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What's up with Capricon?

Does anyone reading this know who's running the 2005 Capricon? I know the staff changes around every year (in general, a good thing) but I just heard about a policy change they've put in this year that made my jaw drop.

Greg Ketter (from DreamHaven Books in Minneapolis for those who have just joined us) just told me that Capricon returned his check for tables, saying that they wanted more new blood and felt that there were too many book dealers anyway.

This would have been his 25th Capricon. That's right - he's been to every single one. I was trying to work out with other long-timers whether he is or is not the ONLY dealer to have participated so long. I should ask Steve Salaba, who would be one of the few other contenders I can think of.

I think this was a very poor decision on someone's part. Do they really feel that books are no longer part of science fiction? Or that Mad Science (this year's theme) is only about gadgets and sparkly stuff? There were only four book dealers last year anyway - how many fewer can they be planning on!

I wasn't at all sure I'd be able to afford going this year anyway, since for the first time it would mean flying in. Now here's one more big reason not to try too hard.


( 23 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 11th, 2004 12:53 am (UTC)
My application was rejected, too.
Dec. 11th, 2004 02:42 am (UTC)
I have passed your question on to erikvolson who has been on recent Cap committees and is, I think, on this one.

Dec. 11th, 2004 03:07 am (UTC)
According to Capricon's website:
In keeping with the Mad Scientist theme, this year we have experimented on the Dealer's Room. We intentionally replaced half of the room with Dealers who have not been to Capricon. We also chose our Dealers with an eye to have as much variety as possible

Based on the list of dealers, it doesn't look too good for books or book dealers.

erikvolson dropped off the Capricon board a few months ago.
Dec. 11th, 2004 03:31 am (UTC)
Greg Ketter (from DreamHaven Books in Minneapolis for those who have just joined us) just told me that Capricon returned his check for tables, saying that they wanted more new blood and felt that there were too many book dealers anyway.



I don't understand. Really, truly, completely don't understand. Is it such a large convention that it isn't trying to sell tables?
Dec. 11th, 2004 06:34 am (UTC)
The convention is not that large, and the dealers room is usually the appropriate mid-size for it. So every year there are many more applications received than there will be room for.

In the past they've dealt with this mostly by limiting how many of each type of dealer is there. This year it looks like they've decided (for some nebulous value of "they" - I've done that job, and sometimes it's only one person, while other times it's the entire committee) to toss out half of the dealers that had tables last year.

Book wise, I see that there will now be just Larry Smith for new books, Glen Cook for used (with some new releases) and a costumer who also carries some books. Really, really sad.

Dec. 11th, 2004 04:04 am (UTC)
Greg seems to be the only one of the old guard not in the dealers room.

Ray, Larry, Butch and Glen are all there.
Dec. 11th, 2004 04:32 pm (UTC)
Barb and Ray do the convention t-shirts. This means that they pretty much have to get a table.

Gretchen is on the committee and is the only filk dealer. (We've been hucking since 1986, so I think we get to count as old guard at this point too. :) )

La Paloma has been at Cap (and Windy) before, but not in the last year or two as I recall. She's a desirable dealer when she's in the room.

I don't recognize some of the other new dealers (which is not to say that they're either bad or good dealers). (I've been helping Gretchen maintain the Capricon dealers mailing list for the last few years, so I know who she's been mailing to and who has requested information in the past.)

It appears that there's no games dealer at all. This won't bother me personally, but may cheese some folks off.

And Steve Salaba and Marty both got shown the door. Much as I love Steve, I somewhat understand moving him out since Bast's Garden is there, but Steve's puppets are -- as I recall -- substantially different from what Bast's Garden carries. I'm actually a bit more disappointed in them dropping Marty to replace her with other clothing sellers since Marty's not been around for long and can hardly be classified as stale.

But I'm just an opinionated guy. :)
Dec. 12th, 2004 02:03 am (UTC)
I sympathize with wanting to make changes - it's natural to take on a new job and do it differently than the old guard. But I think these particular changes were very poorly considered.

I know it's quite likely that they weren't even the product of careful choices. Many dealer rooms are determined by just the one person choosing from the list of applications. And if that person doesn't have much history behind them, they may not even be aware of what they are letting in and what they are excluding.

Some of my dismay is more personal - I think it's a crying shame that Greg would get tossed out after showing so much support over so much time. But there's an overall sorrow at the further marginalization of books. The number of places where one can browse shelves, actually hold a book in hand before purchase, is growing steadily fewer. Now Capricon is yet another place where that's the case.
Dec. 12th, 2004 04:55 am (UTC)
Gretchen tells me that La Paloma was actually in the room last year -- shows you how often I got around the room. :)

As I said to Mike on the GT list, my personal opinion is that not giving tables to Greg is a mistake since he works hard to bring material that is orthogonal to that brought by the other book dealers in the room, thereby increasing the diversity of books available in the room.

I believe that I heard -- but this is my faulty memory at work, so take that into account -- that the room was juried by Sunshine and Deb together.

Also, given the state of the economy and what it's done to some of our marginal dealers, having 15 more dealers than tables is actually a pretty good ratio. Last year, Windy -- as I recall again -- filled the room exactly with applications that arrived by the deadline. That's unusual, because we've attracted more dealers in the past than we've had tables for. (And, in fact, after the deadline we got a goodly number of requests, but those are less useful than the timely ones.)
Dec. 11th, 2004 05:22 pm (UTC)
Maybe we should have Alicecon and come visit you that weekend.

I looked over the web site in some detail, but there's no list of who is on the concom, nor who is responsible for anything. If you dig really hard, you can find a few data points. Having followed every link on the Capricon web site, I learned that:

They have a book club, and Helen Montgomery is the coordinator.

They have a "Dark and Stormy Planet" contest, and the judges are: Tracey Callison, Eloise Mason (nee Beltz-Decker) and Moshe Yudkowsky.

They have a "featured filker" named Erica Neely and also expect Steve Macdonald, Bill Roper, and Eric Coleman.

It seems that Siobhán M. Murphy is in charge of the art show.

They are run by a group that exists to run Capricon: Phandemonium. Its board of directors includes: Phoenix (Board President), Vicki Ortega, Doyle Blooding, Gretchen Roper (retiring), Brent Warren and the Capricon XXV Chair Deb Kosiba.

I don't know most of these people.

Dec. 12th, 2004 05:00 am (UTC)
There should be a better staff list on the Capricon website (something that we discussed today for WindyCon, actually). Let me say that there are a lot of good people working on Capricon and they're actually running a good convention, despite what you might infer from the situation in the Dealers' Room.

Of course, I do know -- at least peripherally -- everyone named above. (And Gretchen wrote the blurb for filking, since she's helping run that area this year. Erica's (catalana) just passed her Ph.D. defense in Philosophy down at U of I, so this is likely the last year she'll be in the area.)
Dec. 12th, 2004 06:31 am (UTC)
I can't tell if you are the more clever, for saying that you know (but then not telling) who's working on Capricon by I guess assuming Alice's question was rhetorical and that she didn't expect an answer to "Does anyone know who is running the 2005 Capricon?" Or if tanac is, for supplying the requested information.

These sorts of things always baffle me, and Alice hasn't said.

Dec. 12th, 2004 07:00 am (UTC)
At the time I responded to you, tanac had already supplied the necessary information to Alice. I thought that Mike had already gotten the information separately on the GT list (but I may misremember) and would provide it to Alice as well. And in my response to Mike on the GT list, I offered more information via channels less public than an e-mail list or LJ, because -- like most people -- there are things that I'd rather not commit to print.

I'm not trying to be clever. It's too late an hour to try to be clever.
Dec. 12th, 2004 09:02 pm (UTC)

Maybe we should have Alicecon and come visit you that weekend.

Sounds like a good idea to me. What weekend does Capricon fall on? With luck, we'll have sort of party going on.
Dec. 11th, 2004 07:03 pm (UTC)
It simply wouldn't be Capricon if someone on the Con comittee wasn't doing something mind-bogglingly stupid.

It's nice to hear that they're so well set for dealers that they can turn some away, though.

I think I'll continue not attending.
Jan. 5th, 2005 08:50 pm (UTC)
I submit that it wouldn't be a SCIENCE FICTION CONVENTION if someone on the concom didn't do something that SOMEONE considered "mind-bogglingly stupid". The list of things that might offend are legion, and any action in the positive or negative will piss off a niche of fandom. Further, running it the same way year after year with NO changes draws derision as well.

Since I will inherit the chairmanship of Capricon next year, I'd like to know which convention YOU chair, since from your comment it appears you posess the secret of mollifying 1000+ fen without dissent. I'd love to come and see it.
Jan. 6th, 2005 05:31 am (UTC)
Thank you very much for confirming my decision to continue to stay clear of Capricon.

I'll happily confess that I don't know the secret to mollifying 1000+ fen without dissent, but I'm pretty sure this response of yours wasn't it.
Dec. 11th, 2004 09:07 pm (UTC)
Sunshine (whose real name I couldn't tell ya for anything) is in charge of the Dealer's room this year - and yes, the intention was to stir things up and bring a lot of new stuff in.

They did have about 15 more dealers apply than there was space for, as a data point.

(I'm running registration this year. just like last year. and next year.)

The chair is Deb Kosiba, who's run capricon before (more than once, iirc).

Dec. 11th, 2004 09:52 pm (UTC)
But the new stuff they brought in is non-SF related, like henna painting. And the old stuff they've decided to trash are thing that should be, or at least used to be, core interests. Like books!

Only 15 dealers over capacity is actually a major drop from the norm for applications, so I wonder if something is up with that too.

I absolutly know that this isn't personal - most of the people running the convention these days don't even know me. My concom times are far in the past, and the bookstore took up so much of my life (especially for those last three most-hardest years) that I didn't see much of folks. But it still feels like "Good Bye and Good Riddance" to have a convention that I was so heavily involved in make these decisions just after I leave the area. And I'm so glad that I'm not there to have applied myself, because it would have broken my heart.

I'm glad you're there to do Registration. And I'm glad that Gretchen will be returning to Dealers next year. I'm sure you'll have fun and it will be a good convention. But books have always been central to my enjoyment of science fiction, and I'm seriously bummed that Capricon has decided not to have that as a focus anymore.
Dec. 12th, 2004 06:33 am (UTC)
There's a Chicago fan named Sunshine whom everyone in Minneapolis fandom I've ever heard express an opinion calls, "Sunshine 'These Are My Breasts' Katz."

I don't know her, myself.

Jan. 5th, 2005 09:30 pm (UTC)
Just a perspective i'd like to add....
I was going to stay out of this discussion, but now i find that i cannot.

Many people in response to this thread have made sweeping comments about "this is the future of Capricon" or "this is the way they do things now" etc.

Each year, in an attempt to keep things fresh, a new Chair is selected by the Phandemonium board of directors from a group of proposals presented at Windy. The theory is, that by selecting the chairs with the most exciting ideas, that the con will continue to evolve, and not meet the fate of other midwest cons who get criticized for stagnating, or who lose membership because of internal ruptures.

Deb Kosiba is the chair for 25. Deb has successfully chaired capricon in the past, and come up with some really great and fun ideas to make the con more than just a handful of panels and a consuite. Is Deb perfect? no. Will she (or her concom) make some choices that a few people will regard as "bad" choices? Sure. What Chair hasn't?

Next year this time, you'll likely all be trashing ME, since I'll be the Chair for 26. Let me tell you in advance that I'll accept any suggestions for improvement, and any advice people care to offer, but i'll be making some decisions that i KNOW will piss off some folks, but i ALSO know will make others happy. Like Deb, I'll be attempting to provide the best con experience possible, and i'll be trying to add new members to the convention. Like Deb, any decision that i or my concom make will be intended to improve the Capricon experience for all the attendees, and failing that, at least the majority.

But my decisions will in some cases be different from Deb's. Not necessarily better, (hopefully not worse!) Just Different. So to be clear, Deb's decisions are not the future and ongoing policy of Capricon, just as Dave McCarty's weren't before her, and Cary and Marnie before his, and so on... Each chair tries new stuff. The future chairs evaluate the effect of those changes, and adjust accordingly. No single Chair sets "permanent policy" for the con - only the Board does that, and they do not directly manage the event year-to-year. So. I'm sorry if folks are unhappy with past decisions, but please don't remain ignorant of the fact that Cap is an evolving, growing entity, and through that ignorance deprive yourself (and others) of what is likely to be a new and exciting con, year after year.

Now,another thought for all of you "elders" and all of you "boycotters" and "non-attendees". EVERYONE who has tried their hand at conrunning has pissed people off. The "elders" may not have felt the impact as highly, because today it only takes 2-3 pissed off folks who are well-connected on the internet to generate a huge negative buzz. It only takes minutes. Back when cap first started, if you pissed someone off, you might not hear about it UNTIL THE CON.

These days, the gripe sessions on Sunday are sparsely attended, because anyone with a negative comment has already published it to the GT list/LJ/messageboard/other mailing list/all of their Outlook contacts, etc.

But of all the negative comments I've seen regarding a decision that (right, wrong or otherwise) really only affects a few people, not a SINGLE ONE has suggested a positive remedy for the situation.

Furthermore, none of the complaining parties have offerred to help the convention effort with advice, volunteer time, or the benefit of knowledge that they seem to expect every fan to somehow assimilate in their first year of conrunning through some mystical unexplained process. Cripes. If you're no longer interested in helping or running it or sharing your valuable knowledge, then don't expect the new kids to know everything you know. The only reason i have clue one about "who is Greg Ketter" is because of his business connection to Alice, who i only really got to know at any depth at all after 15 years in fandom, and we lived in the same damn city.

Sorry about the long rant - this has been building up a while.


Greg "Guido" Williams
Jan. 6th, 2005 07:52 am (UTC)
> Sorry about the long rant - this has been building up a while

Gosh, I guess it HAS been building up for a while - because this thread has been quiet for weeks. And I can't help but feel like your response is triggered by more than reading the somewhat ambiguous comments here.

I usually prefer to have these sorts of one-by-one discussions in person - more dynamic, more personal, far more effective. But I've found that by moving 1700 miles away that's become a bit challenging. So I'm going to do what I almost never do, and answer your points here. This is not meant as any sort of argument or attack. I hope it can be the start of more discussion and less, um, dissing.

This particular venue is also quite small, not that mean people read my lj, and the vast majority are unlikely to be reading posts this ancient. But if I happen to say anything useful, please fell free to repeat it elsewhere.

You complain that the posts here make sweeping statements about the future of Capricon, but not a single person here said anything like that. In fact, I specifically mentioned that I knew the rules changed ever year. And only one person was mildly rude about the situation.

Name-calling (what else can I label your use of "boycotters" (or for that matter "elders")) adds heat but no light to the discussion. It helps if you are aware that most of the people responding here are interested in convention choices as a whole, but are not ideally positioned to attend Capricon itself anyway. Most-of-a-continent can put a real damper on ones travel plans.

As far as remedies go, I'll admit that I approached that potentially delicate matter in private (once I knew more, which came as a result of my first posting here), talking to several of the people in question, and concluding that if there was a good solution, it wasn't one that I would be able to help with.

It did lead to my second post here, after it had been made clear to me that, yes, indeed, books were considered to be of at most minor interest to the convention, and that the already small amount of dealers carrying them was to be cut back even farther. That is something that's personally very sad to me, and I don't think it's inappropriate to say so in my own journal. I also don't think that comes close to trashing the convention or the people who work on it.

I've chaired Capricon a few times myself, and had my own share of difficult decisions or unfortunate events. But that's now far in the past, and I don't expect that it have any impact on how things run now. And I'm not saying it should.

It's true that I felt it was particularly agravating that, if only a single new book dealer was to be chosen, they opted for the recent arrival that mostly carries the mainstream publishers instead of the long-time dealer, but from what you've said I gather that there even less information transfer from one year to another than there was in my day.

But the real source of the gripe was the down-grading of books itself. And while I'm sure that this will change, as everything does, it was an unfortunate capper to the events of my closing the bookstore, and then moving cross-continent.

Please do feel welcome to rant here. Things being discussed are almost always better than things building up. And it looks like you've been hearing a lot of things from other sources than this rather skimpy journal.
Jan. 6th, 2005 05:52 pm (UTC)
Yes, dear, I'm afraid I have brought some ire from other areas. I apologize for unleashing it here, I likely should have put it in my own journal instead.

First let me clarify...

I did not intend to "name-call" - the term "elders" was actually a term of respect that i use to identify those who have worked on these conventions in the past, and encompasses you, and and unidentified number of others who I know have done work, but i don't know them all by name. Passovoy, Roper, Silver, etc. are the immediate circle of "elders" that the current generation turns to for advice. You'll recall that I have also approached YOU in the past about contributing to current events.

The term "boycotters" also was not meant with any malice - it's just the term i use to describe the small group of people who take the events of a past convention, and then use those to justify their absence from, and attacks on, future versions of that same con.
Often, those folks will rant for years after the issue has been resolved, expecting that by their absence they are somehow damaging the con. Again, just a descriptive to describe a group.

I understand your concern about the choices made this year for the dealers room - my point (which somehow got lost) was that changes made this year are not necessarily PERMANENT changes. The decisions of a single chair do not set policy for the con forever.

you said "You complain that the posts here make sweeping statements about the future of Capricon, but not a single person here said anything like that."

but statements of yours like
"The number of places where one can browse shelves, actually hold a book in hand before purchase, is growing steadily fewer. Now Capricon is yet another place where that's the case."
"But books have always been central to my enjoyment of science fiction, and I'm seriously bummed that Capricon has decided not to have that as a focus anymore."
imply that there has been a drastic paradigm shift in the con, which will be carried forward as a policy for the future.
This is NOT the case.
Me myself, I'm a bibliophile, and i like books, and i like having a human being with a big stack of them tell me what's good, and recommend new things i wouldn't have sought myself. So likely, next year there will be more books than this year. It so happens that books fit well into the theme i've selected, and so on.
Hell, 2-3 years from now, some renegade con chair may decide to have nothing BUT book dealers, and then fans of henna tattoos will protest THEIR choice.

You see?

My major point of protest was that Deb has gotten poked on this from many directions, and the ease of broadcasting said poking across the 'net has blown the thing Way out of proportion. She made a choice - the consumers wil validate it or refute it, and then the following year, we'll evaluate the feedback and adjust accordingly.

i apologize if you felt like I was dissing you, or attacking you, especially in the domain on your own personal journal. I have nothing but massive respect for the work that you put into this con in it's youth, and hope to add to the history of it, as I'm sure does Deb. We'll make our choices, as those who have gone before made theirs, but i beg tolerance of those choices, as we explore how to best serve the majority of the con membership.


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