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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:

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

[LINK] The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction

The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction is currently in its third edition and encompasses over 4 million words about all things SF. It is published online in collaboration with Gollancz and the SF Gateway.

This new version follows thirty-five years of work (on and off), and is heavily expanded from previous editions. The first being under the GeneralEditorship of Peter Nicholls in 1979; and the 1993 Second Edition, being edited by John Clute (the most prolific contributor to date) and Peter Nicholls. The third edition is based on the 1995 CD-Rom “printing” and it has David Langford as the primary technical editor as well as a contributor.

As a resource for fan studies, the encyclopedia is useful because it includes a whole section titled “Culture” including separate categories/tags for “Publication”, “Fan”, “Award”, and “International”. It is by no means comprehensive but it does offer information not always found elsewhere, especially regarding SF fanzines and Big Name Fans (of literature especially).

[META] Worldcon, Not Just Literature

This is the second 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; this post debunks the myth that “traditional” conventions are only about literature.

Fan history is a disparate venture, with fans and scholars often limiting their explorations to that which interests them, as everyone does. A result of this is that many (but by no means all) people believe that media fans have never been welcome at Worldcon and that media was never a part of it as a traditional con. There may be a predominance of literature Guests of Honor, but the historical records prove that film and TV are part of Worldcon history (with comics getting their first dedicated panel in 1966). Worldcon is part of media fandom history. Some significant examples demonstrate this:

  • There was a screening of The Lost World followed by a Masquerade Party (costuming, early cosplay) at Denvention I, the 3rd Worldcon, in Denver, 1941.
  • The Day The Earth Stood Still had an advanced screening for attendees of Nolacon I, the 9th Worldcon in New Orleans, 1951.
  • Star Trek screenings were included on the Tricon program at the 24th Worldcon in Cleveland, 1966.
  • Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek, gave a talk entitled “To Boldly Go Where No Man Has Gone Before” at Baycon, the 26th Worldcon in Oakland, 1968. In the program book there is a full-page ad “from Roddenberry” thanking Worldcon attendees for their support of Star Trek. Amusingly, there is also a quarter-page ad claiming “SPOCK is a bad lay.” With the words: “This ad was sponsored by the committee to nominate Patrick McGoohan and ‘The Prisoner’ for a HUGO.”
  • Ray Harryhausen, the groundbreaking Visual Effects Designer, was a Guest of Honor at Conspiracy ’87, the 45th Worldcon at Brighton, England, 1987.
  • Roger Corman, the famous horror movie director, was a Guest of Honor at L.A. Con III, Anaheim, 1996.
  • J. Michael Straczynski, the creator of Babylon 5, was Special Guest at Bucconeer, the 56th Worldcon in Baltimore, 1998 and the following Worldcon, Aussiecon Three in 1999 in Melbourne, Australia.
  • Frankie Thomas, the actor in the early science fiction series Space Cadet, was Special Guest at L.A. Con IV, Anaheim 2006.

Additionally, the Hugo Awards have given awards for Best Dramatic Presentation, in various formats, every year since 1958 (except 1964 and 1966). Winners have included episodes of The Twilight Zone, Doctor Who and Battlestar Galactica (reimagining) and movies such as A Clockwork Orange, Star Wars, and Inception.

It is also worth noting that Worldcon has, in most programs throughout its history, included plays, ballets, bands, and numerous other art forms based around science fiction and fantasy.

If Worldcon has historically included media, why is there an apparent separation in contemporary fandoms and fan analysis? Why did Star Trek fans start their own conventions, with many claiming that they no longer felt welcome at Worldcon and other traditional cons and club meetings? A common answer is “gender and snobbery,” but there are alternative answers, although these are not mutually exclusive. Reasons for the separation may include the idea that types of fannish activities are valued differently; a critical mass of fans for one specific show/author/medium leads to a separation (as well as Star Trek conventions, Tolkien, comics etc had their own meetings and events) to maintain pre-existing diversity of the original event while enabling more focused activities around the new fandom; and some fans are more interested in going to conventions only of their specific subject.

Whatever the reasons are for the seeming separation of fandoms, it is true today that it is possible to be in a fandom for one specific TV show, book series, comics franchise, and so on without having much, if anything, to do with other fandoms. In reality, however, it is rare that fans only enjoy one text, or even type of work. Few fans are only interested in reading books or watching movies.

A challenge for Worldcon today is what direction to take the convention in: should organizers expand and overtly reach out to fans who would not normally attend a traditional con and who may bring their own “non-traditional” fan practices and (fan-)demographics; should Worldcon stick with the current attendees and format, thereby maintaining traditions; or is there a middle way that encourages media fan attendance by acknowledging the traditions of Worldcon and, perhaps, media’s place within it?

Currently, site-selection is in progress for Worldcon 2015 and the three options could be seen as representing different approaches to the challenge of identity and the marketing of Worldcon. This challenge will be discussed in the next post in this series.

[LINK] Science Fiction Fandom History

Two particularly useful websites for the study of the history of science fiction fandom are Fancyclopedia III and its sponsor site, Fanac.

Both websites are primarily concerned with the history of long-term “traditional” science fiction fandom, such as that associated with Worldcon.

In their own words, “The Fanac, The Fan History Project” is:

devoted to the preservation and distribution of information about science fiction and science fiction fandom. Here you might find your favorite fanzine, pictures of Walt Willis in Ireland or Harlan Ellison at the 1955 Worldcon. You can also find the words to an early filk song, information about an SF con near you AND all sorts of strange and wonderful information about fandom’s past. And the present, too, because that’s tomorrow’s past.

Fancyclopedia begins with:

Science fiction fandom began in the 1930s, when readers of the pulp magazines began to write to each other. While fandom can be a very loose association, its members identify with fandom and with each other, and know many other fans.

Fancyclopedia 3 is a collective enterprise of all of fandom. Based on the previous works by Jack Speer (Fancyclopedia 1), Dick Eney (Fancyclopedia 2), and Rich Brown, it is written by fans who want to contribute.

It continues with:

Like most encyclopedias, Fancyclopedia contains articles on people, events and organizations. It has a Fanzines category. It contains a glossary of fanspeak which is referenced by any articles using fannish terms…


Articles should be relevant to science fiction fandom as such. While comix fandom, animé, and the Society for Creative Anachronism (as examples) arose from science fiction fandom, they are now largely independent. Articles on other fandoms should note their relationships with science fiction fandom and provide links to sites concerned with those fandoms.

Both resources offer a wealth of information to researchers of science fiction and fandom. They are particularly good at providing essential background information on the development of the diversity of contemporary fandoms.

[META] Worldcon, The World’s Longest Running Science Fiction Convention

This is the first in a series of posts on fannish issues surrounding Worldcon, the longest running science fiction and fantasy convention in the world, by the 2014 Worldcon academic track organizer Emma England. First up is an intro to Worldcon and its fans.

The World Science Fiction Convention is the longest running SF convention in the world. The first Worldcon, retrospectively known as Nycon I, was held in New York in 1939 with an attendance of 200 people. The Guest of Honour was Frank R. Paul. The convention has taken place every year except during the Second World War, usually around American Labour Day weekend. By the mid-1970s attendance rose to about 4,000-5,000 fans, with more or less attendees depending on the host city.

Traditionally, Worldcon is a space for fans of literary science fiction, although in recent years media in all its forms has been popular. Chicon 7, the 2012 Worldcon in Chicago, had panels on The Walking Dead, Firefly and Torchwood to name but a few. Increasingly, there are panels, talks, and workshops on Anime/Manga, costuming (barely, if at all, distinguishable from cosplay), academic criticism, the history of fandom, gaming, and most other topics of interest to the wider “geek” communities.

There are only three essential requirements of a Worldcon:

(1) administering the Hugo Awards,

(2) administering any future Worldcon site selection (and if Worldcon is being held outside of North America, NASFIC, the North American Science Fiction Convention), and

(3) holding a World Science Fiction Society Business Meeting.

In reality, Worldcon has developed many traditions which fans expect to see. These include a Hugo Awards Ceremony, the Masquerade, Opening and Closing Ceremonies, a Regency Dance, signings, readings, the art show, exhibits, dealer’s room, guests of honour speeches, 15 tracks of programming (all running parallel to the permanent exhibits, hospitality suites, signings, readings and other activities), children’s activities, many parties every day and more.

The events are all included in the membership fee. This also includes the souvenir programme book, which has been known to be a hardcover and slipcased tome, as well as the Hugo voting pack. Members of each Worldcon get to vote for the Hugo Awards, the world’s most prestigious science fiction award, which has been held every year since 1955. People who cannot attend Worldcon can still vote by buying a supporting membership which entitles them to all of the publications including the Hugo Awards voting pack. This pack is an electronic collection of all of the nominated works and is worth considerably more than the price of membership (attending or supporting).

The location of Worldcon changes every year and with it so to does the name. In 2013 Worldcon is called Lonestar 3 (Texas, USA) and in 2014 it is Loncon 3 (London, UK). The site for each Worldcon is voted for at the convention two years prior. At Lonestar 3, the site selection for 2015 will be made and the choices are between Spokane (Washington, USA), Orlando (Florida, USA), and Helsinki (Finland). All Worldcons are organised on a not-for-profit basis by volunteers. Although there is some continuity as people volunteer for many Worldcons, each convention is organised by different people. The staff alone, without onsite volunteers acting as gophers and stewards, can number 200 people.

Fans who attend Worldcon can be broadly categorised in three ways. They are:

1)      the regulars, people who go most years and who may have been going for sixty years already,

2)      the irregulars, people who consider themselves part of fandom and who may go to other events and happen to go to a particular Worldcon because of the location, the guest of honours, the cost etc., and

3)      the walk-ins, people who go because it is local to them, they may only go for the day to visit the dealer’s room and get some books signed.

All of these groups of fans are important to the continuing success of Worldcon. The event has a unique place in fan history and for scholars of fans and fandom, or fans who just want to try something different or meet a specific guest, Worldcon is an institution not to be missed.

[META] Slash does not equal porn

Science fiction author John Scalzi and TV star Wil Wheaton are getting a lot of blogospherical mileage out of their commissioning of a piece of art by painter Jeff Zugale featuring them as cracktastic SF or fantasy characters, and their asking for “fan fiction” based on the painting. You can read about their event on Scalzi’s blog, Whatever.

It’s for a good cause, the Lupus Alliance, and they are going to pay the winner of their fiction contest.

But they made a mistake that a lot of not-inside-fandom people do. They conflated slash (romantic or intimate stories about two male characters) with porn, and then when commenters objected, they realized the mistake and corrected their terminology, and also linked to the Wikipedia entry on slash.

I see this mistake in mainstream culture all the time — anything with a gay or lesbian or queer theme is automatically assumed to be Adults Only. Which is very limiting and also not true.

One antidote to this attitude is, of course, reminders like the ficathon community known as queerlygen on, which features fan fiction about queer characters doing stuff that doesn’t involve an intensely romantic or sexual plot. Characters who happen to be queer, having adventures, being in a relationships, fighting aliens, caring for aging parents, having a bike wreck, whatever.

Its user profile page states, “We want to create a space where people can tap into the rich range of experiences that queer and genderqueer people have, which extend far beyond simply who we fall in love with or who we take to bed. We want to challenge the idea that works featuring people who aren’t heteronormative or cisgendered are automatically ‘adult’ or unsuitable for some audiences.”

Not that erotic fiction isn’t a big part of fandom. Of course it is. But it can be slash or femmeslash and G rated, and not about romance. In 2010, this shouldn’t be news.