Au Contraire 2013: Regeneration was the 34th National Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention, and the second Au Contraire convention. It took place in Wellington from the 12th to the 14th of July 2013 at the Quality Hotel, upper Cuba Street.
Does lightning strike twice? Can you bottle a phenomenon and reproduce it? Those were the questions faced by those of us who decided to attempt to replicate the success of the original Au Contraire 2010.
Our overriding concern was to start building Au Contraire, not just the name of “that one natcon run by young girls on the cheap”, but as a new tradition of New Zealand fandom, adhering to the Three Core Principles we produced at the outset:
We still feel that these are the necessary basis to keep the tradition of natcons alive in the era of Internet fandoms and Armageddon. So of course we had to do it again; even though when, for the second time in history, I put on my Con Hat, yelled “Au contraire!” and walked to the front of the SFFANZ meeting at ConText 2011, a wise man in the audience yelled “Don't do it!” Sorry, Keith, but I bet you're glad we didn't take your advice.
We decided to do the same thing again, but in a more “reproducible” fashion. Instead of brand-spaking new fangirls with no connection to the traditions of natcons, we recruited a larger number of seasoned fans and organisers, whom – we hoped – would be able to streamline the process and start building the basis of an ongoing organisation.
Only history can judge us right or wrong on that score, but from my perspective at least I can tell you that Au Contraire 2013 didn't drive me nearly as insane! Of course, the main thing we couldn't reproduce from the beginning was the large collection of overseas fans who came on their way to the Melbourne WorldCon in 2010. But – here's the amazing thing – we didn't need them. The attendance was almost as high, and this time it was composed almost entirely of Kiwi fans. This, if nothing else, proves the sustainability of the Au Contraire concept.
As to the money side of things, our auction raised $539, which all goes to the Wellington Women's Refuge. The details of the rest of the proceeds are still being worked out, but it seems that approximately another $800 each will go to Women's Refuge and to SFFANZ. So, congratulate yourself – you gave your memberships for a good cause. And – you proved once again Au Contraire's maxim that steeply rising memberships and expensive door sales are not necessary!
Our ongoing strategy to appeal to the new fandoms of the 21st century – cosplayers, fan artists, budding specfic authors, and so forth – bore fruits again. The fan creativity competitions were of top notch standard, and I'm not just saying that because my fiancée won thecomic book competition (with her dystopian romance “Coal Goblins From Space”). One contributor to our short story anthology, Regeneration, had this to say:
The most valuable thing for me, I think, was making those connections – finally getting to meet people face to face after years of online interaction, and having it more than confirmed that NZ is truly a great place to be a writer. – J. C. Hart
If there's a better endorsement of our approach, I can't imagine it. Not coincidentally, the average age of natcon attendance has ceased its inexorable rise. No offense to the old school, but this is a good thing!
We know things weren't perfect. However, we're not members of the Psi-Corp. We are looking forward, and want to make Au Contraire the con that continues to grow, but if something didn't work, we need it brought to our attention. If something did work, it also needs to be brought to our attention. So, friends of Au Contraire... you know what to do. The website is still here. We'll be trying hard to make sure we can continue to improve our approach.
“Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, three times is enemy action,” said Ian Fleming in one of his James Bond novels. The question of whether Au Contraire is simply a “blip” in history or the dawn of a new era will wait until Au Contraire 3, whenever that happens and whoever runs it. Not me. I want to enjoy the next one. I even gave away my con hat. See you in the future.
MC, Chief Writer and Spokesmodel
on behalf of AC2013 ConCom