Oct 29, 2008

Who is a Panelist?

Ah, so Bouchercon is over but one debate continues on. At the business meeting in Baltimore, a proposed amendment to the rules that a structure be given as to who should be declared an author and who shouldn’t was killed. First, let me say the writing to the amendment itself was well thought out and the subcommittee who did the work did a very good job. Similar wording has worked at a lot of conventions, allowing the organizers and book sellers to plan for the event with a structure they like and a beginning focus.

But Bouchercon is a different animal. It is for and of the fans. Which doesn’t mean it isn’t for the authors, but means it is there to serve their fandom as well. Which means every block of paneling has the responsibility to be entertaining first. Not he!he! entertaining necessarily, but perhaps revealing, or informative. Certainly with panel slots at a premium, each panelist and every moderator has the responsibility to be on the same page as their fellows, showing themselves and their “co-workers” off in the best possible light. And that means that nobody who’s part of the membership should be excluded from the potential panelist pool.

How could exceptions even be made if this were written down? Think about it. In an organization that changes its officers and chairs every year who’s going to watch the watch men. Will the nature of publishing even be the same in a decade? It was a proposal that just isn’t viable for the way Bouchercon is structured.

Should no fans be allowed to participate at a convention that was begun for them? Should the non published mystery experts have to step aside because the author pool is large enough that there is someone to fill all paneling slots? What of reviewers, on-line presences, agents, publishers, and editors? Do they take a back seat? If anything the 2008 experience has told me that this last group of folks, if we put them together correctly should have more of a presence. Authors are paying for their attendance as well, and these panels appeal to their dollar.

2008 had some very good panels and that’s not down to me, but to the two panel chairs Jon and Judy. Between the two of them they have sat in on a couple of hundred panels, and they knew not only what they wanted to see but also, what they didn’t want to see again. The inspired idea of Song Titles allowed the panelists a certain liberty of interpretation and some of your best panels this year were a result of the individual teams presenting ideas that had never been tried before. Or the placement of individuals who’d never been matched up before on the same panel.

There’s a responsibility of the individuals putting on a convention to be able to say, “No, I’m sorry” . It’s not a great feeling, in fact it sucks. Charmed was also fortunate in that we had a great group of book dealers who made a huge effort to get everyone’s books there, big publisher or small.

One of the things this B-Con had going for it aside from a great facility was a large group of people all working towards the same Ideal. "FANS FIRST". In the end if the organizers of a Bouchercon do their best to make everyone feel as important as everyone else there, it’s going to be a great convention. There are aspects of each con that should be structurally consistent from year to year but the panels themselves should be an evolving entity, with different individuals, topics, and always those great surprises from year to year.

Just my two cents….



Sarah Weinman said...

Thank you for this.

JD Rhoades said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JD Rhoades said...

I totally agree. People like Jon, Ruth, Ali Karim, Sarah Weinman, etc. have a hell of a lot to bring to panels, and they're not as likely to spend the whole time goung "Hey look at me! Buy my books!"

Not that authors ever do that.

John McFetridge said...

Yes, you're right, Bouchercon is a different animal and this FAN FIRST approach is one of the best things about it.

Let's face it, everyone at Bouchercon - writers, bloggers, editors - we're all fans first. The less seperation into categories the better.

Ayo Onatade said...

Well done Ruth. Eloquently put and spot on.

Jon The Crime Spree Guy said...


I tell people to buy your books all the time Bro.

Peter Rozovsky said...

J.D., I had in mind some of the same names you brought up and also Janet Rudolph. I attended one panel that she chaired and another moderated by that provocative and entertaining Ali Karim. The discussion did not suffer in the least for the presence of these non-authors.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

Ali Karim said...

This was a very good move IMHO, and wish to thank the Baltimore gang for making this clear.

And it was nice to see colleagues who support the genre able to particpate.

I had a lot, and I mean A LOT of fun, seeing old friends and making new ones.

Sorry I missed the Business Meeting, but as ever I got held up talking......but thanks for the information


ps - thanks for the kind words

Peter Rozovsky said...

I forgot to mention that I've seen Sarah Weinman's skills as a moderator in action at close hand. She quizzed Dave White at one of my Noir at the Bar crime fiction readings in Philadelphia. I complimented her at the time on her good questions, and I have to think any convention would be fortunate to have her in a similar role.

Held Up Talking: Nice title when you write your memoirs, Ali.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"