Saturday, September 1, 2012

Let's Put the World in Worldcon

Much like the World Series of baseball, the World Science Fiction Convention is a profoundly American affair. This goes all the way to the beginning, back in New York City in 1939, where the original convention was held and named in recognition of the New York World's Fair. Worldcon first bounced out of the United States in 1948, when it lit into Toronto, but on the whole most of the conventions have been held within the United States--hell, ten percent of them have been held in Chicago, including the now-running Chicon 7.

It comes through clearly in the attendance. Well over eighty percent of Chicon 7's membership is from the United States. Canada represents the largest national contingent after that, at 273, but some of those are supporting, non-attending members. To put it another way, there are nearly as many Chicon 7 members from Illinois as there are from the entire world outside the United States--825 to 844. Outside of Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia, the largest national contingent is Japan's, with 41 members. This is reflected in the convention numbers; of the seventy Worldcons, only eighteen have been held outside the United States, and five of those were in Canada.

Here at Chicon 7, the members are already looking toward the future. For a while, we've known of two competing bids to hold the 73rd World Science Fiction Convention in 2015, between Spokane and Orlando. With two cities going at it, the vote next year was already shaping up to be more interesting than this year's, which closes in less than six hours and has London running unopposed. Yesterday, a new challenger entered the mix--a group of fans from Helsinki, Finland announced their bid for the 2015 Worldcon.

I'll admit right off the top--I'm biased. I'm a presupporter of Spokane's bid for three reasons. The first is the simple proximity; it's not likely there'll be a Worldcon any nearer to Vancouver in the near future. The second also deals with location--in 2015, it will have been fifty-four years since there was a Worldcon in Cascadia, going all the way back to SeaCon in 1961, and even within the United States it's a region that hasn't been touched by this travelling convention very often. The third is weather; while I understand Spokane to have a relatively salubrious August climate, the Labor Day weekend that the Orlando bid is aiming for happens to fall squarely within the high point of Florida's hurricane season.

Helsinki, though--Helsinki makes an interesting case, in and of itself. It would be the first time since 1990 that Worldcon visited continental Europe, when it stopped in The Hague. It would be the first in Finland and in Scandinavia. Most importantly, though, it would mark two Worldcons in a row outside of North America--something that's never happened before. Hell, it's rare for there to be two Worldcons in a row that happen outside of the United States; so far it's only happened twice, with the 1994 and 1995 Worldcons in Winnipeg and Glasgow, and the 2009 and 2010 Worldcons in Montreal and Melbourne.

I first heard about Helsinki's bid during the Spokane bid party. One issue that is, admittedly, important is the expense; the simple fact is that many Worldcon attendees are American, and to hold two Worldcons outside North America two years in a row would narrow down the attendance list simply because of the expense. Certainly, that is a factor--but personally, I think it would be healthy for Worldcon to take its name more seriously and move out into the greater world. There are undoubtedly plenty of potential Finnish fans who don't have the resources to attend Worldcons; there are only eleven of them on the Chicon 7 rolls. Taking Worldcon to Finland wouldn't only be a reflection of it being the World Science Fiction Convention--it would be an opportunity to bring in the diversity of opinions that don't always make it to North America.

So if I have a chance, I think I'll presupport Helsinki as well. There's nothing wrong with hedging one's bets, after all.

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