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Saturday, January 22, 2017

HOWL CON is cancelled. What follows is my entire statement on the matter.

I learned yesterday (Friday), by email, that the Ramada has exercised their option to nullify our event contract. They did this because someone called to close their hotel room reservation, and gave "because the event was cancelled" as their reason. The Ramada then took the initiative to contact other HOWL CON hotel guests in order to inform them that our event booking, and discount, are no longer in effect.

This is a bizarre situation to be in, and I'm still pretty stunned. If I were only facing a venue switch, I could possibly raise last-minute emergency funds and re-home the convention. However, once those hotel cancellations started rolling in there was a bandwagon effect of withdrawals by guests/panelists. At this point there is not enough of a HOWL CON to salvage.

In A.Q.'s tough-but-fair public disavowal it was surmised that there were "extenuating circumstances". You could say that. It's been a punishing year. A visiting sci-fi con wiped out the cashflow from my steampunk convention, which had a ripple effect. Then there was HOWL CON's crowdfund: those of you who gave, gave generously, but that doesn't change the fact that I needed 15 grand and raised two-and-a-half. To make up the difference, I've spent the lion's share of my time & energy begging, borrowing, and squeezing little chunks of money out of the bloodless turnip that is my personal financial profile, and that's time that wasn't spent promoting the con or scouting for guests. This leads us to the perennial biggest obstacle to mounting HOWL CON.

A.Q. surmised that two annual events may be too much for me to juggle. Actually, I either produce or operations-manage about a half-dozen modestly-sized, nominally-self-sustaining cons and festivals every year. The difference is that HOWL CON is the only one I orchestrate alone, for the simple reason that none of my regular collaborators are sufficiently interested in werewolves. My hope was that the natural candidates for upper staff--at least a publicity spearhead and a dealer room coordinator--would emerge in the early years of the con, but that never materialized. I've continued to fling myself at HOWL CON because it's a labor of love, and we had a couple of amazing years that I'd hoped represented the rule rather than the exception, but in the final analysis this is too much work for one person.

So HOWL CON is cancelled for the fourth time. A sane person would throw in the towel and be done. None of my other shows have consistently failed to launch like this. Maybe this is too narrow a niche to sustain a con. Maybe werewolf conventions are cursed. If you decide you're going to throw one, start with money in the bank and plenty of help, and let's get coffee. You can pick my brain and borrow my equipment.

But this isn't what you care about at this point. What you want is a refund of your pre-registration or crowdfund contribution. This is tricky. What I spent that money (and more) on is non-refundable, and I don't have thousands of dollars just sitting here (or I wouldn't be writing this delightful little exercise in unflinching self-assessment). Situations like this are why conventions protect themselves with a no-refund policy, and yes, HOWL CON has one (and IndieGoGo has an at-risk contribution policy that amounts to the same thing), BUT I don't want to be the latest "the convention took the money and ran" story, and beyond that I just don't want to be that guy.

Here are the facts of the situation: I do not have your money anymore and I am under no enforceable obligation to refund you. Regardless, I commit here and now that I absolutely will refund whatever you paid either to IndieGoGo or to Square in regards to acquiring an event pass for 2017's cancelled HOWL CON (including their transaction fees). But it is entirely at my voluntary discretion, is conditional on your providing complete & accurate contact/payment information to me via, and will have to be on my timetable.

I have a personal loan (see "begging, borrowing, and squeezing", above) for $2,000 that I have to pay back by April, and I have a small film event in March that still needs a couple of hundred dollars dumped into it. And of course I have GEAR Con and other events later in the year, each of which has its own suite of expenses and potential for return. Throughout, I have work as my girlfriend's art-merchanting sales- and logistics-monkey, and my fortunes are tied to hers.

What I'm saying is that this might take a while. My finances are entirely feast-or-famine, weighted heavily toward famine, but whenever I experience a bump above my usual coffee-and-gasoline subsistence budget, I will disburse as I'm able to. If you are in serious hardship/need please tell me your circumstances so I can do triage. Some of you might have to wait many months for your refund, but you will get it. You also have the options of applying your refund toward any other events I run, or having me pass it along as a donation to Wolf Haven. Let me know.

This will require some coordinating, as I only have patchy contact information for some of you, but we'll get it done.

Stephen Couchman