Chengdu Worldcon co-chair Ben Yalow provided some updated information in response to questions posed during the Future Worldcons panel on September 2. With him on the platform were the Vice-Chair, and the Chair of the Chengdu Science Fiction Society (the business entity behind the convention). Yalow fielded most of the questions.
COVID. Asked “Will we we need to quarantine two weeks to enter China,” Yalow noted that Chengdu had recently gone back into lockdown, and prior to that there had been periods when a 14-day quarantine was in effect, but ultimately he could only say, “Tell me what the pandemic is going to be a year from now and I will tell you what the quarantine situation will be.”
CHENGDU WORLDCON FINANCIAL ISSUES. Several basic questions people have tried to ask on the Chengdu Worldcon Facebook page in recent months – “Why haven’t I heard from the committee since you won?”, “Why isn’t there more information on the website”, “When can I buy a new membership?” – at first seem to be about different topics, however, the answers all come back to the committee’s trouble in figuring out how to open accounts in the U.S. where they can hold their money and do credit card transactions. That is affecting how memberships are being handled, delaying the installation of a new website, and keeping new people from joining.
When Chengdu won the 2023 site selection vote last December, it was reported that 2,915 valid votes were cast, and a further 917 tokens were sold for which no matching ballots were received. According to DisCon III, they are still holding $180,253.50 of site selection fees in escrow for the winner.
However, the Chengdu Worldcon committee’s financial report to the Chicon 8 Business Meeting showed they are only counting 1,305 domestic (Chinese) memberships. An accounting footnote says: “Until the voting fees are transferred, we are not showing those memberships in the totals. However, everyone who purchased an advance supporting membership in Chengdu (voting token at DisCon III), or who voted at DisCon III, is already a full attending member, with all WSFS rights of Chengdu Worldcon 2023.”
At the Future Worldcons panel Yalow said they have been trying to find workarounds for the restrictions on sending money to China. He did not explain what those restrictions are. Right now the funds are in an account held by a US tax-exempt entity, the corporation that ran DisCon III. And the plan is for the money to be transferred to a new Wyoming (U.S.) corporation.
Yalow told the audience, “We have finished setting up the corporation. We received our certificate of incorporation about a week ago.” They now have to pass corporate resolutions, open corporate bank accounts, and apply to credit card companies to take credit card purchases of memberships. “We believe this process should take a few more weeks.”
An entirely new website is being developed to handle the transactions. He said the beta version is ready.
“Until we are able to deal with the credit card situation we can’t turn on those functions in the website. We don’t know for sure, but probably within the next few weeks.”
He also said they have found a way to pair with WeChat, which works in China but most people “here” don’t have it.
PROGRESS REPORTS. Yalow said there was a draft of Progress Report #1 being worked on that he thought would be ready “within another few days.” All of their Progress Reports will be published electronically.
VENUE. Asked about the cost of hotel rooms at the Chengdu Worldcon’s venue, Yalow said they would cost “a few hundred dollars at the headquarters hotel.” There are cheaper places around the city, and the convention location is on the mass transit system (and much of the signage there is bilingual).
VIRTUAL WORLDCON. Yalow said there will be fully virtual memberships. They have not yet taken a platform and until they have one in place they won’t know how different or similar the experience will be (presumably a comparison to what it has been in past virtual Worldcon presentations). Yalow said there are “substantial limits on what technology will and won’t allow, but we will do our best to work around those.”
SERGEY LUKIANENKO. Someone asked will they retain Sergey Lukianenko as a guest of honor. “Yes,” was Yalow’s one-word answer.
The question was probably asked with awareness of the resolution before the Business Meeting condemning “Sergey Lukianenko’s appalling utterances, calling Ukrainians Nazis and encouraging an illegal invasion of Ukraine.” The day following the Future Worldcons panel, the WSFS Business Meeting voted to adopt the resolution.
Update 09/06/2022: The new Chengdu Worldcon website launched today. See “New Chengdu Worldcon Website Is Up”.