BiCon 2013

Mat thinks BiCon needs to change or fade away…

When I first started going to BiCon I remember it being more fun. I remember better workshops, more larking about and more laughter amongst the attendees. People would be playing on the lawn space, having a mess around and still going to workshops. I even remember having a lightsabre battle on the lawn (Phantom Menace had just come out and we had to take the aggression and frustration at Jar Jar Binks out somehow).
Me? I am brash, sarcastic, non PC (at times) but have no intention of changing myself as I am happy in the skin I am in. I don’t leave my house each day looking to offend people but am aware that it can and does happen. I do, however say that I only tend to “make fun” if I like you and that that you will be able to handle the banter (and that’s all it is, a simple bit of harmless banter). If I don’t like you I simply decline in speaking to you, simple. However if I do cause serious offence I am always the first to apologise.
You cannot, and will not manage to keep everybody happy, the best you can do is try to be accepting of others and how they choose to live their lives. However you should never be afraid of having a different opinion to others. After all we do have free will and freedom of speech. Mind you, I really should get a tee-shirt with my own disclaimer on it, (look out for it next year!).
By all means 2013 was a good BiCon, but did not seem to have the fun atmosphere and games from cons gone by. This could be down to the venue being shared, or the luck of who can attend from year to year.
This worries me, as each year I see the same faces, some new ones are always there but I don’t see many returns, granted I haven’t been keeping tally, it’s more of a feeling than anything else. We need an injection of new BiConers that will carry us into the future, otherwise BiCon will fade into obscurity, and it will be the very same people causing this who will be the first to complain when no-one takes up the mantle of running future conventions.
Personally, I think we need to readdress a few ideas. Yes, we need to keep the serious workshops as they are very helpful, and I have heard nothing but good reviews from those who go. I am in no way making light of any of the topics and discussions that go on, people need an outlet and everybody should be given one, but this isn’t what BiCon is about for everyone, including me.
I use BiCon as a holiday, and it’s normally one of my chances to get away for a few days during the year, and I am sure that others are in the same situation. Hell, I know that for a select few this weekend is one of the only times they truly get to be themselves, a weekend without fear or persecution or ridicule. BiCon is a wonderful thing that should not stop. I have met some fantastic people and made several close friends over the years. I think it’s fair to say that I would not be the person I am today without going to these events, and each year I come away with new ideas and opinions.
We need more fun at BiCon, more games, more social activities, we shouldn’t be scared of organising outdoor activities (weather permitting) like throwing a Frisbee about, or even having a water fight (permission permitting). I remember the hours of fun we had, and what happened on the bouncy castle at the Manchester BiCon of 2000. I know that events like this are not accessible for everyone, but then again not everything is. You could argue that we’re being denied something because we are able bodied. Sometimes all you want is a bit of a laugh, and the chance to do something that doesn’t require concentration.
In 2003 I helped with all the fun and games workshops, we had about 2 a day, and we always had a full contingent of happy, smiling attendees, but these seem to have died off – are we too scared of offending those who are unable to attend for whatever reasons, be it personal, physical or emotional? It’s like people are thinking that because you are “non mainstream” (I’m not sure if it’s the right phrase but it’s the best I have!) you can only be a sci-fi loving introvert. A fine thing to be – but I know I am not and I know that lots of you are in the same boat as me.
You can argue that those of us who are not interested in the activities, or the more academic side of the workshops are being denied the full “BiCon experience”, and this is a form of segregation, if it were the other way round and it was nothing but silly fun and games etc then the organisers would be inundated with complaints. Something to think on I guess.
It seems to be getting to the point where we are so scared of possibly excluding people that we don’t run any workshops that may offend someone. Where in my mind it’s a simple case that if the workshop may offend, you simply don’t attend. It’s not the nicest thing in the world but it’s the harsh truth. I would not attend a workshop that I didn’t agree with, could be upset by, or that I wasn’t eligible for. I have to wonder when it will get to the level of “ultimate inclusion” that you are not allowed any gender specific workshops, where everyone is walking on eggshells for the weekend. That’s not fun people, not even a little bit.
I agree that we should be accepting of everything and everyone, if you disagree with someone you should have a debate with them, and if possible reach an understanding and some common ground. People shouldn’t be worried about the possible backlash from the small number of BiConers who seem to make it their mission to find and complain about every little thing that’s supposedly wrong (if memory serves we had a complaint at the 2003 BiCon about the shape of the bedrooms, the shape of the bloody rooms for pity’s sake! I am not sure if they expected us to go at each room with a sledge hammer and make them more acceptable or something).
In the same light, people (and you know who you are) should not be so quick to be offended by an offhand comment. My rule is: “If, and only if, it’s truly, truly offensive to you, then simply let the person know and that should be that. If however at the point it needs intervention from a higher power (such as an organiser) then so be it.”
I say this because if BiCon keeps going the way it is, and more and more pressure is being piled onto our organisers then people will stop volunteering their time to run these things. Years back we used to know who would be running next year’s and the year after that (and in some rare cases the year after that), and now it’s lucky if we have one team wanting to run it. This is not to say we should disband with the code of conduct as this has been crafted over years to hopefully see to all the issues that people may have. I am saying that people should be more forgiving of others, or more accepting as it were.
So in summary: BiCons need to be fun once more, plain and simple otherwise we will not have them for much longer, and you will miss them when they are gone. I will be sending an email to the 2014 team offering my services for such workshops, amongst other things, something that’s non-activist, non-political, non-academic and a bit of a giggle. Because if we cannot laugh at things then we cannot hope to conquer them. I think we can all agree that this is not how things should be.
Now I don’t expect everyone to agree with me on this and going on past performance I don’t expect anything major to change regarding BiCon and how it is run. But I am ever optimistic that someone somewhere will take the opportunity to change a few things for the better. We should be able to organise all the fun we want without fear of offending those and causing more trouble than it’s worth.
I am not an academic, and I am not an activist. I am not even that politically minded or aware, I am just a simple guy who likes BiCon enough to worry that it’s all going to go away and there is little I can do about my own.
Who’s with me then? Who would like a fun BiCon? Who wants to play stupid games and giggle like a child again? Who wants to take the opportunity to flirt with someone over a game in the garden? Or is it just me who is desperately trying to hold onto an idea that’s long gone.
If you have been offended by anything in this please take the time to reread it and think “does it truly offend me?” and if it has struck a nerve that will not go away then you have my apologies, but this has been rattling around my head for a few years now, and it was time for it to escape into the wide world and see what people think of it.
See you at the next con and look out for the tee-shirt.