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World Science Fiction Society

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World Science Fiction Society

"WSFS" redirects here. For the Delaware, United States bank, see WSFS Bank.

Worldcon, or more formally The World Science Fiction Convention, is a science fiction convention held each year since 1939 (except for the years 1942 to 1945, during World War II).[1] It is the annual convention of the World Science Fiction Society (or WSFS). The members of each Worldcon are the members of WSFS and vote both to select the site of the Worldcon two years later and (since 1955) to select the winners of the Hugo Awards, which are presented at the convention.


Activities and events at the convention typically include (but are not limited to):

  • Panel discussions on a wide range of topics pertaining to SF literature; film, audio and other media; art; graphic stories; fandom and fannish hobbies; science, technology, and society; costuming, gaming, and music
  • Speeches or other presentations by the Guests of Honor and other program participants.
  • Autographing sessions, literary beer or coffee-with meet-ups, Walks with the Stars, and other chances to meet favorite science fiction and fantasy professionals.
  • Socializing in the 'consuite', convention bars and at parties (typically run by other conventions or bidders, clubs, publishers/magazines, and by private individuals).
  • Gaming - live-action and tabletop role-playing games, board games, and card games
  • Filk and other musical performances, music circles, and workshops
  • Costuming - both formal competition (the "Masquerade") and casual "hall costumes"
  • The Hugo Awards ceremony
  • Other business of the World Science Fiction Society, including voting on the location of future Worldcons and North American Science Fiction Conventions (NASFiCs, which occur when the Worldcon is overseas) and any changes to the WSFS Constitution, which are made at WSFS business meetings during the convention
  • Dealers' room (often referred to by fans as the "huckster room") - a large hall full of people selling books, games, comic books, movies, jewelry, costumes (often including weapons), and other fannish goods.
  • Art show - presenting paintings, drawings, sculpture and other work, primarily on science fiction and fantasy themes
  • The Chesley Awards ceremony
  • Live theatrical performances (Klingon opera, productions of Rossum's Universal Robots, etc.)
  • An independent Film Festival, and other film rooms showing science fiction movies, television shows, etc.
  • Activities to support fan and external charities (fan funds auctions, blood drives, etc.)
  • At least one dance, with either live music or a DJ. (LoneStarCon 3 had three in 2013, including a Firefly Shindig contradance and a steampunk dance.)[2]


Main article: Hugo Award

The World Science Fiction Society administers and presents the Hugo Awards,[3] the oldest and most noteworthy award for science fiction. The award is voted on by Worldcon members. Categories include novels and short fiction, artwork, dramatic presentations, and various professional and fandom activities.[3][4]

Other awards may be presented at Worldcon at the discretion of the individual convention committee. This has often included the national SF awards of the host country, including the Japanese Seiun Awards as part of Nippon 2007,[5] and the Prix Aurora Awards as part of Anticipation in 2009. The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer and the Sidewise Award, though not sponsored by the Worldcon, are usually presented, as well as the Chesley Awards, the Prometheus Award, and others.[5]

Guests of Honor

Each Worldcon committee selects a number of guests of honor (or "GoHs") for the convention. Typically there is an Author (or "Writer" or just "Pro") and a Fan guest of honor. Many conventions also have Artist, Editor, and Science guests, and most have a Toastmaster for major events such as the opening and closing ceremonies and the Hugo award ceremony. A few conventions have had two or even three author guests.[1]

While other conventions may select guests on the basis of popularity, Worldcons select guests of honor as an acknowledgement of significant lifetime contribution to the field; while these are often well-known figures, some committees choose lesser-known figures precisely because the committee feels the guest's accomplishments deserve more recognition from the community. Selection is treated by authors, fans, and others as a lifetime achievement award. As such, the tradition is to award it only to those who have been making significant contributions for at least 20 years, 25-30 years for authors. Guests of honor generally receive travel expenses, membership, and a small per diem from the convention.

In order to announce guests immediately after site selection, Worldcon bid committees select one or more guests before the site selection vote. Fans consider it inappropriate for bids to compete on the basis of their chosen guests (so as to avoid having someone chosen by a losing bid feeling that fandom had voted against them personally), so bids do not reveal who their guests are until after the vote, and losing bids generally never reveal who they invited. This is usually treated with the same discretion as the Hugo Awards, where only a few people might know who the guests will be.

World Science Fiction Society

The name Worldcon is owned by the World Science Fiction Society (WSFS), an unincorporated literary society whose purpose is to promote interest in science fiction.[6] WSFS has no standing officers, only small standing committees, and a large membership composed of the members of the current Worldcon. Its main activities are running the selection (voting) process for the annual convention and various awards. The conventions themselves are run by non-profit, volunteer fan organizations, who bid to host the event.

The WSFS constitution itself is discussed and amended by the annual general meeting, known as the "business meeting", held at the Worldcon, usually in three morning sessions on successive days.[7] The WSFS constitution determines the rules for site selection, for the Hugo Awards, and for amending itself. The business meeting also empanels a number of standing or ad hoc committees to deal with review of amendments and with certain administrative functions.

The most important standing committee is the Mark Protection Committee (MPC), which is responsible for maintaining the society's trademarks and domain names.

Site selection

Most Worldcons are held in North America, although they have taken place in the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, the Netherlands, and Japan. The 2005 Worldcon was held in Glasgow[8] and the 2007 Worldcon in Yokohama, Japan was the first to be held in Asia. The 2009 Worldcon was held in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The 2010 Worldcon was held in Melbourne, Australia,[9] the 2011 Worldcon in Reno, Nevada,[10] the 2012 Worldcon in Chicago, Illinois, and the 2013 Worldcon in San Antonio, Texas.[11] The 2014 Worldcon will be held in London, United Kingdom.

Sites for future Worldcons are determined by voting of the Worldcon membership.[12] Worldcons through 1970 were selected one year in advance, from 1971 through 1986 two years in advance, from 1987 to 2007, three years in advance, then from 2008 to the present, two years in advance again. For example, during the 2011 Worldcon in Reno, San Antonio was selected to host the 2013 Worldcon. However, rules changes to lengthen or shorten the period were implemented by selecting two future Worldcons at the 1969 and 1984 conventions, or having the 2005 convention not select any.

When a Worldcon is held outside of North America, a North American Science Fiction Convention (NASFiC) may be held within North America that same year. Since 1975, when a Worldcon site outside North America is selected, WSFS administers a parallel site selection process for the NASFiC, voted on by WSFS members at the Worldcon (or NASFiC if there is one) held one year prior to the prospective NASFiC.[12] With the 2014 Worldcon being held in the United Kingdom, members at the 2013 Worldcon in San Antonio chose Detroit to be the site of the 2014 NASFiC and Spokane, Washington, as the site of the 2015 Worldcon.[13]

Convention committees

As WSFS itself is an unincorporated society, each Worldcon is organized by a separate committee incorporated in the local jurisdiction; in the United States, these are usually set up as 501(c)(3) non-profit corporations. These may be standalone committees, or they may be organized by an existing local group; a few groups such as MCFI in Boston and SCIFI (Southern California Institute for Fan Interests),[14] Inc. in southern California are permanent corporations set up to run Worldcons (or other one-off/rotating conventions) in different years in the same area. Like most non-media science fiction conventions, all Worldcons are run entirely by volunteers, with no paid staff; senior committee members devote hundreds of hours (not to mention thousands of dollars in travel expenses in some cases) in preparation for a particular convention. While each convention is run separately by the local committee, an informal and self-selected group of volunteers constitute the "Permanent Floating Worldcon Committee" who volunteer for many Worldcons in different years; this group offers a measure of institutional continuity to otherwise disparate legal organizations.

Recent Worldcons have had budgets running close to a million dollars. The main source of revenue is convention membership; Worldcons also collect fees from exhibiting dealers and artists and advertisers in publications; some conventions manage to attract sponsorships up to 5% of total income. The main expenses are facilities rental and related costs, then (if possible) membership reimbursements to program participants and volunteers, then publications, audiovisual equipment rental, and hospitality. Traditionally, all members (except for guests of honor) must pay for their membership; if the convention makes an adequate surplus after covering operating expenses, full or partial membership reimbursements are paid back after the convention. Most Worldcons run a small surplus, which under the rules of WSFS and the non-profit legislation in their jurisdiction, they are required to disburse to qualified organizations; typically half the surplus is donated to future Worldcons, in a tradition called "pass-along funds".

Because of their size, Worldcons have two layers of management between the chair and the staff. "Departments" operate a specific convention function, while "divisions" coordinate the work of several departments. Department heads (sometimes called "area heads") have one or more deputies plus a large staff, or they may have no staff at all. Most Worldcons have between five and twelve division heads who form the convention executive.

In order for convention staff and members to quickly identify the function of other staff at the convention, Worldcons use ribbons of differing colors which are attached to convention badges to signify different roles and responsibilities. Often there are ribbons to signify rank, division, and department or specialized functions; ribbons are also used to identify program participants, other noteworthy members (for example "Past Worldcon Guest of Honor", "Hugo Award Nominee", etc.), or classes of members ("Dealers", "Artists", "Party Hosts") who are interacting with convention staff. Some members of the committee may be performing a variety of current or past roles and could have a large number of ribbons attached to each other hanging from a badge. Extending this tradition, other groups and individuals create more ribbons for use at the convention; these may be serious or silly. Convention badge ribbons are important memorabilia, valuable years later because they evoke memories of events at the convention, and so will often be displayed in exhibits at future conventions. It is commonplace for Worldcon attendees to wear their ribbons from previous Worldcons alongside or below their current Worldcon ribbon, occasionally incurring minor confusion.

There is also a convention badge, displaying each attendee's name, membership number and (if desired) fannish nickname. The customary practice is for all attendees at the same convention—occasionally excepting Guests of Honor—to wear badges of the same design, but each Worldcon's badge design is unique to that convention. As with ribbons, Worldcon attendees will often wear their badges from previous Worldcons alongside or below their current badge.

See also


External links

  • Worldcon official website
  • World Science Fiction Society official website
  • Current WSFS rules, including Constitution

Template:World Science Fiction Convention

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