Realities of Running a Convention Vol 2

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Bollocks of Leadership

Convenor, it is on your head. Deal with it

A single person rarely brings the seed of a convention forth. Usually it forms itself in the air between three or four people, often while caught in a con induced high and within the loud din of a room party (A bad time to make such decisions – though far less conventions would happen if they weren’t). It feels, as it should, as a team coming together. That’s exciting in itself, that creation of comradeship.

So you prepare your bid for the business meeting and realise that someone has to be the convenor. A con committee needs a convenor, once referred to as the chair. The tradition and structure of conventions is that it is a gathering convened by one said person at a particular place and time. And as such you have a convenor.

This group, who think of themselves as “the core” propose one of their friends and colleagues to be convenor often on the grounds they have been more active and interactive, often using their personable and practical life skills, and hence are better known to the fan community and more respected for that reason. Thus they are best suited to be the main face when making the bid and to garner a stronger confidence for their con and thus the votes. And when you win the bid that committee pretty much forget they made you convenor and you all go back to being that happy little “core”.

But the terrible truth is that throughout the history of conventions almost inevitably the only names remembered in the oral mythology, passed down through hotel bars, fan lounges and in the dimmer hours of room parties, are those of convenors or chairs of shit conventions. No one knows who else was on the committee or care who or if any of them particularly fucked up their duties, it is only the name of the one person who was in charge of it all who is remembered.

Eventually, the convenor will realize this truth, perhaps semi-consciously, but it rises and floats on the surface and stays there like a stubborn turd in the toilet bowl. And because that turd just won’t go down no matter how much you flush a worse truth then permeates your nose. Your fellow “core” didn’t pick you because you’d be best for the convenor’s job, they more didn’t want the job themselves. They didn’t want the job because they didn’t want the responsibility. They didn’t want it to be on their head when it screws up.

This is when the tension in the committee begins, because though the convenor is grasping the realization of the situation the rest of the core is still caught up in the fun of ideals. They have that freedom because they don’t quite feel the real responsibility, and I mean the real responsibility that you have to answer for your convention. And oddly it doesn’t directly occur to them that it will all fall on the convenor’s head. You think it would, but denial is extremely effective and rather easy to do when you put your mind to it.

So in short you get a weird, but rather common situation, a convenor who is feeling a bit shafted by their friends and friends who resent how their friend who is convenor is not treating them as equals in the process anymore. The resentments, though not clearly identified, begins to grow, turning into that fracturing, the nay-saying, the outright rejections of proposals, the accusations of “you are trying to take this con away from us” and all the petty, petty bullshit that seems to infest the average fan committee swirling around in unpleasantness like lycra tights and purple capes spinning in a laundromat.

What happens from here depends; the convenor depressingly caving in to the squabbles and thus no cohesive leadership, a convenor who is taken out of the loop by the others, thus no visible leadership, a convenor who takes others out of the loop, etc. All the usual human crap, but we’ll leave that for another time.

This document written by Robin Pen and located at This page reprinted with his permission.