Chi-fi is a new Chicago-area sci-fi/geek-oriented convention, being held this weekend at the Palmer House Hotel in downtown Chicago. It is a noble venture to seek an answer the question of why there are no regional fan-organized conventions inside the city proper. Unfortunately, its already short history is muddled by both realized and perceived top-down cascade failures. (note, if you aren’t familiar with cascade failures, please see this article.)
Full disclosure: your humble author has no connection to the convention committee for Chi-Fi, nor does she have a stake in its financial success/failure. While she is a con-running volunteer for other conventions, she holds no position with this one. I do have friends who are tangentially involved. That being said, here goes:
Last year, Chi-Fi attempted to run its first convention. The convention set some lofty goals: a brand-new, fan-ran, fan-organized sci-fi/geek convention running downtown Chicago for four days. They advertised top-tier media talent and local groups, an aggressively reasonable membership rate and a number of seemingly awesome ideas. Unfortunately, they set their sights a bit too high and ended up cancelling the convention. (If you want more information, please check out this excellent write-up on the situation by Amazing Stories.) This brings us to this year’s iteration of Chi-Fi.
Steve Jackson Games was slated to be one of this Con’s primary guests, and three days before the con, Mr. Jackson put this announcement on his website stating, unequivocally, why he was not attending the convention. Shortly after Mr. Jackson’s announcement began to make the rounds in social media, Chi-Fi attempted to slide the blame back on Mr. Jackson with this odd Twitter post:
While we could speculate on whether that letter is or is not a binding contract, or all is simply a miscommunication, we do know something happened.
Then came yesterday, when the Barony of Ayreton announced that it was not going to attend the convention in their Facebook group. This post can (as of this writing) still be found here. Coincidentally, the SCA group says a lot of the same things as Mr. Jackson.
Next came Geek Girl Chicago announcing that she would not be attending either. Well, it doesn’t take a Sooper Genyus to see a pattern developing, especially when the exact same things are being said by mutiple parties. Lack of communication. Lack of fulfillment for promises made. Lack of… integrity, one might surmise.
All this makes me sad, and I take no joy in this. I want to see many, many more diverse geeky conventions in the Chicago area, and I want to see them thrive. Unfortunately, there comes a time when that optimism must give way to what is, not what might be nor what I want it to be… and the writing on the wall here is pretty clear as to what that something is. Trouble, with a capital T.
Stay geeky, my friends.