Winter Worldcon Is Coming

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.

13 thoughts on “Winter Worldcon Is Coming

  1. For clarity, I should note that the Kaapelitehdas is not the venue that Helsinki is planning on using for Worldcon. The proposed site has a large hotel directly attached to the convention center. That should be sufficient to house all of those people who need to be onsite all of the time. There are also several restaurants on site.

    For everyone else it is a short walk to the local train station, and a 5 minute journey to Helsinki’s main terminus, which is surrounded by sufficient hotels and restaurants to house and feed a US-sized Worldcon. The trains are very regular through the day, and continue to run through most of the night. There is also a Melbourne-style tram service from outside the convention center. Worldcon members have been promised transit passes so they’ll be able to ride for free.

    For anyone who is interested, I have some videos of the facilities here.

    Oh, and George & Parris are by no means unique. Pretty much every foreign guest I’ve talked to at Finncon tells them that they should run a Worldcon.

  2. Walking is a given pretty much anywhere outside North America. NA voters who are willing to support a Worldcon outside NA are the sort of people who are already prepared to deal with that.

    If Helsinki doesn’t attract enough votes, I don’t think the facilities will be a factor at all. IMHO, the things working against it are the concurrent hoax bid (yes, I know that’s for a different city and a different year, but there are still people who aren’t clear on that), late entry into the race, and choosing the year after another non-NA Worldcon in (from the NA voters’ point of view) the same part of the world.

  3. Initially, I set out to source the information in George R. R. Martin’s post, which is characterized by careless slams and irrelevant negative history — for example, do we care that New Jersey fan Don Lundry lost his Orlando hotel to bankruptcy and moved the 1977 Worldcon to Miami? Does George want us to imagine the current Orlando bid runs a risk of Disney failing between now and 2015?

    But here’s what happens once George throws a spotlight on the Finncon attendance figure. While George’s 30,000 number isn’t accurate, Cheryl’s 2009 Finncon report says people estimated 15,000 attendees, which is prodigious enough to make me wonder what yardstick to use in measuring the capabilities of the Helsinki bid committee. After all, I discovered George’s post through a link on the Helsinki in 2015 Facebook page. I didn’t have any difficulty imagining the Helsinki bidders staffing a 3,000-person Worldcon, and running it in the facilities shown in their videos, but they haven’t shown facilities or sufficient committee members to back up George’s hand-waving.

  4. It’s sad to see you resorting to logical fallacies like this false dilemma.

    As Tom Whitmore originally observed, and as I have heard you repeat yourself, the number of people needed to put on a convention does not grow linearly with the membership. A 3500-member Worldcon needs a bigger committee than one of 1500 members, but much less than one of 6000 members. “Boutique” seems a nice word to reflect the size of the smaller, charismatic enterprise which is accountable to a more modest set of expectations.

  5. Several Finns have addressed the numbers gap on GRRM’s post.

    None of us can run a Worldcon alone anymore. The Spokane Worldcon bid is Seattle, Spokane, Toronto and a bunch of other people. The Orlando Worldcon bid is a bunch of east-coast fans, not just Floridians. Why do you frame your staffing argument in terms of a Helsinki Worldcon just using Finncon staffers?

    “Boutique” is a loaded word. It has associations with intentionally small, exclusive, expensive Westercons like Honolulu, Las Vegas and the Maui “rescue bid.” It’s going to ruffle feathers.

  6. You know, if your feathers are ruffled, get over it. You don’t get to dictate what language people use to describe a small Worldcon. You should stop and ask yourself how coming here and slathering me over with arguments I never made and assumptions I never held is gaining any ground for the bid you support.

    Speaking of Orlando, why do you think they have enough people to run a Worldcon if they win? Just because whoever wins magically gets enough help? Does that bid committee look like they have that kind of network?

    Helsinki looks to me like it has the network to get the help it needs to run the size of Worldcon it’s been talking about having. I said that from the outset. If they had ever said they were going to need enough help to run a 6000 or 15000 person con, I’d have asked them to explain where it’s coming from.

  7. And you don’t get to dictate people’s reactions to your language. See how that works? I think “small Worldcon” is just fine, thank you, and I understand why some people interpret “boutique” differently than you did.

    I don’t think there’s any magic in getting help to run a Worldcon once you’ve won the bid. There’s a lot of planning and recruitment, unless you want to be Nolacon, and nobody in their right mind wants to be Nolacon.

  8. It is strange how important it was for you to spin the response to George R. R. Martin’s endorsement of the Helsinki bid. Truly a case where silence would have been golden.

    Martin cites ridiculously inflated statistics. Martin insults the Montreal Worldcon committee and other unnamed “badly-run Worldcons in recent years.” Helsinki’s not interested in those fans’ votes?

    Martin says of Spokane, “It’s a small city, though, and it was a small friendly low-key con, which makes me wonder if the committee is ready to tackle something as large and contentious and complex as worldcon.” Which is a complete misrepresentation of the composition and experience of their bid. Are you okay with that?

  9. Mike:

    In fact, using Tom Whitmore’s powers-of-five theory, the 3500 and 6000-person Worldcons require approximately the same size committees. (Well, okay, the powers-of-five theory says the breakpoint is 3,125 and everyone agrees that there’s no firm boundary.) Somewhere above 3,000 the conditions change, and the committee management structure stays broadly constant until somewhere around 15,000. We don’t know where the exact breaks are because we’re using the same general structure for Worldcons with between around 3000 to around 9000 members.

    So while it may take more line volunteers on the day (broadly linear with attendance), the management structure is approximately the same for all of those events, and needs one less layer for Worldcons of the 1200-person size. (Theoretically, you don’t need division managers for a 1200-person Worldcon.) However, the only such Worldcons in the past thirty years have been those in Australia, and I think Helsinki wouldn’t be in that category. At worst, Helsinki might be Winnipeg-sized (3500 bodies on site), but I’d say the same about a Spokane Worldcon. Indeed, Spokane strikes me very much like Winnipeg, other than US citizens won’t be quite as scared to travel there as they are to travel to Big Bad Foreign Countries like Canada.

    I’m sorry you took offense, but to me, the use of “boutique” in this context gave me the impression that you don’t consider it a “real” Worldcon unless there’s a certain minimum attendance. Maybe this isn’t what you intended.

  10. Kevin, my comment was about “the number of people needed to put on a convention.” The “committee structure” for conventions of any size that are organized in divisions is about the same. The number of people needed to put them on varies because the public holds larger Worldcons to support a wider range of interests and activities with staff or volunteers, and provide space and time for them in the schedule, not merely subscribe to them as an interest appropriate to the con.

    Why not put this to the test? Pull out the committee list for the 1984 Worldcon, the largest ever, and maybe Winnipeg, and count the names. Neither will include the gophers, but it would give a non-theoretical comparison to discuss.

  11. It’s not really important I spin Martin’s endorsement. I didn’t think I was spinning his endorsement. It’s his endorsement.

    I thought I was addressing your reaction to Kevin Standlee, your question about using Finncon as a yardstick to measure the Helsinki 2015 committee’s ability to staff up for a Worldcon, and your comment about the incorrect numbers Martin pulled out of his hat on Finncon attendance.

    I missed the bit where you said you figured the Helsinki committee can pull together staff for a 3,000 person convention. Sorry.

    Martin’s incorrect statistics were quickly corrected by several members of the Helsinki committee (Jukka, Tero and Johan) in the comments. I believe I already mentioned that.

    But since you ask…

    I loved Montreal, it was run by many friends of mine, but there were numerous visible problems there. We all have our experiences with problems at Worldcons, and how much they impact us. No Worldcon is perfect. Martin is entitled to his opinion of how bad that was. It’s his opinion, based on how he was impacted when he was there.

    As Martin’s digs on Florida were irrelevant, his explanation of his digs on the Spokane bid are based on inaccuracies. I really like, and really trust, all the Spokane conrunners I know. But, as you point out, this is a SWOC operation so his characterization of this being an inexperienced small-town bid is inaccurate. If you want to find out if that changes his opinion of Spokane, you’re welcome to ask him. He’s not the kind of person who holds his tongue.

    As for me, I’m not campaigning against Orlando or Spokane. I may even be giving them ranks on my ballot. I’m strongly advocating against “NOTA” just on general principles. I will share my opinions of their foibles with my friends, or people who are trying to campaign me, or their respective chairs (and I’ve spent a lot of time talking with their chairs), but I don’t think I need to tear them down to show Helsinki is a good choice.

  12. The series of videos posted by Crystal Huff and Cheryl Morgan helped me understand what Helsinki is offering in terms of facilities. And I have kept an eye what the bid leadership has to say — no missteps there. Also read all of Cheryl’s reports about the fun she’s had at Finnish cons over the years (in 2009 George R.R. Martin sounded like just one more happy pro, but his name leaped out when I reread that entry the other day.) And noted quite a few positive comments about their bid on social media among people who vote and work Worldcons. Helsinki fandom looks solidly qualified to run a Worldcon.

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