Monday, August 10, 2009

In critique of conventions

I am typing this on my Blackberry in the Delta lobby, so I apologize if there are typos. The Worldcon Hugos post will be coming later today or tomorrow, once I upload my photos.

This post, however, will address a question I have. Namely, why is it perceived as wrong or bad for people to critique conventions?

This springs from a conversation I was having with John Joseph Adams, where he mentioned that an unknown person had been offended by what I had written about Wiscon this year. And while I felt I was brutally honest in that post, I disagreed with what the unknown person had said, which went something along the lines of "She basically said 'F-you, Wiscon'." Which I hadn't said. And then John brought up the fact that people had been angry or annoyed with something Cat Valente had said about Readercon. And while I personally like Readercon, I wouldn't have been mad if Cat had criticized it. (I haven't read her blog post.)

Because good OR bad, I think criticism makes cons better. They're a lot of work to run, and I do appreciate the effort of all the volunteers. But if you consider the fact that in about 30 years, my generation will be running cons, then I don't understand why I'm not allowed to criticize, and more importantly, LEARN about how to run a con from my criticism and people's responses to it.

Kevin Standlee, for instance, has been kind and polite the last few days while we've been chatting about con logistics and what goes into planning them. I appreciate him taking the time to talk to me and to teach me. I want to take what I'm learning and help with future Worldcons and other conventions.

But my point remains the same that we wouldn't have been having this discussion, if I hadn't been complaining about my blisters (which are on my thighs, not my feet, and are very, very painful; I have been hobbling and sitting a lot) in a prior blog post.

I don't understand why it's viewed as bad to honestly critique a con, and I'd welcome people's thoughts on it.

And now, to catch my plane! :)


AstonWest said...

I recently attended a convention where the folks organizing the event were more than willing to accept (read: desperate for) feedback on how to improve their con. I have great faith next year's convention will be vastly improved over this year's.

I think a lot of it has to do with the personalities involved, and that's true whether we're talking about cons, writing, politics, or how to make a PB&J sandwich. Some people are just more willing to accept comments and feedback than others, and some are inevitably going to take exception to anyone telling them their efforts aren't perfect.

Gail O'Connor said...

I suppose that it could be viewed as unkind or ungrateful to criticize a con, because it takes a lot of hard work to throw one. But I don't think that we should refrain from making honest observations about problems.

There are always glitches, and since different people want different things from a con, not everyone will always be happy. And that's okay. Hopefully everyone will enjoy a con, but if not, then perhaps constructive comments can lead to improvements in the future. Or it can help other fans make an informed decision about which cons they will be more likely to enjoy.

I had a great time in Montreal, but I chose a hotel near the convention center because I hated hiking back and forth last year in Denver. And I had to alter my footwear plans a bit after I got blisters on Thursday wandering around the Botanical Gardens.

beth said...

I personally find it refreshing to see honest critiques of conferences. I've been very excited to see the comparisons between ComicCon and BEA, for example, and think it might be a source of (good) change for BEA.

green_knight said...

n about 30 years, my generation will be running cons

Why wait? Your generation is running cons or helping to run cons *right now*, as is mine. (I understand you are insanely busy, which might be a reason not to volunteer too readily, but don't hold yourself back.)

Jenny Rae Rappaport said...

green_knight, largely the insanely busy reason, at the moment. Also, I haven't decided where and how I want to volunteer. I was having some interesting discussions with a bunch of people about making Lunacon THE con to go to in NYC.

Selestial said...

Personally, I value honest comments about cons. I remember reading yours about Wiscon and don't recall anything really harsh being said (as I recall it was kind of a "not really my cup of tea" post). For those of us who have to pick and choose very carefully which cons to attend, I prefer to hear the good, the bad, and the ugly up front so I have some clue on if it will be a good fit for me or not.

I say criticize away!