After the Farscape panel, I, being ambulatory, decided to go window shop in the dealer’s room. Not that they had windows, but you get the idea. While there, I was cornered by searose, who invited me to dinner at a local Chinese buffet later in the evening. I accepted and then went back to my room to take a bit of a nap.
Later that evening, I was sitting outside at the designated rendezvous point when I spied Raster. Somehow, we got to talking about the organization of the convention itself, which, believe it or not, is a matter of some interpersonal controversy behind the scenes. As it turns out, the directors of the individual programming tracks are extremely competitive. AMTV is in an uproar currently because the convention powers that be decided this year to change the eligibility criteria for the Classic Sci Fi track – a change that may effectively move Babylon 5 and Quantum Leap to Classic in 2006. This makes sense to me on the face of it, as both shows have been off the air for awhile. But according to Raster, the AMTV staff is reluctant to hand over all of the resources and contacts they’ve collected over the years for both shows to a staff they don’t know because that staff may end up getting the credit for work that AMTV did. In other words, there are a few egos in play.
Well. Over the weekend, I’d managed to make a few observations. For one, the Writer’s Track was at capacity plus for both panels I attended, and the track director was openly asking us to spy on other tracks and scope out bigger rooms. Meanwhile, the Buffy track was playing to a largely empty room, and a lot of the track content was dedicated to games and socializing rather than discussion. And AMTV, as the convention catch-all, was straining to fit in content for dozens of shows, each with its rabid fans, which resulted in a stunning lack of BSG: 2003 content. (Of course, I hadn’t watched any episodes beyond the mini before then, but I did have eyes – I knew it was hugely popular.) So I told Raster that if I were queen of Dragon*Con, I’d shuffle things around a bit. The Buffy track seems to be running out of things to talk about, which is to be expected, as Buffy and Angel are off the air and their fandom has been around for some time. (The same thing is happening to Babylon 5, which is why I’m so keen on risking controversy.) So why not move Serenity to the Buffy track and make that a general Joss track? Similarly, Stargate: SG1 and Stargate: Atlantis eat up giant swaths of AMTV time – so much that I believe these shows can sustain their own track. Moving these two current phenomenons out to JOSS and a new track – let’s call it GATE – respectively would free up AMTV to cover all the other shows.
Over Chinese, Raster told me that these were reasonable suggestions, but he was still skeptical about the convention’s long-term viability. One problem, he said, was that multiple tracks often competed for the same celebrity guest. For example, AMTV (or Classic if certain changes come to pass) and TREK both have legitimate claims to Scott Bakula should he ever appear at D*C. This becomes a problem because it is the celebrity guests who really bring the prestige, and every track wants a shot at that prestige. Beyond the competition, I could also see that many track directors were saddled with more duties than they could realistically handle, with guest relations being one duty among many. I personally blame this state of affairs for the whole Joss Whedon is-he-or-isn’t-he confusion, which I feel could’ve been cleared up with some phone calls if somebody had had the time to make them.
My solution was this: find a fan with some PR background and install him or her as the Guest Relations Director. Said GRD would, with his or her staff, be solely responsible for the booking and watering of celebrity guests. Within this organizational framework, each track director would have to go through the GRD to book a guest on a panel. This wouldn’t kill the competition completely, but at least the tracks wouldn’t be fighting over who gets the credit for booking the guests – and the guests have the benefit of interacting with someone who has the time to focus on their interests and concerns.
But hey, what do I know?