Interview with Jim Rondeau

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Interviews by Fans
Title: Interview with Jim Rondeau
Interviewer: Susan P. Batho
Interviewee: Jim Rondeau
Date(s): August 2, 2005
Medium: online as PDF
Fandom(s): many
External Links: effect of commercialisation and direct intervention by the owners of intellectual copyright : a case study : the Australian Star Trek fan community by Susan Batho (2009)
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

Jim Rondeau was interviewed via email; Colorado, USA.

The interview was included in an academic paper by Susan P. Batho which addresses the effect of the Viacom Crackdown, TPTB, and Australian fandom.

This interview is mostly about Star Trek conventions, Creation Con, fandom and profit, and the change in fans' attention and expectations.

Part of a Series

Excerpts

In the beginning there was Equicon, a fan-run con the Bjo & John Trimble put on the early 1970's. It's what we would hope for in a con -- a few thousand happy people, with lots to do, things to see. The dealers rooms would have a great variety of things -- fanzines, home-made crafts, movie memorabilia, artwork, comics, toys, Majel Roddenberry's company Lincoln Enterprises selling film clips, scripts, etc. A large crowd would actually be lined up down the hallway waiting for the dealers' room to open. I was already involved with comic book & science fiction conventions, selling off duplicates & such, and had started up my own Star Trek-related fanzine. That's my downfall -- telling friends I'd take their zines to Star Trek cons to sell them alongside mine, which is why our garage & back porch are now stuffed with other peoples' zines, books, magazines, comics, etc. A few promoters on the West coast saw this as an opportunity to make money in the early-mid-1970's, putting on these kind of conventions, but still following the multitrack fan con design. There was virtually no difference, other than a single person to target if something went wrong.
Doug Wright was one of these promoters, and was the first to use wristbands to identify con-goers, instead of name badges. It made some feel somewhat dehumanized, but it was the start of trying to make it a more profitable venture -- no passing membership badges around, and branding the cattle, so to speak.
That con evolved into MediaWest, which Melody & I had a chance to go to/deal at only once, about 1982. A mecca for fanzines, it has remained the premiere fanzine con, but, alas, stagnant in that it refuses to expand to a larger site. From the huckster point of view, limiting membership is rarely a good idea, stifles growth, and eventually contributes to a negative attitude of many fans. Only so many dealers will fit in the dealers room (aisles were so narrow that gridlock frequently occurred), with other people selling out of their rooms. The hotel couldn't/can't accommodate all the attendees, nor were there many other hotels nearby. It isn't in a big city, near a major airport, making getting to it to be difficult. Fortunately, they've managed to survive; other fan-run cons, especially fanzine cons, have disappeared because they could not fit the need of the attendees -- expanding in size, willing take on committee members to succeed in positions to keep the cons going -- sticking to a narrow vision of how they want to have or run a con that is not beneficial to the whole. (Side note example: I've been selling at the slash con Escapade for several years. Membership has always been limited to a number the committee thinks it can handle, around 200, and had no trouble selling out. The membership cap was raised to 250 a few years ago, they still sold out, but they decided that it was too much work for the size of the committee they had [or how they ran it]. Rather than cut the maximum back down, they substantially raised the membership price to discourage attendance, and succeeded -- this year maybe 125 attended, they couldn't fill the dealers' room, and sales were way off.)
Part of the rise of conventions -- fan-run or otherwise -- was the chance for fans to find and meet fellow fans. "I thought I was the only fan, until I went to a convention and found hundreds of others like me!" was a common comment. Unless one belonged to a local Star Trek club, there was little chance to interact with fellow fans unless you went to a convention. But as Next Generation hit the airwaves, the internet was just taking off. More and more people became internet connected. You could chat with fellow fans across the world without ever having to leave your bedroom. You could buy all sorts of Star Trek toys, photos, magazines, memorabilia, fanzines, etc., without having to get dressed. You didn't even have to buy the fanzines; more and more fans were eager to share their writings over the internet, one didn't have to spend anything at all. The production of new fanzines began to plummet drastically. Fans did not produce them in great quantities anymore; they did not buy and read them in great quantities anymore. Some of the few fanzine conventions around the country declined and faded away. There were a few mostly slash fanzine cons that managed to survive, though the emphasis is more on internet postings than actual zines being produced. Fewer & fewer young people are discovering fanzines and are trying to acquire them. As fans become older, some are losing interest and are getting rid of their collections. Some collections are tossed out or put in paper recycling programs; some are sold over the internet in personal website or online auctions; and a few collections end up sent to us to sell, so we have the hassle of getting rid of them. The internet is now our main venue for passing fanzines onto others worldwide, the same internet that has virtually destroyed the fanzine market. And our main problem, as it has been for years, is that fanzines are coming in faster than they are going out.
It was several factors that led to the decline of Star Trek fandom -- professional conventions muscling out fan-run conventions, the oversaturation of Star Trek in all its various forms, and the continued creation of new TV series & movies to capture the interests of fans. Fanzines (& online stories) reflect this vast diversification: Star Trek, Blake's 7, Doctor Who, Smallville, Stargate SG-1, Sentinel, Star Wars, Starsky & Hutch, and so on & so forth. One can be a fan of many things, but there's too much out there. And there's my lemming theory, where there's a brief popularity of current shows until first-run episodes end, then it's dropping interest in the show and running as a group to whatever the next new series is. Having a Short Attention Span is the way of life now. Star Trek is far too old for the Short Attention.