Avoiding Con Drop Like A Shark

It happens to almost everyone: Con Drop. The term is widespread enough in fandom circles are a few variations on its definition, but the core remains the same. Con drop is the physical, mental, and emotional you feel when you get home after spending the weekend at the festival, Faire, or convention.

Some of this is quite physical. People can find so many exciting things to do and be so full of adrenaline at a great event that they will put out tremendous exertion. Some of it also has to do with the fact that people will often find the festivities more exciting than munane things like food, hydration, and sleep. And that will catch up with you, no matter what your age or your level of stamina. But…

The core of con drop is going away from a world where you are accepted and loved, a place full of things fill you with passion, into a world that doesn’t value those things.  A convention or festival is basically a place where the stories and worlds that  matter, the stuff that helps pump blood and meaning into your body, are all concentrated in one place for one glorious time away from work and the distractions of the everyday.

And then it all vanishes and you get home and you have your real life.

That doesn’t happen to me. Do you know why?

It’s not because events are my life. They are; I do run events in order to earn my daily bread. But that’s not it. The thing is, there ain’t no such thing as real life.

Every day I get up in the morning, and the literature, the film, the ideas, the fans themselves, the discussion, the commentary… All those things are with me; maybe some of them are virtual via the Internet, maybe some of them exist as memories in my mind of joy and camaraderie; but those things are absolutely “real”, as much as my morning vat of coffee. They are all are a part of me. I am immersed in them. Conventions don’t need to be the only world that I perceive or understand; they don’t need to exclude me from the rest of life. That only happens to geeks in bad early 90s sitcoms. The truth is, we are absolutely able to be part of what most people think of as a normal reality….and still stay, inside, the same person who was just at that event, expressing a true inner self.

No matter what we are doing or what is going on, we always have the reality of the place we have been. There is always a bridge between where we are now, and the place which holds our hearts.  We are never truly far from those homes, those conventions and festivals and fairs where we can truly be who and what we are

So the sadness of losing that thing? I never have that sadness. I never have that drop. I wake up the next after show, getting ready to do amazing things at the next one. This is my motto:

Sharks swim forever and if they stop swimming, they’re no longer alive. Fandom is forever, and it always helps me live. I don’t get con drop, because I never ever get con-stopped. As Tolkien wrote, “The Road goes ever, ever on.” Fandom is immortal and I am grateful to be a part of it.

very truly yours,

Jeff Mach

Jeff Mach Events

Events are basically like a TARDIS: Bigger on the inside

It's a TARDIS!I wrote a version of this a few months ago, but I realized that it’s valuable from both an event creator and an attendee point of view.  So I made some changes and I wanted to share it with you.

After an event, my team and I get deluged with thoughts from attendees. And the thoughts come down to things like “There was too much to do! ..but don’t get rid of anything, we want to do it! Also, we want a bigger space for X, Y, and Z, but we also want to keep all the classes and programming that you used the other ballroom space for. Also, please don’t schedule any stuff that people don’t want to do, because what are we paying for?  At the same time, please stop scheduling things people like at the same time so we don’t have th choose, okay?”

For my team, we have a culture best described by the Steve Earle song “I Ain’t Never Satisfied”. We will not stop, we will not rest, until we find everything that didn’t work and try to improve it, and find everything that did work and try to do more of it, and then we try to reach into the future to find out what will be great a year from now.

Are these things contradictory? Impossible? No! Because all they’re doing is illustrating that a good  event is basically like a TARDIS.

A good event will transport you across time and space with minimal effort. “Where does the time go??” “I don’t get it, one minute I was in the ballpit, now I’m on the other side of the hotel, seeing a show or having a drink or in a conversation; what just happened?”

That’s because a great  event – no matter what its theme, no matter who runs it – is a TARDIS. It is bigger on the inside than on the outside, or, more specifically, a great kink event is much, much larger than thesum of its parts.

The programming matters. The classes matter, the socialization matters, the vendors matter, the performance matters – all of these things are critical. But they’re also quantifiable. The Great Secret of running events – which many of you know, and which I will share with the rest of you for free – is this:

Great events create a haven for the people who attend, an entire worldwhich belongs to them and only them, and in that world, normal rulesdon’t even BEGIN to apply. If done right, a fandom event is a magical portal away from all the junk in our everyday lives, but it’s not a portal into an imaginary world where people are nice to each other and we live out fantasies and dreams – it’s a portal to a place that alwaysexists. Because we always have the power to make our kink dreams a reality; we always have the power to be excellent to each other; wealways have the power to create, not a bunch of people running arounda hotel in search of kink, but a community, hell, a fucking NATION of united people who take care of each other, learn together, have experiences together, and build something far, far greater than the sum of its parts*.

A great event is like a TARDIS. And no, that doesn’t make an event promoter like me into someone fancy, like the Doctor. I’m just the fellow with a wrench who hangs out, trying to make sure that, if something goes wrong, we fix it, and if I see a way to make it better, I make it better. Attendees are Timelords, altering the world around them, going where they choose, changing lives; I’m the TARDIS technician, making sure the damn thing doesn’t explode when you decide to hit some kind of weird overload.

It’s not just that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts; it’s that the whole is greater than just about anything. I spend 12 months trying to make 3 days go well, and it’s the best use of a year I could possibly imagine.

-Jeff Mach

Jeff Mach Events

(Note: I originally wrote this a long time ago, for my Patreon, but I felt like it was meaningful now, and that this is a good time to share it.)

Whose job is it to protect people at events?

3d computer graphics of a fairy with a fantasy armor and swoW

Whose job is it to protect people at events? Everyone’s.

Understand that I’m not bringing this up because I believe that I’m perfect at this, personally or professionally, or that I have all the answers – not at all. I’m writing because we seem to be in another one of those cycles wherein some people say, “If you get hurt, you probably weren’t taking care of yourself, or you expected others to take care of you when it’s not their job to do so.” And I can’t see that going around without speaking up.

I have rather a lot of experience with how difficult it is to try to help create safe spaces for people. I have altogether too much experience with how challenging and imperfect it is to attempt to do so in situations where you frequently have little assistance (or worse, harm) from legal or societal structures.

Should people take responsibility for themselves? Of course.

Does that mean it’s on individuals alone to make sure they’re safe? Absolutely not.  Fandom is clearly trying to figure out how to create safer places for all involved. We clearly don’t really know how to do this yet – by “we”, I don’t mean “me”, I mean “the whole damn industry”. Many of the problems are not just difficult, but controversial; not just hard to pin down, but hard to agree on in general. Many of the situations we face involve having much less information, and sometimes much more complex or subjective “proof” in any given direction, than would be useful in a court of law.

But seriously, if your response to the challenges of harassment and inappropriate behavior is “I can’t help you; you need to take care of yourself” – I’m unlikely to believe that you’re really an advocate of self-determination. I’m pretty likely to believe that you’re skirting the issue altogether.

Because that’s certainly an option we have; we can say, “This is not my job,” and turn away.  But every time you do that, you’re making a statement.  You’re empowering those who harass, and creating a space that’s less safe than it could be.  And that makes your event a worse place for everyone.

Sure, I’m not saying that we always know how to deal with harassment well, or how to define it.  I’ve seen literally years of arguments which bring up excellent points about civil rights, assisting the socially awkward, and when people can and cannot reasonably expect intervention.  It’s not easy to try to do.

But it is important to try to do.  Because I guarantee that if you don’t try, the problems don’t disappear.  They just get bigger and bigger.  And someday, you won’t be able to ignore them.

~Jeff Mach
www.patreon.com/jeffmach
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Jeff Mach runs Jeff Mach Events, which in turn runs the world’s largest Steampunk event, The Steampunk World’s Fair; the peculiar Faerie festival Glimmerdark, and co-runs Dark Side Of The Con (with VampireFreaks).  He’s on Twitter @steamworldsfair.  

Events are home

There’s a 3D computer graphics of a cyborg woman with a headdress in science fiction stylesimple goal I have for every Jeff Mach Event: I make weekend-long homes for unusual people.

What does that mean?

The second martial arts school I attended was literally in the back of an alley, up a long flight of stairs. And leading to the school door, there was a pair of signs. The first was a standard martial-arts school notice, “Please remove shoes”. This simple act gave a physical reminder that I was leaving one place—“the street”—and stepping into a different world, with different rules.

The second was at the top of the stairs. “You are entering a traditional karate dojo. Please act accordingly”.

How did one “act accordingly”? I knew many common rules and practices—I also knew that every school I had seen had its own style, rules, approach. What was proper in one school might be utterly wrong in another.

Yet the practical value of that sign was enormous. It always gave me pause, called to my mind all of my associations with training grounds, what I learned there, and who and what those things made me. “Act accordingly”: know what you have come to do, know what you are doing, at least in your own mind. Or, at the barest minimum, recognize in your gut that you’ve come to a place where things are different. Don’t just take that difference passively, when it enters your space; make it a part of your consciousness.

And thus. And so.

You’ve entered our world, a place where we belong, a place where we are not the outsiders, a place where what we do matters, is meaningful, is real, and we are NOT the only ones who know it.

Steampunk, Rocky Horror, Renaissance Faires, Geeky spaces; it doesn’t matter.

Leave the outside world for outsiders.
We bring our homes with us, inside us, we foster them with love and passion.  We’re different–not better, just not the same–and sometimes, we realize: we are not alone.

And that place?  That place is home.

 

~Jeff Mach
www.patreon.com/jeffmach
_____________

Jeff Mach runs Jeff Mach Events, which in turn runs the world’s largest Steampunk event, The Steampunk World’s Fair; the peculiar Faerie festival Glimmerdark, and co-runs Dark Side Of The Con (with VampireFreaks).  He’s on Twitter @steamworldsfair.  

Cosplay is not consent

It’s probable that if you’ve hung around fandom, science fiction, or 

To my surprise, this is one of the more controversial memes I’ve ever made. Even now.

like-minded communities – like the Steampunk universe – you’ve heard the phrase  “Cosplay is not consent”.  If you haven’t, I can give you a thumbnail definition: If one dresses as some sort of fandom or fantasy character with what is considered to be sex appeal or sexy look, this is in no way, shape, or form consent to touch that person.  Neither is it permission to interfere with them without asking, or generally disrespect them as a human being simply because they’re wearing cosplay. And that holds true regardless of the nature of the character, or how revealing or hypothetically seductive that cosplay might be.

I hear: “If they didn’t want to be treated as sex objects, they wouldn’t do sexy cosplays”.  There are plenty of reasons for cosplays, and being what you perceive as sexy doesn’t necessarily happen because they want to be  sexual, especially with you.  I mean, when you cosplay a villain, is it because you plan to undertake a life of crime?  Does that make it okay for cops to arrest you because you look like a famous fictional murderer?  Of course not.

There are people who feel that making a public appearance makes you into public property. And it is true that certain kinds of celebrity, and certain public roles, might change some of how society might be allowed to view you. I do not know to what extent we really deserve to know the deep inside secrets of movie stars, or rock musicians, but it has certainly been part of the tradition of both of those industries for many years that those professionals get a lot of publicity and a lot of attention, and they reap both the benefits and the detriments.

The challenge is that cosplayers are not generally professionals, and even those who are remain a very small group of people who all came out of the fandom world with the same goals and motivations as the rest of us: to show our love for things Fannish, nerdy, and interesting, and to pay tribute to our favorite artists and characters.

And they deserve what the rest of us deserve: respect, sometimes admiration,  camaraderie, and basic human decency.

Honestly, with or without cosplay, someone being or acting or dressing in a manner that you consider to be sexy does not mean that you own that person’s sexuality or identity. Acting as if you did is disrespectful. It’s flat-out harassment, sometimes in a matter which is literally illegal. And then there’s this:

The more you disrespect sexy cosplay and costuming, the more you discourage it from happening. If you’re someone who likes those things and appreciates them, and wants to see more of them, then you owe people, not unpleasant experiences, but gratitude and appropriate behavior. You need to, for your own damn self interest, treat those people well and politely, or you will do one of two things:

Either you will reduce the number of people who participate in those cosplays you love so much, because the price of dealing with you and people like you is just too high a cost to bear…

Or, increasingly, you will get kicked out, or at least get a warning from event security. Because I will tell you a single simple Awful Truth: the vast majority of fandom, regardless of gender or identity or politics, simply does not want to be around a person who can’t treat others like adult human beings deserving of basic human respect.

~Jeff Mach
www.patreon.com/jeffmach
_____________

Jeff Mach runs Jeff Mach Events, which in turn runs the world’s largest Steampunk event, The Steampunk World’s Fair; the peculiar Faerie festival Glimmerdark, and co-runs Dark Side Of The Con (with VampireFreaks).  He’s on Twitter @steamworldsfair.