Daily Chance to do Good: HUGHCON!!!

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If you’ve attended a science fiction convention in the past 20+ years on the east coast, your path is very likely to have crossed with this man’s..

hugh-chair

…Yes, he travels with that chair.

…….Ok, not really.  But he totally could, and no one would  question it.

Why, you ask?

Because this gentleman  is Hugh Casey, one of the finest people you’ll ever find in (or out of) the world of science fiction fandom.  As his bio states, Hugh is…

A long-time con-goer, he’s been a member of the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society (PSFS) since the early-’90’s, where he served, at various times, as President, Vice-President, and on the Board of Directors. He’s also served as Chairman and Vice-Chair for PHILCON, Philly’s regional SF con, as well as it’s head of programming for several years …. He is a filmmaker with his own production company, Parents Basement Productions, and his short films “Teddy’s Big Escape” and “Young Geeks In Love” can be found on YouTube. He is also a writer, director, actor, blogger, photographer, event manager and promoter, and more. He tries to live by Clarke’s Law, “Specialization is for insects”.

(His bio neglects to mention, of course, that Hugh was a Guest of Awesome at Pi-Con in 2010.  Perhaps no one has earned that title more than Hugh!)

Now, east coast fandom hasn’t seen as much of Hugh in the past few years because of his fight with, and now recovery from, cancer.  To help out with his financial needs, a bunch of his friends have organized…HUGHCON!!

hughcon.jpg

“What izzit what izzit WHAT IZZIT???” you ask?

HUghCon is a fundraiser where all proceeds will go to Hugh!  Throughout the day/evening, attendees will be treated to the music of Philadelphia’s own Star Trek tribute band, The Roddenberries, as well as the musical tapestry that is This Way to the Egress!  (If you’re not familiar with them, there are some music links at the bottom of this post.)

Attendees will also have the opportunity to bid on some fantastic silent auction items such as a copy of the book Who Killed Amanda Palmer (signed by photographer Kyle Cassidy, writer Neil Gaiman, and musician Amanda Palmer!), a first edition of the board game Conquest of the Empire (unopened, circa 1984), a geektastic gift basket of goodies from the Pennsylvania Browncoats, and much more!  Book, jewelry, and garb vendors will be on hand for your gift buying needs, with a portion of those proceeds going to Hugh as well.

SO MUCH STUFF, Y’ALL!!

Admission for the event is $15 pre-sale ($16.20 with tax), $20 at the door. The best part of this event?  You can buy a ticket even if you can’t go to the event, and that money goes directly to Hugh!!  So even though I can’t go because of prior obligations and, ya know, Philly being 12 hours away, I’m delighted I could still purchase a ticket and help support this love-filled event for this fantastic man.

You should, too!  It’ll make you feel good!  🙂  Go HERE! http://hughcon.brownpapertickets.com/

For the most up-to-date information on HughCon, check out their Facebook event page – https://www.facebook.com/events/911674232296899/.

Thanks for reading.  Please share if you’re so inclined!  And, really, go take a peek at the FB page..there’s so much awesome being planned to support Hugh, one of the best people and brightest stars in fandom.  ❤

The Roddenberries music: https://soundcloud.com/the-roddenberries

This Way to the Egress music: http://thiswaytotheegress.com

hughcon-poster

buy this! (features a small bit of me!)

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Back Story:
Several years ago, the ever-magical SJ Tucker found herself in need of emergency medical care and, being an uninsured musician, this was a pretty scary financial monster to face down alone.

Fortunately, she didn’t have to.  A collection of varied bits of creativity was put together under the title Ravens in the Library and all proceeds from the sales went directly to help cover s00j’s medical costs.

It was an amazing act of love..and it was a smashing success.

One of the people that helped make the book happen, Elizabeth R. McClellan, (also known as Popelizbet in other realms) has found herself in need of some financial help for shoulder surgery, and so a call went out for submissions for an e-chapbook with a similar financial goal.  And I’m in it!  🙂

Pre-orders for Angels of the Meanwhile are being taken now, in a pay-what-you-wish format, here: http://alexandraerin.dreamwidth.org/636831.html.  Please note that the final e-chapbook won’t be available until June; pre-orders are being taken for some emergency fundraising in relation to Elizabeth’s surgery, so you’re very encouraged to order NOW, but you’ll have to wait a bit to actually get your hands on the finished product.

There’s more info about the book here: http://alexandraerin.dreamwidth.org/tag/popelizbet+makes+things+happen

I’m very happy to be a very small part of this project. Popelizbet has done a lot of really good things for a lot of really good people…it’s lovely to see her community coming together to help her now.

19 convention attendees were sent to the hospital – news media thinks it’s funny

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Over the weekend, friends of mine in east coast fandom started sharing news links about attendees of Fur Fest being evacuated from their convention hotel because of a deliberate release of chlorine gas into the hotel space. Fandom was pissed, and for good reason.

Details of the criminal act:

The Hyatt-Regency in Rosemont was completely evacuated at roughly 1AM. (For those of us that have attended TransWorld?  Yes, it’s that Rosemont.)  Guests sought shelter in nearby hotels and in the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center.  19 attendees ended up going to the hospital. Powdered chlorine was found in a stairwell on the 9th floor of the hotel.  Firefighters on the scene reported that there was a reading “as high as 20.6 on the chlorine meter” and also stated that “whatever the substance is, it is overloading our chlorine meter.”

To give you an idea of how bad a rating of 20.6ppm is?  Let’s go back to Wikipedia, because this article references a bunch of stuff I was already going to include….  “Chlorine is a toxic gas that irritates the respiratory system. Because it is heavier than air, it tends to accumulate at the bottom of poorly ventilated spaces. Chlorine gas is a strong oxidizer, which may react with flammable materials.[67] Chlorine is detectable with measuring devices in concentrations of as low as 0.2 parts per million (ppm), and by smell at 3 ppm. Coughing and vomiting may occur at 30 ppm and lung damage at 60 ppm. About 1000 ppm can be fatal after a few deep breaths of the gas.[24] Breathing lower concentrations can aggravate the respiratory system, and exposure to the gas can irritate the eyes.[68] The toxicity of chlorine comes from its oxidizing power. When chlorine is inhaled at concentrations above 30 ppm, it begins to react with water and cells, which change it into hydrochloric acid (HCl) and hypochlorous acid (HClO).” And the CDC cautions, “Hazardous concentrations may develop quickly in enclosed, poorly-ventilated, or low-lying areas. Keep out of these areas.”

If you’re wondering what it was like to be there, here’s one attendee’s story of what it was like to try to get off the 9th floor via the stairwell.

So having this crap in a stairwell that people were forced to use during the hotel evacuation?  Really bad news. 

Ok.  So someone exposed a bunch of convention attendees to a hazardous gas.  Good reason for fandom to be pissed off.

So why the hell was my Facebook news feed flooded on Tuesday with stories about reporters laughing about this story?

Because Fur Fest is a fandom convention for “people who are interested in the concept of fictional non-human characters with human characteristics.

These folk are more commonly known as “furries”..some of the most maligned people in fandom.

If you’ve ever been in downtown Pittsburgh in June or July, you may well have seen this charming sector of fandom running around the city in mascot-esque costumes during the weekend run of Anthrocon.  It’s rather adorable, actually…the variety of detail and creativity in the costuming is lovely to see.  One collection of photos can be found here. And if you have either never heard of a furry or you think it’s some deviant sex group, I strongly encourage you to go take a look through that album, or any of the others on Anthrocon’s site.

Fur Fest is one of the largest conventions of its kind, warmly received by the Hyatt-Regency, whose Twitter feed shows some great love and support for Fur Fest. (Really, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a convention hotel be so sweet to a con. I mean, really..themed meal options?  A free room contest?  This hotel is pretty awesome!)

This convention had roughly 4,600 attendees from 15 different countries.

According to Furfest’s website, “Our charity, Critter Camp Exotic Pet Sanctuary, was able to raise $11,000 by charitable donations from our attendees and an additional $20,000 was donated from Midwest Furry Fandom, Inc., our parent 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation. Part of our core mission is to raise money for animal focused charities in the Midwest.”  HOLY POOP THAT’S GREAT!!

But what do most people know about the event?

They know that reporters over on MSNBC responded to a story about 19 people being sent to the hospital as a result of a criminal act by laughing on the air and having one of their reporters run off camera because she couldn’t deal with the idea of people wearing fur suits.

How far is this, really, from the media making fun of fandom and costuming of any sort?

Why does it suddenly not matter that 19 people went to the hospital?

Oni Hartstein rather brilliantly summed up the story with the question, “It’s ok to commit terrorism toward children if you don’t like them?”  

Victoria McNally wrote a much more detailed description of the story than I have here in her blog post over on TheMarySue.com, entitled, “Let’s Stop Making Jokes About Furries While Discussing That Recent Terrorist Attack on Furries.”

You should read those posts.  These women make some fantastic points.

And then think, really think, about what this story, and the sadly common public reaction to this story, is saying.

Because, while this is a very dramatic story?  It’s not an isolated incident sort of story.  Fire alarms get pulled at conventions to force con attendees out of hotels and into the street..sometimes to try to ’embarrass’ the costumed attendees, sometimes to evict attendees that don’t have hotel rooms.  I’ve read a lot of stories today about what sometimes happens at conventions, and I’m appalled at what people are doing to my fellow geeks.

Most of my fellow con goers can tell me of at least one convention they’ve attended where there was another group of people in the same hotel that didn’t appreciate sharing hotel space with fandom or haunters.  We’ve seen the looks of disapproval and we’ve heard the grumblings.  It’s not hard at all to imagine a repeat of what happened at Fur Fest last weekend.

If you have something you love enough to attend a convention to celebrate?  Do not think for a second that your convention is immune from something like this.  The only way that works is if we stop trying to decide who ‘counts’ – which passion is ok to have and which one isn’t good enough.

Each of us, every single one of us, has an interest, a something we love that makes us a geek.

Stop saying that your love makes you better than anyone else.

Once we get to that point?  Crap like this stops happening.

(If you’re appalled at what happened on MSNBC, TELL THEM letters@msnbc.com)

‘DashCon Rebrands as EmotiCon, Hopes You Won’t Notice’

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http://www.nerdandtie.com/2014/09/03/dashcon-rebrands-as-emoticon-hopes-you-wont-notice/

Take-aways:

* Dashcon.org is gone.  The tumblr account still exists.

* All those people promised to be paid back?  Shouldn’t be holding their breath.  In their own words, quoted here because of the repeated pattern of their deleting their statements:

When the dust settled after DashCon, we were left with thousands of dollars worth of debt. Because this, among many others reasons, DashCon LLP is being dissolved and assets being liquidated. Once the assets are liquidated, each debt will be paid pro rata, meaning that there’s a possibility the debts won’t be paid in full, but each will be paid the same percentage of what’s owed. We don’t know how long this process is going to take, but it’s fair to say it could be up to 90 days. Apologies for the further delays. This has all become a bit of a legal ordeal.

 There has been a lot of speculation that DashCon LLP has changed its name to Emoti-Con or So Attacked Entertainment LLC. That, however, is inaccurate. Two of the three owners of DashCon, Cain and Megg, are now functioning as So Attacked Entertainment LLC, which will be hosting an event called Emoti-Con. Despite Cain and Megg’s involvement, neither So Attacked Entertainment LLC nor Emoti-Con is in any way affiliated with DashCon. 
 
Thank you for your patience while we try to resolve these final matters. Apologies that we are unable to give a more definite timeline on payment. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.
* Making a joke out of the refrain from both attendees and con owners, “I’m feeling so attacked right now,” by calling the new company So Attacked LLC, is…quite something.  Claiming Emoti-Con has no connection to Dashcon is an outright lie, and is further proof IMNSHO that Cain and Megg still don’t get how to handle themselves in a professional manner.   (And really, if this whole thing becoming ‘a bit of a legal ordeal’ was any sort of surprise?  These two have a lot of growing up to do.)
Personally, it would impress me a helluva lot more if they were taking the money for next year’s con and fixing their screw-ups from this year.  I get it.  Legally there’s no connection between the two…although I’m curious if the money raised for Dashcon II was shuffled over to EmotiCon’s account, or if it’s being used to pay this year’s debt.  Which would be the right thing to do.  Which is why I suspect it’s not happening.
* The con owners protest too much.  Currently, the Indianapolis convention center is still listing the defunct dashcon.org website as the website for Emoti-Con.  (Way to be organized, guys.)  And hey, if this is NOT, in fact, Dashcon II, what happens to the people that bought passes for Dashcon II?  Do they get their money back? Or do they get a pass to, um, this completely-not-connected-to-Dashcon convention?
I really truly hope all of the following happens:
1.  People actually get their money back.
2. Cain and Megg take the time to figure out how to run a good, professional convention.
3. All the people that have been supporting the fiasco that is Dashcon figure out what a good, professional convention looks like…and either demand Cain and Megg step up, or they stop throwing their love and money at a bad project.
4. No guests get screwed over by Cain and Megg ever again.

 

why the kerfluffle about dashcon matters (or, if a con asks you for $17K? say no)

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Portrait: Ha! 󾍇

7.15.14 6:27PM: Updates added at bottom of post.

(Note:  There are a LOT of links below. This is because there’s so much stuff that went wrong with this con, and that con staff and attendees are denying happened, that I feel it’s important to properly illustrate why these things were bad.)

Several months ago, I saw that a podcast I follow, The Baker Street Babes, was going to be making an appearance at a fairly local (and brand spanking new) convention, Dashcon.  Bones and I talked about attending after looking at the site and seeing that the very fun Whovian band, Time Crash, were having a concert, and that the pretty dang awesome podcast Welcome to Night Vale was doing a live podcast. When the schedule for the weekend was posted, we also saw that there were two Hetalia panels listed, which would have been of interest to Bones’ kid.

When you visit those links, please note that these are all independent artists doing neat stuff without tons of money.  (This data point matters.)

We ended up not going to the con largely because the website said the WTNV event and the Time Crash concert was sold out.  (This data point also matters.)

I was still a little disappointed about us not going to Dashcon up until the first twitters about the con needing $17K RIGHT NOW started appearing on my twitter feed.  (One of the more succinct breakdowns of what happened at Dashcon may be found here: http://www.blastr.com/2014-7-14/17000-ball-pit-how-dashcon-went-tumblr-con-conning-tumblr#page-1  Another good one is here: http://www.dailydot.com/geek/dash-con-controversy-tumblr/ – this includes screenshots of things Dashcon has since deleted from its Tumblr, and screenshots of what the screwed-over guests had to say on Twitter as things progressed into badness.)

If you’ve ever attended a convention, you’re probably saying, ‘Wait, WHAT?’

Con staff claims that the hotel – a five star hotel, I should add, which is a surprising choice for a first year con – was demanding full payment of their contracted $20K due from Dashcon, in full, Friday night or the con was off.  Con staff gathered all of its attendees into one room and told them they had to raise $17K by 10PM.  The cry went out across Twitter and Tumblr.  Cash was reportedly being flung at hotel staff.  Money was donated to Dashcon’s PayPal account, the total was raised, and the con was allowed to continue.

(Dashcon staff claims this was a demand that came from upper management; that there was pressure from the two weddings also sharing the hotel; and that the hotel didn’t like the con attendees.  The hotel staff has said, “Wait, what?”  My inner skeptic wonders if con staff heard about this story from Chi Fi earlier this year…)

You may be wondering why a hotel would accept a payment from PayPal.  Con staff explained later, at the ‘dead dog’ panel on Sunday – so yes, that’s a video of con staff talking – that a PayPal debit card was used, and once the balance was shown, the hotel was willing to accept payments of $3K at a time until the balance was paid off.  Simple math shows that this would have meant the con would still be making payments as of today.  However, there were several reports of cash being shoved into bags and, again, thrown at hotel staff, and there’s no accounting for that money.

At the time, the con staff announced they would refund the $17K.  (Here’s that promise in print.  That promise was also made at the con, and there are reports of names being recorded – more than once – for these reimbursements.) If you watch that video link above, that promise was retracted on Sunday.

If you’ve never heard of a con extorting $17K from its attendees?  THAT’S BECAUSE IT DOESN’T HAPPEN. Ever.  EVER.

NOR SHOULD IT.

Hotel issues happen.  Absolutely.  Heck, sometimes your hotel closes 4 days before your event.  But you do NOT round up your attendees and demand money.  EVER.

One might wonder if the con did any fundraising beforehand.  Yes, they did.  For one thing, they organized an Indiegogo fundraiser that raised over $4K. (Perks for that fundraiser were not sent out..proof of that is coming up.)  They also asked that committees do fundraising for the kinds of panels/guests they’d like to see at Dashcon.  One example is here. (This is another thing I’ve never heard of a con doing before.)

One might wonder where that money all went.

One wouldn’t be alone.

Other (confusing) reports state that staff/volunteers selling con badges at admissions were still selling passes to the WTNV live podcast and the Time Crash concert…or perhaps the Steam Powered Giraffe concert, which had initially been the big event Saturday night but had been replaced months ago by Time Crash.  Again, the website showed these events were sold out, but the upcharge was, I believe $10 for each event.  (I’ve personally not seen another con do this.)  So there’s money flow happening at the con.

But hey.  Panels happened on Friday.  Reports coming out, from guests and attendees, were pretty good.  So let’s move forward to Saturday.

Saturday, the WTNV podcast was delayed for an hour.  Here’s a video of what that experience was like.  Note that there’s another request for money in this video, in the form of ‘we’re going to order pizza for all y’all – give us $5 each.’)  The upshot is this:  The guys behind Welcome to Night Vale were invited guests.  Invited guests generally have their transportation and hotel costs covered by the con, and there may be a per diem or an appearance fee.  In this case, WTNV paid for their own transport and hotel, expecting to be reimbursed, as this Twitter shows.  Dashcon staff claims that they had the performance fee money – or most of it – and that WTNV was in the wrong for not wanting to wait for someone to run to a bank and get the remainder of the fee. They also claim the bank was malfunctioning..? Frankly, nothing I’ve heard makes it sound like they were planning to cover the transportation and room costs, and the treatment of other guests only serves to convince me further that this was the case.

So, the WTNV cast left the con, but not the hotel, as they then offered another guest, Noelle Stevenson, crash space after she discovered her room was also not being covered by the con.

As a personal side note, I’m rather angry on the behalf of WTNV that Dashcon has tried to make them look bad.  Take responsibility, kids.  You handled this *very* badly.  Want further proof of that?  The response to a canceled special event that had a separate fee should be, “We will reimburse you.”  Hell, it’s not like the money was being used to take care of invited con guests.  Instead?  Dashcon staff offered people that had paid for the WTNV live podcast…..an extra hour in their ball pit (which was an inflatable kiddie pool filled with plastic balls).

Totally not kidding.  http://dashcon.tumblr.com/post/91582246126/clarifications-and-back-up-plans  In addition to more time in the ball pit, attendees were offered the chance to be entered into a raffle for items such as a framed Stan Lee autograph, a framed Richard Armitage autograph, a framed Walking Dead photo with autographs, etc.  Where did all that cool stuff come from?  The Indiegogo fundraiser.

At this point, you’re probably thinking, “Oh, come on.  This con was being run by kids.”

Not so much.  Meet the Dashcon admins.  One co-owner is 32 years old; the other is 20, and her bio says, “ [I] attend Kent State University for Hospitality Management. I actually attend school to plan events like conventions, weddings, concerts, etc.”

Additionally, the con owners thought ahead enough to create a LLC for this event. That means the owners have limited legal protection, so if Dashcon gets sued – which seems very likely at this point – the con owners should be ok.   Just in case you were worrying about Meg Eli or Roxanne Schwieterman.  (I mention their names because you might want to reconsider getting involved in any of their future projects.)

So, moving forward.  Time Crash reported having a great time.  There were no other negative stories spreading…until Sunday, when the Baker Street Babes went to check out and discovered that their hotel room had been taken off the con credit card and they were being expected to pay for their room.  (That link also includes an update saying the issue has yet to be resolved.)  The BSB attempted to contact con staff for a few hours.  No response.  When they went back online and started threatening legal action?  THAT was something the con staff responded to..although, apparently, Dashcon staff was lying when they said they had fixed it. As of this date, the BSB are still being charged for their room.

Very much worth nothing:  The BSB does have a written record of the con agreeing to cover those costs.

The Dashcon staff held a Q&A on Sunday (this is usually referred to as a ‘dead dog’), and I’ve not seen a lot of video from it, outside of what I posted above.  In the aftermath, there’s a lot of attendees saying this was a great con and we’re all just being mean and talking about things we know nothing about because we weren’t there.

This worries me.  Because that means there’s a bunch of teens and 20-something year olds that think what happened at Dashcon was ok.

It’s not.

You do not break agreements with your invited guests.

You do not take their hotel rooms off your accounts, ESPECIALLY without talking to them.

You do not place blame on the hotel or your guests when things start to go wrong.  You take responsibility and you conduct yourselves in a professional way.  (Posting video of con staff crying?  This is not professional.)  Conduct yourselves, at all times, in a way that makes other people take you seriously and want to work with you in the future.

You do not offer play time in lieu of  money reimbursements.

Most importantly?

You do not – EVER EVER EVER – round up your con attendees and tell them to raise money for your event.

And if you as an event attendee ever find yourself in this sort of position?  DO NOT GIVE MONEY TO PEOPLE LIKE THIS.

I’ve been attending, and working for, conventions for the better part of 20 years.  Crap happens.  This kind of crap?  DOES NOT HAPPEN.

It is not the norm, it is not what you – as either an attendee or a volunteer -should expect, and y’all deserved a whole lot better.

Many attendees are saying it was a great weekend. I have no doubt that the actual con was, indeed, fun.  Fen are fun!  Gatherings in fandom are, generally speaking, a grand good time.  Bad things happen at cons and, in general, the attendees don’t see it.  That doesn’t make it a good convention – that means someone did a good job in buffering the attendees from the bad.  But kids?  I promise you, there are better events to attend, and there are better, more worthy things for you to give your money and your passion to.

Dashcon – and all the badness that happened – is the exception rather than the rule in conventions and fandom.  Don’t let it define your expectations of either.

random:

One guest’s story: http://lyndsayfaye.tumblr.com/post/91654434754/dashcon-where-i-draw-the-line  (and I agree…this is one of the biggest reasons Dashcon staff should be smacked on the nose with a newspaper)

One attendee’s story: http://pooped.tumblr.com/post/91707384424/my-dashcon-experience-facts-and-proof-links-for-other

One vendor’s story: http://chiiathingy.tumblr.com/post/91519402264/dashcon-play-by-play-of-the-almost-cancel

Another summary (good money breakdown): http://robkneppers.tumblr.com/post/91625226542/wait-so-dashcon-crowdfunded-over-4-000-in

Updated to add:

*  The Baker Street Babes reported at 3:31 on 7.15.14 that Dashcon has now paid for their hotel rooms.  No update on whether or not all of Noelle Stevenson’s or Welcome to Night Vale’s costs have been covered.

* Dashcon is reportedly preparing a press release that will be available in a few days…at which point it will be old news.

* A person that was at the hotel has told me yes, she was locked out of her room Friday night and believes it was because the hotel was demanding money from the con.  Additionally, she says she heard one of people from one of the two weddings at the hotel raising a fuss about the con and that a hotel staff person said they would ‘take care of it.’  This contradicts all reports, including from Dashcon staff, that the issues came from upper management and was an issue between the hotel and the convention…which, in turn, is contradicted by statements from the hotel.  So if you’re not sure what to think?  You’re not alone.  (As an aside?  Gentle Readers, I’ve been at more than a few cons where we shared the less-than-five-star-hotel with weddings, or with religious conventions.  I’ve seen people in werewolf costumes – NO JOKE – chase down wedding guests.  I’ve NEVER seen a con successfully shut down while in session because of a complaint from another event.)

* There are reports that Welcome to Night Vale was not at the con until Saturday afternoon.  This is not true.  They had a panel/meet and greet on Friday night.