Hugos Sad/Rabid Puppies controversy arising.

Nathan suggested a caveat allowing the Ditmar Committee to remove nominations deemed not to be made in good faith, however withdrew noting the potential for an authoritarian impression this may give.

Alan Baxter joined the meeting.

Doug noted that there is an inherent requirement of the rules to ensure they are not exploitable. No agreement was made to change the wording at this stage.

Peter continued with the report, noting that while a high number of short stories were nominated, none made the minimum nomination threshold. Both awareness of the Ditmars and awareness of the nomination period were raised as possible reasons, and Cat suggested that the high quantity of short stories may have diluted the focus of the nominations. Doug noted that the Tin Ducks rules enables a convener to select the highest nominations, should the threshold not be met, as having a ballot is preferable to not.

Peter indicated that three works fell below the threshold, to which Cat and Alan both suggested putting these three on the ballot.

Gillian Polack entered the meeting.

Following a period of discussion on the nomination process and period, including whether the current tradition of limited nomination periods disadvantaged publication dates further from the nomination period, it was determined that a future meeting would be best for making permanent changes if necessary.

Gillian indicated that the one option was to have a longer set nomination period that was not necessarily 01 January to 31 December of the relevant year, with the award ceremony to be mandated, with the voting period held relative to the award ceremony. To do so, the rules would need to indicate a ‘not to be held before’ date for the ceremony to allow sufficient time for the closure of nominations before opening of the voting period.

Doug moved that the Business Meeting direct the Standing Committee to investigate changes and bring options for changing Rules, Constitution etc for proposal at the Business Meeting – Open meeting in January 2022. Cat seconded, and the motion passed unanimously.

Action: The Business Meeting directs the Standing Committee to investigate changes and bring options for changing Rules, Constitution etc for proposal at the Business Meeting – Open meeting in January 2022.

Alan raised the issue of short stories in the current cycle, to which Peter indicated that any permanent rule changes would take place for the following cycle, according to the constitution. It was determined that a temporary rule could be made for this cycle, and the temporary rule could be made permanent for the next cycle with a separate vote.

Prior to voting, Gillian indicated that the ASFF event on the 29 October would be able to host an announcement for the Ditmars if the committee would like to take up the offer.

The offer was taken up without opposition.

Gillian Polack left the meeting.

ACTION: Decide on announcement and send to ASFF secretary.

Referring to the short story ballot, following discussion on the wording, Peter proposed appending Rule 5.2 to reflect the following: "If there are 2 or fewer finalists for a category the subcommittee may lower the threshold no more than required to include more than 2 finalists on the ballot. A motion to accept this ruling for the 2020 ballot was moved by Peter, seconded by Nathan, and accepted unanimously. *

7. Ditmars Discussion and Motions

Following discussions on the motions as per the agenda, and the option paper put forward, the following key issues were determined to be the following:

  • Maintaining the connection between the Ditmars and the NatCon
  • Inclusion of geographically isolated and capability excluded members of fandom
  • Recent participation levels in Ditmar activities
  • Current rules not anticipating the current level of disruption to conventions
  • Sensitivity to the current economic environment of the Arts sector
  • Opposition to the ‘pay to vote’ implications of membership requirements

Due to the wide-ranging concerns, it was determined that a more permanent solution would be discussed at the January 22 meeting.

For the current Ditmar cycle, Peter suggested adding the temporary rule (as Rule 6.6): Cancellation: In the event that the current NatCon is cancelled, voting eligibility will extend to all those who have been members of NatCons in the previous five calendar years (to be discussed further at January Meeting).

The motion was moved by Samara, seconded by Cat, and accepted unanimously.

Samara raised the question of whether the cancellation clause would be exploitable if members cancelled a membership prior to a NatCon cancelling.

Peter suggested appending Rule 6.2 to reflect the following: In the event that a NatCon is cancelled, a member will retain eligibility to vote even if their membership is refunded due to the convention cancellation.

The motion was moved by Doug, seconded by Samara, and accepted unanimously.

It was agreed that this rule, along with the others suggested or agreed upon during this meeting, would be discussed further in the January meeting.

Peter outlines the schedule from here as follows:

  • Bring rules into effect
  • Release revised ballot to NatConCom list 17 Oct 21
  • Publicly list ASAP
  • Open voting 48 hours after public listing, no later than Tuesday 19 Oct 21

8. Selection of the Standing Committee

Due to the Business Meeting taking place prior to the Ditmars being voted on and awarded, it was agreed to adjourn the meeting until after the Ditmars had been awarded. It was also indicated that this would give sufficient time to advertise to a wider audience for participation in the Ditmar process, and to ensure people were aware they can be on the NatConCom purely to be included on the Ditmar Committee.

9. General Business

Peter indicated that all positions on the Standing Committee of the NatCon Business Meeting will be up for re-election at the resumed Business Meeting. Representatives of bids for the 2022 or 2023 Australian National Science Fiction Convention should be prepared to address the meeting.

The meeting was adjourned at 6:41pm Canberra time to be resumed November 28th via Zoom, 4pm Canberra time.

  • Noting that Cat Sparks is on the revised short story ballot: A review of the minutes as recorded indicated that she was only made aware of this after the motion to revise the ballot had been supported. As Cat was unaware of the revised ballot at the time support was indicated, it was determined that any potential Conflict of Interest related to the vote was non-existant. Furthermore, noting it was also raised by Alan Baxter, and that the voting was unanimous, Cat’s support for the motion made no material impact on the outcome.