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The shape of Worldcon bids to come

By Petrea Mitchell| May 29, 2011 | 14 Comments

Worldcon has an interesting bid situation right now. Worldcon sites are selected 2 years beforehand, so bids typically show up 4-5 years before the year the bid is for, and more often than not, there are two or more bids for the same year. In the last year or so, however, we’ve seen bids operating on a much longer timescale than usual, so that while there are 7 active bids, every one is currently uncontested.

This probably won’t last long. There are more groups interested in running Worldcon, and one really startling absence on the current list.

The current lineup

2013 (being voted on this year): San Antonio
2014: London
2015: Spokane
2016: Kansas City (exploratory)
2017: Japan (year is tentative, but definitely bidding)
2018: New Orleans
2019: No bids yet
2020: New Zealand

Who’s waiting in the wings?

  • Zagreb, Croatia. Their first bid, for 1993, was sunk by a war. Now, Croatia is on its way toward joining the EU, Zagreb is hosting next year’s Eurocon, and the organizers sound serious about tackling a Worldcon next.
  • Canada. The last three Canadian Worldcons were in 1994, 2003, and 2009, so the next is likely to show up later this decade.
  • Los Angeles. The LA area has been hosting a Worldcon per decade for the last few. The most recent was in 2006, so the urge to run another one should be creeping into the local con-runners’ hearts about now.
  • But the really big one is: the East Coast. This is where most of the biggest Worldcons have been held. Boston also runs about a Worldcon per decade. Philadelphia has hosted it three times, most recently in 2001. There was nearly a bid for 2011 or 2012 in Washington, DC, said to have been dropped due to delays in the facilities they wanted to use being constructed. I will be astonished if a bid based somewhere along the coast doesn’t turn up by the end of the year.

After the jump: what do the odds look like for the declared and undeclared contenders?

The mind of the Worldcon voter

There are many ways to evaluate Worldcon sites, but for most voters it appears to come down to two questions:

  1. Does it look like fun? Do people talk about what a great time they had last time Worldcon was there? Did the voter personally enjoy it, if they were there? How’s the weather? Do the local attractions look interesting? (Most Worldcon members will stay at the con while it’s happening, but many people stay an extra few days before or after it to go touristing.)
  2. Can I get there? The majority of site selection voters are usually in the US. Arguments about whether Worldcon is being held outside of North America too often or not are usually more about whether the people arguing are willing and able to travel outside of North America. This is vividly illustrated, for example, in the results of the site selection for 2009 (PDF), which was held the year Worldcon was in Yokohama, Japan. Mail-in votes were almost tied, but the overwhelming majority of votes cast at Worldcon itself– by the people who travelled to Japan– were for the more foreign and exotic city.

    Among non-US voters, the US is at a growing disadvantage due to the increasing hostility of Homeland Security. In addition to the things you’ve heard, Europeans are hearing lots about how much personal information the TSA is demanding be handed over before flights are allowed to enter the country, and recently, two prominent members of the sf community have been banned from the US for reasons that the community feels were not their own fault (one was a botched Border Patrol search, the other a bureaucratic mistake that would take a very expensive lawyer to fix).

Handicapping the field

2013 is a done deal– voting is already happening. 2014 is unlikely to get competitive. The sf community is hugely Anglophilic, so London can breathe easy.

2015 is where it starts to get interesting. The Worldcon voters don’t seem ready yet to have two conventions in a row outside North America, but Spokane may look like the easiest target in the next few years for someone wanting to run a Worldcon elsewhere on the continent, since it has no Worldcon history, no big geek attractions that spring easily to mind, and few direct flights. It’ll have to fight hard.

2016 is still a bit up for grabs since Kansas City hasn’t declared a firm bid yet. Many people have fond memories the previous KC Worldcon, but that hasn’t been enough to keep them from losing bids for 2006 (to Anaheim) or 2009 (Montreal). This is also the earliest a Zagreb bid is likely to turn up for.

2017 is currently Japan’s to lose. The people who went last time loved it, and as anime makes more and more inroads into the Worldcon community, Japan’s stock can only rise. The only thing it should worry about is a Zagreb win for 2016, going back to the problem of two consecutive Worldcons outside North America.

2018-2019 is getting a ways out, but this is the timeframe where I’d expect to see at least one bid from California. Also that missing bid from the East Coast, if it didn’t turn up in time to compete for 2015 or 2016. Same for Canada. I think New Orleans is a toss-up against any of these.

2020, if New Zealand wins, would continue a pattern of sending Worldcon “Down Under” about every 10 years. Their chances are good enough that any non-North American bids for 2019 would likely be up against the expectation that 2020 was going off-continent for sure.

To sum up, that’s probably 3 trips overseas in the next 9 years, and plenty of geographical diversity in the others. Whatever happens, the “World” is definitely staying in “Worldcon”.



14 Responses to “The shape of Worldcon bids to come”

  1. Kevin Standlee
    May 29th, 2011 @ 7:04 pm

    Good summation of the current situation. The likely reason that bids have shrunk down to only one per year is that changes made in the past decade to significantly increase bid flexibility (repeal of the North American zone-rotation system in particular) have made bids leery of competing if they can try to pin down a year ahead of anyone else. The question will be whether there are any bids perceived as weak enough that we “need” another bid for that year. After all, for 1993, all three bids on the ballot (San Francisco, Phoenix, Zagreb; election in The Hague, Netherlands) were perceived to be so weak that a write-in bid for Hawaii was ginned up to “save” Worldcon from itself. That could happen again if any of the declared bids stumble.

  2. Patrick Nielsen Hayden
    May 29th, 2011 @ 7:32 pm

    “Many people have fond memories of past KC Worldcons”

    Of which there have been exactly one, in 1976. You’re probably thinking of the several Minneapolis Worldcons.

  3. The Worldcon Picture | SFFANZ News
    May 29th, 2011 @ 9:46 pm

    […] by mittsusaru| Comments Off Over at, Petrea Mitchell has written an article calledThe Shape of Worldcon Bids to Come. It sets out a roadmap of current and expected bids to host the World Science Fiction Convention […]

  4. Petrea Mitchell
    May 30th, 2011 @ 3:25 pm

    “Of which there have been exactly one, in 1976.”

    D’oh. I hear so much about KC, I guess it just seems like there have been more than one. Of course that’s the one thing I forgot to check against the Long List. Thanks, I’ve fixed that…

  5. Martha
    May 30th, 2011 @ 5:59 pm

    I think those of us who live in Europe and who don’t want or can’t afford the expense of travelling to the states or are not welcome there, should concentrate on building EUROCON into a force to be reckoned with.

  6. Diane Lacey
    May 31st, 2011 @ 4:55 pm

    To clarify, the Kansas City in 2016 bid is a firm bid, not exploratory. We have contracts with the facilities and are definitely bidding for 2016. While we’ve had some presence at a few conventions, most recently a sponsored lunch at ConQuesT last weekend, we are waiting until Chicago, two years before the vote, to officially launch. We will also be throwing a party in Reno, so come and see us there and we’ll show you all the details.

  7. Lisa Hertel
    May 31st, 2011 @ 6:05 pm

    The East Coast has become ‘the wimpy zone.’ I don’t see the main Worldcon bidding group in Boston, MCFI (the Noreascon people) doing anything much. They’re all old & burnt out. Arisia essentially already runs a con as big as a Worldcon–last Arisia was 3K, and I expect it’ll be up to 4K in a few years.

    There is a NY in ’17 bid, but it’s one couple and they haven’t done anything to promote themselves. Nobody thinks they have any hope. The NY & Philly conventions are dying. It doesn’t bode well for them to bid a Worldcon.

  8. Nicholas Shectman
    June 3rd, 2011 @ 3:53 am

    Remember, Worldcon bidding is at least as much “who” as “where”. Within Canada, it is in some sense Vancouver’s “turn”. But the people who would have bid for it are now bidding Spokane instead. I think another Canada bid is likely to wait until those people have recovered.

  9. Worldcons On the Way « File 770
    June 9th, 2011 @ 10:26 pm

    […] Mitchell, in The Shape of Worldcon Bids to Come on, points out that there are 7 active Worldcon bids — and right now every one of […]

  10. Gregory Benford
    June 10th, 2011 @ 5:07 am

    I support any east coast bid. More the point, I like seeing worldcon become genuinely global. Sf is a world culture and it’s time we claimed that.

    Apologize for the stupidities of Homeland Security! See you in Reno.

  11. Neil Rest
    June 14th, 2011 @ 12:04 am

    It’s actually conceivable that there might be a proposed amendment to The Constitution providing that Worldcon can’t be outside North America for three consecutive years. That could get interesting.

  12. Jane Fancher
    June 14th, 2011 @ 10:29 pm

    Just putting in a good word for Spokane. Simply put, There’s a reason why C.J. Cherryh and I decided to move here following the Westercon held here. It’s a terrific city with great facilities, beautiful parks, easy access, and great people.

    Not sure what you mean about a lack of direct flights…there haven’t been direct flights to anywhere since the hub system went into effect a gazillion years ago. 😀 As for the geeks, Seattle, which is about as geeky as you could ask for, is a hop, skip and jump away with hourly flights back and forth. Come in a day early, stay in Seattle. Geek away, then come to Spokane for a great convention. 😀 For the artistically/photographically inclined, it’s a sensory feast. For the actively inclined…everything from canoeing to rock climbing is only minutes away. The morning walks along the river just outside the hotels is what hooked me back in 1999.

    And hey, if you get bored, walk a block or two from the convention center and hop the amusement park rides in Riverfront Park, including the 1909 Looff Carousel!

    Truly, don’t count Spokane out. There are some old hands working on it and it s/b a great con.

  13. Alex von Thorn.
    June 14th, 2011 @ 11:28 pm

    Spokane is a beautiful tourist-friendly destination with great facilities, great restaurants, and lots for visitors to see and do. Its transportation infrastructure is designed around hosting conferences. There is an active local fan community which is actively involved in supporting the bid; the Spokane locals made the official announcement of the bid at Miscon last month.

    I have sat at a lot of fan tables over the years representing Pacific Northwest bids. There is huge enthusiasm among Northwest fandom to bring a Worldcon to the region (the last one we had was in 1961), and tremendous goodwill towards the region from other parts of the world. We got a very friendly reception and sold a lot of presupports at our party at Balticon a couple weeks back. The impression we have got from our friends on the east coast is that they are relieved to have a couple more years to discuss their plans. With Japan not confirmed as bidding for 2017, some people on the east coast are contemplating the possibility of competing against the New York in 2017 bid.

    Active Vancouver fandom needs time to learn and grow. There’s a good change of a Vancouver Westercon bid around 2017. A Toronto Worldcon bid is not likely before 2020, and it would be ridiculous to discuss this early hypothetical scenarios about the following decade.

    With Portland not having facilities, Seattle being in too much demand in the summer, and Vancouver being really expensive, Spokane is the best location in the Northwest to host a Worldcon, and Northwest fandom is willing to work hard to help get the rest of fandom on board.

  14. About Those East Coast Worldcon Bids :
    July 19th, 2011 @ 2:22 am

    […] in May, I did a rundown of current Worldcon bids noting the curious lack of both contested bids and East Coast cities in the list. Well, […]

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