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%).

Longest and Shortest Hugo Award Ceremonies

Hugo Award ballots must be received by Midnight, Pacific Daylight Time, on July 7. Denvention 3 members are eligible – do your online voting soon and beat the rush. The imminent deadline also means that about a month from now another audience of nominees will be sweating out the results. Diana and I will be there.

I said in “Silverberg and Resnick: That’s Entertainment!” in File 770 #153 that I’m no fan of the Hugo-Ceremony-as-100-Yard-Dash. The ceremony’s purpose is to honor the best in our field, and to me the clock is not the tool to measure how well that’s done. But I’d agree that some of the shortest ones have been great fun.

When the fans who love speedy Hugo Ceremonies start honoring people on a Mount Rushmore for toastmasters, Marta Randall will be right up there in Washington‘s place. She always did an admirable job of making haste as entertainingly as possible. And no wonder people were moving. The funniest moment of the fast-moving 1982 Hugos came when she goosed presenter Bob Tucker as he left the stage. Marta’s 90-minute 1982 Hugo Ceremony set a record unequalled for 23 years.

Chicago brought her back for 1991 and the Hugos sped by in 100 minutes, a brisk pace if not a record. Tucker presented again and when he started to leave the stage covered his butt with both hands. But Marta came over, gave him a big hug, and winked to the audience, “Now I know why he was kicked out of the Garden of Eden.”

Only in 2005 did Paul McCauley and Kim Newman turn in the second 90-minute performance with Interaction’s Hugo Ceremony.

All people who yelp like they’re being tortured when the Hugos last two hours should pay silent tribute when in the presence of anyone who endured the 1968 Worldcon banquet. It was Toastmaster Bob Silverberg’s baptism of fire — a baptism of live steam for everyone else. Fans endured dinner and speeches in 95-degree heat, in an unventilated ballroom without air conditioning, for five hours and fifteen minutes before the first Hugo was presented. As Mike Resnick recalled in File 770:100:

[At 8:00 p.m.] Phil Farmer got up to give his speech…. [When] he paused for a drink of water more than 2 hours into it, we all gave him a standing ovation in hope it would convince him he was through. It didn’t. He finished after 10:30. Time for the Hugos, right? Wrong. Randy Garrett gets up, takes the microphone away from Toastmaster Bob Silverberg, and sings about 50 verses of ‘Three Brave Hearts and Three Bold Lions.’ Finally, approaching 11:15, Silverberg gets up to hand out the Hugos.

Hugo’s Hometown Heroes

SF Awards Watch is having a lively discussion about self-promotion for awards that now includes a tangential debate about whether non-U.S. authors are more likely to be nominated for Hugos at Worldcons outside the U.S. 

C. E. Petit took the affirmative side of the question. Kevin Standlee disagrees:

“If there really was such a ‘locals for locals’ effect, why did we not see a flood of Japanese works on the 2007 Hugo Awards ballot? …In addition, 2005 should have seen a disproportionate number of Canadian and 2006 a similar share of British nominees…”

That’s a misrepresentation of the Japanese example. The 2007 final report shows a nearly complete absence of votes for any Japanese work or person. When you look at Hugo voting reports for Worldcons in Australia, Canada and the UK, there is a very different pattern, lots of votes for locals (even if most don’t make the final ballot.) Kevin’s use of the Japanese example only works if he proves that they participated and voted for English language works, which surely is not what happened. (I hope eventually a Japanese fan will articulate for us why there wasn’t local participation.)

However, I feel this whole discussion goes amiss because there is an implicit assumption that if there actually is a “locals for locals” effect that must be assumed to be an e-vile thing.

The Hugos are democratically selected by the members, and when the Worldcon goes overseas a lot of people get involved who don’t join when it’s in the U.S.

I look at the 2005 Hugo ballot and see that the members of the Glasgow Worldcon have filled the Best Novel category with works by U.K. writers. That never happens when the con is somewhere else. Uh, could these events be related? But there being a relationship only matters if somebody can somehow argue the finalists were undeserving.

Long before the 2005 nominations came out, I was hearing American fans on convention panels heavily touting Susanna Clarke’s novel, which of course won. The authors of two other novel finalists had been nominated for a Hugo before (by a non-U.K. Worldcon), and a third, McDonald, has been nominated and won since (Nippon 2007). Banks was the only writer whose 2005 Hugo nomination is an isolated event.

As for 2003, that’s when members of the Toronto Worldcon voted the Best Novel Hugo to favorite son Robert Sawyer. Yet that was the sixth time a novel by Sawyer was nominated. It’s hard to say the people who voted for him are some kind of outlying opinion group doing something no other Worldcon would consider.

So I tend to think there is a local effect, but not one with insidious results.

(If I wanted to take Kevin’s side of the argument, I would start with the 2006 fan Hugo results. I’m still waiting for the local effect to kick in!)