This will almost certainly be the ultimate Con Disaster story for our times, as least for a year or so. DashCon held over the weekend in Schaumberg, IL, was a first year show aimed at Tumblr culture, planned as a meet-up for Tumblr users and such favorites as Welcome to Night Vale, a transmedia podcast that is sort of a Lake Woebegone for Tumblr-ites, Baker Street Babes, cartoonists such as Noelle Stevenson and…Doug Jones? You know the guy who was in Hellboy and Pan’s Labyrinth.
What actuallyy happened is that while 7000 attendees were expected, only about 1000 people showed up. But that’s the normal part of the tale. Everything else is so bizarre it’s hard to pick reality from social-media-fueled parody. What seems real enough is that on the Friday of the show, the organizers suddenly claimed that they had to pay $17,000 in hotel fees or else the show would not go on! Daily Dot picks up the story:
On July 11, with most attendees already on site, DashCon staff members dropped the bombshell that the convention would be thrown out of the hotel unless $17,000 was ponied before 10pm.
With virtually everyone at DashCon being obsessive users of social media, this news was posted all over Tumblr and Twitter within minutes, becoming the weekend’s main source of gossip and schadenfreude among Tumblr fans who weren’t attending the convention. The idea of crowdfunding $17,000 for an emergency hotel payment was also outlandish enough for people to start pointing out that even if this wasn’t a scam, it was certainly an indication of incompetence on the part of convention organizers.
Amazingly, DashCon did manage to raise $17,000 in cash and PayPal donations that evening, an impressive amount when you know that there were only an estimated 1,000 people at the convention on Friday night.
However with empty halls and half the guests—like
Jones and Steam Powered Giraffe— not showing up, discontent on the floor soon grew, and since these are ave social media users, it didn’t stay on the floor, as io9 reports, NOTEL: DOug Jones did in fact attend and it sounds like he went out of his way to be nice to the attendees who did show up. See comments.
This being a convention aimed at Tumblr users, who are by nature avid bloggers, unhappy attendees are taking their complaints and using their followers to spread their message of discontent far and wide. Even people who did not attend are spreading the message that this is a convention to be avoided. People who were involved in the planning stage are writing long manifestos about how this was a disaster that could have easily been foreseen, due to awful planning and sketchy details.
Some cooler heads are reminding readers that first year conventions are always a gamble, but that if a first year convention is a disaster of this magnitude, it is probably not worth going back in subsequent years.
In the end, though, DashCon is going to be most memorable for how quickly news of a fandom disaster can spread. Though DashCon expected 3,000-7,000 attendees, reports from on the ground estimate only about 500-1,000 people showed up. Yet look how quickly news of poor planning, possible fundraising scams, and inept staff have spread. When your audience is avid internet users, the margin for error is low. The three-day convention is not even over, and it’s already notorious in the Tumblr circles it hopes to draw from for attendees in future years.
The Geekiary has a long post with more details, including Welcome to Night Vale walking out when their hotel bill wasn’t paid and the controversy over the hotel bill, which seems to have been fueled by an obviously forged letter:
Whether the scamminess of DashCon is due to actual conmen or just general naiveté and incompetence is open to question on my end. I kind of lean towards the latter, as unhappy people on site were offered extra time in the “bouncy castle” which is shown in the above video. The idea that bouncy castle time would appease angry consumers seems to speak to a certain youthful brio, even as the sad nature of the castle itself speaks to a woeful lack of real world planning. Anyway just search for #dashcon and you’ll find much more, such as this long report on what went wrong. The dissolution will be
televised tumbled about.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.