Apologies for the Swallows and Amazons quotation at the top, but I just couldn’t resist!
It was recently announced, in a recent news post from File 770, that DUFF (the fan fund between North America and Australasia) is to have a race down under this year. The convention to which the fund will send a delegate, Continuum VIII (this year’s national Australian convention), is to be held 39 days from the announcement. This means that anyone who wishes to stand for DUFF has ten days to find five nominators, twenty days to campaign, and nine days to arrange an entire trip and make it from North America to Australia in time for the convention. If the candidate is feeling daring, then they might try to make it to unCONventional 2012 in New Zealand, which would give them pretty much no time whatsoever between the end-of-May deadline and the start-of-June convention.
What follows is not my opinion as the administrator of a fellow fan fund: that would be out of place, and so I’m not going to comment in an official capacity. This is my personal opinion, as a fan with an interest in fan funds. And, this is, to speak plainly, quite insane. I know for a fact that David Cake (the Australasian administrator) was not in favour of such a race as recently as mid-April; I agreed with him at the time, because I think the timescale is fundamentally flawed. David has since said:
I think that IF you think the timing on the race is overly rushed for a reasonable race and/or trip, then voting for Hold Over Funds is an appropriate way to express that opinion.
Certainly, that would be my recommendation, given the below considerations.
Let’s consider the prospect of time off. Getting time off with a month’s notice should be fine, if candidates arrange it as soon as the nominations period closes. Getting time off with a week’s notice is more tricky — candidates are, I think, going to have to book time off work before they know they’ve won. There’s also the thorny issue of how long you stay — booking more than two weeks off at a time can be tricky, without warning your employer in advance. Is two weeks long enough to do justice to a trip Down Under?
What about the cost of the flights? There are nine days (at maximum) between the close of voting and the start of the trip. The flight costs are not going to be kind, so close to the point of boarding: can a fund really afford to send someone at such notice? One thing is certain: The eventual delegate is going to have to raise a lot of money during their administration in order to offset the cost of flights. One of the ways to raise funds is traditionally through voting fees, but I’m unsure that that will be enough of a revenue stream to offset an extremely expensive trip, so the onus will be on whoever wins the race to set new records in terms of fundraising ability.1 There’s also the risk that fans concerned about the potential cost to the fund might vote to Hold Over Funds, which would be a great shame in many ways.
Then there’s the voting itself. If you have a voting period of twenty days, how is the fund going to attract a large number of voters in this race? If the extreme costs of the trip is married to an unusually low-revenue voting period with a low turnout from North American and Australasian fandom, then that’s even worse for the fund financially speaking. Although I’m sure DUFF has the money to weather the storm, it seems unwise to tempt fate by running a race that could be a financial disaster in multiple ways.
If I wanted to run a southward DUFF race before what seems likely to be a northward race to LoneStarCon 3, I’d run it in 20132, and race to the Australian Natcon in 2013, Conflux. This convention will be held in April, which means you could use publicity from the southward race to kickstart the northward one:
- Southward nominations open — 2012.
- Southward voting opens — start of January.
- Southward delegate announced, northward nominations open — February.
- Northward voting opens — March.
- Southward trip begins. Delegate publicises northward race — April.
- Northward delegate announced — May/June.
- Northward trip begins — Summer.
In conclusion, I don’t see this as a sensible move. I think — whatever the logic behind this extremely small window of opportunity for potential candidates — this is ultimately going to cost DUFF. I think the likely situation on May 11th is that the race cannot go ahead as fewer than two candidates3 have been nominated, and that the whole affair will have just been an opportunity to court criticism and bafflement. And that’s the best case scenario, since the alternative is a delegate who has nowhere near enough time to put together a proper trip and ends up spending a lot of money on what will ultimately be a waste of everyone’s time.
- If there was ever a time for Chris for TAFF 2: Chris for DUFF, this could be it — Christopher J. Garcia was very good at fundraising and awareness boosting in his time as a TAFF administrator, and could well pull it off for DUFF, too. ↩
- So would Ulrika O’Brien, who suggested this. ↩
- The Big Three — TAFF, GUFF and DUFF — require two candidates to stand for a race to go ahead. ↩