Your Role at WorldCon – Bigger Than You Think

tl;dr: Know what you’re paying for when it comes to your WorldCon membership. Scroll to the bullet points. Read the links at the bottom.


WorldCon is two and a half weeks away. I love this con as it contains some of the best networking opportunities I’ve ever experienced, the panels are great, it’s usually smaller and less crazy than other cons (*cough*Dragon*cough*), has the Hugo Award (and Campbell Award, Not A Hugo (TM)) ceremony, and since it moves around yearly, it lets me experience new cities in the world as long as I have the fundage. (more on the “world” thing in a bit.)

WorldCon is expensive. Currently, an attending membership is $240, but it’s cheaper if you buy early. Most cons I attend will comp someone’s badge if they’re going to be on panels, but WorldCon only comps its Guests of Honor. We all pay to go to WorldCon. But many of us do not know what that money gets us. For example, I attended the business meeting for the first time last year – only because friends encouraged me to come help get a YA Hugo on the ballot. After we failed, I talked to other con attendees about my disappointment, and nearly every person – all members of the WSFS – showed confusion about this mysterious meeting that they knew nothing about. A meeting that they had every right to be part of.

Who can blame them? If we hear “business meeting” we’re thinking it involves the Important People Involved With The Con Business. Like the volunteers and the con chair and the treasurer. Not us attendees who are desperately trying to kill a hangover so we can look good for the Hugo Awards, or trying to get up the nerve to meet Elizabeth Bear.

When I found out others were as blind as I had been to all of the benefits of WorldCon membership, I figured I’d write something about it. So, here are convenient bullet points:

What You Can Expect From The WorldCon Membership

  1. You are an official member of the World Science Fiction Society. Cool, huh?
  2. You get to vote for the Hugos. (And the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, which is Not A Hugo). For this year, Hugo voting is already over, but it bears mentioning.
  3. You have the right to vote for a future WorldCon location. London is set for 2014, but 2015 bidders are Orlando, Spokane, and Helsinki. Voting costs extra ($40), BUT the money is considered an automatic Supporting membership to that convention, no matter where it is. For example, if you vote for Helsinki, but Orlando gets it, then you have already put $40 toward your Orlando 2015 Attending Membership, or you’ve outright purchased your Supporting Membership. So consider a site bid your down payment for the 2015 WorldCon.
    ** This year is the first time I’ve gotten involved with site selection; I voted for Helsinki because every time WorldCon leaves North America, we yank it back for a few years. That seems unfair, because it is called WorldCon, right? In order, we’ve had Yokohama, Denver, Montreal, Melbourne, Reno, Chicago, San Antonio, London. Aside from being too North America-friendly, this also has a wider effect in that when North America votes on The Important Current SFF (The Hugos), it continues the the USA/Western focus of the genre, which is limiting in the short run and damaging in the long run. If it’s far away and you can’t afford to attend? Sad, but you can still have a Supporting Membership. (Supporting and Attending Membership distinctions and benefits here.)
  4. You can attend and vote in the WorldCon business meeting. This is the biggie. They talk about very important things involving the WorldCon in the future, Hugo categories, site selection, and more. I’m not going to lie to you, it’s called a business meeting for a reason, and if you thought a business meeting with a bunch of SF geeks would be more interesting than your standard business meeting, you’d be wrong. But hell, I’m willing to grow up for a few hours during the WorldCon, because this stuff is important, and my vote matters. On the agenda (so far) this year, we have motions to both add a new Hugo category and kill a few existing categories. There’s also a “don’t let poor people vote” motion up, but I am not sure they’re calling it that. I tend to believe that most people in my generation are eager to see the existing establishment embrace the new storytelling pioneers, and they’re not going to unless we push them. Attend the meeting. Push.
    ** I vetted this post to a friend who asked me to underline two things: that the meetings are indeed incredibly dull, and they are INCREDIBLY important. Read Seanan McGuire’s post about it. Careers can be made or broken with decisions made to create or destroy a Hugo category, and as Cheryl Morgan said, the “No Cheap Votes” motion will keep fans with lower incomes – including many fans who come from poorer countries – from having a say.
    *** I want to quote Scalzi regarding the killing of the fan Hugos here:

    For those asking “yes, but what can I do?” Well, if you’re attending LoneStarCon 3 this year, go to the WSFS Business Meeting (you can!) and vote it down (you can do that, too!). The dates and times of the business meeting will be available in the program when you get there. I believe the first is on Friday at 10am, but these things are fungible, so double check when you arrive. I am not personally arriving until late Friday, so if anyone who is going to that meeting wants to use this piece to bolster their argument if necessary, go right ahead. I also understand at the Friday meeting it can be punted out of further discussion, which would be nice.

    (And yes, I understand that from a certain point of view I’m just trying to use the Internet to logroll you all into voting the way I want. I am the worst person ever.)

    **** And quoting Seanan McGuire:

    Please, if you are attending this year’s Worldcon in San Antonio, Texas, join me and others at the WSFS Business Meeting to help us vote these measures down. The first will be Friday morning at 10am.

    We have the power to keep this from happening. It’s not the power of Grayskull, but I still think it’s pretty damn neat.

    Let’s keep these awards for everybody.

  5. Your involvement with next year’s WorldCon. Possibly the most clever thing in the WSFS membership is the benefit to keep you interested in WorldCon, even if you can’t make it next time. If you have a Supporting or Attending membership in last year’s, this year’s, or next year’s WorldCon, you can nominate for the current Hugo and Campbell Awards. (Example, people who nominated for this year’s Hugos included Supporters/Attendees of ChiCon ’12, LoneStarCon ’13, and LonCon ’14.) So even if you’re not going to London next year, you can still have your opinion on the ballot if you Support/Attend LoneStarCon. And as I said, voting on the site selection automatically gives you a Supporting Membership, no matter where it ends up.

Cons are fun. You can drink with and meet famous authors and editors, and play dress-up and see the SFF Oscars. But a WorldCon membership allows you, whether writer, fan, editor, volunteer, agent, or con planner, to help shape the current and future landscape of WorldCon and the Hugo awards, and, in a ripple effect, SFF as a whole.

Heavy stuff. Hope to see you in San Antonio! And I REALLY hope to see you at the business meeting. We’ll sit together. Put stuff on Twitter. Let’s make our voices heard.

Resources:

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5 Responses to Your Role at WorldCon – Bigger Than You Think

  1. BenjaminJB says:

    And here I was just worried about being too gushy when meeting writers whose work I like.

  2. Mur,

    Thanks for the post.

    I have been going to Worldcon since 1987 (when I begged my parents to let me go at 16) and have only missed 3 of them. I like it because it seems to be an important part of the genre and the focus on creators.

    I generally do not attend the business meeting mainly because it conflicts with other things. I am going to ask some people text me so I can show up for the vote. I am with with the opinion that expanding the Hugo vote is not a bad thing.

  3. Glenn Glazer says:

    Mur, I would just like to comment on your definition of fairness with regards to site selection.

    One definition of fairness is strict equality. In our case, that would mean uniformly distributing Worldcon sites around the world. We don’t do that. For one thing, there has never been a Worldcon or even a serious bid for anywhere in the southern hemisphere other than Australia and New Zealand. Fairness in this form would require Worldcons in Africa, Central and South America and lots of other places out of reach of the vast majority of members.

    Which gets me to the other definition of fairness, proportional fairness. In the rural community I live in, all of the residents share the same water supply, we are billed en masse by the water company and then we subdivide the cost according to usage. Because that’s fair, right? If I use less water, I should pay less. As it currently stands, the vast majority of Worldcon (even non-NA Worldcons) attendees live in North America, so I put it to you that under this definition of fairness, it is fair to have more Worldcons in North America than elsewhere, because that makes it affordable for the largest chunk of the membership.

  4. Kimmo says:

    As a Finn… Many thanks for voting to get WorldCon in Helsinki!

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