Resnick on Worldcon

Gary Farber points me to this article by Mike Resnick called Pros and Cons — meaning Professionals and Conventions. Guess what Mike has to say:

I think what the Worldcon movers and shakers haven’t yet figured out, or possibly don’t particularly care about, is that if the publishers stop supporting Worldcon and support other conventions instead, their editors will show up at those other cons.

And like it or not, writers will go where the editors are. This is, after all, a business.

And eventually — and it’s clearly happening; all you have to do is look at the attendance figures for the last few Worldcons — the fans will follow the writers.

My, where have I heard that before? Not all of Mike’s article is sensible — in particular he’s flat wrong about pointing fans at World Fantasy because most fans would find it very poor value. However, the gist of what he’s saying is just what Lou Anders and I have been saying. SMOFdom cannot rely on writers and editors coming to Worldcon out of a sense of loyalty to a community. And if the SMOFs turn up their noses and say, “Well we don’t want you then,” Worldcon will die.

11 thoughts on “Resnick on Worldcon

  1. I find this line telling, “The part of me that writes for a living has already added DragonCon and ComicCon to my regular schedule.”

    They’ll be at least five Pyr authors at DragonCon in 2010, possibly more.

  2. Certainly a lot of truth to that article. But to me there are really no options open. I’m not very interested in Dragon*Con and I certainly don’t go to cons primarily to meet writers but to meet other fans. The article seems to say: Become another Dragon*Con or die. But there is already a Dragon*Con. Why would I want another one?

    What this is really about is the commodification of science fiction and the eventual death of “classic fandom,” and that’s going to happen whether WorldCon tries be be something the organisers doesn’t want it to be or not. The times they are a-changin’.

  3. Johan:

    But there is already a Dragon*Con. Why would I want another one?

    Because Dragon*Con will never move outside Atlanta but Worldcon will come to Europe once a decade or so?

  4. But can it become a DraconCon and move around the World?

    I suggest the answer to that question may be “no” or it would already have become like DraconCon instead of DragonCon

    And while there is some truth to the article, there are also errors: Angry Robot was launched at Anticipation so saying they had no presence is wrong. I’ll also point out that there were lots of publishers at Anticipation — there were a dozen or so book launches, I may be wrong, but I don’t think you get those without publishers. But, not all of those were American, maybe that’s what Mr. Resnick doesn’t like as he seems to imply that, when it comes to SF, the rest of the World is not as important as the US? I don’t know, ut he certainly seems to imply it.

    Maybe Worldcon is going through a hard time now but will flower as a truly international event in the future. I don’t know, but it’s something I’d like to see.

  5. Actually publishing is becoming increasingly multi-national. Mike may not realize this, but many of the big “New York” publishing houses are foreign-owned. Angry Robot — who are part of HarperCollins, were at Anticipation in part because they have a North American operation as well as a UK one. Orbit coordinates between offices in the US, UK and Australia. No one quite understands the Tor/Macmillan/TorUK set-up.

    So there’s no reason why an international convention can’t have a relationship with international publishers, despite what parochial New Yorkers might think. But equally if the multi-national publishers think we are a waste of time, then we are a waste of time wherever we are in the world.

  6. I think Worldcon traveling around gives it two opportunities that ComicCon and DragonCon don’t have: it can get fans and pros local to the area where it is held to go for the first time. We now have to work on retaining as many of these as possible.

    Worldcon needs to be able to say to both fans and publishers that “not only do we have tons of SF writers you know, we have tons you don’t know and should discover”.

  7. Rene:

    Agreed. And the only way to retain fans is to make them feel part of the Worldcon community when they can’t actually attend. Which means doing stuff online.

  8. Yeah, I remembered the Angry Robot release party straightaway too.

    The part that jumped out for me was that Comic-Con, Dragon*Con, and A-Kon are “run by competent professionals rather than by hit-or-(usually)-miss volunteer staffs.” I don’t know anything about A-Kon, and I know some of Comic-Con’s work (like running registration) is outsourced to professionals, but it still uses volunteers for some things, and D*C is still most, if not all, volunteers, AFAIK.

    So I read that statement as “run by people who give me the experience of dealing with a professional organization, as opposed to a non-professional one.” What I’d really like to know, as an interested non-writer, is what that means to Mr. Resnick’s “the part of me that writes for a living”. I know from my own experience that the average communication skills of most fan-run conventions are terrible (seriously, if I can ever make it to Smofcon again, I’ve resolved to volunteer to do a talk on communication), but it would be useful to have specifics.

  9. I read Mike’s article quite a while ago, so it’s old news to me.

    Worldcon will never break the 5-digit mark because it moves around. But I like that it allows all fans everywhere to experience the Worldcon. And I think that Comic-Con will eventually move too far into the media to be useful to writers–it’s already happening. As for Dragon*Con, it’s going that way, too.

    If Worldcon were to be in steady places, there’s only 4 reasonable ones: Boston, LA, Chicago, and the UK. As a Boston fan, I know I sure don’t want to run a Worldcon every 4 years; I’m betting the Chicago, LA, and UK fans feel the same. (Or every 5, if we allow one ‘wild card’ year.) Once a decade is enough, thanks.

    Worldcon is changing, albeit slowly. For example, I suspect the next Boston Worldcon bid will come out of Arisia, not MCFI. Arisia is already more like a Worldcon, except for the pros; it has a lot of events, and a very diffuse focus, and over 2500 members (soon to grow to 3,000, I suspect). That will bring a whole different con to the area than what the Noreascons were. I’d like to think that most of the Boston conrunners I know are at least as professional as Dragon*con’s staff.

    On the other hand, while Arisia attracts up to 3K, Anime Boston gets 16K. But anime isn’t SF–it’s mostly romance and comedy. So there’s no point in making a comparison.

  10. “… anime isn’t SF–it’s mostly romance and comedy.”

    Anime actually is mostly sf. The most popular anime among diehard anime fans (see here for some examples) is nearly all sf. The most popular anime outside of core anime fandom is entirely sf.

    Now, manga in the land of its origin is definitely more non-sf than sf, but it starts skewing back toward sf when you look at what makes it into English. Probably, overall, manga sold in English is about half-and-half.

    It sure is nice to run across someone who knows that non-sf anime even exists, though!

  11. Yeah, Dragon*Con is essentially exclusively volunteer-run; there are a couple of permanent employees these days, but even they are former volunteers, I believe.

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