Chi-Fi 2015 is taking place in Chicago this weekend. I won’t be attending. I’m appalled by the lack of professionalism that has characterized this year’s event. Over the last several weeks, I have heard reports of unresponsiveness to emails regarding logistics and arrangements for guests, vendors, and panelists, media guests who have pulled out of the con due to non-payment, and a general unwillingness to address issues with transparency in a timely fashion.
Further, the con’s treatment of Geek Girl Chicago (who is both a friend and respected colleague) is absolutely unacceptable. Chi-Fi’s reaction to Geek Girl Chicago’s fair and straightforward explanation as to why she will no longer be a guest at the con was to contact her supervisor, claim defamation, and demand that her post be taken down. That is flat-out harassment, which directly contradicts Chi-Fi’s purported support of social justice, which was one of the primary reasons I supported the con last year.
In short: I can’t in good conscience support a con that’s demonstrated a pattern of such unprofessional conduct.
This is a very difficult post to write because I wanted Chi-Fi to succeed. I would love to see more cons of various scopes and scales taking part in the city, as well as the suburbs. It’s a difficult and monumental undertaking, and those efforts deserve support and a chance to succeed. At the time, I felt that Chi-Fi’s goal to create such a con would be a good thing for our local community. I enjoyed my experience last year and hoped 2014’s event would provide a solid foundation for the con’s steady growth. I still believe it is possible for new cons to take root in the city, but only if the organizers approach their event responsibly, professionally, and with the greatest respect for the community they’re trying to serve. I’m extremely disappointed that this is clearly not what is happening this year with Chi-Fi.
I hope that those who are still attending Chi-Fi this year as con-goers, guests, performers, and vendors, have a good time despite the circumstances. I hope that what’s happening with Chi-Fi won’t negatively impact other cons. And I hope that Chi-Fi’s organizers will think very long and very hard about how their actions stand in stark contrast to their stated goals for their event, and about making good faith efforts to address the harm they’ve caused to their community.
Not only do I not think this will have a negative impact on other local cons, I think it will be a net positive for them, assuming they take the opportunity to learn from this cons’ mistakes. Also, I think the fans will hold the other cons in higher regard just by shear contrast. I went one day (Friday) and while I enjoyed seeing friends and making new ones, I don’t relish that I supported this con to do it. The venue is completely wrong for this sort of thing. If I’d gone for the weekend, I would have spent more than three times the cost of a weekend pass on hotel and parking! That’s money better spent in the dealers’ room. Oh, and I thought the way me and my group were treated was bad; when I heard about Geek Girl Chicago … I didn’t know about her before this weekend, but I just became a big fan and supporter!
This is an awesome community; very fertile ground where many cons can grow and prosper, but you gotta treat ’em right.
“Not only do I not think this will have a negative impact on other local cons, I think it will be a net positive for them, assuming they take the opportunity to learn from this cons’ mistakes.”
Troy, well-run conventions do not have to learn any of those “mistakes”; and Chi-Fi could have avoided them by accepting help and assistance they were offered and turned down.
Chi-Fi made “rookie” mistakes, starting with the apparent belief that advance sales would bring in enough cash to foot their bill.