How DisCon III Memberships Match Up To Other Recent Worldcons

After DisCon III, the 2021 Worldcon, shared their membership update last month it seemed reasonable to guess that the coronavirus pandemic is creating a lot of suspense and having a dampening effect on fans joining DC. Just how true is that and how severe is the effect?

The Dublin 2019 and CoNZealand chairs agreed to furnish benchmark numbers from late in the year before their cons to make the comparison.

WORLDCONDublin 2019 11/30/18CoNZealand 12/28/19DisCon III 11/20/20
ATTENDING375116731535
SUPPORTING669730635
TOTAL442024032170

Dublin 2019 chair James Bacon commented about their November membership totals: “I’m still astounded and how we got to our final figure. This is indicative of something else though, fans especially local fans really came on board late.” Dublin finished with 6,525 attending and 8,430 total members.

Even so, Dublin 2019’s trajectory is in general what might be expected from a large Worldcon in ordinary times.

As for CoNZealand, South Pacific Worldcons (Aussiecon 2, 3, and 4, and CoNZealand) as a class are the four smallest Worldcons of the past 35 years. However, CoNZealand was by far the largest of that group, finishing with 2,685 attending and 1,939 supporting members, a total of 4,624. As much as the committee would have preferred a primarily in-person con, going virtual did not keep CoNZealand from surpassing the 2010 Aussiecon stats.

Since a U.S. Worldcon in ordinary times would be on track for high attendance, the effects of the pandemic seem evident from this comparison, and don’t come as a surprise.   

16 thoughts on “How DisCon III Memberships Match Up To Other Recent Worldcons

  1. I paid for DisCon III several days ago. But I’m confined to home anyways, so it was a great deal at twenty dollars for a weekend’s worth of interesting entertainment. Boredom is my constant shadow these days.

    Lis, I decided to get you some high-end nut free milk chocolate truffles from a local concern. If you enjoy them, write up a comment and I’ll post it at Green Man.

  2. I think you’re a little behind the times on Worldcon demographics. European Worldcons are now significantly larger than North American Worldcons, and so it should come as no surprise that Discon III is running behind Dublin. There’s been no North American Worldcon as large as Dublin 2019 since Bucconeer in 1998, and Loncon 3 and Worldcon 75 (Helsinki) were larger still. The numbers for Worldcon 76 (San Jose) or MidAmeriiCon II would,provide a better comparable for Discon III.

  3. Mike Scott: I think you’re a little behind the times on Worldcon demographics. European Worldcons are now significantly larger than North American Worldcons… and Loncon 3 and Worldcon 75 (Helsinki) were larger still.

    Yes, and unfortunately the trend with European Worldcons seems to have become “sell as many memberships as possible, and never mind that it ends up being a massive crowd with unending lines and no one able to get into panels.”

    That is not a good thing. 😐

  4. Mike Scott: European Worldcons are now significantly larger than North American Worldcons, and so it should come as no surprise that Discon III is running behind Dublin.

    I agree that it’s not surprising, but I don’t agree with your contention why it is not surprising. The point of the discussion is not that DisCon III was predicted to outdraw Dublin or London, but that it certainly wasn’t going draw less than half the people that Dublin got, and yet DisCon III presently has less than 50% of Dublin’s memberships at a comparable point in time. Why? The pandemic.

    I did ask for the Worldcon 76 numbers and wasn’t able to get them. But I kept close track of Sasquan’s memberships leading up to the 2015 Worldcon. Sasquan ended up with a bit over 5,000 attendees, 1,500 less than Dublin. On December 21, 2014 Sasquan had 2,690 attending 1,047 supporting, 3,737 total. DisCon III presently has less than 60% of that total. So they’re also doing poorly by a North American measure. (Footnote: After the beginning of 2015 Sasquan’s supporting memberships blew up because of the Puppy slates, so that’s why I’m just looking at their attendance in comparison with Dublin’s.)

  5. I have no doubt that we will have an in person Worldcon in Washington DC. Because of the time of year, December, I won’t be doing the tourist stuff I wanted to do but I checked the weather and the highs were in the 40’s with little or no precipitation so it is doable even for a Californian.

  6. @JJ: I don’t think the recent European Worldcons were trying to be as big as possible on purpose, this is just what happens when every 5 years or so, Worldcon comes to Europe and all the European fans are happy to be able to go without an intercontinental trip. Local fan involvement and enthusiasm is accordingly big, and should be encouraged.

    The alternative for both Helsinki and Dublin would have been to cap membership early and basically tell local fans that they’re not welcome when the world comes around to their corner of the globe. Not the picture we want people to have about Worldcon, I think.

  7. Capping Worldcon size from an esprit standpoint feels wrong and exclusionary, feeding into the mistaken idea that Worldcon is for a select few . Its a pernicious narrative to be sure, and one employed in the days of the puppies.

    I do agree with the above–the infrequency of European Worldcons has made them a big draw and that’s why the endless lines of, say, Helsinki. Or the issues of Dublin.

    Practical considerations going forward are going to be a factor, to say nothing of health. I could see myself wearing a mask to future conventions of any significant size.

  8. Constanze Hofmann: I don’t think the recent European Worldcons were trying to be as big as possible on purpose, this is just what happens when every 5 years or so, Worldcon comes to Europe and all the European fans are happy to be able to go without an intercontinental trip. Local fan involvement and enthusiasm is accordingly big, and should be encouraged.

    The intent is fine. The results are not. Just throwing up one’s hands and saying, “Oh well, what else could we do but let everyone come?” is not an acceptable solution.

     
    Constanze Hofmann: The alternative for both Helsinki and Dublin would have been to cap membership early and basically tell local fans that they’re not welcome when the world comes around to their corner of the globe. Not the picture we want people to have about Worldcon, I think.

    It is possible to tell local fans that they’re welcome, but that at-the-door sales will not happen, and that they need to buy memberships in advance. The alternative – a convention where most members can’t attend many – if any – panels, and spend a huge part of their time standing in lines, is a miserable, non-accessible experience for most members. If that’s what Worldcons are going to be from now on, what’s the point in doing them?

  9. If attendance is too large, you can do one of two things about it: Tell some people who want to attend that they can’t (by numerical caps), or raise prices, so that people decide on their own.

    Which is better (bearing in mind that the first option limits convention income, as well)?

  10. OK, I live in Washington. The weather today was 62-40. It’s supposed to be in the 40s in the middle of the week. I think if you planned for weather with a high of 48 and a low of 35 that would nail it. It does snow in December but not that much. January and February are our snowy months.

    Part of the problem is that the con committee hasn’t said what they are going to do. I’m not interested in a “mostly virtual” Worldcon. I want to do convention things–going to dinner, buying books, seeing friends, I don’t want to stare at a screen. I haven;t “participated” in any virtual conventions, and won’t in the future.

  11. I would have expected that a lot of the people who aren’t yet sure about attending would have purchased supporting memberships instead but I see that hasn’t happened.

  12. bookworm1398: I would have expected that a lot of the people who aren’t yet sure about attending would have purchased supporting memberships instead but I see that hasn’t happened.

    Since people with memberships to CoNZealand are still eligible to nominate for DisCon III’s Hugo Awards, it’s possible that people are holding off due to concerns about financial insecurity caused by the economic impact of the pandemic.

  13. JJ:

    It is possible to tell local fans that they’re welcome, but that at-the-door sales will not happen, and that they need to buy memberships in advance.

    Which is exactly what was done in both Helsinki and Dublin, iirc. Helsinki had a strictly capped and pretty low number of tickets for the day (and was fortunately able to acquire more space on the fly), and Dublin didn’t have any at-the-door sales at all.

    Yes, too many people and not enough space is a problem, but I’m sure committees are aware of it by now and working on solutions.

  14. Constanze Hofmann: Which is exactly what was done in both Helsinki and Dublin, iirc. Helsinki had a strictly capped and pretty low number of tickets for the day (and was fortunately able to acquire more space on the fly), and Dublin didn’t have any at-the-door sales at all. Yes, too many people and not enough space is a problem, but I’m sure committees are aware of it by now and working on solutions.

    And yet both conventions ended up putting on Inaccessible Events. In Helsinki’s case, one problem was that they put a massive amount of membership funds in the bank instead of reserving additional Programming space which was actually available in sufficient quantity at their venue.

    The other problem was that Helsinki promised to stop selling at-the-door memberships and yet ended up selling around 1,000 of them.

    The newer problem is why Dublin, 2 years after Helsinki, wasn’t able (or willing) to avoid putting on an Inaccessible Event.

    Thus far I’ve heard a lot of excuses, and very little of “We’re going to make sure that this doesn’t happen again.”

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