Everyone Expects The Fannish Inquisition

I haven’t been spending a lot of time at SMOFcon, partly because I’m mainly in Toronto on business, and partly because I have better things to do with my life. This evening, however, saw the traditional highlight of the convention, the Fannish Inquisition, at which seated conventions and bids get to make presentations and answer questions. That I could not pass up. Here are the highlights.

Loncon3 announced that they are on track to have around 8,000 members. They are actually concerned about capacity and will be putting day memberships on sale in February as they may have to cap the number that they sell. The current record for Worldcon attendance is 8,365 at Los Angeles in 1984.

The 2014 NASFiC, Detcon 1, has also been busy. I wrote a couple of weeks ago about their plan to offer free memberships to local fans who could not otherwise afford to attend. The fund-raising drive for that is going well. Money to cover 10 free memberships has already been received, which triggers the matching donation promised by the convention. At least 20 local fans will therefore be getting free memberships.

Detcon 1’s chair, Tammy Coxon, also announced that the convention will be giving out awards for YA and Middle School fiction. These will be voted on by the membership. I don’t want to get the details wrong so I’m not going to rely on my memory of what Tammy said — I’m sure there will be a press release soon. What I should note is that Detcon 1 is a NASFiC, not a Worldcon, so these awards will not be Hugos, but they will be voted on in a way very similar to the Hugos, albeit by far fewer people. This will be an interesting trial.

The 2014 SMOFcon will be in Los Angeles. I voted for the rival Baffin Island bid as it was outside the USA, but I have to admit that I didn’t fancy their proposed Friday evening ice-breaker event of “build your own convention facilities, out of ice.”

Kansas City is still the only bid for the 2016 Worldcon, and judging from their presentation they have some excellent facilities. I’m sad that I can’t go.

The race for 2017 has now become even more complex with the announcement of a bid for Washington DC to add to the existing bids for Japan, Montréal and Helsinki. The Canadian bid looked fairly weak, but the Japanese and Finnish bids both appear to have considerable support. Judging from the questions asked, there was considerably annoyance that a US bid had jumped in to challenge a selection of interesting non-US bids. However, the Washington bid team has a huge amount of experience and, judging from the promotional materials they put out, a lot of money.

Looking further afield, San José (in the form of my colleagues and I at SFSFC) have announced we are looking at challenging New Orleans for 2018. If we do, and it is by no means certain, I hope it will be a very friendly contest like the one we ran against Seattle for 2002. I, of course, won’t be able to attend whoever wins, but I think both would be great conventions.

Dublin is the only announced bid for 2019.

New Zealand reported that they are starting to negotiate with facilities for 2020. They are looking at sites in both Auckland and Wellington.

Finally the forward calendar is starting to fill up with bids for Forth Worth in 2021 and Chicago in 2022. The Chicago bid will apparently be for new facilities, not the Hyatt Regency where previous Chicons have been held.

There has already been some discussion about what will happen with regards to the losing bids in 2017. The Finnish and Irish bids have a good relationship, and if the Finns were to lose again I can’t see them targeting anything before 2021. The Japanese committee stated that they would not want to run too close to New Zealand and would therefore not consider a new bid before 2023. I’ve no idea what Montréal will do. If Washington were to lose, I suspect that large number of older American SMOFs would faint with shock, and possibly even retire from the game. So I guess we’ll just have to make that happen.

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16 Responses to Everyone Expects The Fannish Inquisition

  1. The Finnish bid intrigues me for two reasons. They have a very active community and Finncon is heavily supported. And 2017 is the 100th anniversary of Finland’s independence — a WorldCon would be a part of one helluva party.

    I was in Helsinki ten years ago. It is a wonderful city. Great food. (grin)

    Dr. Phil

  2. Tom Galloway says:

    Sorry Cheryl, but barring a serious level of bid period fiascos, I’m going to have to vote for Washington. From a long term viewpoint, I think we seriously need a Worldcon in the BosWash corridor in the near timeframe, since it’ll have been 13 years since the last one held in that very large fannish population area. Heck, I might even have to vote for San Jose : -) since CA is another big site area that’s gone too long between Worldcons.

    To summarize my feelings on this, let me emphasize I’ve nothing against non-US or smaller US city Worldcons…but they do need to be balanced and spaced out against our classic big sites of CA, Chicago, BosWash, and Britain. There’s enough significant competition against Worldcon in general these days that going 4-5 years in a row with only remote to the US/small out of the way US cities where you get reduced attendance gets people out of the Worldcon habit. And if we don’t maintain a certain size/level of significance in terms of who shows up, I think we end up in a Westerconish cycle of diminishing returns. Note that after the ’07-’11 cycle of same, both Chicago and San Antonio had significantly lower attendance than the last time Worldcon was held at either.

    To be honest, the bid I really wish would get competition is New Zealand. Yeah, it’s a cool idea, I’ve visited there and it’s a nice place. It’s also likely to be the smallest Worldcon since sometime in the 1960s. Their natcons only draw a couple of hundred, and it’s a several hour flight from Australia’s most populous areas so I assume fewer Oz fen than at the last Melbourne Worldcons. Is the New Zealand, as opposed to Australia, site really worth likely having that small a Worldcon?

    • Cheryl says:

      I totally agree with you about the need for Worldcons in major US venues. I wouldn’t be helping SFSFC explore bid possibilities otherwise. But I think your final paragraph makes my point for me.

      2017 had three existing bidders, two of whom had run Worldcon before (not perfectly, but they have the enthusiasm to come back and try to do better next time) and one of which has a very effective con-running tradition. In contrast both the Dublin and New Zealand bids will require heavy support from traveling American SMOFs. To me the Washington bid is saying very clearly that the only non-US Worldcons that will be allowed are those that are effectively run by American fans. Therefore, for the good of Worldcon, I think the Washington bid has to lose.

  3. Martin Easterbrook says:

    While I think the last sentence is quite funny it’s only fair to point out that I haven’t encountered a single ‘older American SMOF’ who didn’t support and vote for Finland in the last vote.

    • Cheryl says:

      I know quite a few who voted for Helsinki. They are also not involved in the Washington bid. Then again, a lot of the Old Pharts hated the Orlando and Spokane bids for various reasons. Like I said to Tom, what matters to them is not where the convention is, but whether they feel that they control it.

      • Rick Kovalcik says:

        Actually a lot of people involved in Helsinki in 2015 are now involved in DC in 2017. It pains us to have to bid against Helsinki, but the situation is much better for a 2017 BosWash Worldcon than a 2018 BosWash Worldcon. Also, if DC in 2017 wins, I don’t think it will be the same old Div Heads (or the same old group pulling the strings) and I believe you will see a 30-something chair or co-chair.

        • Cheryl says:

          There are certainly a lot of very interesting things about the DC bid, and I have no doubt that you’ll put on a great event if you win. Nevertheless, I think the primary effect of your winning will be to deter sites outside of the US from bidding in future.

    • Indeed, I would go so far as to say that Helsinki was nearly the unanimous choice (I said nearly!) among long-time Worldcon insiders, regardless of race or gender.

      In general, I find that hardcore SMOFs are far more likely than the overall fannish population to support a Worldcon location outside their home country. The more exotic, and the newer it is to Worldcon hosting, the better.

      If the DC bid wins, it will be on the strength of support from fannish hoi polloi who are looking at how easy it is to get there rather than trying to send any deep political message about who is allowed to run Worldcon bids.

      • Cheryl says:

        It always used to be the case that the majority of SMOFs supported non-US bids, both by voting for them and by politely standing aside in years in which a competent non-US bid was available. This is new and different, in that a race with several competent non-US bids already declared has suddenly been opposed by a big backed by a significant number of big name SMOFs that should, quite frankly, beat any other US bid, let alone a non-US one.

        • Ann Marie Rudolph says:

          Everyone has their own criteria for judging the competency of a bid. When DC made the decision to throw in our hat for 2017, there were 2 bids, Nippon, which still had the specter of the 2007 debt hanging over their head, and Montreal, which last hosted a Worldcon not so very long ago, in 2009, and has yet to get a Bid website up on the internet (at least I can’t find one).

          Since so many of us worked on the Helsinki in 2015 bid, we were in communication with their committee during our process, and they knew of our final decision to bid 2017 before we knew what they were going to do.

          I, personally, might not have been so enthusiastic in supporting the DC bid and the 2017 selection had I not be assured repeatedly at LoneStarCon that Helsinki had no plans to bid again right away.

          I am disappointed that I cannot support both, but I think that the timing is overdue for another great Worldcon in the NE corridor, and I think that DC will be that Worldcon.

          • When Helsinki promised that they would not bid again right away (according to Eemeli Aro), they meant that they would not bid for the 2016 Worldcon, which will be selected in 2014 in London, and for which Kansas City is the only bidder. They said nothing about years after 2016.

          • (Replying to the wrong person because there’s no “Reply” link under Kevin’s comment for some reason…)

            Here’s what the Helsinki in 2015 bid said on Facebook right after the vote:

            Because some have already asked: Eemeli Aro, Karoliina Leikomaa, Jukka Halme, Crystal Huff, and all the Finns here agree that we are NOT bidding for Worldcon in 2016. There is no intent to bid again for a Finnish Worldcon for the foreseeable future.

            So they addressed 2016 specifically, but then went on to say that there would be no immediate re-bid for any year. The re-bid wasn’t announced until almost 2 months later, at which point presumably things had moved too far for the DC bid to switch years.

          • Cheryl says:

            I’m not privy to the deliberations of either the Helsinki bid or the DC bid. All I can do is react to what I see, and what I see is a hugely powerful US bid coming in to steamroller over a bunch of non-US bids. That, I suspect, is how most other people not directly involved will see it as well.

            Ann: I appreciate that you folks feel that this is not your fault. I’m guessing that Helsinki feels it is not their fault either. Certainly I can see good reasons for them deciding that if they didn’t bid 2017 then they could not do so before 2022. Each individual bid does what it thinks is the best for its own interests.

            What I can say, however, is that this is a monumental PR disaster for Worldcon as an entity. It is hard to see how the convention could do a better job of turning into exactly the sort of thing its detractors claim it is.

        • Tom Galloway says:

          It also didn’t used to be we’d see four years in a seven-year period with nothing but non-US, heck, non-NA bids (2014, 2017, 2019, 2020, and if Helsinki had won 2015 it’d be potentially 5 years in 7 outside NA). When it hits that point, I don’t really have a problem with failing to “support” all non-NA bids by not having a US bid go up against ’em.

          For a couple of decades there, we had a nice pseudo-schedule; 1 Worldcon in Britain, 1 in Australia, 3 in major US sites (LA, Chicago, Boston), 5 “other” sites equating to some first tier US sites NorCal, elsewhere in BosWash corridor, some second tier US sites, and aCanadian or nonBritOz outside the US sites. Zones helped with this. Never too long before we were at a first tier site.

          Now, with the dropoff of BosWash and Cal for a decade or more and a proliferation of non-NA bids. And again, I’m sorry, but in my opinion three of those in four years will hurt Worldcon in the near-medium run and possibly the long run.

  4. David Weingart says:

    DC will be the easiest and cheapest for me to get to, and I have family in the area.

    I’m’ still working on the Helsinki bid!

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