A League of Wonders

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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.

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.

We will be having a brainstorming session at Diversicon this weekend.  Join us at this discussion if you are registered for the convention (and feel free to register at the convention!)

Saturday, August 1
2:00-2:55 PM
Krushenko’s Annex (Northern Pacific)
Brainstorming Discussion: Geek Community Center
What would you like in a hypothetical Geek Community Center? Through the leagueofwonders.org blog, some of us are starting to gather the requirements and dreams for a new broad community organization (including members of many independent SF-related groups) for some really big community dreams, including a community center or clubhouse.

Michael Lee, mod.

(This will not be the last discussion we have on this subject if you can’t make it!)

I’ve been doing a little bit of research over the past couple of years, and I see some examples of other organizations that are “like” what we are doing here. Some are in other fan communities, others in art communities, others may be in religious communities, and others are in the non-profit space generally.

This sort of activity isn’t even entirely unprecedented within the Twin Cities fannish community, even if the scale is bigger than before.  The Gordon R. Dickson Memorial Scholarship Fund has been running for several years, and is probably the closest example in our community.   The Minnesota Fan Alliance also ran for several years in the late 1990s, but that has been dormant for several years, and the scope of our plans here are much larger than calendar co-ordination.

One of the things that fan groups (at least in my experience) tend to mainly look to other fan groups and so they say something “can’t be done” when other groups do things like this all the time.  I am not exempt in that particular form of tunnel vision and want to cast my net wider.

What other groups are you aware of that are “similar” to what we are looking at putting together here? We’re looking at groups that aren’t just focused on one event; organizations that are coalitions of other groups.

The Minnesota Society for Interest in Science Fiction and Fantasy board was discussing what sort of new office space we needed, and the idea came that what we really wanted was something more than Just Another Storage Space.  We hear members of the community call out for a workshop space, a performance space, a meeting space, and a gaming space.  Can we find a way to meet those needs as a community?

I’ve had a feeling for a while that we’re entering “the next era” in Twin Cities fandom, and this is a part of taking an active role in shaping that next era.   Part of this was realizing several months ago that CONvergence this year was going to be bigger than Minicon ever was.  Or seeing the leadership changes at many of our local conventions and organizations.

It is also seeing the changes in our local community — I used to live fairly close to Dreamhaven, and I was able to stop there almost every week for my comics fix.   When Dreamhaven moved, it hit home for me that I’m not sure how the specialty store survives past this generation when everything is available on the internet.  It seems likely that there may be fewer stores that Our Kind will be able to meet at — so we need to find new gathering points, new social centers.

We’re also seeing it with the changes in the general community at large — while it isn’t unusual for libraries to serve as meeting locations, government cutbacks mean that they aren’t open for the hours that we need, or aren’t always open to smaller or less organized groups.  And we have the horrible tendency for very long after-meetings; at both of the Society meetings to discuss bringing CONvergence permanently to four days last fall, we would spend a half hour in front of the library after our meeting; blocking the entrance or filling the parking lot.  If we had a Space Of Our Own, we wouldn’t have to end at 9:00 PM if the discussion warranted it.

And I’ve seen signs of interest in greater collaboration amongst other parts of the community as well.  I’d like to see a way for us to build a venue to support that collaboration.

Why Now?  Why Not?

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.
This lists authors who have recently made posts. Also see Contributors for a full list.

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June 2020