Memphis Worldcon Bidders: Won’t Run Retros If They Win; Address Diversity and Inclusion Policies

Memphis in 2023
Memphis in 2023

The Memphis in 2023 Worldcon bid chairs Kate Secor and Cliff Dunn have posted a statement about their plans for averting some of the high profile controversies that overshadowed the recently completed Worldcon: “Our Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion”. The full statement is at the link.

Given recent circumstances, now that CoNZealand has (officially) closed we feel that a well-though-out response is merited to questions asked of us over the last few days. We have chosen this format to try and respond in full; to quote a mutual friend, you can’t tweet nuance.

RETRO HUGOS. The 2023 Worldcon will have the choice to award the 1948 Retro Hugos; Memphis won’t exercise that option.

The easiest question to answer is whether or not we intend to run Retro Hugo Awards: No, we do not. While we understand that some family members very much appreciate getting Hugos for the work their parents (or grandparents) did, the reaction to the Retros has been increasingly mixed. On balance, we therefore believe it is time to move on from these, at least for the time being.

CODE OF CONDUCT. The Memphis bidders describe ways they would use their Code of Conduct as part of their answer to the question, “What do you intend to do to make marginalized people comfortable at your convention?”

Beyond communicating the Code of Conduct to staff, panelists, emcees and guests of honor, they say —

…Most importantly, for major speakers and guests (e.g., ToastPerson for the Hugos, and Guests of Honor), we intend to have a serious discussion with them well in advance of their events to ensure that they are comfortable with the Code of Conduct and that any questions are answered. We will do our best to vet any remarks which are to be delivered at major convention events in advance.

More to the point, if we cannot come to an understanding with a guest or speaker regarding the Code of Conduct, then we will not put that guest in a position where they feel they cannot comply with it. If we are sent an advance recording of non-compliant remarks, we will either edit them, or we simply won’t run the remarks.

As to “live” material –

…While we intend to be proactive (see above), we know that the odds are good that we will have to respond. So we intend to communicate the consequences for breaking the Code of Conduct as well. These may include, depending on the exact circumstances (i.e. seriousness of the breach, whether it was or seems to be premeditated, etc.), anything from a reprimand, to the premature termination of a speaking opportunity, to removal from programming and/or the convention.

PROGRAMMING. Doubtless with the “Statement of 2020 Hugo Finalists re: Worldcon Programming” and similar criticisms in mind, Secor and Dunn also say —

We intend to be as proactive and attentive as we can be regarding the makeup of panels and making sure that panelists are not “miscast” out of the blue or placed with people they know they do not get along with. We will also do our best to ensure that a broad range of topics are covered, and to work with various marginalized groups to ensure that their views are represented.


Memphis, TN (USA) and Chengdu, China are the two declared bids to host the 2023 Worldcon.

168 thoughts on “Memphis Worldcon Bidders: Won’t Run Retros If They Win; Address Diversity and Inclusion Policies

  1. It looks like their proposed date is August 23-27, 2023. Labor Day is the following week. Does seem to be cutting it close if that’s still the proposed date.

    DragonCon starts on the Thursday before Labor Day, so that would be August 31–only a two day gap. It will be hard to break down in Memphis and get set up in Atlanta in that short a time.

    DragonCon normally attracts 80-90K attendees, so it’s not something WorldCon can easily compete with.

  2. Is there really that much overlap between Worldcon and Dragon Con attendees? Because it seems to me as if both events attract very different audiences., It might be an issue for Memphis, because both events are in roughly the same part of the US and therefore draw from the same general pool of people. And people from the region will have to decide whether to attend Worldcon or Dragon Con. It might also be an issue for some professionals such as writers and editors, but Dragon Con’s literature track usually has very different writers than Worldcon’s.

    But overseas visitors are far more likely to attend Worldcon than Dragon Con. .For example, I would travel to the US to attend Worldcon. I wouldn’t do so for Dragon Con. I might visit, if it was the weekend before or after Worldcon and I’m in the country anyway.

  3. I don’t think there’s a great deal of overlap based on the one Worldcon (San Jose) I’ve been to. Certainly there were fewer vendors at Worldcon but that would mostly affect book vendors and perhaps art folks.
    Cora: If you decide to attend Dragon Con in that case, definitely let us know.

  4. StefanB: @JJ re Bills coment: Re: chinese worldcon and chinese fans. We have to seperate this. Chinese fans are absolutly welcome to worldcon.

    I’m not sure why you’re addressing this to me. The Press Release in the piece to which I linked — the one with the faked endorsement from the DisCon III co-chair — was put out by the Chinese government, and I haven’t said anything about Chinese fans, who I agree are very welcome at Worldcon.

  5. Pingback: Rethinking the Retro-Hugos: How Should We Honor Past SFF? | File 770

  6. Lela E Buis: DragonCon starts on the Thursday before Labor Day, so that would be August 31–only a two day gap. It will be hard to break down in Memphis and get set up in Atlanta in that short a time. DragonCon normally attracts 80-90K attendees, so it’s not something WorldCon can easily compete with.

    There may be a tiny overlap of committee members between the two cons, but the people who would be putting on a Memphis Worldcon are pretty much completely different from the people who would be putting on DragonCon. And for dealers, it’s a half-day drive from one city to the other.

    Worldcon and DragonCon are very different conventions and don’t compete for the same customer base. Certainly there is some overlap, but the majority of the people who attend Worldcon would not find DragonCon appealing, and vice-versa.

  7. Based on my experience at ConJosé, the 2002 Worldcon, DragonCon was not our “competition” — Burning Man was. There were excellent conrunners who I would have liked to have had on our committee who said, “But I always go to Burning Man” and weren’t persuaded that “Burning Man is every year, but this is the first time in a decade that Worldcon is nearby.”

  8. @Hampus Eckerman

    Several clarifications. One of the big differences between what I’m proposing and the way the Retros work today is that under my proposal we wouldn’t have to do all the categories for a given year all in the same Worldcon. Right now, if a Worldcon does the Retros for year X and decides not to do certain categories (either by executive fiat or because they didn’t meet nominating/voting thresholds), nobody ever gets to award Retros for those categories in year X ever again. But in my proposal, if a given Worldcon wanted to award, say, “Best Novel of 1948”, another Worldcon three years later could do “Best Graphic Story of 1948” if they wanted to. That’s one of the benefits of not tying historical awards to specific anniversary years – we can spread the effort out over more years so we can give each category the attention it deserves.

    As far as the availability for the packet goes, it’s not an absolute requirement, and it wouldn’t necessarily be free. Just like today, it would be up to the rights holders of potential finalists to decide how much, if any, of their works they are willing to make available for a Hugo Packet and under what conditions. One of the things I think this new standing committee should do when considering whether to recommend a particular category/year combination for consideration by future Worldcons is to talk to the rights holders for a bunch of potential finalists to judge how available those rights might be, and take that information into account when considering whether that category/year is ready to be proposed. I am hoping that the additional prestige of being able to put “Hugo Winner” on future reprints might convince some publishers to cooperate more fully with the packet than many past Retro publishers.

    One possibility I suggested in one of the Twitter threads is that if reproduction rights for a given category are too expensive for a Worldcon to consider, it might be possible for the committee to partner with a commercial publisher to encourage publication of an anthology that would include many likely finalists for a category under consideration. We would have to be careful about conflicts of interest of course, but the existence of such an anthology could be taken into account when considering when a category is ripe. (Personally, while I would prefer not to have additional expenses for voters, I would be willing to buy a reasonably priced anthology that included most/all of the finalists in a given historical category, especially if it included additional highly regarded works in the same category for comparison with the finalists. I don’t want to have to buy six different anthologies just to read one story each.) Or in some cases, the committee might conclude that reproduction rights for a given category are such a tangle that we should wait until most of the potential finalists have passed into the public domain before we can fairly consider that category for a Hugo. I’m ok with that, too.

    As far as caring if someone shows up in person to collect the trophy, that too is not required, although it is special when it does happen. One of the most moving moments for me at the 1941 Retros was Van Vogt’s granddaughter showing up to accept the trophy on his behalf, which almost didn’t happen since the organizers weren’t initially aware that she was in the room. But I would like to avoid the long sequences of “announce winner – hand the trophy to another administrator – hope that we can find a home for it later” that have been typical of the Retro ceremonies I have been to. If we can identify the person who will get the trophy in advance for each finalist, we can invite them to share a few words about what the award means to them which could be read aloud, or even connect remotely via Skype/Zoom/prerecorded message for an acceptance speech if they want to deliver the message in person. Even having an administrator able to say “I accept on behalf of the XYZ family who will be receiving the award” would be a lot more personal than what I have typically seen.

    I see that Mike has now promoted my proposal to it’s own article at http://file770.com/rethinking-the-retro-hugos-how-should-we-honor-past-sff/#comments – I’d suggest that further comments on the proposal go there.

  9. Dave Wallace:

    The time it would take for the Worldcons to go through the remaining categories, one at a time if they bothered, would be ridiculous and some of them would never be done as all would go for the high status ones. So no thank you.

    And I’m extremely much against your ideas about a Hugo package. What could be available for free should not in any way influence a category. No more for Retro-Hugos than for the current Hugos.

    And I think a better idea would be to not hand out trophies at all, even if I too cheered when Van Vogt’s granddaughter showed up. I would not cheer if I knew someone won in part because they promised to show up. A Hugo is not a participation price.

  10. What Laura said – thanks to you both. (and it would be nice if that information could be moved here, which is the logical place to look for it and find it. Is Mr. Standlee in a position to make this happen?)

  11. Pingback: Why the Retro Hugos Have Value | Cora Buhlert

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