Lessons Learned from Flan B/The Non-Vention

UPDATED: Wednesday, December 13, 2006 21:57
VIEWED: 1922
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Wednesday, December 13, 2006 4:43 PM


Like many of us, I've spent the weekend reading about the Browncoat Backup Bash that evolved out of the collapse of Flanvention II. Like everyone else, I was stunned by the betrayal that Flan attendees experienced at the hands of BE (who clearly have long known the Flan was dead, and didn't have the decency to let their registrants know). I was equally moved by the generosity of the CA Browncoats and various FF (and Buffy) cast and crew in creating an amazing alternative event in mere hours. But more than that, I think there is an instructive conclusion to be drawn.

Although I was not registered for the Flan, a friend of mine was, and I kept a close eye on events out of concern for her as a first-time con attendee. I did not plan to attend Flan II because, right from the get-go, I was disturbed by the way the Flans are designed. The shockingly high price for membership and the whole the-more-you-pay-the-more-celebrity-time-you-get model bothers me because it is so clearly oriented towards profit-making and towards creating a class hierarchy among con attendees. I don't begrudge people wanting to see/hear, and even meet, the actors who bring beloved characters to life, but the whole Flan structure was about 1)making big money off the backs of the fans (which is antithetical to the community nature of fandom); and 2)the actors (rather than the interactions among fans that are really the heart of fandom). Let's face it--if you get to interact with an actor, that's a tiny fragment of the experience that goes into being a fan: reading/writing fics and blogs, creating/appreciating art and music, making friends with people who share similar interests. How do you encourage that when everything is geared towards meeting celebrities, and when some people 'get more' than others?

Yeah, I sound like an old fogy--"Back in my day, people went to cons to meet other fans, not for the celebrities . . . and we walked uphill both ways in the snow to do it!" But there is a deeper value here, a value amply affirmed by everything we saw from Thurs. afternoon on, when the CA Browncoats started pulling together the BBB, and the BDHs (cast and crew, FF and Buffy-folk) came out to turn what could have been an expensively depressing weekend into a great experience for all involved. That value is community, the kind that makes people care about each other, and take care of each other.

Fandom as we know it evolved because people shared interests, not because they saw a way to make money off other people--that came later, when some fannish types started calculating the profit that could be made from other people's obsession. Not that I'm knocking profit: I mean, there would be no collectible goodies, or TV shows or movies for that matter, if there weren't business people out there interested in selling us things we want, and making a profit out of the exchange.

But when it comes to cons that charge inflated prices and are clearly designed entirely for the personal profit of the producers, such as the Flans, we're looking at something else. Cons have traditionally been run by people who do it as a labor of love, for fellow fans, with their needs and desires in mind. Once they become mere money-makers, cons tend to become about merchandise and celebrities rather than about fan interaction. My personal example: I met one of my best friends 20-some years ago at a Creation Con, but the encounter went nowhere it because it involved the sale of merchandise in the dealer's room; we became friends when we met again a year later at a fan-run con, where the program was built around fannish encounters.

Ironically, the collapse of the Flan and the emergence of Flan B from its ashes gave attendees the best of both worlds. They got to meet many more cast and crew than they ever would have at the original event, because those generous people wanted to make sure that Flan attendees weren't left in the lurch. But remember also that the CA Browncoats busted their butts to make sure that 300+ people--fellow fans--got to have a good time, by finding alternative facilities, arranging panels and activities (as well as transportation!), and pulling together an organized weekend out of thin air. (As I understand it, they didn't even have BE's registration list, and had to create together on their own.)

So, the lesson that I draw from watching all this, and that I hope others will consider, is this: in the end, fandom is about other fans, and the love we all have for FF/Serenity, the Joss-verses, SF in general (pick your group). Before you sign up to attend a con, ask yourself whether the organizers are of the same mind, or are just trying to create a moneymaker. If we insist on the former, we'll get it; if we support the latter, we'll get that too, and probably get screwed, just as this weekend's Flan attendees nearly were.

And let me join many others in expressing my admiration for all those who gave of themselves this weekend in the real spirit of fandom, so that Flan attendees got to have a wonderful experience. To me, all those people--actors and fellow fans--were just browncoats, working together on a shared cause. That's the side I want to be on.

"Well, my days of not taking you seriously are certainly coming to a middle. . . ."


Wednesday, December 13, 2006 6:14 PM


Bump for the fine message. Well said!

One summer.
One mission.
One army of Browncoats.
Starting June 23rd, we aim to misbehave.


Wednesday, December 13, 2006 6:39 PM



very well said. there is much to consider here. thank you for taking the time to out it down for consideration.



Wednesday, December 13, 2006 6:41 PM


This is a very thoughtful analysis of Flan and cons in general. Were I a more experienced con-goer, and known how others were run, I might have seen some red flags right from the start. However, this was my first time, and it looked like a shiny opportunity to meet both the BDHs and a lot of other fans. Yes, I thought it was too expensive...but I was really excited about the chance to immerse myself in an experience with my Big Damn Heroes for an entire weekend. When I found out it would be the last Flan, I broke down and bought in.

I have some regrets about not having the one-on-one time with the actors I would have had if Flan had gone on as scheduled. I have a lot of regret about the money I spent and may never see again. But I don't regret the way the weekend actually ended up. You are right on when you say a good con is about the fandom and community created. I left Burbank feeling like I'd been among family, despite the fact I'd never laid eyes on any of them before. We all bonded even more than we would have at Flan because of what we went through together.

I think my biggest regret is, due to the confusion caused by the last-minute cancellation, a lot of attendees pulled out and opted not to go at all. Had they known what a great weekend it would end up being, many more surely would have come and spared themselves the heartache over not going they must surely be feeling now.

The 3 rules of aging:
1. Never bypass a bathroom
2. Never waste an erection
3. Never trust a fart >^..^<


Wednesday, December 13, 2006 7:25 PM


You hit it, darlin'!

All I can say is that I've never seen, in any fandom, (and I belong to several) so much love, energy, devotion, generosity and enthusiasm as there is amongst Browncoats.


Wednesday, December 13, 2006 8:09 PM


I had planned on going to the Booster Bash in KY next year but changed my mind when I found out how expensive the tickets were!

You see, I used to be in another fan community and went to many conventions (which were all fan-run) but the tickets were never more expensive than $100. And you never paid extra for autographs, photos, banquets, etc. Those were always included in the ticket price. The things that usually cost the most were the hotels or the airfare. So before I saw the ticket prices for Booster Bash, I thought, "Cool, I can actually drive to this convention and save money by not having to fly." Then I saw the ticket prices and autograph prices and photo op prices and banquet prices and, and, and....well, you get the picture. So, no Booster Bash for me! :-(

"Well ya know, we studied bludgeoning in the academy first year but by the time you graduate, you just forget everything. I'm a bad cop." ----Laurence Dobson


Wednesday, December 13, 2006 9:57 PM


Thanks for taking the time to write your thoughts down. They are good thoughts...well, that's because I agree with them; if we're using that metric for measuring goodness.

I've never been to a con before and I like the fan-centric idea you describe. I also like the notion of meeting all sorts of people associated with the actual production of the shows.

I'm not particularly a star-struck person but if they start talking shop then I'd get mighty interested. Knowing that the ability for myself to actually sit down and talk shop in a one-on-one capacity with these folks is highly unlikely (unless I'm part of the production) this makes "panels" and that sort of thing most interesting of all.

Shaking hands with an actor and sharing a smile has value for me...but not a lot of value. I want to talk and get enthused and go nuts. And I can do that with fans, I imagine. Sharing the love, that's where the fun is. People connections. Connecting with people.

How's a photo do that? -not to rag on photo ops, I'd imagine standing in line there's a lot of bonding going on with folks that are in line with you. Thus, the photo op simply becomes a mini organized event, throwing good folks together. And hey, I will admit, if you can have the good of people connection and add in a dash of saying hello to your favorite actor, all the better right?

So, yeah, when a con focuses on stars more than it does on people connections - then, eww.

I'd pass a photo op for a panel discussion 10 out of 10 times. But who is on the panel...production folks..and I guess that takes money to entice them to show...and, truly, the more of them on the panel the more intriguing the panel and the more excited I become...the more I want to attend...and the more I'm willing to shell out a few extra dollars. Oh no! I think I'm headed down the dark path, away from the light...

But this still smacks true to me: Meeting and hanging with people of like mind, that's what a con seems like it ought to be - to this non-con attender ("non-con attender" That's problematically worded, if ever.)

And my mastery of saying very little with too much continues. Whew, consistency.

My signature...Rhae.






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