Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee

Pros and Cons

Thanks to Gary Farber for pointing out that Mike Resnick is unhappy about Worldcons not being held mostly in the USA near where publishers and pros can get there regularly and driving away all of the media fans. He holds up events like Dragon*Con and Comic-Con as what's good -- professionally-run events with monster attendance, which is good for publishers and good for authors trying to reach their readers.

He's right about some of this stuff, but he also manages to offend people who might otherwise agree with him. He implicitly accuses organisers of lying about their attendance figures -- something that particularly annoys me as a member of the committee that works to try and get accurate figures. The main reason that the past couple of Worldcons may have seemed so under-attended is that we were in spaces larger than our attendance really warranted and because we brought to bear enough people points that queues were relatively limited. Possibly he wouldn't be so skeptical if we'd only taken half the space and caused lots of monster lines and turned people away from major events for lack of space. After all, people seem to really like standing in line for hours and hours, I'm told.

Incidentally, I'm always curious if those five-figure numbers claimed for those events are individual human beings (what Worldcons report) or "sum of daily turnstile" counts. The latter significantly inflates attendance. Also, those mega-events have a fair number of people who show up for a few hours and then go away, never to return, whereas the smaller number of Worldcon attendees are mostly people who stay for most of the convention. We don't have a good "peak bodies on site" count for Worldcons, since we don't measure turnstile. If we did, we could get a more accurate comparison by measuring people-days for all events. The Comic-Cons of the world would still dwarf Worldcon, but it would be interesting. But maybe having multi-day dedicated attendees is a Bad Thing, since it would be better to just keep pushing more bodies through the meat grinder, exposing them to the advertising messages for a few hours, and then saying, "Get out of here so we can get another batch in here for the next show."

He accuses the "movers and shakers" of deliberately conspiring to keep Worldcons out of the USA which is bad because "most of the publishers, most of the writers, and most of the fans are in the United States." This conveniently ignores the fact that the sites for Worldcon are not selected by some tiny secret cabal of "movers and shakers," but by the members themselves. The people who attend Worldcons vote on where to hold Worldcons. Now admittedly, the demographics of this means that the people voting are people who are likely predisposed to travel further afield, but still, to claim that it's ignorance on the part of some small group of "movers and shakers" is something I find offensive.

Besides: you can't select a site if it doesn't bid. Mike knows more about the entire bidding process than most pros, thanks to his extensive experience as a fan. I invite him to do a Worldcon "right." Good luck. Other people (including me) have tried and learned a few hard-knock lessons. Maybe he can fix things that nobody else has managed to fix.

Possibly Mike would like Worldcon to be held in the same place every year -- Chicago, anyone? Or at the very least, maybe he would prefer that it only be held in Tier 1 cities in the largest metropolitan areas. (San Francisco Bay Area might possibly qualify, but it would be better to stick to the LA area, Chicago, and Northeast Corridor to guarantee a large attendance catchment.) Oh, you might allow some of those darn foreigners to hold it once every ten or twenty years for appearances' sake, but everyone knows that only Big American Cities are important, right? And possibly it should be run by the same professional organization every year, and concentrating on getting its membership up into the mid-five-figure range, or better yet, get 150,000 people in there. All that really matters is running up the score, right?

All of the things to increase Worldcon attendance are possible. I've said before that Worldcons would be better of with an attendance closer to 10K than below 5K. But if you did the things that the Monster Events do, could you still with a straight face plausibly call it a Worldcon? Or does that simply not matter? Maybe having >100K people attending is the only thing that matters. In that case, WSFS should just transfer the service marks to San Diego Comic Con, Inc. (Comic-Con's parent) and give up entirely.
Tags: worldcon
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