Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Mythcon schedule

So here it is: what I've been spending most of my time the last few weeks building up, tearing apart, rebuilding, and patching, largely on a grid of columns I drew in a large lined notepad: the Mythcon schedule.

Where do you start with drawing up such a schedule? I start in two places: first with the panels, which at Mythcons are relatively few. Once the panelists were set, it was a matter of spreading the panels out so that nobody who was on more than one had their duties tightly clustered. With a couple of panels on required days (the keynote panel on Saturday, the first full day; the panel dissecting the awards on Monday, so that it can discuss this year's awards to be given the previous night), and putting the untied panels in last on the emptiest days, that gave day assignments to everything.

Then at Mythcon I traditionally put all the papers requiring AV in the same room on the same day (usually Sunday, which has the most schedule flexibility). I got that idea after watching gofers at large SF cons madly shuttling AV equipment from room to room and thinking how unnecessary that should be. This tracking is no longer strictly necessary, as most AV now is PowerPoint and all our rooms are equipped for that, but it helps to form a core around which the rest of the program may be built.

On top of that I place the other papers, by tracking (running thematically related papers in succession), contrasting (giving variety to the papers opposite each other, though given this year's smaller rooms I focused on estimating comparable levels of popularity), and presenter requests for days or times. One factor I didn't consider at first was ensuring that a professor's paper wasn't opposite those of her students. Have to watch out for that if I ever do this again.

The draft went out a week ago last Thursday, with requests for changes to arrive by the next Tuesday. A few came in, including a couple of cancellations, which freed space in a very tight regime. Then a desperate request for a move came in yesterday. A week after the deadline. Literally as I was lining up the e-mails in my outbox to send out the final version.

Inserted thought: It's interesting what people mean when they say they can't do something. Sometimes it's physically impossible ("I can't be there in 15 minutes; it takes 30 to drive from here"). Sometimes they could do it, but they're unwilling to deal with the consequences or possible consequences of doing so: things that are majorly illegal, or that would violate rules and cause you to be fired, fall into that category. Sometimes it would violate the person's moral code, or just be too embarrassing. Sometimes they have no control over the subject of discussion, and can't do something because it would require persuading a hard-to-persuade person who does have control, and who may have their own constraints.

My first thought was, "I can't change the schedule now." But who made that rule? Me. Who will stop or punish me if I make an exception to my own rule? Nobody. I have the power to make the decision here. Would it be feasible to find something else to exchange time slots with this paper with? Hmmm, no ... well, maybe. I could still say no. But if I am sufficiently kind-hearted (and, in truth, sufficiently fearful of the mess that could ensue if I refuse), I will try. So I did, and thanks to a quick response from someone I knew I could ask favors of, the exchange turned out to be possible.

Now I reshuffle back into their original place some other papers that I moved out of the way because of constraints specifically dependent on the paper which I just sent off to where the paper needing moving came from (got that?), and it's done. No more last-minute whimpers, please. Time to publish.

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