Worldcon 75 Day 1: Where Did All These People Come From?

The Helsinki Worldcon is now well underway, and the big topic of conversation is the attendance. On the face of it, this is a good thing. We all want Worldcon to grow. The largest number of attending members in history is still LA Con II in 1984 with 8365. LonCon 3 in 2014 had more members in total, but only 6946 attending. The last I heard Helinki was up to 6001. Some of those may be day members, who have to be counted somewhat differently from full attending members, but even so it is an impressive number. Helsinki certainly looks like being in the top 5 Worldcons by size.

Unfortunately, based on previous Worldcons outside of the US/UK axis, expected numbers for Helsinki were more like 3500. Messukeskus could handle that easily. It is more than big enough in terms of exhibit space for what we have. But the function space, where programming happens, is stretched to the limit.

There are many things that a Worldcon can do to cope with the unexpected, but building new program rooms is not one of them. Seeing how memberships were going, Helsinki did negotiate some space in the library across the road. It did not try to turn empty exhibit halls into function space because we all know how badly that went in Glasgow in 1995.

Hopefully tomorrow, with more program streams in operation, the pressure on space will ease, but right now what we have is every program room packed solid and many people getting turned away. Messukeskus is very hot on fire safety. Personally I’m going to avoid program at much as I can because I have been to many Worldcons and there are lots of people for whom this is their first experience of the convention. Hopefully other regulars will do the same. I don’t envy the Helsinki team trying to sort this out, but I guess if you must have a major problem it is better to have one that was caused by your amazing success in other areas.

Everything else appears to be running fairly smoothly. There are plenty of food vendors open at the convention and they seem to be doing excellent business. The dealers, fan tables and art show are all up and running. If I’m not trying to get to panels I may see more of the convention tomorrow.

6 thoughts on “Worldcon 75 Day 1: Where Did All These People Come From?

  1. It \may/ be only #7 now (behind also Boston 1989, San Francisco 1993, and Baltimore 1983 and 1998) — but if there are 6000 now it may move ahead of both Baltimore Worldcons (and if not, people can argue about it endlessly because there’s no certainty how many of the 6400 / 6572 listed at actually showed up).

    I’m a little dismayed they didn’t think to compare London with the two Glasgow Worldcons and expect that even a non-Anglo European convention would see more people — but I don’t know what they could have done further in advance or whether they would have taken a major financial hit if they’d booked space for 6000 two years out and only had 4000 show up. I hope Dublin at least has more space….

    1. I have a bad habit of discounting Worldcons that only provided a combined attending/supporting count. They should keep better records. 😉

      1. A fair point — although as someone who was on the fringes of the bailout, I’d be more interested in retroactively making Baltimore in 1983 keep better financial records….

  2. From a registration desk perspective:

    Lots of locals. I remember LonCon being heavily American with a healthy number of Brits. Yesterday I was seeing more Finns and Swedes than North Americans and about 80% of them being at their first worldcon.

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