?

Log in

No account? Create an account

theengineer

The Engineer

The Life and Times of Donald F. Simmons


Previous Entry Share Next Entry
theengineer

Ad Astra

Ad Astra was last weekend, and I had a lot of fun this year (I usually do, but this year just rocked for me). Got caught up with a bunch of people I haven't seen in a while, enjoyed the dance, enjoyed the room parties. There weren't as many room parties this year as usual, but I got smoked meat in the Montreal Worldcon party, and chocolate cake in the Kansas City party. Spent more in the dealers room this year than in the previous three Ad Astras. Lots of good stuff at Apogee Books, some guy was selling off his vast graphics novel collection (and they were in amazingly good condition), and I got the new Karl Schroeder (Sun of Suns) from Bakka. Thanks to Aaron for lending me some cash when I couldn't get the ATM on the lobby working.

I do think attendance was a little off, likely due to all the snow we got on Thursday. All the guests got in on time, but I think a few of them were short on luggage for most of the weekend.

Was talking some more with Cory Doctorow about how to get anime fans to start reading SF and fantasy. He thinks SF fandom should start sending missionaries to anime cons. It's a problem that a lot of other fandoms out there have sprung from the SF cons, but people aren't going back and SF cons are slowly dying out. I specifically patterned Anime North after the SF con model when I started it up (and I think this has been to the con's benefit) and I'd love to see anime fans start attending SF cons. But I myself don't have the free time to devote to making this happen. If anyone out there does, let me know.

And the end-of-con nitpicking session reminded me why we don't do that at Anime North. Not that feedback isn't good and necessary, but most of what people were complaining about in that room was really juvenile stuff. "It took an hour to get here on public transit! Why isn't the con somewhere closer?". "I actually had to pay for a snack in the con suite! All the food is free at American Cons! You're insulting people!" "Me me me me me me me!" The con com spent months making all this happen and were undoubtedly exhausted after the weekend, and then they had to put up with an hour of whining from people old enough to know a lot better.

  • 1
I saw on the Anime North LJ community a mention that Anime North was giving away passes for winners in the Ad Astra costume contest... strikes me that Ad Astra ought to be at Anime North sponsoring prizes, rather than the other way around.

Especially considering that the at-door at Ad Astra was sixty bucks - compare that with $50 for Anime North. It may be just me, but I think most people are going to go to the show that's bigger and cheaper.

Considering how fast the Anime North artists alley sells out, maybe Ad Astra might want to think about promoting that side of their show.

I know I was a bit disappointed by the lack of art show at this year's Ad Astra, and the small Artist's alley (I mean, the biggest thing there was the booth for the Max the Mutt animation schooll...). I just read this out loud to green_trilobite, and he wondered if anyone at the bitch panel had complained about the art no-show?

Re: my personal bias...

Not that I heard, but I wasn't there for the whole thing.

And I did miss the Art Show too, apparently the Team Eh couldn't do it this year and the con couldn't find a replacement.

I really think Ad Astra is starting to price themselves out of business. They are not going to get the kids showing up for the weekend to try out the con at the current price rates.

The AA is a good idea, but because of space constraints they had it in the room where the Art Show usually is, which isn't the best place for it. AA's seem to work best in the open.

(Deleted comment)
Or maybe the solution is "ConCom: The Game!" in which you get to make all the crappy tradeoffs! "Sooo, you book the downtown hotel. The Local Contingent's approval goes up, and you get 50 more attendees living in town. But wait (rolls dice), the downtown hotel's higher room-rates make 75 out-of-towners decide not to come, and the function space costs an extra $1000 up-front."

They do that at Smofcon - IIRC, it's called "If I Ran The Zoo Con". I've never been able to make it to a Smofcon, so I've only heard about it second-hand via the SMOFS list.

I'm glad I didn't go to the bitch panel - I would have laughed loudly at the person who complained about the distance to travel. Sure, no matter where the con is held, someone will have to travel a long way, but at least the Crowne Plaza is fairly central, so people who live in Oshawa and people who live in Oakville are equally inconvenienced. (Me, I live at Yonge and Eglinton, so I had a 15-minute bus ride. *grin* But seriously, Eglinton station is easy to get to, and there are two bus routes that go to the hotel from there. It's much simpler than getting to the airport, unless you're actually flying in from out of town.)

The problem with the Crowne plaza location is that you have to already know how to get to the hotel to get to it. The street address says Eglinton, but you can't access the hotel off of Eglinton. A driver has to turn off and go around the hill to find the access road, and on public transit you have to know to go down the stairs and under the bridge to find the access.

The first time I went there, I gave up trying to figure it out and had to scramble up the grassy hill to get to the hotel (this was in rather warmer weather).

Not to mention the accessibility issues, and the fact that programming almost, but not quite, fits.

Accessibility is a concern, yes. I know a few people who didn't come because it's such a pain to get downstairs - apparently the lift can't accommodate electric scooters. The person at the bitch panel seemed to only be concerned with the location of the hotel, though, which is why I didn't mention accessibility in my initial comment.

Most other hotels that I can think of have something about them that would cause bigger problems:

  • The IP is two to three times larger than what they need - and if someone complained about the location of the CP, they'll certainly complain about the location of the IP or any of the airport hotels unless they flew in from out of town.

  • The Primrose is probably too small for a 500-700 person con.

  • The Marriott Eaton Centre and the Delta Chelsea are probably way too expensive (and I don't know what they have in the way of function space).

  • The larger downtown hotels (Crowne Plaza, Royal York, etc.) are way out of any local con's price range, I would think. (Except for AN, but I don't think anything is out of AN's price range. ;) )

  • The hotel across from the IP (which we used for an overflow room block for TT20 - I forget the name right now) doesn't have all that much in the way of function space that I can recall.


IIRC, Ad Astra tried the Holiday Inn Yorkdale once - did they not? - and it didn't work out. And the hotels in Scarborough (wasn't it held out there once as well?) are even more difficult to get to.

I'm not sure about the Marriott Courtyard. Maybe that's the next one to try. Or maybe we just need HoJos back. ;)

What other hotels would be feasible?

What about the Days Hotel (Formally a Days Inn) near Keele and Wilson that Ad Astra used a few years back? We had two Anime Norths there (99 and 2000) each with about a thousand people and the fucntion space worked out well. Plus all the function space is on a single level and there are some restaurants in the neighbourhood (not great ones, but still).


I don't have any clear memories of that year, so perhaps I missed the con the year it was there, or perhaps I just had no particular issues that have stuck in my mind.

I think I know the one you mean, though - it's near Yorkdale, isn't it?

Still, if Ad Astra moved away from there, there must be some reason why they didn't like it.

It's been a few years since I've done that research. There are hotels with enough function space; it would depend on which of them would be willing to lower their room rates to fill up a dead weekend. I don't know that offhand without contacting them.

It's been a few years since I've done that research.

Same here - and I've only done it the one time, for Gaylaxicon. I don't believe that I was involved in the decision to take TT to the IP after the Constellation closed, though I was probably on the Exec - it would likely have been a decision of the Chairs with input from the Hotel Liaison, and possibly the Board.

I'm sure there are some hotels out there that would be suitable - we're just not thinking of them right now.

Good point - I forgot that on the Friday, I scrambled up the hill (well, "scrambled" is a relative term when the hill is covered with ice). I knew there was a ramp leading up from the road somewhere, but I couldn't find it - I'd forgotten that it was off Wynford. That particular detail had slipped my mind.

The problem with the Crowne plaza location is that you have to already know how to get to the hotel to get to it.

Yeah. If they want the anime con crowd to show up, posting some better "how to get there" instructions on a website that doesn't look like it's from 1994 might be a good first step.

Not that feedback isn't good and necessary, but most of what people were complaining about in that room was really juvenile stuff. "It took an hour to get here on public transit! Why isn't the con somewhere closer?". "I actually had to pay for a snack in the con suite! All the food is free at American Cons! You're insulting people!" "Me me me me me me me!" The con com spent months making all this happen and were undoubtedly exhausted after the weekend, and then they had to put up with an hour of whining from people old enough to know a lot better.

The point isn't that I, personally, would be happier if there were Diet Coke in the con suite that was free included in the cost of membership (I can buy Diet Coke in the gift shop), or even that I believe that the point of a con suite is to have a place of hospitality in which to relax and meet interesting people, not a corner store. The point is that significant numbers of people choose not to attend Ad Astra because *they* believe it.

The decision makers can either care about issues that are important to people, or they can continue to believe that the way they do things is the only possible way that things can be done, and that anyone who complains is being unreasonable.

People who attend conventions *are* used to con suite snacks being included in their membership. It would be one thing to explain why that might not be possible, but dismissing people by telling them that it doesn't really happen and that they must have been imagining all those other con suites really doesn't go over well.

But the issue isn't whether pop is included in your membership or you have to pay $1; the issue is whether the con suite is a hospitality lounge or a corner store, and why the convention can't afford pop for its members but offers a free lavish bar in the green room (that's paid for by the same people who are also expected to pay for their own drinks and snacks).

And I say this as a member of concom--the fact that concom worked really hard for free to put on the event is important and should be acknowledged and appreciated, but doesn't mean that everything was perfect and that the complaints aren't valid.

In my not-so-humble opinion, a convention with a paid attendance of 300 or so, in a city of 3 million people, and within driving distance of most of the northeast US, is obviously doing something wrong. Maybe the concom should actually listen when people try to tell them what that is.

Yeah, the con costs sixty bucks and you have to pay for soda in the con suite? What's up with that? Oh, the free bar for guests. Well, I'm glad they have a good time.

Ad Astra had 300 paid memberships? That is... that's not a lot of people. I can get more people than that to yell "Dog bite, Dave!"

Ad Astra had 300 paid memberships?

That's a *very* rough estimate; I don't know the real numbers. But even if I'm completely off base and the real number is double that, that's still not much. I wouldn't compare Ad Astra to the anime cons, but we should be getting similar numbers to Arisia and Balticon.

I haven't gone to an SF con outside of Toronto for years now, so I'm pleased to hear they're still doing well elsewhere. Gotta stop being such a homebody.

What about V-Con in Vancouver?

CUFF needs a delegate.

End of October? I'll think about that.

Yes, you really should get out there. Conventions are fun, and there are bunches of them within driving distance.

Actually, SF cons aren't "dying out". The better cons are getting bigger every year. Cons like Balticon and Arisia are having to restrict at-door memberships because they are filling the largest hotels in their areas.

Unfortunately, Ad Astra has a bad reputation as an elitist con which is run for the benefit of the concom, not the membership. The crappy con suite compared to the over-plush green room (for concom and panelists only) sticks out like a sore thumb to a lot of people. A lot of people think the con suite should be a hospitality lounge which offers hospitality. There are questions about where the money is being spent at this convention.

The hotel is also in a very bad location. There are no amenities within walking distance. This makes it very hard on low-budget fans. (Microwave or no, the con suite isn't a serious option for an actual meal.)

Unfortunately, there are people on the concom who think their way is the only way, because they don't see how SF conventions outside Toronto are run.

The committee has made improvements in recent years. At least we have a hotel date for next year, and some guests. It was great having Cory Doctorow there, but on five weeks notice, his out-of-town fans could not arrange travel plans to come in. This was a big lost opportunity. I offered to find guests months earlier, but I couldn't convince people that getting author guests for the con was a priority.

The concom did *not* spend the time necessary to run this convention. As of October, there were no guests at all booked, and hardly any other work had been done. When I pointed out that we needed guests, I was told by the chair that if I couldn't come to meetings, he didn't want to hear my opinions. Since I have a 500-mile commute, the AGM and the Darts and Laurels panel were the only opportunities I had to speak. It's nice that people were able to pull things together on short notice, but a well-run convention takes more than a year to plan.

I attend and work on a lot of better-run conventions than this. I try to help this convention, but a lot of concom aren't interested in listening to what works elsewhere. I've had to repeat things year after year to get them to take some of the most basic and obvious steps. This seems to work, so I'm going to continue to repeat the obvious.

In two and a half weeks, I'm coming back to Toronto to work in the hospitality suite in FilkOntario, where we will be offering hospitality, including snacks and drinks, to members of the convention, because that's a convention that thinks that having the members socialize together makes for a better convention. And there is fast food across the parking lot.

FYI:

Balticon this year had about 2500 attendees. Otakon (in Baltimore) does 15000 + attendees.

Arisia gets roughly 2500 attendees. Anime Boston gets 9500 attendees.

Was talking some more with Cory Doctorow about how to get anime fans to start reading SF and fantasy. He thinks SF fandom should start sending missionaries to anime cons.

He's got it backwards - anime cons should send advisors to SF cons to tell them what they're doing wrong. Toronto's SF cons need to stop trying to figure out how to borrow some of Anime North's ever-growing attendance to keep themselves alive, and figure out how to get their own genre's fans to show up. Just because they'll never duplicate anime fandom's demographic of sugar-crazed teenagers doesn't mean it isn't time to try some new ideas to liven things up.

And the end-of-con nitpicking session reminded me why we don't do that at Anime North.

Barring any problems booking the Sunday of AN off from my new job (where I just got my login for the relevant system), I'd be happy to run a "bitch" panel at Anime North this year. I patiently explain to Americans "Why my (mobile phone) bill so high?!" for a living, so juvenile complaints about the con would be a piece of cake in comparison. Bitch panels do have merit, IMO - among all the whiners, there will be a few good ideas from people whose memories of the con are still fresh, and who might not bother to submit said ideas some other way. And even if most people won't attend the panel, it's still a good way to show that we're paying attention.

  • 1