Loncon 3 Estimates Razor-Thin Surplus

An initial report shows the 2014 Worldcon with a very small surplus – around £1,000.

The financial review came during a Loncon 3 post-mortem held at Smofcon 32 in December with co-chair Steve Cooper, division heads Helen Montgomery and Eemeli Aro, deputy division head Theresa (TR) Renner, and adviser Vincent Docherty. They distributed a handout at the session that summarized total income at £939,393.77 and expenses at £938,475.33, leaving an estimated surplus of £918.44 (a little less than US$1500).

Vince Docherty says of the initial estimate –

In regard to the figures we provided, note that we made those available with a strong health warning, as they are interim at best, and in the case of the financial figures, still subject to receiving final income or expenses and some items where we suspect a review will result in a cost reduction. These will ideally be resolved in time for the official finance report for Loncon 3 which will be presented at next year’s WSFS Business Meeting.

Kevin Standlee had this to say about the narrow margin:

While the convention was certainly successful, it’s frightening to read the financial figures that currently show a projected surplus of less than £1,000 on a gross of more than £900,000. Basically, Loncon 3 needed every one of those members to hold a once-in-a-generation Worldcon in an incredibly expensive city, and we shouldn’t expect a quick return.

Vince Docherty commented for File 770

I think that Kevin’s point has some general merit: London is very expensive and we knew we needed additional income as compared to Glasgow, though we also knew we would get more members by being in London, as Eastercons there have shown, with their much increased attendance. In fact we had many more members than originally expected, and were able to adjust the budget accordingly, over time. US (and Canadian) Worldcons typically generate about $1m of income and have costs of about three-quarters of that, which means they can afford reimbursements (typically ~$100k), Pass-along-funds and still leave a generous surplus for other things (which sometimes doesn’t get disbursed for many years!) and therefore can have a lighter-touch approach to budgeting.

  • The Loncon 3 committee are still working on the numbers, but to help illustrate the discussion at SMOFcon we provided an informal snapshot of member and financial data for the SMOFcon discussion, which showed it was the largest Worldcon to date in terms of overall registrations (and one of the largest in warm bodies) and the largest in terms of budget in money-of-the-day;
  • We expect L3 will at least have broken-even and might have a small amount of surplus, though it will take some time to finalise the details;
  • This is normal for Worldcons outside North America, given the much higher facilities costs, and is consistent with the last two Glasgow Worldcons, which had final surpluses (before pass-along-funds, as a % of income) of about 3% and 7% respectively (*);
  • The final financial figures also represent the result of a careful approach to budgeting and release of resources over time, which should not be understood as meaning we always expected to only have a safety margin of less than 1% – in fact a contingency of much more than that was always built into the budget and approval to proceed with committing to new things was only done once we were confident we could do so. As mentioned above, we hope the final balance will be more than the snaphshot report shows, once the various outstanding items are closed.

(*)
Financial report by 1995 Worldcon;
Financial report by 2005 Worldcon

Loncon 3, economically, was a much larger project than the previous two UK Worldcons, both held in Glasgow (1995 and 2005).

That included some changes for the better: Loncon 3’s membership income was almost twice that of the 2005 Worldcon. The 2014 bid forwarded £77,830.20 of surplus funds to the con, compared with only £13,605 in 2005. And Loncon 3 received £50,396.75 in pass-along funds from recent Worldcons compared to £41,614 received by the 2005 con.

But Loncon 3 did not have the government help available to the Glasgow Worldcon in 2005, a £88,500 subvention grant provided by the Glasgow City Council to support large events.

That surely would have been welcome, considering the much higher facilities costs in London — Loncon 3’s facilities division estimates it spent £342,172 (about US$534,000). That is both a good deal more than the 2005 Glasgow Worldcon’s facilities expense –  £263,474 – and vastly more than the budget of the San Antonio (2013) Worldcon’s Facilities Division — $82,000.

Other data: Loncon 3 also shared its refined membership and attendance statistics at Smofcon:

The total warm body count (including dealers with passes) was 7,310. The total number of individuals who joined in any capacity was 11,125.

The no-show rate for all attending types was approximately 11.3% (Attending 12.2%, Other 5 Day 18.0% and Day Admissions & Hall Passes 6.4%).

Waiting for Online Hugo Voting and the Voter Packet

The 2014 Hugo Award nominees were announced with a flourish 36 days ago. Although Loncon 3 published the voting form in Progress Report 3 on May 18, fans continue to wait for the committee to open online voting and release the Hugo Voter Packet.

How does Loncon 3’s performance compare with recent Worldcons?

Among the last four Worldcons, Renovation (2011) was quickest to open both paper and online voting, within 5 days after the nominee announcement.

LoneStarCon 3 (2013) needed a full 75 days to start online voting.

The average lapse time to open online voting over the past four years is 28 days.

That means Loncon 3 isn’t going to be the quickest, though we can hope it won’t take as long as last year.

What about delivery of the Hugo Voter Packet?

John Scalzi conceived the idea and put together the early packets. Beginning with 2010, each year’s Worldcon committee has been responsible.

The Renovation committee holds the record here, too — they made the Hugo Voter Packet available within 26 days. LoneStarCon took the longest time, 50 days. The average of the last four Worldcons is 36.75 days.

So – on average – tomorrow is the day the Hugo Voter Packet would be ready.

Worldcon

(Year)

Nominees

Announced

Voting

Available

 

Packet

Available

LonCon 3 (2014)

4/19/2014

(***)

???

LoneStarCon 3 (2013)

3/30/2013

6/19/2013 (**)

5/19/2013

Chicon 7 (2012)

4/7/2012

4/9/2012

5/18/2012

Renovation (2011)

4/24/2011

4/29/2011

5/20/2011

Aussiecon 4 (2010)

4/4/2010

5/4/2010?

5/4/2010

Anticipation (2009)

3/19/2009

5/19/2009

4/22/2009 (*)

Denvention 3 (2008)

3/21/2008

4/2008

4/10/2008 (*)

(*) In these years the packet was created by John Scalzi.

(**) Date online voting opened. Paper voting began being accepted sometime after 5/1/2013 without official announcement.

(***) Print ballot form available in PR #3, posted online 5/18/2014.

LSC3 Coverage Off To Good Start

MySanAntonio.com‘s advance look at LoneStarCon 3 is accurate and inviting:

Don’t expect Comic-Con. You’d think an international convention dedicated to fantastic and far-out tales would look and feel just like the big Comic-Con International in San Diego. Wrong.

“Worldcon is the international convention of SF Fandom,” Cornell said via email, “which is really all about prose, from short stories to novels, while (Comic-Con) is about international media, still centering (no matter what people say) around comics. Don’t come expecting all the fun of the Comic-Con fair. Expect a lot of thoughtful panels, and a lot of authors.”

It’s intimate and volunteer-driven. While the heavily media-driven Comic-Con draws more than 120,000 fanboys and fangirls, the all-volunteer Worldcon typically pulls in 4,000. Cornell likens it to a huge church fete for SF’s devout.

Still, fewer people can make for a more meaningful experience.

“Because it’s a much smaller scale, your chances of having personal, memorable encounters with creators and media that you love are much greater,” Picacio said.

Not that the con is going to lack star power altogether, says the article, pointing to George R.R. Martin and Charlaine Harris as two authors on the LSC3 program who have gained fame from TV adaptations of their work.

2013 Hugo Nominations Break Record

For the fifth consecutive year Worldcon members have cast a record-breaking number of Hugo nominating ballots. LoneStarCon 3 received 1,343 valid nominating ballots, exceeding the 1,101 received by Chicon 7 last year. Prior to that, Renovation received 1,006 in 2011, Aussiecon 4 received 864 in 2010 and Anticipation received 799 in 2009, each a record-setting figure at the time.

This record-setting trend likely gained momentum from a rules change effective in 2012 which broadened the voting base. Since last year, members in the forthcoming Worldcon have been allowed to nominate too, just as members of the current and previous Worldcon have long been able to do. LonCon 3 in 2014 is a European Worldcon, and I would guess has many members who don’t typically join when the con is in North America, making the universe of potential Hugo nomination voters that much larger than it was in 2012 when the pool consisted of members of three U.S. Worldcons (Renovation, Chicon 7, LoneStarCon 3).

The 2013 Hugo Award nominees will be announced on Saturday, March 30, starting at 3 p.m. CDT.

The nominations announcement will be made simultaneously at four conventions in the United States and United Kingdom, with the shortlists being published through the LoneStarCon 3 website immediately afterwards.

Conventions taking part in the announcement are:

  • Norwescon 36, in Seatac, WA (1 p.m. PDT)
  • Minicon 48, in Bloomington, MN (3 p.m. CDT)
  • Marcon 48, in Columbus, OH (4 p.m. EDT)
  • EightSquaredCon, the British National Science Fiction Convention (Eastercon), in Bradford, England (8 p.m. GMT).

Nominations will also be released category by category via the LoneStarCon 3 Facebook page at www.facebook.com/LoneStarCon3 and the LoneStarCon 3 Twitter feed at twitter.com/LoneStarCon.

The full press release follows the jump.

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Who’s On the LoneStarCon 3 Program?

LoneStarCon3 has some top names in the first wave of acceptances from those invited to be on the Worldcon program.

Ben Bova, Joe Haldeman, Robin Hobb, Mary Robinette Kowal, Nancy Kress, Jay Lake, Tim Powers, Alastair Reynolds, Patrick Rothfuss, Robert J. Sawyer, Robert Silverberg, Jo Walton, and Gene Wolfe. Participating editors include David G. Hartwell (Tor), Beth Meacham (Tor), Toni Weisskopf (Baen), and Sheila Williams (Asimov’s). The list also includes graphic storytellers Phil and Kaja Foglio (“Girl Genius”) and Howard Tayler (“Schlock Mercenary”), as well as Irene Gallo (Tor.com), artist John Picacio, and games designer Steve Jackson.

That’s 23 names in the press release, 73 names total on the website at this writing.

I was glad to find John Picacio’s name on the list, after he recused himself from program at last year’s Worldcon in response to the “gender parity” campaign.

And I was surprised John Scalzi’s name was missing – Chicon 7’s toastmaster and a writer with one of the largest followings in the genre. Turns out there was no reason for me to be surprised – he blogged about his plans in January

It’s likely I will be at LoneStarCon 3, this year’s Worldcon in San Antonio, although this hasn’t been confirmed.

The full press release follows the jump.

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LoneStarCon 3 Sends PR#3

LoneStarCon 3, the 2013 Worldcon in San Antonio, has published Progress Report #3 containing Hugo Award nomination forms and detailed hotel information.

A PDF file of PR#3 can be downloaded from this linked page.

LoneStarCon 3 hotel bookings will open on Monday, January 21, 2013.

The Hugo Award nomination process is open to all adult and young adult members of LoneStarCon 3 who join by January 31, 2013, as well as all members of Loncon 3 (the 2014 Worldcon) who join by the same date, and all members of Chicon 7 (the 2012 Worldcon). Nominations officially opened on January 1, 2013, and members may submit their ballots either online or by postal mail.

The full press release follows the jump.

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LoneStarCon 3 Partners with SF Signal

LoneStarCon 3, the 2013 Worldcon, will partner with SF Signal, mirroring the blog on both the LSC 3 website and Facebook page. LoneStarCon 3, in turn, will contribute guest columns and articles to SF Signal.   

“SF Signal was founded in 2003 by two Texas science fiction fans with a desire to share their love of the genre with the world. That’s been our mission goal ever since,” said John DeNardo. “It must have b een well-received; what started as two fans sharing stuff online grew into web-based fanzine with expanded content (including news, reviews, interviews, a twice-weekly podcast and more), dozens of regular contributors, a continual stream of sf/f/h author guest contributors, and an average readership of 5,000 people every single day. SF Signal was also the recipient of the 2012 Hugo Award for Best Fanzine.”

The full press release follows the jump.

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Access Issues at Chicon 7

There’s an illuminating discussion of access problems at Chicon 7 on Sasha’s Dreams, sparked by a letter from Karen Moore.

I didn’t realize how frustrating it was for fans in mobile wheelchairs (mobis) to navigate the Hyatt. However I did witness that the motion-sensor sliding door at the lobby exit didn’t work because once I opened it for Linda Ross-Mansfield when she couldn’t get through.

Karen Moore compares her Chicon 7 experiences unfavorably to WisCon. It’s not surprising to hear they’re ahead of the Worldcon on such an issue. I wonder: Do Worldcon committees assume that because convention facilities have been brought up to a certain standard to meet legal requirements access is not a problem? If we didn’t know better before, we do now.

Worldcons rent (or broker) mobis for up to several dozen people. That means part of a committee’s implied obligation is to scout their facilities, with their plans for using them in mind, to verify they are accessible (lavatories included). Then they can identify problems to the hotel/convention center to be fixed in advance, or be ready to advise fans about work-arounds.

Bill Parker, co-chair of LoneStarCon 3, told this year’s business meeting he had driven a mobi to test the passages and ramps between the hotel and convention center, some having complained about them at the 1997 San Antonio Worldcon. Once he reads Karen Moore’s letter, I hope he’ll have someone scout the elevators, lavatories, exit doors, etc., too.

Karen Moore’s critique also extended to the hoax program track in Chicon 7’s schedule —

And finally, as much pushback as I know Access has gotten from within the committee over its mission, at least none of WisCon’s concom (that I know of) has ever seriously suggested developing an entire track of programming that doesn’t exist, located in a room that doesn’t exist, and then put the damn thing in the pocket program book, the online program and everywhere else. Evidently, someone in the WorldCon committee finds it immensely amusing to think of a convention member with no cartilage left in his hips struggling painfully down multiple escalators, across the tunnel, up more escalators, then searching through a maze of corridors for a program event, only to find a sign that essentially says “Ha, ha, gotcha, Sucker!” The con chair heard from me on that topic as well, by the way. His response? “Well, I’m sorry you don’t see the humor in it.”

The fake programs were listed in the “Stagg Field” room, which did not exist and so, of course, was not on the hotel map – I’m assuming, therefore, Moore’s scenario is cautionary rather than anything that really happened.

Yet I, too, disliked the hoax program track because so many of the items sounded more plausible than humorous. For example, on Monday this was one of the items shown for Stagg Field:

Deke Slayton was the seventh and final member of the Mercury 7 to fly in space. Come hear stories about his legendary flight aboard the Delta 7, which set records for endurance and distance traveled, and made Slayton a household name and a hero of the astronaut era.

If you know enough about the Mercury program you might recall Slayton was replaced on the Delta 7 mission due to a heart murmur. Or for that matter, know Slayton died in 1993, so he obviously wasn’t going to be present. (A great many listed as Stagg Field participants were equally life challenged.) If you know enough trivia, you’d also recognize another panelist on the item, Minnifield, as a fictional character from Northern Exposure. Or by Monday you may have deduced from other items that everything in Stagg Field was a put-on.

I don’t necessarily say they shouldn’t have done it, but every successful fannish hoax depends on a volatile social chemistry in which some fans have the pleasure of discerning the fraud, as well as witnessing the frustration of others who have not, and are even more annoyed once it’s explained to them. Did anyone wander aimlessly around the Hyatt looking for the Stagg Field room? I doubt it. However, the story demonstrates that, in the age of the internet, the calculated insensitivity of hoax humor can easily turn into bad publicity. Be warned.

Update 09/06/2012: See comments reporting not only that the story happened but that the fake “Stagg Field” room was shown on the con’s pocket program map as if it existed. And how that changes my own criticism of the hoax track.

Progress in San Antonio

LoneStarCon 3, the 2013 Worldcon, has posted Progress Report 2 [PDF file] at its website.

PR#2 reports that People en Español Festival, a Hispanic cultural and music festival will be sharing the convention center with the Worldcon on Saturday and Sunday.

Feature articles include Pat Cadigan telling about GoH Ellen Datlow, Robbie Bourget preparing fans to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who, and Warren Buff outlining plans for a Science Fiction Music exhibit.

The full press release follows the jump.

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