Thursday, August 19, 2021

Bouchercon 2021: A Look Back

Today is the day I would normally post my pre-Bouchercon message. (No, not because it’s August 20. It’s the Friday before Bouchercon.) Since this year’s event has been postponed, I’m posting thoughts about that. I am not, and have never been, on an organizing committee, so I can speak frankly. Consider that fair warning.


First off, this year’s Bouchercon was not canceled; it was postponed. Things that are canceled never happen; postponement puts things off until a later date, in this case 2025.


There has been griping about the handling of this year’s erstwhile conference. Stop it. This year’s committee did yeoman’s work under extremely difficult, ultimately impossible, circumstances. They deserve every kudo they would have received had the conference come off. They did all they could and deserve full honors.


Every year there are complaints about some aspect of the conference; I have done so myself. That said, based on my experience of attending ten Bouchercons, and having gained some insights into what has to happen to make them work, I have some well-considered advice for the most common grievances.


“I don’t like my panel assignment.” Shut the fuck up.


“The venue is too small/large/hot/cold/stuffy/not close enough to places I’d like to go, etc.” Shut the fuck up.


“They chose the wrong people for this panel.” Shut the fuck up.


“Why is it in [insert city name] during [hurricane, fire, natural disaster of your choice] season?” Shut the fuck up.


“The book room is a mess,” or, alternately, “I can’t get my book into the dealers’ room.” Shut the fuck up.


(Unique to this year.) “I’m canceling because of the virus. Why can’t I get my money back?” Read the registration form, then shut the fuck up.


The ultimate solution to all these complaints is to volunteer for a future committee. Spend your time (and money) negotiating contracts, finding alternate activities for spouses and kids, booking guests of honor, coordinating with publishers for receptions, handling book sales logistics, organizing panels, last minute changes, and the myriad of other things—some anticipated, others not—that go into pulling off a Bouchercon. Do that once—one time—I guarantee you’ll shut the fuck up forever after.


Bouchercon is a labor of love, and few loves require more labor on the part of those who have volunteered to make it work. I have been to Bouchercons that worked better than others, but never have I had even an inkling those that weren’t as successful were due to any lack of effort or involvement by the organizers.


There is no “Bouchercon Inc.” or “Bouchercon LLC;” these folks often have to put up their own funds as deposits. Until you’re willing to do that, and put your money where your mouth is, I only have one word of advice as to what to do about going public with your Bouchercon complaints: Shut the fuck up.

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