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[META] Worldcon Site Selection

This is the third in a series of posts by Emma England on fannish issues surrounding Worldcon, the longest running science fiction and fantasy convention in the world. Emma is the 2014 Worldcon academic track organizer and is currently researching the history of conventions. The first post introduced Worldcon, the second post debunked the myth that “traditional” conventions are only about literature, and this post is about the site selection process for the 2015 Worldcon.

The location of Worldcon changes every year and is decided upon by members of the Worldcon at the convention two years prior. So Loncon 3, the 2014 Worldcon, was voted for at Chicon 7 (Worldcon 2012, Chicago). At the 2014 event, to be held in London, the site selection for 2016 will take place. The process for site selection involves:

1)People from a city decide they want to form a team and put on a bid, at which point they have to set up company, find a venue, hotels etc.

2)Each bid answers Smofcon’s Fannish Inquisition questions (Smofcon is an annual convention for science fiction convention organizers. Each con includes inquisitions for major conventions)

3)Bids organize election campaigns, including developing websites, running social media campaigns and sending volunteers to different conventions

4)Voting at the Worldcon. To vote a person must be a paid up member of the Worldcon where the voting will take place. Membership can be attending or supporting. If the person has supporting membership and cannot vote in person they can send in a voting form. The voting is undertaken by Preferential Voting. This means that each person votes in order of preference. If, when the votes are added up, there is not a clear winner, the candidate with the least votes is knocked out and the votes allocated to them are transferred to each voter’s second choice. This process is repeated until there is a winner. They then become the official Worldcon and can start the real work of organizing the convention. The site selection page for 2015 is here: www.lonestarcon3.org/wsfs/wsfs-site.shtml

Some years only one team is in (serious) contention. Other years there is more than one serious bid with a chance of winning. This is the case with the 2015 site selection, to be voted on at Lonestar 3 (the 2013 Worldcon, Texas, USA). There are three possibilities and with two months campaigning to go there is no clear frontrunner. This is all the more significant because the bids represent different kinds of approaches to Worldcon and SF/F fandom: traditional, radical, and mediatory.

Spokane (USA) If Spokane win, the Worldcon is likely to be fairly traditional given the extensive Worldcon history of the committee. The Bid Chair, Alex van Thorn, is a member of the establishment (with the positive and negative associations that brings). The location is safe and likely to have a warm but not blistering temperature, but it is not a major tourist destination, which may count against it during voting. The convention center, hotels, and transport to Spokane are all suitable and so far seem reasonably priced. Furthermore, there are authors already in place who are working on advertising the Bid, including C. J. Cherryh who does not fly and is therefore rarely accessible for fans. In order to win Spokane has to persuade people that experience and tradition is more important (or, at least, safer) than change and taking risks. They also have to persuade people that Spokane is worth visiting more than Orlando or Helsinki.

Orlando (USA) If Orlando win, there is the potential for a considerable shift in the nature of Worldcons. It is calling for a Revolution by explicitly aiming itself at media fandoms and other non-traditional SF/F (especially young and/or female) fandoms. Even the logo is radically different, focusing not on the location of the city, but on popular fandoms. For some this is a positive step at uniting fandoms and trying to extend the reach of a valuable and historic but stagnating fan enterprise, while for others it is an unwelcome challenge to the traditions of Worldcon. The event will be held at Disney’s Coronado Springs resort which keeps the costs down dramatically, both for membership and accommodation (i.e., a room with two queen sized beds is $139 per night). However, the size of the site is so vast that people will be relying on the free busses, which could mean standing around in very hot weather trying not to wilt. In order to win, can Orlando persuade enough non-traditional fans to pay to vote and/or can they persuade enough attending members that their convention will be well run and support existing fans. This is especially the case because the committee are, while experienced conrunners, not known to Worldcon members.

Helsinki (Finland) If Helsinki wins this will be the first time that Worldcon will have been held outside of North America for two years in a row. This will make the convention a truly world event, as well as it being the most northerly Worldcon ever. This has the potential to build a solid fan base for Worldcon among Europeans who go to Loncon and Helsinki, perhaps even tempting them to go to America for future cons. It is, however, controversial among many American fans who do not want to have to miss the con two years in a row or to have to decide between them if they can only afford one. US fans are, even at European Worldcons, the largest single nationality represented. On a more detailed level, the convention center seems very well equipped and the city is providing free transport for all Worldcon members, but the hotels are widely dispersed around the city. As far as content goes, the committee are diverse with experience of running a range of SF/F cons for different media and types of fans. This suggests that the Helsinki Worldcon would be able to attract a wide range of people not necessarily accustomed to going to more traditional Worldcons. To win, however, it needs to persuade enough non-attendees to pay to vote or to persuade attending members that travelling to Europe two years in a row is manageable.

It is perfectly possible that the 2015 election will be chosen in the second or third round and that people’s second choices will win it. If people do vote and they don’t have a second or third favorite, they may do better to leave some blanks.

As the election draws ever closer it will be interesting to see how the voting campaigns progress and who eventually wins. Surely, it is worthy of some study!

For further commentary see:

File 770. Commentary and news about the Worldcon sites, each with their own tag and tagged under “Worldcon”

Lawrence M. Schoen. “Spokane vs Helsinki: Cognitive Dissonance and the 2015 Worldcon” 17 September 2012

CD Covington, “On Worldcon Bids” 10 September 2012

Cheryl Morgan, “Forthcoming Worldcons” 5 September 2012

Site Selection Presentations, 3 September 2012