Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Felgercarb has hit the fan

Seems like about a year and a half ago that one of my friends mentioned something called Fedcon. They had heard that Fedcon put on some really nice sci-fi conventions in Europe, and that they were planning something in the Dallas area. Great. But it looked a little expensive for my tastes, and I'm not as into conventions as I once was, but we'll see.

So Fedconusa was having their convention at one of the hotels at DFW airport this weekend. My friends have all been looking forward to this for most of the year. But when I saw it was at the airport I pretty much lost interest. I hate driving in Dallas, and I feel the same about the airport (toll booths and parking fees and I don't know where I'm going and I'll get run over by someone else who drives there on a regular basis.) And I didn't want to spent the money. $45 just for Saturday, $99 for the whole weekend, and of course a couple of my friends wanted the $269 Gold Pass and bought extra tickets for the dinners and such with the stars. I didn't want to part with my $45, and that other stuff was way out of my price-rage. I all but put it out of my mind.

It's been so long since I was really into conventions that I totally forgot to look into the option of volunteering. And I also forgot that we now have a train that goes to the airport. I maybe could have done that if I had thought of it in time. I usually get picked if I volunteer because right now I don't have a job and can work on Friday. Problem is, if you are working the four hours that you want to be doing something at the convention, is it worth the effort for the free ticket that you don't enjoy that much? Sometimes, there is something else in it for the volunteers, like a special arrangement for autographs, so it's usually okay. Sometimes my friends buy the expensive tickets AND volunteer.

This week while I was reading all the emails from my excited friends, I was starting to regret my decision to stay home. But, I figured that a week before the convention was too late to ask about volunteering. I have been out of the loop, somewhat deliberately on my part, and this is what happens sometimes. Don't cry about it, just go on with the original plans of watching movies and cleaning and such for the weekend.

On Thursday, a friend made one last attempt to get me to go to this thing if I wanted to buy a ticket for Saturday. He offered to drive me and everything, if I was up for the party scheduled til 2am. And he doesn't live anywhere near me, so that's a bit of a drive, especially to take me home at 2am. But, no, thanks anyway.

Yesterday I went to see The Incredible Hulk and did some cleaning and some sorting and then watched several episodes of The Tripods. And then I was checking my email, and there's strange things going on at the airport.

People went to buy their Saturday only tickets and were charged $57. The website says $45. There are often different prices for advance tickets and at the door tickets, but if the website says $45 after the convention starts, you'd think that the prices on the website would be the at the door price.

Some of the guests that were scheduled to be there weren't there. Other guests weren't paid. Some guests didn't get their plane tickets. Guests were scheduled, then dropped because of scheduling problems, then put back on the schedule after the time conflicts were resolved, but now they aren't at the convention. The guy in charge of the event is having back problems and is going to the hospital instead of the convention.

A lot of people were going to this convention specifically to see Aaron Douglas, who plays Chief Tyrol on the new Battlestar Galactica. He was one of the guests who was on the schedule and then off and then back on. He was dropped this week, apparently knew nothing about it, and was waiting for plane tickets which never arrived. Here's a quote from Mr. Douglas--

"This is the most unprofessional, egregious behaviour that I have ever seen
displayed. FedconUSA you make Creation look like Shoreleave or Dragoncon,
two of the finest run conventions a fan will ever attend."

Most of my regular readers won't understand, but this is quite a serious insult. I read it and thought that's really bad, but apparently if you've heard Mr. Douglas talk about Creation the insult is meant to be even worse than it first seemed to me. He had more to say, but I won't quote the rest of it. I think that some people will soon be trying to take advantage of Mr. Douglas after something else that he said, and I'm not going to add to the problem by telling anybody else who doesn't already know what he said. Not his fault, and everyone should leave him alone. Besides, he's a guy who likes fans, likes going to conventions, and I think that most everyone who wants to see him or get his autograph or whatever will have many other opportunities to do so.

What else? Yesterday was Friday the 13th, and everyone now says that they should have known better. And it turns out that Fedconusa is not run by the same people as Fedcon in Germany. People were trying to warn the fans since August, but most of them did not get the message. People with dealer tables are losing money, even though I heard that they didn't actually pay to rent the tables. It is still a weekend that they wasted being at a con now filled with unhappy people. Unhappy people do not buy stuff.

Besides the up to $269 that some people paid for Gold Passes, and extra money that they might have spent on dinners with the stars and such, many people have paid for hotel rooms and airplane tickets or spent lots of time and gas driving from other parts of Texas or maybe Oklahoma. If they paid for the actual convention stuff with a credit card, they should eventually get that money back, but the money spent on gas and hotels and such is probably just gone.

So I'm reading the emails of how bad it was yesterday and how volunteers today should be prepared to deal with lots of angry fans and how the convention isn't going well so if you haven't already paid for tickets you should probably just forget it and stay home. And while I'm sitting here reading the emails a few more pop up. The convention has been cancelled.

The convention has been canceled? But it already started.

Then there's a message from the guy in the hospital who is supposed to be in charge of the thing saying that everyone who bought a ticket today is getting their money back, and that it will take some time but the advance tickets will be refunded as well.

That does nothing for the people who spent time and gas, rented hotel rooms, or bought plane tickets.

I'm glad that I ended up staying home. Except for not being able to find the last episode of The Tripods, I think I'm having a pretty good weekend.


dmarks said...

We're big fans of Mr. Douglas as Tyrol, and think he has often been the "heart" of the new BSG. Pretty bad of them to jerk him around like this.

laughingattheslut said...

Aaron Douglas likes fans, he likes conventions, but just as anyone else hired to do a job he also likes getting paid and having a lunch break and having other people keep up their end, etc.... It shouldn't be that since a person is having a good time doing their job that they shouldn't get paid or they should have to pay more than their agreed share of transportation costs and such, and this goes for actors as well as photographers and people with other regular jobs.

I have never heard anything bad about Aaron Douglas, and I doubt that I ever will. There are people in fandom that are just especially liked, and he seems to be one of them. I have also heard good things about John Billingsley (Dr.Phlox from Enterprise), who appeared at the convention without pay . I doubt that this one incident will drive either of them away from doing conventions, but sometimes the one really bad experience is all it takes.

No one will ever do business with this particular company again. We're just a bit worried that the person in charge might try to have another go at it under a different name.

FenCon said...

My name is Michael Nelson, and I am part of the Executive Committee for FenCon (with an N), a Dallas-based, non-profit, literary science fiction convention.

Our organization - the Dallas Future Society, which holds FenCon ( - is in no way, shape or form associated with FeDConUSA.

We first heard about that organization last year, and were somewhat taken aback that they had chosen a name so close to ours, seeing as we had been in existence for over four years at that time.

We are working on a press release which we plan to send to as many SF related information sources as possible to explain that this similarity in names should not reflect on our organization or convention.

FenCon prides itself on being a successful, non-profit, fan-run convention, which is operated in a professional manner. We always strive to show the highest respect to both our guests and members.

If you feel the need and have opportunity to spread this information to other SF professionals or fans, we would greatly appreciate the effort. As you know, a convention such as ours relies heavily on word of mouth, and any negative implications can be unintentionally damaging.

Thank you for your attention.

Michael Nelson

laughingattheslut said...

By the Fen, for the fen, etc....

Sorry about that, but when all this was going on I forgot about you guys. I believe Fencon is in September, and usually features a famous author as it's headliner. I have never been, usually I don't have money, and I hate Dallas. One year I was especially sad to miss seeing David Gerrold.

I'd better go and check my post for spelling errors.