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Con Or Bust: Helping Fans of Color Attend SFF Cons

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Con or Bust: How to Request Assistance
wood cat
kate_nepveu wrote in con_or_bust

As of February 2013, Con or Bust is now located at http://con-or-bust.org/. You can find the current version of this page at http://con-or-bust.org/request-assistance/.

Con or Bust helps fans of color/non-white fans attend SFF cons. It is administered by me, Kate Nepveu, under the umbrella of the Carl Brandon Society. This post explains how to request assistance.

The Short Version

  • If you are a person of color/non-white person who wants to attend a convention about science fiction and fantasy, you can apply.
  • Con or Bust divides the calendar year into quarters, and takes requests for assistance to attend cons in each quarter for a ten-day period that starts six weeks before that quarter (illustrative calendar).
  • The request form is a Google Docs form. Fill it out as completely as possible, watch your e-mail for any questions, and expect to hear whether Con or Bust can assist you by a month before the quarter that your con is in.

(Yes, I'm making you read the long version to get the Google Docs link. However, if you have a problem accessing Google Docs, you can always e-mail me and I'll send you the questions by return e-mail.)

The Long Version

Who Can Request Assistance


  • you are a person of color/non-white person (I will sometimes use "fan of color" in the rest of this document, for convenience only);
  • and you want to go to a convention about science fiction and fantasy,

then you can request assistance.

(Unless you're me or a Carl Brandon Society Steering Committee member. But if you are, then you already knew that.)

Con or Bust is not limited by geography or by type of con-goer. It is not a scholarship or "merit based." Its goal is to help fans of color go to SFF cons and be their own awesome selves. As long as you're not requesting assistance with the intention of ignoring the con entirely, Con or Bust is for you.

If there isn't enough money to meet all requests, then I make decisions with the goal of assisting as many people as possible. Thus, I give priority to: those who have been given monetary assistance [*] less often by Con or Bust; those who have been to cons generally, and the requested con specifically, less often; those who would be entirely unable to attend the con without assistance; and those who have requested less assistance.

[*] Receipt of a donated membership, by itself, will be considered only as a last-resort tie-breaker and thus should very rarely affect a person's priority for assistance; this is to encourage people to accept donated memberships to cons without fear that it will disqualify them from monetary assistance at another point.

Assistance is confidential. Generally speaking, I and the steering committee of the Carl Brandon Society are the only people who know you've requested assistance. The exceptions are:

  • I may, with your permission, disclose your identity to the con if you consent to receiving a donated membership. See below.
  • Though I hope this never is an issue, if you are found to have requested assistance in bad faith, Con or Bust may disclose that to protect the SFF community.

When to Request Assistance

Con or Bust takes requests for assistance four times a year. Specifically:

  • If a con's official first day is in January, February, or March, then you would request assistance during November 15-25.
  • If the official first day is in April, May, or June, then you would request assistance during February 15-25.
  • If the official first day is in July, August, or September, then you would request assistance during May 15-25.
  • If the official first day is in October, November, or December, then you would request assistance during August 15-25.

Note: Con or Bust uses the con's official first day to determine which request period it falls in, not the first day you plan to be there. Please be sure to check your dates.

You can also check this Google calendar for application periods and for cons that have supported Con or Bust by donating funds or memberships, or keep an eye on this community (if you have an LJ account: watch or track; if you don't: RSS feed) or the Carl Brandon Society's Twitter account for reminders.

How to Request Assistance

During the request period, fill out this Google Docs form (but please read the rest of this post first!). The link will return an error message at other times. The request period is to ensure that the requests for assistance are as up-to-date as possible.

If you have difficulty accessing the form, please e-mail me at knepveu@steelypips.org.

Two notes:

  1. Transferred memberships and roommate-finding assistance.

    Receiving help with either of these requires disclosing your identity (to the con, in the case of accepting a transferred membership, or to potential roommates), which is why you are asked about them separately.

  2. Breakdown of expenses.

    It is VERY IMPORTANT that you be as accurate as possible in your request for assistance. Con or Bust only has so much money to allocate for each three month period. If you discover later that you need significantly more money, I may be unable to help you.

    Thus, as the form asks, please give a detailed explanation of your expenses and how you know what they will be. For example:

    • "The cost of a membership is $X through A date."
    • "As of today, the cost of a flight (including taxes and fees) is $X according to Expedia."
    • "I need $X for a hotel because the room rate is $A, I will be there for B nights, the applicable tax is C%, and I will have one roommate."

    I will add a moderate buffer for flight price changes when I'm doing the budget, but otherwise it is critical that you be as concrete and accurate as possible.

What Happens After You Request Assistance

During the request period, I will contact you to confirm receipt and for any clarifications. Please watch your e-mail for something from knepveu@steelypips.org. If I have questions and can't get in touch with you before it's time to make decisions, I may have no choice but to deny your request.

Once the request period closes, I will determine if we can help everyone who's requested assistance. If we can't, I will give priority to people who have been assisted less often by Con or Bust; people who have been to cons less often generally; people who have been to the requested con less often; people who would be entirely unable to attend the con without assistance; and people who have requested less assistance.

I will contact you by the end of the month at the very latest. If Con or Bust is able to help you, I'll check that you're still wanting to go and ask you to formally reconfirm your eligibility and the accuracy of your request for assistance. Then we'll send you the assistance!

This procedure is designed to allow a minimum of one month between my making a decision and the start of a con. If you fill out the form completely and keep an eye on your e-mail, it should take very little time for me to make decisions and for you to receive your assistance.

Finally, after you've made your arrangements, I'll ask you to forward me receipts and the like for our files.

If you have questions, you can put them at the end of the Google Docs form or e-mail me at knepveu@steelypips.org (please put "Con or Bust" in the subject).

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Re: I like this program but help me find one for white fans who cannot afford to go to a con,.

I'm not sure you're right that as long as we're classified racism will be alive... we are classified now as lots of things that people don't discriminate on the basis of. At least, not in any unequal, weighted, societal way. Hair color and eye color (when not correlated with race) for instance.

We don't have to forget that I'm a brunette for me not to experience brunette-ism. We just have to not, as a society, value brunettes less than blondes. There will still be individuals with preferences, but they will balance each other out. It's when that balancing that doesn't happen that racism as I understand it is in play.

I do not want to strive for a world in which racial identity no longer exists; I want to strive for one in which it can be like any other piece of one's background -- a source of (probably usually mild) pride, interest and affinity grouping for those that share in it, and pretty much a non-issue to everyone else. Kind of like what country my grandparents came from or what high school I went to is right now, in my experience at least.

In any case, if we ever want to achieve either of our definitions of lack of racism, I think we first need a stage of counteracting the negative effects on our society of the racism we already have and have had.

I don't think it's practical or even possible to go from "some groups are consistently behind the 8 ball because of their race" to "there's no difference and we treat everyone the same" because that, effectively, will leave those groups behind the 8 ball where they had already been put when we made the switch, and therefore an obvious difference will continue to be seen and felt.

So we need a stage where we deliberately help the people who have been systematically (whether or not it was conscious and intentional) excluded and disadvantaged by their race to catch up. And that means a stage in which it is not yet irrelevant what race they are. This is the stage that Con or Bust is attempting to implement.

(continued in next comment - sorry I go on a bit)
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Re: I like this program but help me find one for white fans who cannot afford to go to a con,.

(continued from previous comment)

While it is undoubtedly true that there are white people who cannot afford to go to cons -- and I wouldn't, actually, be opposed to an income-tested program which aimed to bring more poor and working class viewpoints into fandom, regardless of race -- it is also true that if you go to any general SF con I have ever attended, you will see that white people, as a group, are over-represented relative to our proportionate share of the population, whereas people of color are severely underrepresented relative to theirs.

And given that we know from many studies that active discrimination against people of color in hiring, promoting and salary negotiations is still going on, as well as in education, let alone the pass-along effects of not getting as much money or effective school help from parents who were even more discriminated against, it seems reasonable to assume that some of the reason for that under-representation is financial, and therefore financial help can help redress that imbalance a little.

We also know that fandom was an even whiter group in the past, and therefore likely evolved a culture that feels unwelcoming to many people of color -- participating in something like Con or Bust is not a miracle cure for that, but it is at least a workable first step.

These scholarships are nice for the individuals who get to come, but that is not their only benefit. It enriches fandom to have more different viewpoints and experiences brought to bear on our subject -- and not having them impoverishes us, even if we're too used to it to notice.

And having more people of color there also helps bring people of color who can afford to pay their own way, and makes the fans of color who are already there feel more comfortable speaking up, knowing there are at least a few people around who will get the ways that their experience has been different from, say, mine, without lengthy explanations.

It's those additional benefits to fandom as a whole that would be lost if Con or Bust was open to everyone.

(Incidentally, while the linguistic difference between "people of color" and "colored people" might seem insignificant, in historical context they're two very different animals. "Colored people" was a polite term perhaps 50 years ago; these days not so much. And people of color does not mean just black; it also encompasses Asian, Indian, Native American, Latino, and any other non-white person.)
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I'm leaving screened an anon reply to this that just came in because it contains personal insults.
(Frozen) (Parent) (Thread)

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