IFCON debacle may spark flight of fantasy shows from Victoria

The abrupt cancellation of last weekend’s IFCON Victoria fan convention has caused potential damage to the region’s reputation as a destination for similar future events, stakeholders say.

“I can understand people having a reluctance to be involved in future projects after this,” said cartoonist Nelson Dewey, who was to have appeared at the event at Pearkes Recreation Centre.

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An Oct. 27 Facebook post on organizer Bill Code’s behalf announced IFCON was cancelled. It said Code, who has had health problems, had to be hospitalized, and could no longer run the show.

Exhibitors, vendors and ticket buyers were left out of pocket with the sudden shutdown of the sci-fi, fantasy, steampunk and horror event headlined by actor Richard Hatch (Battlestar Galactica).

Hatch’s assistant Mina Frannea said the actor had not received any payment. She said he expressed concern after learning of Code’s health issues and hoped to reconnect soon.

“IFCON was unable to honour their contract,” Lloyd Kaufman, the Troma Entertainment co-founder and filmmaker (The Toxic Avenger), told fans via Instagram.

“I think Bill’s heart was in the right place, but it seems there was a [health] warning and I don’t understand why there wouldn’t be a team involved to take over,” said Dewey, who spent $1,400 to get Deweytoons, a collection of his favourite cartoons, printed for sale at the event.

Adam Park, founder of Tsukino-Con, the volunteer-driven Japanese anime convention held each February at UVic, said the failure of the Island Fantasy Convention reflects badly on the local fan community.

“It’s disappointing to see anything go this way, and a lot of people don’t distinguish between sci-fi, gaming and anime,” said Park.

Dozens of guests and exhibitors had been booked for the Oct. 31-Nov. 1 event and “they would have needed thousands of spectators to pull this off,” he said, noting the math didn’t add up.

Fallout from IFCON’s downfall has ignited a war of words on social media, including the Facebook group Hurt by IFCON 2015.

Evan Hutch, a co-founder of GottaCon, Victoria’s annual gaming convention that closed down this summer, described IFCON as a “fantasy” in itself.

“They are damaging the future of hobby and fandom on the Island, not to mention financially impacting a number of honest, local, homegrown businesses and communities in a negative way,” he wrote, noting it could adversely affect events like next year’s LANTASY convention.

Legends Comics & Books is among local retailers offering refunds to IFCON ticket-buyers at personal expense.

“We’re giving up $500 of our own money to not have a sour feeling toward fan culture in Victoria,” said co-owner Gareth Gaudin.

Lyle’s Place sold “between $600 and $700” worth of tickets, and, says general manager Janice Lyle, is out about $165.

“We’re just going to eat it,” said Lyle. “I wish Bill, being as sick as he is, had a better backup plan, but it is what it is.”

Code’s associate Ken Twyman said last week he had received nearly1,000 messages, emails, text messages and phone calls and was working on plans to refund tickets. Twyman, who has said vendors without written contracts would not have their fees refunded, has since stepped down, leaving IFC with no spokesperson.

Stakeholders have complained that with Code sidelined, no one is addressing their concerns. IFCON’s website and Facebook page have been taken down.

Attempts to reach organizers for this story were unsuccessful.

“I made up my own agreement,” said Alex Weller, owner of Dragon Impact, which has refunded tickets it sold from a separate account he set up.

Renee Harvey, founder of Heroes Inc., was to have participated in a charity costume event to raise funds for B.C. Children’s Hospital Foundation, which would not have received ticket-sale revenues.

“Bill is a kind man, so he allowed us to have the tables for free, so we weren’t out anything,” Harvey said. “We’re OK but I feel terrible for those struggling to get their money back.”

Cosplay panellist and costume designer Janyn Anne, 22, said it was unfortunate personal attacks on Facebook, believed to have been prompted by her criticism of IFCON, were distracting from the real issue.

“It’s about investors not getting refunds,” she said. “We don’t really have that many conventions here, and this makes it seem less likely that funders will want to support other conventions.”

mreid@timescolonist.com

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