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To Anyone Who Will Be Attending Worldcon - RonO's Ramblings

Jul. 19th, 2010 09:53 am To Anyone Who Will Be Attending Worldcon

Due to circumstances beyond our plans and desires – i.e. not enough money to both go and buy a house – I will be unable to attend Worldcon this year.  But there is a strong likelihood that this year’s business meeting will include business that could lead to a change that I think would be of benefit to Worldcon fandom and fandom in general.  So I am instead going to attempt to do some lobbying.

Of course, a lot of my readers will be either (1) not going to Worldcon themselves, (2) not interested in Worldcon,  (3) not SF fans (in the con attending fandom way, or (4) are aware of this issue and already have their own opinions on this issue.  So I’m probably just waiting my time and bits, but what the heck.

What follows will include some discussions that include Worldcon politics, Worldcon procedures and other minutia.  While I encourage anyone who attends any SF con to at least skim this since there may be stuff you will be interested in, I’ll let those with complete disinterest tune out.

Background 1 – WSFS Governance

The World Science Fiction Society (WSFS) is governed by the business meetings held each year at Worldcon.  By the constitution and bylaws of the organization these meetings are open to attending members, but currently only those who can be physically in the room – telepresence is not allowed nor necessarily practical.  However anyone in the room is allowed full participation, including the ability to cast votes on changes to the WSFS Constitution.

Therefore, anyone attending Worldcon who has an interested in how the organization that charters  - but does not run individual – Worldcons is run, should at least find out what is going on and attend if they feel that they will be impacted by what is being discussed.

Background 2 – The Cost of Worldcon Participation

All members of Worldcon – both supporting and attending membership classes – with the possible exception of special memberships such as children’s memberships, have the right to be involved with two important choices: who is nominated and wins the Hugo Awards, and where the Worldcon will be held and who will run it two years later.  In fact, members may have the right to participate in nominating for two different year’s Hugo Awards: both those awarded that year for the previous year’s works, and those for the works from the year the Worldcon is held.

Both of these activities are ones that I – and others, I think many others – believe should be open to nearly anyone who is interested: which should be anyone who is sufficiently involved in broad fandom to attend even their local SF conventions.

However, there is a barrier to this participation.  One must be a supporting member of the Worldcon which requires purchasing a supporting membership.

By requirement, a supporting membership grants the member the nominating and voting rights described above, and the rights to receive convention publications.  So, as others have argued with numbers before me, the actual cost to a convention of a supporting member is fairly small – at most the printing and postage of several magazine sized progress reports and a slightly larger packet of at convention publications (program book, etc.)  And given current technology, storage and environmental preferences,  many members are electing to receive some or all of these publications electronically which further reduces the cost to the event.

Thus given pure budgetary considerations, the cost of a supporting membership – which should cover the cost of servicing that membership – is fairly small. But there is another factor that drives the cost of these memberships.

For some time – possibly almost to the beginning of Worldcon site selection – there has been a needed practice of selling what are now, usually, termed “advanced supporting memberships” to the Worldcon being selected as a condition of voting.  (In the past this was termed the “voting fee” which aggravated some of the issues I’m bringing up, but that has changed at least with this year’s event).  This is needed since, especially in a contested election, the committee tasked to running the event will not necessarily have starting funds otherwise.

But there is a provision in the WSFS constitution that requires that for a period after the announcement of the selected convention any person who holds a supporting membership – that is people who voted in site selection – can covert to an attending membership for no more than twice the cost of their supporting membership. So, if the budget for the convention accounting for all factors including expected costs, expected memberships (both supporting and attending), other expected revenues, etc. arrives at a given (starting) membership price, then 1/3 that amount is the amount that the candidate Worldcon would like to see the supporting membership set at.  And, I’m not sure if this is by rule or just practice, the price of the supporting membership is never lowered from this amount.

So, if for example a convention determined that attending memberships – or at least the early converting attending memberships – should be priced at 30 credits, the price of a supporting membership – both in advance of voting and later – should be priced at 10 credits.  But in real world circa 2010 terms, the budgets seem to be pushing for a  $150.00 attending membership in most recent cases, thus resulting in a $50.00 supporting membership.  And this is a fair amount of money to be able to place a couple of votes.

Expected Business for Aussicon 4

Now, I’ve heard reliable reports that there is an effort underway to bring a motion to the business meeting at this year’s Worldcon – Aussicon 4 – to make changes to this requirement.  If I recall correctly, the proposal I’ve heard would alter the ratio, but others have considered fixing the price or making other changes.

But there are counter forces at work.  Many of the people who attend Worldcon, and especially bother to make it to the business meeting, like the idea of keeping their attending memberships cheaper.  And since most of these same people vote every year in site selection and then convert during the required period, they perceive that they have a vested interest in not making these changes.

The Lobbying – for Aussicon 4 Attendees

So, if you are going to be at Aussicon 4, I strongly encourage you to be aware of the plans of the business meeting.  Even if you do not which to attend every session, at least find out ahead of time what items are likely to be on the agenda for the main meeting – where this proposal will likely be discussed extensively – and if it is being discussed attend, participate, and vote.

Now, I strongly believe that it will be in the best interest of both the regular Worldcon members, and the broader SF fandom, if more people were to participate in Worldcon at least as supporting members who exercise their full franchise.

First of all, this will get more people aware of what is going on and will bring some new blood into these decisions.  This may not be as big a deal with site selection since for the most part one’s main interest in where the Worldcon will be held in two years is for those who would like to attend that Worldcon.

But for The Hugo Awards, there is a growing perception – and it gets worse the further one strays into the outer zones of fandom – that The Hugos are awarded by a small group of people who don’t know or care about anything new.  (Since I don’t hold this view, I cannot fully express it).  For example, I spent a long time at Anime LA listening (and discussing) to an artist who didn’t think that The Hugo Awards for Best (wildcard) Artist mattered since none of the people he thought were good artists ever got nominated.  Here is an artists who does work that would go over well at most SF cons – including Worldcon – who feels that he’s both not welcome and not appreciated as an artists.  But the idea that he would have to spend a fair amount of money to attempt to have his input instead makes him hostile to the whole idea of The Hugo Awards as having any meaning.

However, there is a bit of a danger with the site selection election as well.  If the price of participating in site selection – even for attending members – continues to go up, this will continue to erode the already very low participation in this vote.  Which could very well have a few effects.  First, I could see the – for lack of a better term – fandom leisure class to start dominating site selection and choosing resort or exotic destinations, rather than choosing the best location for the broader fandom and the best team to run the event.  Second, I could also see a day when so few people bother to participate, especially in an uncontested election, that the winning con risks having an early financial crisis.  I’ll admit at this point both possibilities are extreme examples, but I could see (and others might already see) signs pointing to at least the former – like the fact that Worldcon has been outside of the U.S. more in the last 10 years than in any other similar period in its history.

So, I would also encourage anyone who can and does participate in the business meeting to vote in favor of changing the WFSF Constitution in a way that will greatly reduce the price pressure on the supporting memberships for future Worldcons.

As an aside, even if this passes here, it will be subject to ratification at next year’s Worldcon, Renovation in Reno, before it will come into effect for the site selection at the 2012 Worldcon (98.7% likely in Chicago since they are officially unopposed) which will be for the 2014 Worldcon – currently London is the only location bidding, but there is time for that to change.

So even if this idea passes, it will take time for its impact to actually reach the people I’d like it to.  But it is important for it to happen.

The Lobbying – For non-Worldcon Fen

Now, if you aren’t someone who regularly attends Worldcon, but can afford to participate as a supporting member, please consider doing so.

At this moment, and through the end of the month, you can still participate in both The Hugo Award voting and the site selection voting.  You will probably need to get your membership online if you wish to do both – just due to postal lag time.  But with an online membership you can still vote in both – and you can vote for The Hugo Awards online as well.

Now there is a cost: $50.00 US, ($55.00 AUS IIRC) to get the supporting membership, and another $50.00 US for the advanced supporting membership to the 2012 Worldcon.  But if you have the money and can afford to spend it, it will be well worth your time.

Additionally, I’m pretty sure if you get a membership electronically, you will have access to the Hugo Award Nomination packet, which includes electronic copies of ALL of the print fiction nominees – including Best Graphic Story – as well as ALL samples of the fanzine and semi-prozine nominees, samples from all of the Professional and Fan Artists, Fan Writer and Campbell Awards (not a Hugo) nominees.  Some have claimed that this packet itself may be worth the price.

Finally, if you know someone who is going to be at Aussicon and you think that you can persuade them to attend the business meeting – and especially if you think you can persuade them to support this idea – please do so.

Originally published at RonO's Random Rambling

4 comments - Leave a commentPrevious Entry Share Next Entry


Date:July 19th, 2010 07:27 pm (UTC)
The proposal I saw read:
Short Title: Deleting the membership rate limitations

(a) To amend Section 1.5.5 by deleting the following words in the last sentence: "must not exceed two (2) times the site-selection fee and"

(b) To delete Section 1.5.6

This is easier to see if you include the context, thus:

Section 1.5: Memberships.

1.5.1: Each Worldcon shall offer supporting and attending memberships.

1.5.2: The rights of supporting members of a Worldcon include the right to receive all of its generally distributed publications.

1.5.3: The rights of attending members of a Worldcon include the rights of supporting members plus the right of general attendance at said Worldcon and at the WSFS Business Meeting held thereat.

1.5.4: Members of WSFS who cast a site-selection ballot with the required fee shall be supporting members of the selected Worldcon.

1.5.5: Voters have the right to convert to attending membership in the selected Worldcon within ninety (90) days of its selection, for an additional fee set by its committee. This fee must not exceed two (2) times the site-selection fee and must not exceed the difference between the site-selection fee and the fee for new attending members.

1.5.6: The Worldcon Committee shall make provision for persons to become supporting members for no more than one hundred and twenty-five percent (125%) of the site-selection fee, or such higher amount as has been approved by the Business Meeting, until a cutoff date no earlier than ninety (90) days before their Worldcon.

1.5.7: Other memberships and fees shall be at the discretion of the Worldcon Committee.

Aside: Nobody need worry about renumbering sections or cross-references, as the Secretary of the meeting is responsible for and authorized to deal with such housekeeping. In this case, 1.5.7 would automatically be renumbered to 1.5.6.

Date:July 19th, 2010 07:31 pm (UTC)
I am in favor of this removal of the "conversion cap" because I think the cap has had a perverse incentive on committees to set their supporting memberships too high, to their own detriment in multiple ways, including the ones you've mentioned. I think that if committees had the freedom to set their supporting memberships lower, but still at a price that generated income after servicing expenses, they could sell more memberships and possibly have more money to spend on actually running the Worldcon. As it is, they've priced off the demand.

Personally, the price point I suggest for a supporting membership is somewhere in the vicinity of what a new large SF hardcover book costs: $20-$30. Above that and people are clearly balking consistently. Below that and I think the perceived chance of "ballot box stuffing" (read: people who I don't agree with joining) increases; besides, you want a "profit margin" on the cost. It's supposed to be a supporting membership, which means it helps support the convention, and thus it should cost more than the cost of servicing it.
Date:July 19th, 2010 09:47 pm (UTC)
Works for me.

Of course, I have two little girls who have taken us off the Worldcon circuit for the time being...
Date:July 21st, 2010 03:25 pm (UTC)
While I agree with the bulk of your argument, and will be voting accordingly, I would dispute the reference to "very low participation" in the voting for site selection. Where it's a seriously contested bid, there can be over 1,500 voters, which is not a majority of the attendees but is probably around 30%. If the bid is not seriously contested, then the voting participation levels don't matter.

Edited at 2010-07-21 03:25 pm (UTC)