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The Origin of BayCon: The San Francisco Bay Area Regional Science Fiction & Fantasy Convention

by Randall & John

Last Updated: Sunday, Jul. 22, 2007 - 7:05 p.m.

This year, 2007, BayCon celebrated its 25th anniversary. As is common when people reflect on the events a quarter-century in the past, memories can get foggy, and a lot of fiction invariably gets included with the facts. Just so with BayCon; and because so much misinformation has been cast into the public arena this year in particular, the two guys who founded the con felt they should set the record straight.


Randall Cooper is a film fan who came into Fandom primarily via his interest in Star Trek and science fiction films. A member of ST:TOS' First Fandom and a writer by nature, he corresponded with several members of the cast and crew, and amassed an amazing collection of Trek memorabilia long before the materials we're all so familiar with these days were readily available. When he heard about Equicon '73, the West Coast's first Trek convention, he was more than ready to attend.

John McLaughlin is an omnifan ("It's all F&SF to me."), who discovered Fandom by way of comics fandom of the late 1960s. An artist who dabbled in writing, he worked on several fanzines of the era, publishing his own between 1968 and 1971, and attending comic conventions on both coasts. His first convention was 1970's Multicon-70, a gencon, which is significant in that in it lie the foundations of BayCon.

Multicon-70 was a small convention. There were only a few hundred attendees, and live programming didn't even fill a single track. Yet, to John, it was everything a convention should be. There was no appreciable difference between comics fans, literary SF fans, movie fans, classic radio snobbery at all. The so-called "Balkanization of Fandom" was still years away.

Randall and John met in high school, their common ground being a mutual appreciation of F&SF in general and Star Trek in particular.

When John came back from the 1972 New York Comic Art Convention, he went to Randall with a story, and an idea. In the Dealers Room, ST:TOS fans Al Schuster and Joni Winston were promoting a new con that they were working on: the first convention designed specifically for fans of Star Trek. Schuster told John he expected 300 to 500 people would show up--over 3,000 did, and Fandom was never the same--but no one expected that back in the Summer of '72.

With the '72 Comic Art Con fresh in his mind, and memories of Multicon-70 resurfacing, John asked Randall what he thought of the idea of putting together a small convention that mixed comics and Star Trek. Randall liked the idea, and between them they cobbled together a brief structural outline, then went looking for a facility.

They drove up to the Jack Tar Hotel (now the Cathedral Hill Hotel) in San Francisco, met with the Director of Sales, and came back with enough material to continue their research. When they tried to schedule a subsequent meeting, the Jack Tar wasn't interested in any proposals the two 18-year olds had, and so the idea went on the back burner. OK, they agreed, let's give it a few more years, get some more convention experience, and try again.

In 1973 Randall and John started up a small fannish business producing Star Trek memorabilia. Randall came across a flyer for Equicon '73; they made plans to attend; went to the now legendary con, and made enough money to cover their expenses and start producing items for the next Trek con.

John attended Westercons throughout the 1970s, but Randall started passing them by because they seemed to go out of their way to exclude fans of Star Trek and other non-print-based SF. To Randall, the SF cons of the latter '70s just weren't as much fun as they'd previously been. With that in mind, and remembering the con idea they'd taken to the Jack Tar, he went to John with a variation on the theme.

"What do you think of bidding for a Westercon?" asked Randall. John liked the idea. It was 1981, and in the years since they'd put their "Trek and comics" con on the back burner, they'd both learned a lot about the art, craft and science of running conventions. But there might be a conflict: one of their friends had previously announced his intention of bidding for the 1983 Westercon.

"Michael Siladi said he was going to put together a bid for Westercon," said John, "but that was a while back and I haven't heard anything from him about it since. He asked me to do publications, so you'd think that I'd have heard something by now."

"Why don't you find out if his bid is still on," suggested Randall, "and we'll decide what to do when we know what's happening."

John checked with a few of Michael's closest friends. One of them advised him that Michael had been trying to put together a committee but hadn't had any luck finding the people he needed, and that it had become something of a sore point with him. Another told him that Siladi had abandoned the bid, and that it would embarrass him to bring the matter up in conversation.

Unsure of the best way to proceed, John went to one person he knew who was part of the established con-running community: Tom Whitmore.

John explained the ideas Randall and he had for bidding for the 1983 Westercon, and their concerns over not wanting to interfere with Michael Siladi's alleged bid. Tom recommended that John contact Jerry Jacks. Jerry had chaired three Westercons, worked on Worldcons and regional cons, and was completely connected when it came to Westercon politics.

John drove up to Jerry's place in San Francisco, and met with him and Los Angeles fan Sandy Cohen, who just happened to be visiting at the time. Jerry and Sandy provided John with a lot of practical, good advice on both the bidding process and what it took to run a Westercon. Jerry also confirmed that there were only two official bids on the books for Westercon 35: San Jose and Portland--an early bid from Seattle had dropped out--there was no record of a bid by Michael Siladi, official or unofficial.

Based on the feedback they received from Tom Whitmore, Jerry Jacks, Sandy Cohen and others, Randall and John decided to take their shot, and began working on their bid in earnest.

They decided upon the combination of the downtown Oakland Convention Center and connected Hyatt Hotel (now the Marriott Oakland City Center Hotel), which were then under construction and due to be completed in February of 1983. As a backup, in the event the downtown facility wasn't completed in time, they secured commitments from the Oakland Airport Hyatt and Hilton hotels (which were side by side).

In addition to John and Randall, the Oakland In '83 bidding committee included Michael Acebo, Frank Catalano, Nick Chinn, Steven Donner, Lea Farr (then Lea Sapp), Jo Jenson, Steven R. Johnson, Stillman Kelly, Michael Rupert, and Eric Vinicoff, with Jerry Jacks, John Fund, and Terry Whittier as advisors. Contrary to what claims have been made in this person's fannish biography, the party in question was not involved, as published staff records clearly indicate.

Randall and John had big plans for what they wanted to accomplish with Westercon, and decided to put together as sophisticated a presentation as they possibly could. John utilized his graphic design abilities to produce professional-looking ads and flyers, and generated an eight-page, full-size promotional publication printed on high-quality paper. Collateral materials included buttons, T-shirt iron-ons, and even custom fortune cookie messages.

The bid presentations were made at Westercon 34 in Sacramento. With his background in film and multi-media, Randall produced an elaborate slide show utilizing three projectors (with super-impositions to emphasize specific points) and a narrative audio soundtrack with music.

The larger-than-life appearance of the Oakland In '83 bid took a lot of fans by surprise. There were allegations that the bid had their promotional materials produced by an advertising agency, and that "some commercial operation" from outside of Fandom was trying to "take over Westercon." While flattering in a back-handed way, these false rumors and the overall newness of Randall and John's approach contributed to the bid's downfall.

Westercon utilized a preferential (so-called "Australian") ballot, and while the Oakland bid received the majority vote, it did not receive the "totality" required to win. In cases where, after marking "Oakland" as their first choice, voters had no preference for either of the other two bids, John and Randall suggested that the voter choose whatever competing bid location was closest to where they lived. That way, if Oakland didn't win, the con that did win was likely to be close enough for the voter to attend, and the money they'd spent on a voting membership wouldn't have been wasted.

In trying to do what would most benefit fans who were pro-Oakland voters, Randall and John inadvertently sabotaged their bid. If they had instead suggested that their supporters enter "None of the Above" and "No Preference" in the number two and three positions, the Oakland In '83 bid would have won. Sometimes, nice guys do finish last.

John and Randall accepted their defeat, and were surprised when, following Westercon 34, Jerry Jacks informed them that, in his opinion, the Oakland In '83 bid had been "torpedoed." Jerry went on to say that he thought their group had a lot to offer Bay Area fandom, and should consider running a regional F&SF convention. Finally, he told them that in his position as an advisor to both the Oakland and San Jose bids, he would attempt to get members of the two groups together "in neutral territory," as he put it, at a party he would host later that summer.

So, together with Jo Jenson and Lea Farr, John drove up to San Francisco for Jerry's party. Their overtures to the members of the San Jose Westercon committee in attendance were politely rebuffed. Jerry noticed this, and at the end of the party, stopped John and his friends in the hallway as they were preparing to leave, and renewed his previous recommendation.

He urged them to seriously consider launching an annual regional convention. The Bay Area needed one, he said; none of the established con-runners in the area were willing to do it; and, based on what he'd seen in the course of their running the Oakland In '83 bid, he felt they had what it takes to get the job done.

John brought Jerry's message back to Randall, and, after some discussion, they agreed to get some feedback from the local F&SF community on the concept of a Regional Convention before proceeding further.

In addition to continued dialogues with Jerry Jacks, John spoke with Tom Whitmore, who arranged for him to meet with members of the oldest Bay Area SF Club: the Elves, Gnomes & Little Men's Science Fiction, Chowder & Marching Society. John also spoke with PennSFA members George Barr and Jim Bearcloud, and with Jack Rems, who was at that time chairing the Seventh World Fantasy Convention.

Randall spoke with members of the local Star Trek clubs, and with contacts he'd made over the years in SF film fandom.

At that point in time, John had been sharing a duplex in the South Bay with his friend, fannish entrepreneur Steve (The Bag Man) Johnson. Together they'd been throwing Portfolio Pot-Lucks for their artist colleagues, and large Summer and Winter parties for all their fannish friends. These larger parties usually attracted 50-100 guests, and were a fair mix of both fans and pros; so they were an ideal place to solicit feedback on the convention. John asked the artists he knew who did the convention art show circuit to design their "Dream Art Show", and asked everyone about the sort of programming they wanted to see. Randall questioned friends who ran fan businesses, local book stores and comic shops about what they wanted to see in an "ideal" Dealers Room, and asked costumers about what they wanted in a Masquerade.

Randall and John knew that finding a hotel with exhibit space that was flexible, that could be easily reconfigured over the course of the convention weekend as necessity dictated, and that would grow with the con as it changed from year to year, was of vital importance. John had a visit with the sales department at the Santa Clara Marriott, and took a tour of the recent additions to their convention space and a new tower of guest rooms. Randall connected with a friend at the San Jose ConVis Bureau, and obtained convention packets for all the larger hotels in San Jose.

In reviewing the floor plans of the various facilities available in the Bay Area, Randall noticed that the Red Lion Inn in San Jose appeared to suit the needs of the convention he and John wanted to throw more than any other--including the Oakland Convention Center-Hyatt Hotel combination they used for their Westercon bid. The Convention Center and Hyatt offered more total meeting space, but there was the drawback of having to utilize union labor for all load-in and load-out work, which was expensive and eat up funds that could be better spent on other aspects of the convention. The Red Lion, on the other hand, was a non-union house, and although smaller, still offered a lot of room for growth, and its meeting space was extremely flexible.

Randall took his research to John, and together they compared the Red Lion in this new light to the Santa Clara Marriott, the Oakland and San Francisco airport hotels, and the Oakland Convention Center-Hyatt combination. The Red Lion won hands down.

Remembering the sage advice they'd received from Jerry Jacks about developing the right kind of relationship with a hotel, John and Randall knew they'd have to secure the Red Lion far in advance of the planned convention dates. That meant fixing the convention dates, obtaining a letter of intent with the hotel, and setting specific timelines for the con.

It was now December of 1981, and in an attempt to solicit one final round of feedback, John asked for a no-holds barred evaluation of the work Randall and he had completed so far at that year's Winter Party. Over the course of a very long, pleasant night, the hoped-for support and positive reactions were received. The final thumbs-up was delivered by X-Men writer Chris Claremont at a large table in a nearby Lyons restaurant, where a dozen party survivors gathered over an early morning breakfast. "Go for it!" he said, and heads all around the table nodded in agreement.

Randall had John come to a Christmas party thrown by his parents, where he introduced him to a family friend, Nelda Whitaker, who was the Convention Sales Manager at the San Jose ConVis Bureau. They discussed their ideas with her, and she enthusiastically invited them to prepare a prospectus.

1982 rolled in. It was time to make the decision, and based on the input they'd received, Randall and John agreed to take a shot at doing The Regional Con. Now they had to research the business end of things, pick a name, and turn their extensive notes into a functional plan for running the convention.

Randall suggested they flip a coin to determine which of them would chair the con and handle the business aspects of the project. John hated the idea of having to deal with all the administrative paperwork, accounts, ledgers and corporate BS, but knew from his experience with their Star Trek fan business that Randall hated that sort of work even more. So, John told Randall to forget about the coin toss, he'd chair the con and handle the business end of things. Again, at the time this took place--the moment BayCon was founded--despite what has been claimed elsewhere, only John and Randall were involved.

John investigated the process of setting up a corporation. He discovered that although a non-profit structure was more popular with Fandom, a for-profit corporation was significantly easier to set up, and offered much more flexibility in how any profits could be reinvested in the convention. Comics letterer L. Lois Buhalis was at that time working as a legal secretary in San Jose. With her assistance, and that of another fan friend, accountant Jo Jenson, John set up a parent corporation for the con with himself as President and Jo Jenson as Secretary/Treasurer. Because what Randall and he were trying to do was solve convention-running problems in a creative, artistic way, he chose the name Artistic Solutions, Inc.

When it came to designing the look and feel of the convention, John's experience of Multicon-70 guided the basic philosophy. The San Francisco Bay Area Regional Science Fiction & Fantasy Convention would, of course, be a gencon: a convention for all of Fandom. While Randall and John accepted the fact that, metaphorically speaking, they couldn't hope to get the diverse groups that made up Fandom to eat the same meal, perhaps they could get everyone to at least sit at the same table at the same time, and enjoy separate meals together. Share everyone's Sense of Wonder with each other; celebrate what everyone, as F&SF Fans, had in common, instead of pointing out their differences.

While brainstorming the con on paper, Randall suggested they utilize his "thousand great convention ideas" concept: come up with as many great ideas for a con as they could--even if it was as many as a thousand--but use only the ones they could successfully execute at the time, and save the rest for future conventions. Pages of programming ideas, structure and staffing ideas, and detailed methods for implementing them began to pile up. They developed an organizational structure, and wrote a full set of job descriptions. Goals for each department were set, with the bar for what were considered the "minimum requirements" set high, but attainable: "Do at least this much and we'll have a good convention. Anything you want to do over and above that is entirely your option, and you have complete freedom to handle it however you want."

In order to satisfy the traditional Fan Community in the Bay Area whose orientation was print-based F&SF, John knew that the con would have to offer at least as much programming of that type as did Loscon, the annual Southern California Regional SF convention thrown by LASFS: roughly, 15 hours over the course of the con's three days. Instead, they decided to double the amount, and aimed to fill over 30 hours with literary F&SF and Fandom programming.

Since the only local comics cons were single day shows, Randall and John agreed to add a full programming track related to comics. To this they added another full track of art-oriented programming. They also resolved to include a full track of science-related programming, and balance that off with a live program track devoted to F&SF in film and television. To that, Randall added an around-the-clock film program, a video room (which he dubbed the Perpetual Motion Picture Show), and a track of F&SF movies, cartoons and TV shows to be pumped through the hotel's closed-circuit TV system into every con attendee's hotel room.

To tie the entire diverse program together, John and Randall together insisted that certain program items be designated as "crossover" programming: panels or presentations featuring professionals from the different disciplines--print-based F&SF, comic books, film & television, science, and art--which would emphasize the common ground they all shared. First and foremost, the San Francisco Bay Area Regional Science Fiction & Fantasy Convention would be a safe haven for everyone in the F&SF Community to share their Sense of Wonder, regardless of an individual's particular fannish orientation.

After consideration of several names, Randall and John settled on BayCon. Since the convention would be the Regional Convention for the San Francisco Bay Area, it was a logical choice. Additionally, it had been used by the 1961 Westercon and 1968 Worldcon, so the name had history and tradition. More recently, it was the name of a local comics convention co-founded by East Bay comic shop owner John Watson and popular comics letterer Tom Orzechowski. Since Randall and John wanted their BayCon to be a gencon that included comics programming, and because the comics-oriented Bay Con had ceased operations a few years earlier (leaving a major vacuum for those who'd grown used to a multi-day comic con), it made sense on that level to adopt the name.

Watson and Orzechowski had, after running the first two, turned their Bay Con over to San Francisco comics dealer Sal Dichiera. But Sal wasn't interesting in relinquishing the name, so Randall and John went with Fantacon, one of their alternates. Initial research indicated the name was available, but a few months later, further research confirmed a comic convention in Albany, New York, was using the name FantaCon. So they switched to another alternate, Pacificon (which also had the historical significance of being the used as both a Worldcon and a Westercon). Again, research indicated the name was unused; and again, as luck would have it, a month later Randall and John discovered there was already a gaming convention by that name in existence.

John decided that since he and Randall wanted BayCon in the first place, he'd go back to Sal Dichiera and not give up until he'd obtained the name. He contacted Sal and opened negotiations with a phrase Randall was fond of using: "Just tell me what you want." What Sal wanted was the option of a few free dealer's tables at any BayCon he should choose to attend as a dealer, some comp memberships, and the guarantee that Randall and John's convention would be at least as good as the commercial dog-and-pony-show-style conventions that occasionally swept through the Bay Area. At that point in time, the for-profit cons were pretty much single-day events with a dealers room, a few famous guests, less than a full track of programming, and absolutely no frills. With copies of the developmental materials Randall and he had already produced, John was able to cut a deal with Sal, and came back to Randall with the good news.

While they were preparing the first draft of BayCon's proposed budget, Randall made a suggestion: "No one should have to pay for the privilege of working on this con. We're all going to work our asses off, so let's make sure that the con staff doesn't have to pay for hotel rooms or memberships." John immediately assented, and as a further way to thank the members of the concom, they agreed that anyone who worked on a BayCon above the gopher level would get a comp membership in the con in perpetuity.

At face value, these two staff benefits appear to be the sort of perk that could be prone to abuse. However, there was, in fact, logic behind the decision. First, all of the people they had so far recruited as concom and staff were either friends who didn't want to let Randall or John down, or fannish acquaintances who had reputations for personal integrity, and wouldn't let themselves down. Second, everyone shared the common vision of wanting to produce an annual convention that would serve the entire F&SF Community, and make it the best convention possible. Third, the only way for a former staff member to guarantee that they could enjoy the fruits of their labors--that permanent comp membership--was to insure that the convention was so well-designed and run, so well-established, that it would survive beyond the years of their involvement. Therefore, everybody was well-motivated, whether out of altruism, or because of enlightened self-interest.

In March of 1982, Randall spoke with Nelda Whitaker at the San Jose ConVis Bureau, and told her to expect a written proposal.

He and John had decided on Thanksgiving weekend, November 26-28, 1982, for BayCon '82. A holiday weekend would insure they could obtain the lowest sleeping room rates for con attendees, and all the convention meeting facilities. Southern California's Loscon had been held over the Thanksgiving weekend only once in its eight year history, with previous dates ranging from April to October to December, so it was thought there would be no conflicts.

In April of 1982 John sent the San Jose ConVis Bureau an informal prospectus for the proposed convention. Dee Bohanan, Director of Sales at the San Jose Red Lion Inn, responded to John in May with a booking agreement for the convention, and a request to come tour the facility.

The Red Lion was still under construction, so Dee Bohanan escorted Randall and John through the building in hard hats. Having seen only Sales Kit floor plans and copies of blueprints, actually walking through the hotel, even at that incomplete stage, was an enlightening experience. Plans were firmed up over the next month, and in June John and the Red Lion Inn signed the initial contract to reserve the space for the San Francisco Bay Area Regional Science Fiction & Fantasy Convention.

July was quickly approaching. They had a hotel and convention space; they had a name. The next step was to promote the convention. Randall suggested that the perfect place to officially kick off BayCon publicity would be at Westercon 35 in Phoenix. He'd done some research and discovered that the hotel rates at the Phoenix Hilton were unbelievably low, which meant they'd be able to afford to throw promotional parties every night of the con.

So off to Westercon 35 they went. They booked a couple of adjoining doubles with the plan to use one of them as the primary party room, which they did on the first night of the con. During that night's crowded BayCon party, one of the Hilton's desk staff came by to visit. Randall had done something nice for the guy during the hectic, confusing free-for-all which involved the checking-out of the Jaycee's National Convention at the same time Westercon as a whole was trying to check in.

"Great popcorn!" said the Hilton staffer, referring to the freshly-popped Orville Redenbacher popcorn they were serving, "And Henry Weinhard's Private Reserve! Wow, you guys really do this right."

"But," he continued, "this place is packed. Why didn't you rent a suite?"

"We can't afford one," responded John and Randall, almost in unison.

"Leave that to me," announced the Hilton staffer.

For the rest of the con, the BayCon party ran out of a roomy suite that appeared to be seemingly designed for fannish needs. Hundreds of Westercon 35 attendees descended on the parties, and twice the number of memberships and dealer's tables Randall and John had expected were sold.

Another unexpected windfall from that Westercon was the appearance of Rusty and Diane Dawe at one of the parties. They were two costumers from Southern California who had just moved to the Bay Area because Rusty had been hired as an engineer at Atari. Like most fans, they asked a lot of questions about BayCon. Unlike most fans, they asked more questions about the actual running of the convention.

They were so impressed with the answers they received, and the documentation Randall and John produced in response to their inquiries that they volunteered on the spot to work as con staff. Diane's background as both a costumer and fan artist working the convention circuit made her an ideal resource, as the details for the Masquerade and Art Show were still being finalized. Rusty initially offered to modify a database program he'd recently designed so that BayCon could computerize its membership records; then, unable to control his enthusiasm, he offered to help run Con Registration. That way, BayCon could feature an at-the-con computerized registration system that could even print out name tags as needed.

As things went, Randall and John had little trouble acquiring competent staff for BayCon '82, although some of the concom had to wear more than one hat. For example...

In addition to his duties as BayCon '82 Chairman, John edited and produced all publications (flyers, ads, progress reports, program book and support documentation like the Masquerade, Art Show, and Dealers Room forms and info sheets), supervised the development of con programming, and was the hotel liaison until five months before the con. Randall was Co-Chairman, designed and ran the Masquerade, set up the film program, ran Tech Ops for the entire con, and assisted with the video program. Nick Chinn ran both Conops and Gophers. Jack Rems assisted with the design and set-up of the 5-track live program before the con, and ran Programming Ops at the con. L. Lois Buhalis was Con Secretary and supervised Con Registration. Rusty and Diane Dawe assisted Lois with registration by developing and running a computerized Reg system, ran the daily staffing for Registration, and assisted with programming. Rusty also supervised the construction of BayCon's Art Show flats, Masquerade flats, and additional display walls, and at the con helped run the video program.

While having members of the concom handle multiple different con duties gave BayCon '82 a more cohesive look, it did tend to overburden those who had taken on more than one of the "big jobs"--especially Randall and John. So when Rusty Dawe offered to take over the at-con running of the video program, Randall happily relinquished the chore. When Jack Rems agreed to design specific portions of the live program, John happily crossed several potential headaches off his own to-do list.

After Randall and John returned from the Phoenix Westercon, BayCon preparations kicked into high gear, and everyone found out just how much work it was to create a new convention from scratch--especially one that would be running five simultaneous tracks of live programming.

It was at this time that one of the BayCon concom came to John with an observation and recommendation. They'd noticed that John was getting stretched pretty thin between Programming, Publications, and the Hotel work, and that Michael Siladi could certainly handle the Hotel Liaison job for BayCon, since he was already doing it for the Westercon that would be held at the Red Lion the following year.

So, Michael Siladi was brought in as Hotel Liaison to take on the pre-con work from July through November, and be Hotel Liaison throughout the con.

As it turned out, Michael also had a knack for putting together and running the many work parties required to build flats and prepare Bulk Mailings. Additionally, with his background in computers he was able to help Lois, Rusty and Diane with Registration chores.

Local artist Steve Borelli ran the Art Show. The late Gerald Perkins, a satellite control engineer and writer, developed and ran the science programming. Film and television memorabilia collector/dealer Mike Rupert ran the Dealer's Room. BayCon Corporate Treasurer Jo Jenson, with the assistance of Michael Schaffer, handled all accounting matters. Adrienne Foster, Terry Whittier, Dave Clark, Lela McKenna, Ken Hyland and Mary Hyland helped with publicity and promotion. The remainder of the staff included Steve Johnson, Toren Smith, Barb Dragseth, Dick Cristman, Laura Brodian, Tom Shula and Merlin Skow.

All told, just 26 concom and staff, and about a dozen gophers, ran BayCon '82.

BayCon '82: Five simultaneous live tracks featuring 20 hours of print-based F&SF programming, 17 hours of fandom-oriented programming, 14 hours of science programming, 12 hours of art programming, 11 hours of comics programming, 11 hours of F&SF film & television programming, and 4 hours of the all important "crossover" programming--a total of 89 hours of multi-track live programming--plus a 24-hour-a-day film program, a video program, displays, two art shows, a dealers' room, and BCTV, the closed-circuit F&SF TV channel. That, folks, is a lot of work. It's basically a small Worldcon's worth of con activity. And all run by about 40 people.

Should, then, those 40 people all be considered "founders" of BayCon? No. Because, before anyone can join a con staff, the convention first has to exist, either as a concept, organizational structure, or business entity. Those 40 people were pretty special. They helped create something new and wonderful. They were the crew of the shakedown cruise, BayCon's first concom, the ones who can truthfully say, "I was there when BayCon became a reality." And BayCon couldn't have been the convention it was without each and every one of their specific contributions.

But founders? No.


There were two founders... And now you know how they did it.


7 of our readers commented:

Kevin Standlee - 2007-07-17 20:16:57
Intriguing story, and thank you for posting it. I do, however, wonder much more about this assertion regarding the 1983 Westercon election: If they had instead suggested that their supporters enter "None of the Above" and "No Preference" in the number two and three positions, the Oakland In '83 bid would have won. I wasn't there -- I didn't enter fandom until the following year -- and have never seen the detailed voting results for that election; however, I don't see how this follows. If Oakland "Oakland bid received the majority vote," as you say, then it would have won immediately. It takes a majority to win the election. If you mean that Oakland had a plurality -- more votes than any other candidate, but not a majority -- then none of the ballots marking it as the voters' first preference would ever have been redistributed. In Instant Runoff Voting, the leader's ballots are never consulted. Only the votes of eliminated candidates get redistributed. So, assuming Oakland had a plurality and was never eliminated as a candidate, none of the ballots cast for it had any further effect on the election. Only the votes for the other candidates mattered. Am I misuderstanding what you were saying about the order of finish?
John McLaughlin - 2007-07-17 23:37:00
Thanks for your feedback, Kevin, because the way YOU described it sounds correct. I never took notes on what exactly happened with the voting; so, yes, it looks like we received a plurality, but not a majority. The late Jerry Jacks was the particular SMOF who tried to explain what was going on, and he said that the ballots weren't handled properly. It's my understanding that the bids in question are not supposed to try to influence how a voter marks their ballot, and there were allegations that Portland and San Jose were in collusion to see that the Oakland bid was defeated, and that "proper oversight" of the actual ballot-marking was not done (does that last bit sound right to you?). Who said what I can't confirm, one way or another. I DO know for a fact that some persons on the Portland bid committee cornered Steve Bard (who was at the time chairing NorWesCon) while he was eating lunch, and tried to enlist his support in defeating the Oakland bid. They said something like "We have to do everything we can to see this bid gets defeated!" What they didn't know was the lady Steve was having lunch with was Lela Dowling, one of my closest friends, and the primary artist for all of the Oakland In '83 promotional material. Following their lunch, Lela and Steve came to me with the news. There was also a rumor floated (Wow--a rumor, in Fandom! Who'd ever think THAT would happen?) that the Oakland bid was actually being run by some businessmen who were "trying to take over Westercon" and that they were using us innocent kids as their pawns. One other thing I remember was Jerry Jacks told me we lost the second count by only a few votes. Does THAT bit make sense to you? I bow to your superior knowledge and experience in this area. Thanks again. Perhaps with your assistance we can narrow down the actual voting totals, so I can revise the write-up to reflect the proper terms & etc.
Kevin Standlee - 2007-07-18 02:17:26
I'll see how well I can answer this within the formatting constraints of Diaryland. I wasn't there in 1981 when the election for 1983 would have happened. I've never seen the detailed vote totals for that election, and unlike the Worldcon numbers, which are available from many years, I don't know where to get the detailed numbers, other than possibly from Ben Yalow, who seems to keep everything. You write: "It's my understanding that the bids in question are not supposed to try to influence how a voter marks their ballot,..." Well, there may be some people who believe that, but I'm not one of them. In particularly, in a more-than-two-way race, it's very important to try and influence voters who aren't voting you as their first choice to put you as their second choice, because as the number of candidates goes up, the chance of any of them getting a first-ballot majority goes down. In particularly, you really want to pick up the second-preference votes of the weakest candidates, because they are the ones who will be first to be eliminated. Example: In 1990 in The Hague, none of the four filed bids for the 1993 Worldcon had a majority of the ballots cast. At that point, the order was San Francisco, Hawaii, Zagreb, Phoenix. The Phoenix bid, placing last, was thus eliminated and all of its ballots redistributed based on their next-highest choice. Nearly all of those second preferences were for San Francisco, which pushed SF in '93 over the top with just barely (by one vote) a majority. You continue: "... 'proper oversight' of the actual ballot-marking was not done." Well, this allegation may mean that the administering 1981 Westercon may have done a poor job of supervising the Site Selection election table. Although this table is generally staffed by people from the bids, it's supposed to be supervised by the administering convention, and, just like in the mundane world, electioneering at the ballot box is prohibited. Representatives of the bids should not be telling people how to vote at the ballot box, unless possibly in response to factual questions. For example, if a bidder asked, "I want Portland to win, but if they don't win, I want San Jose to win. How should I mark my ballot?" In this case, any of the people at the desk should have said, "Mark a 1 by Portland and a 2 by San Jose." That's not electioneering, but explanation of voting procedure. Meanwhile, if (and it's not proven) the San Jose and Portland bids were making a concerted effort to make sure _one_ of them won, they should have been advising all of their respective supporters to vote their bid 1 and the other one 2. If they did that consistently in a three-way race, and assuming Oakland didn't win a first-ballot majority, then it's almost certain that one of the other two bids would win, because whichever of the other two bids was eliminated, the other bid would capture all of its votes and shoot past Oakland for the win. Getting the plurality of first-ballot votes in an Instant Runoff Voting election doesn't guarantee that you will win the election. I even recall an Hugo ballot a few years ago where a work by Harlan Ellison had the first ballot plurality, and not only did it not win, it finished dead last overall. You conclude: "Jerry Jacks told me we lost the second count by only a few votes. Does THAT bit make sense to you?" That does sound very much to me like the other two bids making an effort to convince all of their supporters to back the other bid. There is nothing unethical about this in my opinion. To a certain extent, the Phoenix and San Francisco Worldcon bids informally encouraged our supporters to vote the other one in second.
John McLaughlin - 2007-07-18 14:11:53
Thanks, Kevin. That explains away the mystery perfectly. What I was told was that, in fact, there was NO oversight by the 1981 Westercon during the entire first day of the con, and for a portion (though I'm uncertain of how many hours) of the second day. Fear of the unknown is a strong motivator, and since our group literally came out of nowhere, and was for the most part unknown by the established Westercon community, I can understand why they chose the tactics they did. I'll have to send you a copy of the Oakland In '83 brochure we put together; I think you'll find it interesting. Thanks again.
Andrew T Trembley - 2007-07-18 18:59:11
Having been up to my eyeballs in Westercon and Worldcon voting, and learning (from Kevin Standlee and others) about how instant run-off "Australian" balloting works, your instructions to voters were absolutely correct. The ***worst*** thing you could have done back in '81 was to convince voters that the should have voted "none of the above" and "no preference." As Kevin says, since you got the plurality on the first count, your voters' lower-ranked choices had no impact on the selection. If you had placed third and instructed your voters to vote "NOTA" and "No preference" 2 and 3 respectively, they would have given up their voice in the second count and the final selection.
Kevin Standlee - 2007-07-19 19:58:22
I've had some correspondence with other people who were there, and I think I now understand a bit more about the Westercon election. This was the one where the administering convention (Sacramento) didn't really understand how IRV worked, and on the first day was telling people "just mark an X by the bid you want to win," which is more or less harmless in two-way races, but is awful in more-than-two-way races such as the 1983 Westercon. This means that there were people who voted for Portland (for instance) as their first choice with an X and did not understand that they could have voted for (say) Oakland as a second choice. While this error was corrected for later ballots, it was too late to recover the ballots already cast. There's no easy way to figure out who would have "really" won, and I understand that technically this election may have been decided by the Business Meeting in conjuction with Westercon's nominal corporate parent, LASFS. So it wasn't the other two bids error or conspiracy so much as it was lack of competence by the administering convention. (This is why I get annoyingly petty over small details of election administration.)
John - 2007-07-20 13:37:58
Thanks again, Kevin. I don't think that any of us that were part of the Oakland In '83 bid were bitter about how the voting went--Jerry Jacks had advised us that there was likely to be a LOT of fannish politics going on because we were an unknown quantity--so we knew what we were up against. Anyway, at Jerry's prompting we got the Regional con off the ground within 16 months of the '81 Westercon (and I'm still amazed, 25 years later, that less than 50 of us pulled something like that off!) If you look at any of the BayCon '82 pubs like the program book and programming guide, you'll see it really looks pretty much like a Westercon. BTW, if you don't have any of that stuff, and would like copies (since you're something of a fannish historian), I'll send you a set.


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