George R. R. Martin is certainly not the only pro endorsing the Helsinki in 2015 Worldcon bid. What I didn’t realize is he had a role as a power behind the throne.
George gave the bid this last-minute boost on his Not A Blog:
Even more than the charms of the city, however, it was the competence and experience of the committee that impressed me. We have had too many badly-run worldcons in recent years (need I mention Montreal, anyone?). The Finncon we attended was huge, drawing something like 30,000 people to Helsinki as I recall. That’s six times as large as any worldcon since the 80s, yet the con ran smoothly start to finish, and everyone seemed to have a great time. I have no doubt that a Helsinki worldcon would be well run as well… and I know the Finnish fans would love to show your their city, their castles, the herds of reindeer wandering the streets. Oh, there’s vodka too. And saunas. Did I mention the saunas?
…Me, I’ll be voting for Helsinki… to put the “world” back in worldcon.
I didn’t know the “world” was out of Worldcon, since in an eight-year period it will have been hosted in Japan, Canada, Australia and the UK as well as four American cities. Of course, there’s really nothing to prevent it from being held outside the U.S. every year.
George R. R. Martin was a guest of Finncon in 2009. Cheryl Morgan said afterwards in her convention report —
I understand that George and Parris have been trying to persuade the Finns to bid for a Worldcon. That shows how much confidence they have in Finnish con-running skills. However, I still don’t think they have the facilities. There is only one major hotel close to the Kaapelitehdas, and while Helsinki’s public transit is very good a Worldcon audience is unlikely to be happy commuting. Also they really need a space that will hold 1,500 – 2,000 people (assuming 3,000 – 4,000 attendees, and they could get a lot more if the Russians decide to come en masse), and I don’t think the Kaapelitehdas can do that without cramping the rest of the space. Worldcon members tend to want to be entertained all day, whereas the anime kids are happy to spend much of the day hanging out and photographing each other so they need less program space.
Helsinki, then, is not really on as a Worldcon venue unless the convention shrinks significantly, or its membership gets a lot less fussy about how far they have to walk.
It’s eye-opening to be reminded what Cheryl thought about Helsinki as a Worldcon venue before she became one of its most ardent boosters.
However, the facilities that Helsinki has been advertising ought to be able to cope with the level of attendance Cheryl estimated in 2009 because when the Worldcon is anywhere outside the U.S. but the UK it tends to shrink into a boutique convention. A Helsinki Worldcon is unlikely to morph into Finncon because (1) Finncons have no membership fees, being funded primarily by cultural grants, and (2) the huge Finncons also included Animecon, which has boosted their attendance and public visibility significantly.