David Langford has a touch of convention fever
SFX’s columnists talk conventions, bounty hunters and horribleness.
It’s that time of the decade again, when starry- eyed fans begin to mutter about bringing the World Science Fiction Convention back to this country. London in 1957 and 1965, Brighton in 1979 and 1987, Glasgow in 1995 and 2005, London Docklands in 2014... and now there’s a feeling in the air that the stars will be right in 2024 for either the awakening of Great Cthulhu to devour our puny human brains or ( much the same thing as far as the organisers are concerned) yet another UK Worldcon. From modest beginnings like the inaugural New York event with 200 people and London in 1957 – the first in Britain – with 268, these fan- run events have become biggish business with terrifying budgets and many thousands in attendance. Prospective committees need to spend significant chunks of lifetime preparing their bid and wooing the sceptical voting membership with wild parties and wilder promises. The crunch point comes with the site selection vote at the Worldcon two years before your target year. In 2015, Helsinki was chosen as the 2017 venue, to general Finnish rejoicing. After that, New Orleans and San José are the rival bids for 2018, and at Worldcon 2016 in Kansas City the voters will confirm that There Can Be Only One. So far the only hat in the ring for 2019 is Dublin.
Britain in 2024, whether or not an opposing bid emerges, will need to persuade the members of the 2022 event. This, according to worldcon. org/ bids, is currently a toss- up between Chicago – a plausible venue that’s hosted many a past Worldcon – and Doha, Qatar, a concept that frankly makes my sense of wonder blow a fuse. Especially when I remember some of the Worldcon community’s more interesting people and practices in the light, or the murk, of Qatar’s human rights record.
If 2024 seems a long way off, that’s because it is. For less delayed gratification there are British UK conventions all the year round. This year’s national event – the annual Eastercon – is called Mancunicon, and readers deeply versed in the subtleties of linguistics will deduce that it’s in Manchester: for full information see www.mancunicon.org.uk. 2017 should be making history with the first ever Welsh Eastercon: Pasgon in Cardiff, whose details have been leeked at www. pasgon. org. uk.
For my own part I have fondish memories of being on various UK con committees, one an Eastercon; of chairing a long- ago Eastercon bid that went for a hyper- expensive central London venue and mercifully lost; of organising Hugo trophies for one of the Brighton Worldcons; and of almost entirely missing three conventions because I spent the weekend in a stuffy room full of equipment, editing and publishing the several- times- daily con newsletter. When I gaze bleary- eyed on these past glories and feel the urge to have another bash at convention- running, I dose myself liberally with whisky and lie down quietly until the feeling passes away. It’s your turn now. Anyone’s turn but mine.
The Readers of SFX: How, oh how, can I join the exciting discussion about planning a 2024 UK Worldcon?
Myself: This may be a terrible secret with which humanity should never meddle, but if you insist... send a grovelling email to FutureUKworldcons@googlegroups. Just don’t blame me if you end up with one of the tough Worldcon jobs like disposing of the bodies after a guest appearance by George RR Martin.
“for three cons i spent the weekend in a stuffy room full of equipment”