Orlando in 2015 Manifesto

The Orlando in 2015 Worldcon bid committee has posted the Orlando Manifesto, a wide-ranging philosophical discussion of how to run the con and how to grow the community that supports it.

Something I noticed right off the bat is that, like James at Big Dumb Object, the Orlando committee isn’t impressed by the record-setting number of Hugo nominating votes:

About 1000 individuals vote for the awards these days, while Facebook fan communities often have tens of thousands of members.  New fandom simply does not credit, nor have any interest in, an activity that draws such a relatively small number of people.

Unlike James, they are trying to woo voters within the Worldcon community. This kind of shaming rhetoric hardly seems designed to accomplish that goal.

27 thoughts on “Orlando in 2015 Manifesto

  1. It doesn’t matter unless something has assumed gigantic proportions and diminished individual contribution to insignificance, mere statistics… good corporate thinking. Let’s turn fandom into a typical consumer base that Time Warner and Disney can use to their advantage. Orwell would be proud.

  2. “New fandom” thinks this, “new fandom” declares that. Why don’t they just number it 7 and have done with it?

  3. Ah Taral, what else would you expect from an organisation that has a manifesto. Worldcons these days are run by people who are all about designing service charters for their clients. Mind you, they don’t want to do this for Time Warner or Disney, they want to do this for their own faux corporation, Worldcon.

  4. What’s wrong with manifestos? Westercon 66 has one. We even did a print run in monospaced pica mauvine type. I would have run it on twilltone had some been available to me.

    That said, I’m really hoping that Marienhamn throws its hat in the ring for 2015. Because neither Orlando nor Spokane have convinced me that their vision for Worldcon is one that’s going to bring fans that aren’t already invested together.

  5. The Orlando committee’s discussion of the Hugo Awards was not meant to diminish in any way the very strong and successful efforts that have increased participation in the awards over the last several years by the various Worldcon committees. Nor was it meant to shame those committees or Worldcon membership at-large.

    Our theme for our Worldcon will be ‘Science Fiction is Bigger Than You Think!’ – as indeed it is, with SF and fantasy properties dominating television, film, gaming, comics and much more. We believe that the Hugo should be perceived as ‘the most prestigious award in SF’ by not just Worldcon fans, but by anyone and everyone who is exposed to science fiction and fantasy, everywhere; as an example, we think the award should be so well-known and ubiquitous that HBO should be displaying ‘Nominated for (or Winner of) a Hugo Award’ during the opening credits as a matter of course – and that every viewer who sees it will not only know what it is but understand the import.

    Make no mistake, getting there will not take place overnight – the four year effort to increase participation amongst Worldcon members is evidence enough of that. But it will never have a chance of happening at all if the current relationship between the award and fans – SF & fantasy consuming fans of all types – is not understood for what it is. Right now, the award is popular amongst a percentage of fandom. The task of insuring that this continues seems to be well in hand. What we are attempting to articulate is that there still remains a lot of work for you, me, and all of us as fans regarding the rest of the world.

    The Hugo Awards should be a household name – they deserve nothing less. Even if you aren’t a fan (of whatever kind), we believe you ought to know what they are and perhaps even aspire to participate. The committee believes that one of its most important jobs is to help make that happen, because a stronger Hugo Awards means a stronger Worldcon. And a stronger Worldcon means a stronger fandom.

  6. @Andrew: Whoops, I forecast rain on this parade. Under the rules, the only people who can vote for the future site are members of the current Worldcon. It’s one thing for a committee to tout ideas for growing the Worldcon, a shared value, and another to sound like they’re planning to trade in the existing community for some new,improved batch of fans they hope want to come,which is a political suicide note.

  7. @Adam: The Hugos have whatever cachet they enjoy because they are given by a unique, interactive community of fans and creative pros. There are a lot of people who mistakenly believe that if you pump a lot of air into the brand by adding a mass of non-Worldcon-attending voters the award will become bigger and greater yet still be distinguishable from the already-existing mass-voted sf awards simply because of the name Hugo. Fans who suffer from that misunderstanding should not be put in charge of the award.

  8. I’m confused, Mike – what part of what I wrote said we’re “planning to trade in the existing community for some new, improved batch of fans they hope want to come.” By wanting to have more people involved in the process and becoming part of the “unique, interactive community of fans and creative pros”? Why are you suggesting that having more people excited about participating in the nominating and voting for the Hugos (and subsequently, participating in the Worldcon) is a “political suicide note”? Please explain how promoting the Hugo Awards, one of the things that makes Worldcon truly unique and special, equates to us suffering from a “misunderstanding”. I do see a misunderstanding here, but not the one you’re referring to.

  9. I bet we could make science more popular with a wider outreach to the general public. Why not let anyone who reads Scientific American or Astronomy vote for the Nobel prizes? The same with people interested in world peace, literature, and medicine. Clearly its time we grew beyond the practice of allowing of a tiny elite who know the subject to make the decision who has made the most important achievements of the year. Why do we show an archaic preference for “conventional” or “standard” sciences and discriminate against creationists, intelligent designers, climate change deniers, Dianetics, flat-Earthers, Velokovskyites, Forteans, spiritualists, and the people who actually believe the neat stuff in Star Trek works? They are the future, and if we want science to survive, we had best welcome them in!

  10. Of course, Taral – increasing awareness of and participation in the Hugo Awards is *exactly* like letting anyone who reads Scientific American vote for the Nobel Prizes…thank you for clearing that up for me. And I’m *sure* you’ve also informed James Bacon, Chris Garcia, and Helen Montgomery that the Science Fiction Outreach Project is a complete and utter waste of time as well – because, hey, if they’re not *already* reading those books and interested in the exact same things as we are, they’re not part of the “tiny elite” and therefore not worthy of our time or efforts, are they? And considering Chicon 7 is involved with the Outreach Project – man, what a waste of Worldcon’s time and resources! Why would Worldcon *possibly* want to increase awareness of science fiction and itself? Why would anyone bother to get new people excited about the same things that we are? I mean, *we’re* already here, right? Thanks for clearing that up for me – you’ve saved me and my committee three-and-a-half years of unnecessary time and effort reaching out to new people and getting them interested in the Hugos and Worldcon.

  11. Mr. Trembley:

    “Because neither Orlando nor Spokane have convinced me that their vision for Worldcon is one that’s going to bring fans that aren’t already invested together.”

    What’s the crucial missing piece that would convince you? Is there an existing bid for another year that you think has created an effective vision?

  12. Thus the disadvantages of comments. Somebody jumps in to agree with me using a weaker argument and Adam cleans his clock, in the process escaping scrutiny about the original point.

    Which is that the Hugo’s current claim as the field’s premier award is founded on the community that comes to the convention. If you turn it into a numbers game you no longer have something that rises above other mass-voted awards. You WILL please others who want to change the Hugo to appeal to those who worship sheer numbers.

    Your claim is turning the Hugo in that direction will lead to growing the Worldcon. If I thought that was logically true I would not be objecting because both the community and award would grow together. I challenge that belief because even now you can see people joining to get the Hugo Voter Packet and setting Hugo voting records while the actual attendance at the Worldcons — focusing on North America here — in Montreal and Reno remained small, around 4,000. The award is not an engine that drives higher attendance.

    If Chicago is much larger, as I hope, that will be for several reasons, beginning with putting the con in a location where there are a lot of sf fans available to reach out to.

    (That, I supposed, was also Orlando’s strength.)

  13. Once again Mike, you are failing to see the forest for the trees. Raising awareness of the Hugo Awards by its very nature increases awareness of the Worldcon – they are synonymous, intertwined; one cannot discuss one of them without inevitably bringing up the other. To completely dismiss out-of-hand one avenue of potentially increased Worldcon participation – THAT is “political suicide”, as you put it.

    You bring up “the Hugo’s current claim as the field’s premier award is founded on the community that comes to the convention,” also saying that “The award is not an engine that drives higher attendance.” In an earlier message you equated efforts to increase Hugo awareness and participation to “adding a mass of non-Worldcon-attending voters” to the mix. The Hugo Awards are not voted on by only the members of the Worldcon who attend, Mike. I for one would be very upset at all those above statements were I a Worldcon *Supporting* Member, someone who supports the idea and efforts of the Worldcon, and who also has the privilege of nominating and voting for the Hugos, but apparently in your eyes and by your words not important. Certainly not important *enough*, based on what you’ve written.

    Increasing awareness and participation in the Hugos is not limited to getting people through the door for any *one* particular Worldcon, it’s a year-in, year-out effort about getting people excited and interested *in* Worldcon. (And it’s not even limited to that, either). And because Worldcon moves from year to year, we allow those who cannot travel to it for whatever reason the opportunity to still participate and be a part of our community through Supporting Memberships. To dismiss the efforts of others in increasing Hugo participation based on the physical attendance of two separate Worldcons out of sixty-nine – that notion is not even wrong.

    The comments you’re making are also suggesting that an increase in awareness and participation in the Hugos is Orlando’s only arrow in the quiver for the Worldcon. Which, if you’ve read our manifesto, is blatantly and patently untrue. I encourage you to read the entire document which lays out our multiple plans for encouraging new membership for Worldcon.

    But I have to say, what I find the most interesting is the comment you yourself made to your own recent article, ““Chicon 7 Sets Hugo Nominating Vote Record”, in which you respond to a comment with:

    “They used to refer to influxes of new LASFS members as “barbarian invasions” except that was a good thing. Meant the club was getting bigger. Probably still is a good thing, and will be a chance to get more eyes on your art too.”

    So what’s good for the goose *isn’t* good for the gander, Mike? What’s good for LASFS *isn’t* good for the Worldcon? Where is the Mike that wrote that comment in *this* conversation? Where is the Mike that wrote “Is Your Club Dying?” in 1998? I’m much more interested in talking to *that* Mike.

  14. @Adam: Guess it’s just the revolutionary in me thinking that a convention should be run foremost for the benefit of the people who come to it. Don’t you?

    And yes, I thought it was a good idea when more people showed up at LASFS meetings. Just as I think it would be great for more fans to come to Worldcons. Dramatically growing the number of people who join to get the Hugo Voter Packet — can you show thatwill bring more people to the con? I’ve pointed to evidence that it probably doesn’t.

    And “two out of sixty-nine”? So your suggestion is to make sure we don’t forget the impact of the Hugos on Worldcon growth in years before it was given? Okay, I won’t.

  15. Am I being facetious in suggesting that the only people who want the Worldcon to be bigger are people who don’t want to come to it as it is? The other group inclined toward larger Worldcons seems to be the people who run them — who presumably see it as a bigger challenge and larger feather in their caps, as though it is for *their* benefit the institution exists. (As if the Oscars were run mainly to make work for the people who organize the Oscars.)

    The problem has also been presented to me as one of awkward size. The Worldcon isn’t big enough to get truly good deals on immense spaces, but it is too big enough to save money on more modest spaces. Yet, it seems to me that lately the Worldcon has had no trouble acquiring immense spaces for itself… much to the despair of fans like myself who are finding it tougher to get from one end of a half-mile long hall to the other, much less the two mile trek from the registration table to whatever program room I need to find. Of course, that’s me declining into late-middle age, not the con getting bigger. Nevertheless, nobody could call the facilities at Reno, “small.”

    It is really hard to get around the suspicion that the people calling for a larger Worldcon really do not have the best interests of the present membership in mind — it is really an imaginary fandom to come, that is larger, appeals to the general public, and allows the principle players access to the “big boys” — such as Time-Warner, Lucus, Sony, and … who knows? Maybe even a chance to shake hands with Dick Cheney? But it’s not for our benefit these changes are envisioned.

  16. “Am I being facetious in suggesting that the only people who want the Worldcon to be bigger are people who don’t want to come to it as it is? ”

    Well, here: I’m a person who enjoys Worldcon as it currently is, and yet think some growth would be a good thing. Certainly not to San Diego Comic-Con numbers, but I think it could handle something in the low 10,000s without damaging the experience. And far from the corporate involvement you suggest, I’d like to see Worldcon hold its own as a high-profile alternative to that sort of thing.

    OTOH, I think that while outreach is good and Worldcon’s door should be open to all of fandom, its health– and that of the fan-run convention community in general– depends even more on making sure people know about their local conventions. (One of the main aims behind my proposed video blogging project is to publicize that fandom is everywhere, not just at big conventions far away that you have to plan for months in advance and save up thousands of dollars to attend.)

  17. Taral:

    You’re being tremendously unfair, and rude to boot, with your insinuations. I’m one of those people who think Worldcon is the wrong size where it sits now, down about 50% from its peak attendance. My first Worldcon (indeed, my first SF convention) was the 1984 Worldcon, which had more than 8,000 people attending, and I had an utter blast. 1989 in Boston was around 7K and was a great convention. I have no perspective on ConFrancisco, which was also in the neighborhood of 7K, but I’ve heard from a lot of people who enjoyed it. We’ve lost something by shrinking.

    As someone whose first fannish experience was attending the largest Worldcon ever held and who found it a life-changing (for the good) experience, I’ve spent a lot of time “paying forward” the favor than fandom paid me. I love the convention and want it to thrive. But I know that it definitely is the wrong size now. It either needs to limit attendance to about 2K members (or shrink it some other way) so that it can start fitting in most hotel-only facilities (which would cut down on your walking problem) or else it needs to grow up toward 10K in order to make proper use of the facilities we’ve been forced to rent. One of the reasons recent Worldcon have felt so empty is that we’re not filing the space well. You can’t rent half an exhibit hall, so you end up being a pea in a barrel.

    I don’t run conventions and spend a significant amount of my time and energy and money on them in order to hobnob with the media the way you so snidely imply. I do it because I think Worldcon is a great convention and want more people to discover it and I want it to have a future. Where we are not is not good for the convention’s health and contributes the the complaints that it costs too much to attend.

    Ironically, if we put a membership cap on it, like World Fantasy Con, we could bring the price down but the demand would go up and we’d see a secondary market in memberships, unless we did what ComicCon does and prohibit transfers and resales. I don’t consider capping a realistic choice and therefore I think the convention would be healthier with 8-10K attendees than with 3-4K.

  18. Kevin: “You can’t rent half an exhibit hall.” So why, when you do rent twice as much space as you need, do you put everything in the back half? To be specific: at Reno, why was it necessary for attendees to trudge across acres of bare concrete to reach the dealers and the art show? Was the convenience of having the heavy stuff nearer the loading docks really that much greater than the burden on attendees’ feet? Or was it feared that if the exhibits were behind the dealers and art instead of in front of them, nobody would see them? If the latter, that still leaves the question of why have those exhibits scattered across those ugly bare acres like tropical islands in the Pacific Ocean?

  19. I am not the person who made the decisions for Renovation, but having been in a similar position for ConJose, I’m going to speculate that the convention management did indeed think it was more important to have the dealers and art show areas closer to the loading dock to facilitate the logistics. Furthermore, I’m pretty sure I would have made a similar decision, and that without the “draw” of dealers/art show, the Exhibits would be overlooked, which they should not be. Why do I think this? Well, in 2002, we had Art Show, Exhibits, and Dealers Room in three separate halls separated by air walls. We would have rather had the walls down and used pipe-and-drape to separate the areas, but pipe-and-drape is very expensive and the air walls are free. In retrospect, had we known we would have the money in the end (at the time we had to make the decision, we did not know), I would have wanted the art show and dealers set up in such a way that the most likely path to them took you through the Exhibits. As it actually happened, the Exhibits were mostly overlooked and had very little traffic. Indeed, if we hadn’t put Autographs in there, the traffic would have been nearly nonexistent.

    So the thing you would have preferred has a cost; it’s not free, even though it probably seems that way to you. How much more would you have paid for your membership to pay for the arrangement you wanted?

  20. Kevin’s answer is good if it is assumed a convention center will be used.

    Perhaps implicit in DB’s comment is another question, why use a convention center? Won’t a 4000 person con fit better in a big hotel?

    I think a lot of bids feel pressured to use the more impressive facilities to keep themselves competitive in the site selection voting. Will fans vote for a bid that intentionally sets out to hold a comparatively small Worldcon, versus picking facilities that can handle more attendees if the dream of a bigger turnout comes true?

  21. Unfortunately, Kevin’s reply does not actually address my questions.

    Kevin says that logistics presumably dictated the placement of the dealers and art way in the back. It’s nice to have confirmed that the convenience of the people handling the carts and handtrucks, or whatever vehicles were used to transport materials, on setup and takedown days, is worth everything, and the convenience of the attendees forced to trek vast distances across the concrete (very tiring to the feet and shins) any time they want to visit on all the intervening days is worth nothing. That’s kind of what I thought at the time, and being told “screw you” in little ways by the convention always cheers up the attendees’ mood.

    But he also says that any alternative arrangement would have cost more in terms of actual expenditures. How much more money would it have cost to have shoved everything forward a few yards? There was certainly room for it.

    Kevin also says that the exhibits were in front to encourage traffic through them. Fair enough; I guessed that much myself. But why were they so bleakly and unattractively scattered across such a vast expanse of concrete landscape? It wasn’t because of uniquely bad planning by Renovation regarding the amount of space needed; I’ve been to previous Worldcons which had the same layout. Presumably it was to occupy as much space as possible because the dealers and art were so far away. Again, how much money would it have cost to have shoved everything forward a few yards and made a more attractive exhibit area?

    Certainly if the exhibits had been behind the dealers, fewer people would have seen them. But Kevin does say that any alternative arrangement would have cost more in terms of actual expenditures. How much more money would it have cost to have had exhibits that most attendees didn’t see? I’m not talking about intangibles, but about actual monetary cost, since Kevin says there would have been some.

  22. I don’t think there are a lot of hotels into which a 4000-person Worldcon could fit, not without a whole lot of cutting. We use too much function space per member to carry out our traditional functions. Chicon 7 is one of the exceptional facilities in that it can handle an event of our size, but how many hotels have a 2000-seat theatre-style “big event” (Hugos/Masquerade) space, enough room for a dealers room and art show, the exhibits we’ve come to expect since 1989, and also room for programming?

    This is another one of these things where if we viciously cut away at things, we could get the costs down substantially, but it seems to me that there would be so many complaints that any Worldcon doing so would be subjected to the criticism that it “wasn’t really a Worldcon.” Alternatively, the cost would go down and the attendance would go up, resulting in an unwanted level of crowding, denied admission to the major events, etc.

    I don’t have an answer on the “cut” side that doesn’t, in my opinion, seriously compromise what most regular attendees expect a Worldcon to provide.

  23. DB:

    The costs would be in the extra labor to the paid people — and there would be extra time and effort in the load in/out. There are other costs, such as that you’d probably end up needing even more pipe and drape to “seal off” the back of the underutilized hall. That was one of the things we were facing in 2002.

    It’s ironic that we could make the convention seem better by cramming people into a smaller space. We’ve spent years working on minimizing queues and crowding. Maybe that’s a mistake, and we need to encourage lots of crowding and long lines for the same size event so that people will think it’s more successful than it really is.

  24. Kevin: The dealers’ room is already a big space. The exhibits space is even bigger. Paid labor bringing shelves and tables and boxes to dealers at the front of the dealers’ room already has to trek a fair distance from the loading docks in the back, and loading/unloading, rather than walking from A to B, is the most time-consuming part of setup and teardown. (At least if you’re taking big loads it is, and if you’re not, you’re wasting more of the paid workers’ time than you would be by making them walk farther.) Count me as the severest skeptic that any significant amount of money was saved by not pushing things forward a few yards. And what additional “sealing off” would be needed that was not already there to protect the security of the sales items and art? The front of those areas was secured without any massive to-do.

    Who said anything about “cramming”? Not me. My point about the exhibits is that they were the opposite of crammed. “Scattered across those ugly bare acres like tropical islands in the Pacific Ocean” was my initial simile, and there’s plenty of room to tighten that up without cramming. Claiming that “cramming” is the alternative is a disingenuous excluded middle.

    Look, the spacing in the program room areas (which was already there; the con had no control over it) was perfect: no long pointless treks (because if you had to go distances, you were going past other things, not empty space), plenty of bustle so that you felt part of a large con and a community without so much congestion that you had to fight your way through crowds.

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