Monday, September 16, 2013

How I became a fan

In particular, a science fiction fan.  I'd been a reader of science fiction and fantasy in my childhood, starting with the Scholastic Book Club paperbacks that I regularly bought in elementary school, including books by Robert Silverberg, Lester Del Rey, and Alexander Key.

Later on I discovered the Heinlein juveniles and the classics by Jules Verne and H.G. Wells.  Then when I turned twelve or so I started reading Jack Vance's Dying Earth stories and then was passed Tolkein's Lord of the Rings trilogy by my sister and I was hooked.  I also read Frank Herbert's Dune, Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land, plus some Bradbury, and Harlan Ellison's stories and anthologies.  I also read and had every Tarzan novel, so by the time I left home and went off to college I'd pretty much graduated from the public library's SF&F section, with some skipped courses left unread on the shelves.  Not that they were required.

In the meantime I'd also seen some SF TV, but it had been drivel like Lost In Space, Time Tunnel, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, etc.  I somehow missed the original run of Star Trek but when I was a young teenager some of my buddies and I started watching afternoon reruns in the early 1970s after we were out of school, and we saw them all and enjoyed the experience.  Media SF was to me fun, but not as deep as what I'd been reading.  One thing I did miss out on was the SF&F peridoicals of the day, so I never saw those ads in the back talking about conventions and fandom.

Then after I'd gone to the University of Iowa for a semester in 1977 (after being a semi-truck driver while I was trying to figure out what to do with my life - long story), Iowa Public TV in the spring of 1978 started running episodes of Dr. Who at 10pm, Monday-Thursdays and somehow I discovered it and since I had the best color TV on the dorm floor I was living on, there was a gang of several guys who gathered every night to watch a half-hour fun-filled episode.  One of the people there, Mike Miller (aka "Spacey"), was a member of a group called SFLIS (Science Fiction League of Iowa Students) and told me about them and that they met weekly at a downtown bar, The Mill, and if I'd be interested in attending one.  I was, and I did, and I had fun talking science fiction with them over the next few semesters and watching Dr. Who until it was taken off the air in March of 1979.

Then in the fall of 1979 I was involved enough with the club to help a little with putting on a convention, which was ICon 4, that November.  I wasn't responsible for much and as a result had a great time while all was not so well otherwise.  (It's known as DisasterCon in ICon lore for a good reason.)  But I still liked what I saw of what was called "fandom" and the next spring went to another convention, Minicon, in Minneapolis, and then went to the next ICon in Cedar Rapids in the fall of 1980 and to many other cons since.  It's been great fun, mostly.

So thanks Spacey for introducing me to fandom, and I'll see you at ICon 38 in November!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

More folk fest speculation

Putting my Light Bulb Hat on (cue Lou and Peter Berryman for musical accompaniment), here's some further thoughts on ticket prices.

To better judge the cost of attending the Winnipeg Folk Festival, let's look at a couple of other folk fests I've been to so far this year.  Erin and I went to Red House Records' Barnfest a month ago where there were seven very good to fantastic (Dean Magraw is a guitar GOD) performances from 1pm to 8pm, and the cost per ticket was $27 each.  Now that's a bargain, no doubt about it.  Y'all should come join us at Barnfest next year, by the way.

Then last Labor Day weekend I went to Storyhill Fest up in Deerwood, MN where there was a two day festival with overnight camping for two nights, featuring eleven acts, two workshops, a group campfire and other activities, cost for two persons for the weekend: $250.  So for two persons and two nights, it worked out to a cost of $62.50 per day, with the cost for camping being $20 a day per person of that total cost.  (There was a bathhouse with hot showers and flush toilets available for those who were camping too.)

So for the Winnipeg folk fest, the total cost for five days of music and camping is about $325 (including taxes & fees), which divided by five is $65 Canadian.  So on a per day basis, the Winnipeg folk fest doesn't seem to cost more than you would expect.  Now I've never run a folk fest so I have no idea what costs scale and what costs don't, but perhaps the reason the Winnipeg fest was such a relative bargain for years was that they were still paying "festival scale" to performers who would accept that, but now they must pay more for acts (as CD sales have dried up as a revenue source), especially more for big name performers.  Also, and I don't know if this is anyone else's impression, but there does seem to have been an increase in the number of performers relative to the number of fest attendees, in particular performers at Big Blue at Night.  That might account for a significant part of the increase in ticket prices in the past several years, more so than the adding of a fifth night on Wednesday.

I was mentioning to Erin last night that while it was nice to have more acts, the fact is that you can't get to all of them and there's a law of diminishing returns that applies in general as a festival gets bigger.  (Not to mention all the "animations" in what I think of as the Winnipeg Folk Festival's Festival Camping Festival.)  At some point, maybe the possibility of having TWO festivals in Winnipeg at Bird's Hill Park would make sense, with one being a traditional folk festival and the other more like Bonnaroo/Coachella/Festapalooza/whatever.  I'm sure all the long-time fest volunteers right now are thinking: NOOOOOOOOOO!!!  Still, it's submitted for your approval Mr. Serling... (cue Wolfgang K's maniacal laughter...   ;-)

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Winnipeg Folk Festival Ticket Prices

We all know that everything costs more that it used to, so I did a little investigating about ticket prices for the Winnipeg Folk Festival to see how much more it costs to go these days.  Most of my information comes from former websites and some newsletters from past years, and since most of us have gotten our fest tickets early I thought sticking to the Early Bird prices would be best, but keep in mind that all the prices listed below are lower than the at-the-gate prices charged for that year.  I've also included the Festival Camping ticket prices separately to see how that's changed as well.  Of course any corrections to my numbers are welcome.  FYI, all prices are in Canadian dollars.

Year   Early-Bird   Festival Camping

1980     $23*          N/A   (*) - advance ticket price

1985     $30           N/A
1988     $40           N/A
1990     $55           N/A
1992     $55           ???

1993     $55           ???
1995     $60           ???

1998     $77           $15
1999     $82           $15
2000     $85           $15
2001     $91           $15
2002     $91           $17
2003     $98           $20
2004     $98           $20
2005     $110          $25
2006     $117          $25
2007     $148.66       $25
2008     $151.75       $25

2009(1)  $157          $30    (1) - price before fifth day was added
2009(2)  $177          $30    (2) - plus additional $20 for said day

2010     $181.75       $35
2011     $189          $40
2012     $206          $75
2013     $215          $75

So it now costs about three times as much to go and camp as it did fifteen years ago, with most of that increase coming in the past six years.  I don't know how much overall inflation there's been in Canada during that time, but obviously gasoline prices have jumped.  The increase in Festival Camping prices seems more due to the huge demand for it than actual costs for site improvements.  (Quiet camping ticket prices in 2013 were $40, I think.)  Obviously it hasn't hurt attendance, with 2013 being a near-record year.  Still, it's a significant increase.

I'm going to pass this along to the festival office, in hopes that maybe we can have a lull in ticket price rises for a few years.  You never know, maybe someone will listen!