A League of Wonders

Hello! Some quick updates that people may be interested in knowing. As I’ve said numerous times, the “league” concept is not one person’s idea or domain. Nor do I know who the participant organizations will turn out to be. Nor will it necessarily shape into exactly the form that’s been discussed in posts on this site.

That said, there’s some noteworthy changes in the Minnesota Society for Interest in Science Fiction—where until recently this writer was on the Board of Directors and served as Vice President for a few months in 2009.

It’s been mentioned in several different communication organs that the Society changed our structure, so here’s what happened:

  1. CONvergence was spun off into its own 501c3 nonprofit organization.
  2. The current directors of the convention make up the board of the new organization, Convergence Events, Incorporated
  3. The Society bylaws were changed to reflect this by reducing the number of Society board members to five.
  4. A basic partnership has been agreed to between the two organizations.

Additionally, there have been board of directors elections in both organizations, and new people will soon step up to take on these service roles.

In the meantime, the two organizations have each designated some of our representatives to talk with Anime Detour about a mutual event, storage, and office space. A joint committee representing all three groups has made significant headway. This “Facilities Transition Committee” performed needs analysis and has researched potential locations. Right now the only talk has been lease, not buy. No doubt that joint body will report back to the three participants with recommendations soon.

Why does any of this matter?

Conceptually speaking, the league has begun. Not simply because there’s two organizations working in concert where before there was one—though that’s noteworthy. Not just because three groups have entered serious conversations about sharing space—and that’s also noteworthy.

Outside observers might roll their eyes—”you’re changing. you’re doing some shared backend. yawn.” BUT! These are geek-friendly, volunteer-run organizations. Historically such organizations have been change averse. To see the possibility of change and the realities of change embraced by our people in the way they have been is remarkable.

Often change aversion is perfectly justified. And each of us also knows the challenges of adapting to change, of making decisions appropriately, and promoting new things while preserving traditions. We possess a seriousness about the stewardship of our community resources and common responsibilities. We also know the experience of struggling to acquaint each other with change—and the occasions when traditions begin to change into unreconciled opposition.

If you could have been on the ground at the public meetings and recent elections, you would see interest and excitement around these joint ventures. Because people in our organizations have shown high amounts of energy and undisguised enthusiasm for the changes. I banked on the possibility of that enthusiasm, and so far it’s exceeded expectations.

As an early and vocal advocate for the spinning off of Convergence and MISFITS, I have unreserved excitement for the new way of relating to each other. I have said that in dividing one way and reconnecting in another, we give each other the best chance to tightly focus on our evolving missions. And we open new faces of the two as connection points to our broader community.

Also, and I at least speak for Convergence here, we are supremely excited to try out this shared space project with Anime Detour. What an opportunity! I would like to see us avoid paternal behaviors toward other conventions—I think Convergence has a golden chance to show leadership in such a cultural shift—and recognize the role they deserve to play in the area. (Plus they’re the biggest convention in town, after all!) We share many common bonds and there’s ample reason to combine our strengths where it makes sense.

If you haven’t been there to see it, get to a public meeting of one of the organizations talked about here. Ask around. There’s a lot of people expecting and embracing challenges, rather than balking at the possibility of change. The energy level is high, and the talks are about possibilities. This is the hope of our vision: that we look for commonalities, exploit those commonalities, and grow. It’s happening already. How about that?

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Thanks to Kevin Austin for mentioning a link to Paul Turner’s Remarks about how the LASFS Building Fund came to be in response to our own earlier post about the history of the LASFS clubhouse.

One of the things that I’ve found in some of my recent conversations about this blog is that it is worth pointing out that we’re talking about a long term dream.   Right now we’re still talking about the $35 initial payment into the building fund.  My hope here is to try something constructive for our communities — and that’s going to take some time to figure it out.  But in LA eventually $35 became $2000, and it can grow from there.

I like “Onward and Upward” as well.

I found a recent blog post by Seth Godin to be particularly relevant for our community building plans.

In a recent post about Organizing Customers, he describes the expense of negotiating the rights for Grease for small community theaters.

This strikes me as being very relevant to our discussions here. As a community, we do lots of things as a group — we obtain music and film rights for our events. We buy soda and snack food. We might outsource website development. We need high-powered lights and sound equipment. We need facilities for conventions and meeting facilities of a variety of sizes and shapes. We order t-shirts and other merchandise items. We rent storage pods and lockers. We have space needs and desires. Now there certainly should be independence — each event and group is different — but there are certainly some common causes where it is useful to collaborate.

Looking at all of this at once turns into an enormous problem. But if we look at this in little pieces? Break it down, spread it out and make it manageable?

Then it’s all very possible.

Let’s play a game.

Close your eyes.

Tell me what you see.

“Darkness” and “My eyelids” are not helpful.  I can see I need to
explain.

A lot of the posts and comments on here are about a building, and I
think that’s a shame.  While the Community Center is a great idea, I
think the organization that uses the building is a better one.  A
building is brick and mortar, a thing, but nothing more.  Oh sure, it
can be a very useful thing, but in the end, who cares?

But an organization, fueled by ideas, now that is something I can get
behind.  Something I can fight for.  So let me tell you what I see when
I close my eyes.

Read the rest of this entry »

We requested information from The Los Angeles Science Fiction Society on how they got their clubhouse buildings. The inimitable Tadao Tomomatsu made a wonderful interview video of Milt Stevens and Dr. Jerry Pournelle. They described some of the things they went through to get their clubhouses and ideas for consideration. It’s really very interesting.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about "LASFS Clubhouse", posted with vodpod

Video produced & directed by Tadao Tomomatsu, filmed on location at the Los Angeles Science Fiction Society Clubhouse. Uploaded and linked with Tadao’s permission and that of Mr. Stevens and Dr. Pournelle.

We had a very positive discussion at Diversicon.

As always, we are appreciative of examples outside of the SF Community in our local area, and one great example is the Quatrefoil Library.

And one major discussion point was the library functions — we have many pieces of material that are out there, some that belong to individual organizations, but others that may belong to organizations that no longer exist as well.

And one advantage of a central space is that there are elements of our shared history; for example, reference was made to items in Mn-stf’s library about the reasons why the “serious” Minneapolis in ’73 Worldcon bid folded.  And the shadow of the Minneapolis in ’73 bid is large.

The discussion focused on several positive points.  As our first public discussion outside of CONvergence, it was emphasized that building trust amongst the organizations is going to be a big challenge.  The perception that different organizations don’t trust or respect each other is certainly out there and it has already been mentioned here, and is something that I am sure we will have further discussions and the organization will have to consider.   There have already been good thoughts on this.

One thing that we need to work out is how organizations of different sizes and resources work together — we want and desire participation from a wide variety of groups of different sizes and financial resources.

However, one of the challenges pointed out is that we aren’t looking at a commune either — we need to make sure that the dishes get washed.

Our favorite suggestion was one where it was suggested that a community center is too small and we should be considering a small town with a helipad.   But as has pointed out, if we’re looking at Leagues instead of Societies, in a 1000 years we will be Legion

One of the current challenges that CONvergence is facing is an old, familiar one: How big do we want to get?

Compared to something like San Diego Comic Con — which could fit the size of CONvergence’s membership into one room — we’re all still small stuff.   4,000 people?  That is nothing when you’re looking at 40,000- or 125,000-person events.

I’ve been looking at some of the footage from San Diego last weekend, and it’s really incredible how the one event becomes the center of the entertainment culture for a weekend.  And while it is called “Comic Con”, it really is a “geek pop culture” event.

But my experience is that size isn’t the only thing with bearing on the quality of the event. One of the values that I share in this discussion is that we are putting on participatory activities—we want to build a culture and environment where people are encouraged to engage with their passions. The community that we want to build and maintain is one of a participatory culture around our entertainment sources.   That’s true whether you are involved in some sort of cosplay or having a writing workshop.

I want to keep the traditions of our community going—so many of the events in this area are member-and-participant driven. I can’t predict the future, and I don’t know where the community will take us.

In Norse mythology, Fafnir was turned into a dragon to better protect the treasure. But the dragon is a symbol of greed in Norse mythology — and something of which to be wary. And for good reason.  Could CONvergence turn into Fafnircon?  A Dragon*Con of the north?  Is that what we want? If it is not (and I’m inclined to think it isn’t) — what are the best ways to keep our community healthy and sustainable?

One way I see of doing this is encouraging more things—CONvergence isn’t designed to be the only convention in this metro area, and for some people, it’s going to be too big, or too noisy, or too long.  As a community we have multiple events; and we spread it around the calendar year.

A League of Wonders

A league of wonders is one evolving vision of hoped-for community building. The focus here has begun as a product of Twin Cities-based fandom and geek communities. There are desires to grow this vision regionally.

Participation in this project is voluntary and is not officially endorsed at this time. Participants are also welcome to be contrary, provided they are respectful.
leagueofwonders@gmail.com
This lists authors who have recently made posts. Also see Contributors for a full list.

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