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FIYAHCON 2021 Retrospective

Hi everyone! Long time no post. Now that FIYAHCON is—for the most part—behind me, it’s time to revisit where exactly all those months of my life went.

Let’s look at some numbers:

  • 1072 total registrations / 956 active attendees
  • 83 total programming items (including Aquarium Calm Rooms)
  • 22 booths / 2316 booth visits
  • Funding in ticket sales: $20,720
  • Funding in sponsorship: $17,648
  • Funding in donations: $295
  • Total expenses: $36,304.82
  • Total funding*: $48,663

*+$10k base starting fund from 2020’s event

BETWEEN YEAR 1 AND YEAR 2

Attendees of both years would note a number of differences in the execution. For one, we had much more planning time. And the use of a new platform and a year of experience meant we could do more programming. So alongside our two US-daytime tracks, we had an additional night of BONFIYAH (formerly “Fringe”), the free tier for international/global south participants. 

We also had different charitable partners. Last year we gave comped attendees (staff, programming participants, and Ignyte finalists who’d originally purchased tickets) the option to donate their refund to the National Bail Fund Network. This year, that option was to donate to the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund, amounting to $520. This was part of our Palestine solidarity pledge along with dedicated programming blocks for Palestinian SFF writers as well as FIYAH’s special Palestine issue coming out later this year. This was also the root of some of the harassment we received this year, which we felt was best kept internal. Our Palestinian friends were dealing with enough already, and we knew what to expect as allies. That said, the enthusiastic support these dedicated panels and organizations received were incredibly heart-warming and we’d do it again in a second.

For other comparisons with Year 1, you can view that retrospective here.

PLATFORM

We were all very, very, VERY tired of Zoom, so we set out to find an alternative platform that would make the event feel a bit more centralized and less cobbled together than our Zoom/Website/Discord scenario from Year 1. We reviewed a number of options but were ultimately impressed with Airmeet’s attendee interface and its capacity for hosting booths. One of the main things I personally missed from Year 1 was a sort of Artist Alley/Dealers Row element that has mainly only been available at in-person events. So we were stoked to be able to offer these to vendors and sponsors to showcase their offerings. 

We were less stoked about the $16k price tag.

Throughout the planning process, it became clear that the platform wasn’t able to accommodate some of the administrative features we’d gotten used to (attendee side was fine), such as the ability to easily set tiers for tickets or grant speakers the ability to customize their own profiles, and we needed to develop a number of workarounds to get it to where we needed to be. Airmeet’s support staff was great about trying to accommodate us and seeking feedback about features that would generally make life easier for conrunners doing more than just panel service. We ultimately received positive feedback about the service from our attendees (particularly a gratefulness that it was not another Zoom event). It’s very likely I’ll be using it again for some other project.

EXPENSES

  • Early bird swag boxes production and shipping: $10,403.22
  • Licensing of Monterey Bay Aquarium Live Cams for the weekend: $1,500.00
  • Boxcast (for archive hosting/broadcasts outside of Airmeet)*: $2,787.00
  • Artists for FIYAHCON collateral and Ignyte trophy design: $1,800.00
  • Website things (accessibility and member plugins): $297.00
  • Airmeet: $15,999.00
  • Loom (for instructional videos)**: $14.00
  • Box.com (digital swag bag hosting): $147.00
  • Scribie (captioning for 20 panels)***: $830.00

* Boxcast has been marvelous. We use it throughout the year for Em-Dash games, but it’s also allowed us to do away with a $1000 Jetpack Premium plugin on the website, used to host archive videos. We were able to upload our archive content to Boxcast and not only host the videos there, but they also auto-generate captions (Airmeet has built-in captions during the event, but they’re not available in post. So this also helped us eliminate the additional expense of live captioning.) and allow us to embed the videos on our website. Absolutely worth the money. 

** Loom has also been an amazing discovery this year. It’s basically an application which allows one to record screencap videos and provide tutorials on the fly. Using it allowed us to orient or train our panelists, Ignyte finalists, and staff without having to schedule a thousand meetings to do it.

*** Scribie, while great and competitively priced for transcribing hours of video in a timely fashion, was ultimately not needed once the Boxcast hack was discovered.

THE IGNYTE AWARDS

We came back with the 2nd annual Ignyte Awards. People who did not attend the con were supposed to have been able to watch it, but we hit a tech snag at the last minute when the ceremony was rescheduled and the relevant links didn’t update properly. The ceremony itself was lovely and we are still in the process of getting a fully composed version of it available to watch so everyone can see their favorites give their speeches. 

Ignyte Ceremony Host honorarium: $400.00

Ignyte Award Cards printing: $337.95

Ignyte trophy production: $1,195.80

Shipping of Ignyte Awards (USPS): $597.85

CLOSING

You may have attended the con and thus our closing ceremonies, which went considerably longer than we intended it to. Myself, Brent, Iori, Danny, and Suzan spoke at length (about 90 minutes) about our experience this year and the future of the convention. (The closing ceremony is available to re-watch in the Archives.)

In short, FIYAHCON is on indefinite hiatus.

It was a difficult decision, but at the end of everything, there were more reasons to stop than there were to continue. FIYAHCON began as an experiment. We wanted to prove that an organically inclusive, dynamic, and well-executed SFF lit convention was possible, thereby robbing larger, better-funded, “legacy” organizations of their excuses for failing swaths of the community every single year. And I think we did what we set out to do. 

The con was staffed almost entirely by writers. Most of us had to put aside our projects and the advancement of our careers in order to pursue this level of community engagement. And while most of the community was grateful and enthusiastic about what we were able to provide, the staff put up with a frankly absurd amount of harassment and vitriol in the months leading up to the con. Some of it from within the community we aimed to serve and from people who’ve made their brands on social media almost exclusively decrying the lack of spaces like the one we created. A lot of sleep was lost and a lot of tears were shed during the lead-up to the event. The closing ceremony was the first time any of those tears were happy. 

We’ve spent months disappointed and disillusioned. But for 72 hours, this was magic, and we want to thank everyone who participated in making the actual event everything we dreamed it could be. A lot of people have remarked on the sense they have of the FIYAHCON team as people who genuinely love and appreciate one another, and not just in a labor capacity. We hope that some of the real adoration our team has for one another bled into the rest of the event and helped forge new friendships.

FIYAHCON may return at some future time, but not in 2022. The Ignyte Awards, however, will continue hopefully annually for the foreseeable future. We’ve already got the judges in place. I’m also planning an annual conrunning workshop/retreat situation when it’s safe to do so again, to facilitate resource sharing and networking among organizers in the field. 

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