A Worldcon Report

SF/F folks, please read. Probably of interest to lit. people generally, esp. those involved with running literary festivals. I think Cheryl Myfanwy Morgan has done a terrific job of both summing up some of the major issues with WorldCon currently, and suggesting a constructive path forwards.

I particularly STRONGLY support future WorldCons committing to a solid online component, for equity reasons if nothing else. (But there are lots of good reasons for it.) And I think part-time paid staffing to help with continuity will make everyone’s life a lot easier, without eroding the best of fannish passion and commitment that have brought us so far already.

*****

“…One of the issues that people have been complaining about is that this year, yet again, some Hugo finalists were left off programming, or asked to be on programme items that they knew nothing about. How do we keep making the same mistake year after year?

The first thing I want to note is that CoNZealand has somewhat less programming that a normal Worldcon. That means it is harder to give everyone the programme slots that they want. Lots of people probably think that with an online convention you can have as much programming as you want, but I suspect that it isn’t as easy as it seems. I’m hoping that after CoNZealand we’ll have a good idea of how much it costs to run an online event that can cope with a Worldcon-sized audience, what the timelines are, and so on.

Something else that is worth noting is that, having been made aware of the issue, CoNZealand has done something bold and innovative. They have given free attending passes to all Hugo finalists, and allowed them to buy full Attending Memberships for the price of a Supporting Membership. You might think that every Worldcon should do this, but in the past it would have been fairly pointless. A free membership is of no use if you can’t afford the cost of travel and accommodation, which is much higher.

This provides an interesting challenge for future Worldcons, assuming that in-person events are possible. Should they continue this new “tradition”? If so, does that commit them to providing at least some programming online? I’d like to see them do that.

The main issue, however, is the perennial question of why the same mistakes happen year after year. Is there no continuity? Do people not learn from what went before? There are, of course, some people who work on Worldcon in some capacity every year. Not all of them continue to work in the same area though. Also, working on Worldcon every year is much easier when the convention simply moves around North America. Doing that when it moves around the world is much harder.

Another issue is that, while the people working at lower levels may be the same year-on-year, the senior management team is largely new each time. Those are the positions that the local people want. What they don’t want is to have a bunch of foreigners come in and tell them what to do.

What it comes down to, is that the competitive nature of the site selection process often results in the bid being won by a group of people who are then determined to show they world what they can do. They want to put on their sort of convention, not do things the same way that the Americans do them. And that leads to a lot of reinventing the wheel.

There are other factors that prevent us having as much continuity as we would like, and I will come back to them later, but we have arrived at the other major issue that people have been complaining about: Site Selection…”

Pre-Worldcon Report

Wait, what? A Worldcon report already? It hasn’t even started yet. Well no, but social media has been full of outrage already, so I wanted to look at the issues raised. I should start by saying that I don’t want anything here to be taken as criticism of CoNZealand.

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