A Convention Spotter’s Guide

I’ve noticed on Twitter that quite a few people are confused about who is responsible for this year’s World Fantasy Convention, and how it relates to other conventions with similar names. It seems like some explanation would help, so here goes.

Firstly, the World Fantasy Convention (WFC) and FantasyCon are two different things. This is particularly confusing because this year’s FantasyCon has been folded into World Fantasy. However, FantasyCon is the property of the British Fantasy Society (BFS), and WFC is the property of the World Fantasy Board. The two events will diverge again from next year.

Now of course the people running this year’s conventions have, in the past, been big noises in the BFS, and they’ve used a lot of BFS volunteers on this year’s event, but subsequent FantasyCons are unlikely to have much input from them unless another palace revolution takes place. The 2014 FantasyCon is being co-chaired by Lee Harris (of Angry Robot) and author Sophia McDougall. One of the Guests of Honour will be Kate Elliott, and Sophia has been busily pointing out that her convention will be doing panel parity, is interested in diversity, and is in a fully accessible location.

It is also worth noting that each year’s World Fantasy Convention is run by a different group. I very much hope that the 2009 event in San José was much better than this year’s one, though it is hard for any organizing committee, especially with regard to program, because you get micromanaged by the WF Board.

Then again, this year’s WFC is being run by people who have connections to the WF Board and are apparently liked and trusted by them, as opposed to fannish scum like myself for whom the Board has only contempt. (I should note that I’m talking about the Board as a whole here, some members are very nice people.)

Next year’s WFC is being held in Washington DC and is being chaired by Peggy Rae Sapienza & Michael J. Walsh, whom I trust to do a far better job than Brighton. However, given that I expect the Board to congratulate Brighton on a job very well done, it may be necessary for people to vote with their feet in future years if they want lasting change.

It is also important to note that the people running the London Worldcon have no connection to the people running the Brighton World Fantasy. I know they are both in the UK, but we do have quite a lot of conrunners here. Some of the people who have senior positions on the London Worldcon did put in a bid to run a UK World Fantasy, but their bid was apparently dismissed by the Board on that they were not competent to run a convention. Unlike the people running Brighton, who are supposedly professionals.

I shouldn’t need to tell you lot that Worldcon and World Fantasy are not the same convention, or that each Worldcon is run by an entirely separate group of fans. You are probably also capable of understanding that Denver and London are not the same place, and that 2009 and 2014 are not the same year. Sadly the same is not true of people who write for commercial websites. Nor is it true of people who re-tweet outrage without checking to see if the thing being complained about has any basis in fact.

Social media is, as ever, a two-edged sword. If we don’t complain about things like the behavior of this year’s WFC then nothing will ever change. But if we do complain those complaints will come to the attention of people who are lazy and incompetent and for whom all fannish conventions with “world” in the title are run by the same group of old white men who Must Be Destroyed.