What is a WorldCon?
The World Science Fiction Convention (“Worldcon”) is an international gathering of the science fiction and fantasy communities (the first Worldcon was held in 1939). Attendees come there from all over the world to share their love of Science Fiction once every year.
In the last decade, the convention has been held on four different continents, but none of the 74 Worldcons was ever held in France…
Worldcons are organized and run by fans, all volunteers. The majority of the organizing committee changes every year with the convention’s location, although many members give Worldcons their time year after year, regardless of location.
Attendees include authors, artists, publishers, gamers, vendors, musicians, and fans. Everyone who attends joins by buying a membership. Only a few have their expenses covered; Those “Guests of Honor” are recognized for their contributions to the field and the science fiction community.
Major events at a Worldcon include the Hugo Awards ceremony, the Art Show and auction, the Masquerade… but hundreds of other events (panels, gaming, viewings) happen there.
Worldcon embraces science fiction and fantasy in different forms, not only literature but also film, TV, art, comics, Anime and manga, gaming and also explores science in science fiction.
Because there is a procedure to follow when picking a Worldcon venue. Each bid should be announced at least four years before the event. In addition to this, each bid needs extra time to prepare. For first time bidders, three years would not be a luxury. And 2014 + 4 + 3 = 2021.
So 2021 would be the first possible year.
However, according to the internal regulations of the WSFS (the regulating body behind Worldcons) there are geopolitical (!) factors to consider, which would make it wiser to aim for 2023.
To be clearer, the 2021 Worldcon vote will be held during the 2019 Worldcon. At the moment, Dublin is the only running bid for 2019.
Barring any future developments, this means the 2019 Worldcon will quite likely take place in Dublin.
This is where things get tricky, as a clause in the WSFS regulations specify that there have to be at least 500 miles (800 km) between the Worldcon where the vote is being held (2019) and the one that is being voted for (2021).
Since Paris would be the most likely venue for a Worldcon in France and that the Dublin-Paris distance is slightly under 800 km, it could be a point of dissent.
And why not 2022, you may ask?
There is already a very strong American contender (Chicago) for that year that a first-time bidder would be quite unlikely to beat. Considering the amount of work that goes into a bid, it just makes more sense to pick a date that offers better odds of winning.
And thus the earliest logical date to aim for is 2023.
A festival is financed mostly by organizations not owned by the participants. The organizers are being paid; they are professionals. The event is open to the public and represents a cultural activity, sometimes important for the town in which it happens. Political persons of the moment are widely associated with the event and come to make speeches. If “fans” do come, nothing will separate them from the merely curious non-fan visitors. The festival may be either free as Imaginales, Sèvres, Bagneux, et al., either paying, but often cheap as Utopiales in Nantes. Certainly, there will be some lectures in the festivals, but rarely more than one at the same time (there is often not enough room for multiple concurrent tracks) and they do not attract many people, except maybe in Nantes in the main central hall. The public passes by, views movie pictures (when some are presented), visits the show, buys one book or two (maybe has them signed by the writer), and it is all. No, or few “parties” or other purely fannish activities happen there. There are often many guests, i.e. Writers who come because the travel, lodging, and eating is being paid for. Otherwise, would they still come? Except for their participation in lectures, in public signings, or being present in their publisher’s stall, these guests stay very often with their peers, and the organizers plan “private” meals to which the plebeians are not invited.
French conventions are affected by these traditions, as they are self-financed and cannot invite many writers. When I ask a French writer if he will go to a Convention, he answers very often « no, I was not invited… ». As if one needed to be invited to come! But they are not “fans”, and some even claim that they do not belong to fandom.
In the anglo-saxon way, conventions are financed by participants. They are relatively expensive, and registration usually covers the entire duration of the event (five days for a Worldcon). The general public is not invited, even told not to come, sometimes explicitly, as happened many times in Eastercons (national United-Kingdom convention). Local politicians are not concerned. There are many parallel activities. Except the few Guests of Honor, all other participants pay with their money. Robert Silverberg certainly paid out of his purse to come to London; and so did all other small-or large-timers who came and were easily accessible to the ordinary fan. They were at all time among the people and in the middle of the activities, it was easy to meet them. And, as everybody knows that the person sitting beside him, by chance, in a “party”, during a lecture or anywhere else in the convention, is certainly a “fan”, thus in some way a brother (or a sister)… It doesn’t mean that there are no “private” meetings (or parties). These conventions are a kind of family meeting, in which the members belong to a vast diaspora.
In short there is a gulf separating both systems, conventions and festivals, as much in their spirit as in their organization, and the atmosphere is quite different.
From Ellen C. Herzfeld (Quarante-Deux)
This text is originally a message on SFFranco mailing list