The Northwest Convention League

Garth Spencer (1996)

From The Beginning (as I know it):

The Northwest Convention League is a group set up avowedly to compare notes between different concoms in the American Pacific Northwest. Until very recently I didn't think they served that purpose well, because they seemed to concentrate on face-to-face exchanges at conventions, exclusively. Now, however, they have a regular newsletter and a Web page set up. This is an improvement.

In late 1988 or early 1989, BCSFA archivist Gerald Boyko brought me some notes from the League's founding meeting at Dreamcon 3 (a Washington state convention), in fall 1988. It developed that the League was conceived as a series of face-to-face gatherings, just to compare notes on conrunning, at a series of Washington and Oregon conventions held each year. (I am unsure of whether the League extends its contacts to Idaho, Montana and any Alaskan conventions.) Although I made attempts to contact the League in the next few years, correspondence was sporadic.

John Mansfield (then in Calgary) saw the League's constitution and considered it "excellent". I was not so positive because, granting there are reasons for regional "umbrella" organizations, they weren't spelled out for this organization. Granting that there are ways a network or society can benefit member conventions, the initial League documents said little about those benefits; mostly, they talked about what the member committees had to put in. Even what the League's policies were had yet to be specified; did the member conventions have to be registered as nonprofit organizations in Washington state? How much, if at all, could the League intervene in a convention's business, and how much could non- members avail themselves of services from the League? In fact, what services were there? Also there seemed to be little access to the League at all, in terms even of a place to write to. As it stood, I concluded, they were letting rumour advertise for them, and I recommended a mutual periodical for Northwest conventions.

(A similar idea had been mooted years before by BCSFA member Pat Burrows, who saw the need for a convention calendar embracing the whole Northwest, just to avoid conventions scheduling too closely to each other. Nothing came of that idea for years, either.)

In hindsight it occurs to me that some members of the Convention League were also members of the circle who conceived Norwescon at its outset; I have recently learned that this means they had a different take on conrunning issues than many other fans in the Pacific Northwest. Jack Beslanwitch informs me that some League representatives came from as far south as San Francisco; I noticed that the League seemed to have no representation from (or to) conventions in the Canadian Northwest, or as far east as Montana.

I became increasingly frustrated with the League because I expected to see the League print some conrunning materials, and they wouldn't. (Not, at least, by the time I talked face-to-face with a member of a Dreamcon committee, Ryan Dancey; this was just before I burned out again on collecting such materials ...) In fact I circulated an article to Richard Wright and others describing what little I knew of the League at the time, subtitled "Acting Without Thinking?", concluding that the League didn't advertise effectively.

Come to think of it, that may be why I didn't hear from them for some years ...

Notice: there might be some entirely good reason why the League has not, to my knowledge, held meetings at Canadian Northwest conventions; but I still don't know whether the League exists officially only in the U.S., or only in Washington state. Anyone care to enlighten me?

>From something a League member wrote -- I believe Larry Baker, of Seattle -- I took the inference that the League meetings evolved into a bid to hold a Westercon in Seattle. (Not the upcoming one in 1997, but one held a few years ago.) This seemed sort of 90 degrees sideways to the original purpose of the League. And I have no idea whether or not the original purpose of comparing notes on conventions, and sharing the benefit of each other's experience, was being achieved.

More Active Communication On Record:

Well, the League may become more visible now. Richard Wright, of NWSFS and past Norwescon committees, sought me out at V-Con 21 and handed me a copy of The Conventioneer, a small newsletter published semi-quarterly.

Issue 1:4, for instance (March 7, 1996), carries minutes of a meeting called "Security Summit II" in Seattle, discussing why security problems happen at conventions. It will be interesting to see more issues.

Jack Beslanwitch of Seattle advises me of a Web page set up for the League. This carries not only an introductory description of the League and its purposes, but back issues of The Conventioneer, which is a Good Thing.

For more information, write:
The Northwest Convention League
4002 2nd NE Lower
Seattle, WA 98105
or e-mail
Or see their Web page at sf/conleague.html.