redneckotaku (redneckotaku) wrote,
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Worldcon Part Three-Future of Worldcon

Worldcon is a great con, but has two key issues for it thrive and be viable in this new century. The first issue is a need for new people to keep the convention going (as an attendees and as a convention runners).  The second issue is that industry and some professionals aren't seeing it as an important show.  I am going to talk about the second one first. Two notes: I am 31 years old and I come from the US.  Some of these can be adapted to Worldcons outside North America and some may not be able to be adapted to Worldcons outside North America.

I think the one question some of you are thinking is why are new people, publishers and entertainment companies important to the future of Worldcon. They are important because I don't think Worldcon wants to be a 2,000 person con (there are locals that are close to that number of people) and they don't want to have a hard time filling their Exhibit halls.

 New people are people who could become at the very least occassional Worldcon attendees (when it comes back close to them or maybe it is in a city they have always wanted to see). They can also become people who are voters in Site Selection and the Hugos. Before my first Worldcon this year, I voted in two out of the last three Hugos and Site Selection races.  They are also people hopefully with money (when they do come) that will spend it on hotels, food, books, trinkets, etc.  This helps sell the con to communities and Dealers.  

Getting the major Science Fiction/Fantasy publishers engaged helps the Worldcon in getting everything from books to giveaway in member packets to getting dealers to getting program participants.  If Tor has Orson Scott Card come to a Worldcon for a signing of his Enders Game book (this is for example), he would be more likely to participate on panels and other events of the convention. More high quality creators helps the con remain relevant and a value for those who spend a $800-$1,000 plus on the convention.  

One of the issues I saw and heard a decent amount was how underwhelming the Dealers Room is at this year's Worldcon.  It may have been a third of the Exhibit Hall (the rest being bid tables, flyer tables, art show and other exhibits). Tor was the biggest sponsor (in money or other things) and they didn't have an exhibit booth. I found only one or two graphic novels in the whole dealers room. My point is that you need to have more than small press publishers, a bookstore chain and some semi-pro zines.

I would sell the show to get more exhibitors and Dealers at it.  If I was Renovation (and I am not besides being a member), I would encourage my Exhibits Division head to go to places like San Diego Comic Con and Book Expo America (that is where the big Science Fiction/Fantasy publishers are) to sell the exhibit Hall in 2010. I would have my exhibitor and sponsorship packets by March, 2010 to get them early into Dealers and Publishers hands.  By January 2011, most publishers and entertainment companies have decided which shows they will be at.  

Worldcon has the most literate and highest educated group of people in the world of fandom is how you sell it to Exhibitors like Funimation or Tor.  If I was a publisher or Entertainment company, that would mean they would be the opinion leaders I want the most.  Their influentual in their fan communities and talk extensively about their love of whatever is coming up.  This a group that would love to talk extensively about a smart movie like Moon or advance talk up a book like Saturn's Children.  They are also people who willing to spend lots of money at the convention.  The dealer that did the best at the con was Chapters bookstore, as they were the only ones who had the Hugo nominees (for the most part).  

What would publishers and entertainment companies bring back to the Worldcon (especially publishers) is more Creators.  Creators are the as much of the fabric of the Worldcon as fans are. The creators get to talk with their fans in a great setting that is full of intelligent and fascinating conversation.  You hear Cory Doctrow talking with an IT expert or Hirokai Inoue talking with a fan about where the art of anime is going.
The second issue is bringing new people to the Worldcon.  I am not as worried about age as some people because many 15 year olds wouldn't be able to handle the atmosphere of Worldcon. I would be more interested in bringing people 20-35 to Worldcon. These are people more likely to be willing to commit to nearly a week's convention because they are more likely to be established in careers. I am 31 years old, so that may color my worldview.

How do you bring new people to the Worldcon? First of all, you sell to your core groups who are readers of Science Fiction/Fantasy.  Some of the places that are done at are Science Fiction Conventions through fan tables.  If I was an established Worldcon, I would try to make news at those cons.  An example would be announcing your first attending professionals list at a con about six months out.  About three months out, you can put up a schedule of your major events at your fan table at like Balticon (not the 1,000 of panels, but the GOH schedules and the major events (Hugos and Masquerades). To bring new people into the fold from fandom, they are the easiest to get into the door because they understand fandom and can be educated about how special Worldcon is.

I think you also need to make sure the major Literary GOH (author Guest of Honor) have a signing on Saturday of the convention.  It can be a major draw for those who want to do taster memberships (Pay for a day pass and get everything except $20 back if you come back within three hours). I think we need to offer an exhibit hall and wonder around the halls only pass for $20.  People may only want to spend their day buying things.  We should remember that and encourage that.  Dealers want people who will spend money, so they will be able to come again when it is close enough to them (maybe three, four or many more years.)  

Somebody said offered a resolution (and was passed) to encourage Worldcons to go to San Diego Comic Con, New York Comic Con and DragonCon.  I think Dragoncon is the second most important convention an upcoming Worldcon go to the year before (besides the Worldcon the year before).  Even if a Worldcon is on the same weekend as Dragoncon, the next year's Worldcon (if in the United States) should be at both.  Dragoncon is where we will get the casual fans.  Worldcon needs casual literary fans to come for the day.  They are the ones who are going to come in the costume to showoff.  They are the ones who are going to fill a media panel on Stargate at 2 PM on a Saturday.  

If we want more full weekend fans, I would suggest Worldcon should have a presence at the major book festivals within a days drive of it (using Renovation as an example, I would be at the Reno, Las Vegas, San Francisco area and Los Angeles Book Festival).  Book Festivals are where the readers are.  We can use Worldcon's clout to bring Science Fiction/Fantasy authors to do signings and readings.  Worldcon can also use the festivals to talk to authors who write on space and Science to encourage them to be program particpants. I believe one of Worldcon's strengths (especially creator wise) is that it is literary focused.

You can also adapt this to costuming fans by being at Costume Con (which is already being done) or for anime fans by having flyers or tables at regional anime cons (such as Anime Vegas for Renovation). It shouldn't be limited to literary fans.  

I think to encourage new people to get excited about Worldcon we need to lower the cost of a supporting membership.  A lower cost supporting membership ($30 for everything except the convention Booklet sent electronically) would encourage some people to vote in the Hugos and Site Selection.  More supporting memberships would help lower the cost of memberships for everyone (maybe only $10-20 a first) because it would spread the cost of the convention across more people.

I see no problem with having 5,000 or 7,000 people supporting members  and an attending membership of another 7,000 people (for example).  If you had several thousand supporting members who vote in things like the Hugos, it would make things like a Live webcast of the Hugos more likely because sponsors would see an interested audience for their product or the money for the bandwidth and server time would be there.  
I have talked extensively about the future of Worldcon. I come at this an newer attendee (this year was my first Worldcon), so I know I don't have the answers.  What I hope this does is to open a dialogue between industry, fans, professionals and Worldcon runners about what we can do to work on these issues.  I think a 70 year tradition can adapt to a changing fandom and continue to be a premier event in fandom. That is why I wrote my thoughts on some ways to combat some major issues with Worldcon. 
 
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