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Finland, Finland, Finland

In the comments section to the post immediately below, someone asked about voting for this year's Hugo Awards.  Alas, Hugo voting closed some time ago... for the 2013 awards, at least.

You can still cast your vote at LoneStarCon, however... not for the Hugo Awards, but for site selection.

It's the fans who nominate and vote for the Hugos, and the fans who decide where the world science fiction convention will be held. Unlike Dragoncon (always in Atlanta), Comicon (always in San Diego), or other megacons of their ilk, worldcon moves to a different city every year, just as it has since its founding in the 1930s.  Cities wishing to host worldcon must put together a concom, find a suitable site and hotels, and bid for the rights to hold the con.  Bidding, like American presidential elections, sometimes seems to go on forever, but the actual site selection ballot takes place two years in advance.

At this year's San Antonio worldcon, LoneStarCon 3, fans will decide where the worldcon goes for 2015.

(The site of the 2014 worldcon was determined at Chicon 7, last year's worldcon.  The winner was London, England).

There are three contenders for 2015: Spokane, Washington; Orlando, Florida; and Helsinki, Finland.  All three will be campaigning vigorously and throwing parties at Texas, I'm sure, selling pre-supporting memberships, and bending the ears of everyone who cares to hear about their wonderful cities, amazing facilities, and experienced committees.  So who to choose?

As it happens, I've been to all three cities.  Back in the mid 90s, I was GOH at a small regional con in Spokane.  Nice fans.  The city has its charms, and the surrounding countryside was lovely.   It's a small city, though, and it was a small friendly low-key con, which makes me wonder if the committee is ready to tackle something as large and contentious and complex as worldcon.

Orlando hosted the worldcon once before -- MagiCon in 1992 -- and was supposed to be the site once even earlier -- SunCon in 1977.  But SunCon was a disaster, had to move to Miami Beach after the fans voted for Orlando, and still ranks as one of the worst worldcons ever.  MagiCon was much better... but hot, swelteringly hot.  I have fond memories of the Peabody Hotel, but the new Orlando bid isn't using the Peabody, instead they will actually be inside Disney World, using Disney facilities.  I like visiting Disney parks from time to time, and I love attending worldcon, but that does not mean I want to mix the two.  The Orlando convention set-up has some undeniable advantages... I love the idea of having all of worldcon under a single roof, without elevators... but if you've ever been to Disney World or Disneyland, you probably know that there will be drawbacks as well.  Under the Mouse's roof, the Mouse's rules apply.  And what with global warming and all, Orlando in 2015 will probably be even hotter than Orlando in 1992.  Just thinking about it makes me want to turn the air conditioner up to "ARCTIC BLAST."

Fortunately, I think there's one choice for 2015 that stands head and shoulders above the other two:

No, no, no, NOT England.  England is next year.  I'm talking FINLAND!  Helsinki!

Singing, dancing, fish-slapping, reindeer, lingonberries...

Well, no, not really.  But Parris and I were guests at Finncon just a few years ago, and we had a great time.  Helsinki is a great, lively, historic city, and the Finnish fans are terrific... warm and friendly and hospitable.  They all speak English, by the way.  Every Finn we met spoke English.  So no one need worry about getting lost in a country where you cannot understand the language.  You can eat reindeer and lingonberries if you have a yen... but there's plenty of other types of food for those who'd rather not.  Saunas are omnipresent... but not compulsory, if you are the shy sort who would rather not take off your clothes around other people.  Helsinki's not quite north enough for a midnight sun, but we got a ten-oclock-at-night sun, and that was pretty cool too.   Hell, you could even find good pizza.  (I prefer never to go anywhere where you cannot find good pizza).

Even more than the charms of the city, however, it was the competence and experience of the committee that impressed me.  We have had too many badly-run worldcons in recent years (need I mention Montreal, anyone?).   The Finncon we attended was huge, drawing something like 30,000 people to Helsinki as I recall.  That's six times as large as any worldcon since the 80s, yet the con ran smoothly start to finish, and everyone seemed to have a great time.  I have no doubt that a Helsinki worldcon would be well run as well... and I know the Finnish fans would love to show your their city, their castles, the herds of reindeer wandering the streets.   Oh, there's vodka too.  And saunas.  Did I mention the saunas?

But seriously... if you'd like to know more about the Finnish bid, check out their website here:  http://www.helsinkiin2015.org/

Anyway, those of you who will be attending LoneSTarCon should be sure to visit the site selection booths, check out the literature for the competing bid, then sign up for 2015 and cast your ballot.

Me, I'll be voting for Helsinki... to put the "world" back in worldcon.

(And for KANSAS CITY IN 2016 as well, but that vote is next year, in London).


Alas, Helsinki did not win the rights to host the 2015 worldcon.  The Finns threw the best parties and had the most first place votes, but after leading on all the early ballots, they lost out in the end when Orlando was finally eliminated, and their votes swung en masse to Spokane.  The vagaries of the Australian ballot.

The Finns will rise again, I hope.  But it's Spokane in 2015.

(Future bids announced or rumored at the con included New Orleans, Washington DC, and Dublin.  I like the sound of all of those.



Aug. 19th, 2013 03:07 am (UTC)
Ah, but what is the consequence of having a "problem?" Having a lower attendance?

Worldcon seems to have stabilized in the range of 3000 - 5000 members. Myself, I'd like to see it growing again. It saddens me that our record attendance, 8000, was twenty years ago. I don't want to see worldcon turn into San Diego Comicon with 150,000 fans, no, but a worldcon of 15,000 to 20,000 people would be good for everyone. We would actually fill the big convention centers we use, instead of having to share them with four other conventions (as at Denver), we'd have more clout with hotels, it would certainly be good for the writers and publishers. And we'd get a younger and more racially and sexually diverse crowd.

This seems to be a minority view, however. Certainly among the SMOFs I know, most of whom seem to like worldcon as it is, and don't want it getting any bigger. And since almost all worldcons turn a profit in the end (Japan and Baltimore excepted), these problems caused by small cities, foreign sites, and the like are not problems at all.
Aug. 19th, 2013 03:21 am (UTC)
Yep, lower attendance (on a regular basis, since it sounds like Helsinki might top the record depending on its cost and membership fee structure given past Finncons...but how many of them would then attend a non-Europe Worldcon?) is the problem I'm seeing. I agree that it'd be much better for us to be growing, although I think I'd top off at around 10K rather than 15-20K.

I think 10K can be handled with our current organizational structure, whereas 15-20K is hitting the range where I think we'd need to make a choice between paid staff to handle at least some aspects leading up to the con or turning cities that hold Worldcon into fannish smoking craters from mass burnout. And paid staff raises the problem of needing a consistent membership of xK to pay for 'em, causing problems when Worldcon is held in Australia, Reno, Canada, etc.

I'll confess to curiosity as to how Finncon is organized to handle 30K; do they use a paid staff? Is the convention simplified in some manner from Worldcon? Of course, as all the mega-cons show, there are definite advantages to staying in one place and having continuity of concom instead of moving to a new locale with a whole new concom each year.
Kaisa Vitikainen
Aug. 19th, 2013 05:32 am (UTC)
Finncon is also free to attend. :) Grants, sponsors and volunteer work keep it going.
Aug. 19th, 2013 07:25 am (UTC)
In all fairness, Finncon has never had anywhere close to 30K of attendees. As they don't sell memberships, they don't count attendeees "properly". Instead they make estimates, and the estimates are for the number of non-unique "visits" to the con (they way they are asked to report it to the authorities who grant them money).

I'd say that the largest Finncons have been about the same size as the largest Worldcons.
Aug. 19th, 2013 10:11 am (UTC)
Finncon numbers
"I'll confess to curiosity as to how Finncon is organized to handle 30K"
Finncons aren't quite that big. The largest Finncon so far was in 2009, and it had an estimated count of 15 000 attendees. And you'll have to remember that since it's a convention without a membership fee, and anybody is welcome to pop by to see what this thing is about, you can't directly compare that to the amount of members at other conventions. Due to how attendance is counted in Finland (regarding grants, etc.), that figure is a sum of attendees over 3 days; I would estimate that 2009 had around 7 000 individual attendees -- and not all of these stayed for the whole convention, so the comparisons to, for example, Worldcon membership counts aren't straightforward.

Edited at 2013-08-19 11:26 am (UTC)
Aug. 19th, 2013 04:28 am (UTC)
BucConeer didn't turn a profit? That's interesting as that's the only WorldCon I've actually been too. That was half a lifetime ago.
Aug. 19th, 2013 04:54 am (UTC)
Bucky turned a profit. The previous Baltimore worldcon, Constellation, lost what was then a record amount of money (a record since beaten by Japan). Which was probably why Bucconeer wasn't called Constellation II.
Aug. 19th, 2013 05:35 am (UTC)
Should probably note, for those not up on it, what "turning a profit" means for a Worldcon. At least in the US, Worldcons are organized as non-profit organizations, a separate one for each Worldcon. If you're doing it right, your budget should be such that the con makes a relatively small percentage more money than it spends, to minimize the chance that something occurs that makes the con lose money. Most Worldcons also use what I'd call "cushion items"; things they want and plan to do, but can not do if disaster strikes. For example, most US Worldcons have committee, staff, and program participants pay for their membership in advance of the con, then refund it to them after...assuming the con made enough to take care of that budget item (which it was budgeted to do). If disaster struck, the reimbursement might go on the cutting board.

(And disaster has come very close a few times. The 2001 Worldcon was a week or so before 9/11. If it'd been the other way around... There was a SARS scare in Ontario a bit before the 2003 Worldcon that had it gotten worse instead of clearing up would've been a problem. Etc.)

So what happens to that profit? Just about all Worldcons participate in something called "Pass Along Funds", where, say, last year's Chicago Worldcon, once it has enough info to know roughly what it's surplus is, makes a donation to each of the next (I believe) three Worldcons that agree to do Pass Along Funds themselves, with the total donation equaling at least half its surplus. Thus smoothing out the budgeting. Remaining surplus is supposed to go to things that benefit fandom or science fiction as a whole (i.e. Chicago doesn't get to buy a clubhouse for itself), so things like scholarships for Clarion, SMOFCon (a convention about how to better run conventions), donations to books or literacy causes, etc. are usual suspects there.
Aug. 19th, 2013 05:49 am (UTC)
Both of you are a wealth of knowledge. Good stuff. Thank you for the info!
Aug. 19th, 2013 09:12 am (UTC)
In the past a couple of Worldcons have paid for a large batch of Hugo rockets with surplus funds. We use up twenty to thirty rockets during each award ceremony but it's cheaper to make a couple of hundred in one production run and then donate them to succeeding conventions than to manufacture a smaller number of rockets every year.
Aug. 19th, 2013 04:11 pm (UTC)
I'd love to see increased attendance at WC. The three I've been too have been great fun and I'm chomping at the bit to get to San Antonio. How do we get more people in attendance? I would suggest a more open process for Hugo nominations? Would suggestions along those lines be interesting to anyone?


George R.R. Martin
George R. R. Martin

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