The Right Side of the Tracks
You'll notice that the Centennial had a nice clean structure:
- Heinlein track (aka the "Reader" track or S-F track)
- Space track
- Embedded conferences: Academic forum, Campbell Conference, Science Fiction Research Association.
This structure did not spring fully-formed from the forehead of Zeus. It was the product of endless hand-wringing and over-analysis.
We always knew that the Centennial would not be a typical s-f convention but instead a hybrid that probably would break all previous models. It would appeal to fans but also to non-fans, just as Heinlein did. We started out with a strawman 4-track conference that had the reader track, an academic track, a space track, and a media track. The academic track would be for scholarly refereed papers, and the media track would be for anything Heinlein-related in media other than books.
There was endless debating over the pricing structure for these tracks and how and where to cross-promote them. Suffice it to say that some of the models considered made Starbucks' menu look simple.
The media track withered on the vine for want of support and a clear identity. The academic track morphed into something more private as befitted its nature. The other two tracks stayed in their originally envisioned form but without any individual pricing or admission. The Campbell and SFRA conferences approached us fairly early on pointing out the synergy to be attained and we were grateful for their support.
We decided to focus the reader track narrowly compared to a s-f con. No masquerade or hall costumes. An art show but no auction. A dealers' room with a specific focus; you can buy generic s-f stuff at most any con; ours was going to be the con to find anything to do with Heinlein. The blood drive was a given from the start for obvious reasons and Mike Sheffield's leadership there was outstanding. We programmed filking slots after enough demand emerged but separated them from the space track sessions so as not to scare off an almost entirely different demographic.
It sounds so easy when I put it like that.
Planning of this con was like sausage making; best not viewed by the consumer. We had debates that drove people to distraction.
Then there were the serendipities. After seeing Casey Bernay's media display at a LosCon I arranged for her to send us a Heinlein-related display. Our original plans for a life exhibit and Heinlein museum were scaled back when they encountered reality, but we still got good stuff; others can expand on what happened in that department. We got some space exhibits thrown in there and the final result in the display room was excellent; not huge, but high quality and quite fitting with the intimate nature of our con. (Actually, since I've diverged somewhat from the topic at this point, anything to do with the static displays should go in a new topic.)