Spokane vs. Helsinki: Cognitive Dissonance and the 2015 Worldcon

15 comments Written on September 17th, 2012 by
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There are three serious bids for the World Science Fiction Convention (i.e., the Worldcon) in 2015. Orlando, Spokane, and Helsinki.

I don’t expect Orlando to win (sorry, Orlando, that’s just my opinion). In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if they end up being a spoiler for the other two, Spokane and Helsinki. Sigh.

I am torn.

I would very much like to see Spokane win the right to host the 2015 Worldcon. I know some of the talented people working on that bid, and I’m confident they’d do a fine job and it would be a glorious convention. I’ve never been to that part of Washington, and this would be a fine excuse to visit.

And yet… I would also very much like to see Helsinki win the the right to host the 2015 Worldcon. I’ve actually had some of my fiction translated into Finnish, and seriously, when am I likely to get myself (let alone my wife) over to Finland otherwise?

The vote will be taken in about eleven months at the 2013 Worldcon, LoneStarCon 3, in San Antonio, Texas. I suspect that the deciding factor will be economics and the financial burden (from the perspective of US attendees) of taking on two trans-Atlantic Worldcons in a row — for those of you who don’t have this sort of thing in the back of your mind, the 2014 Worldcon, LonCon 3, is in London, England.

And in a lot of ways I think that’s a shame. It’s the world science fiction convention, and I like seeing that aspect represented. I like meeting and doing panels alongside and chatting at parties with people from other countries and cultures.

Of course we have the better part of the year to see what happens with the economy, both here in the USA, and over in Europe. This is far from decided, which just means I need to live with my cognitive dissonance a while longer.

That’s my thoughts on the topic today. What are yours?

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15 comments “Spokane vs. Helsinki: Cognitive Dissonance and the 2015 Worldcon”

While the economic factor is tricky, I already need to get a passport for London… so this isn’t a firm decision, but having one will open up so very many possibilities, and Helsinki is supposed to be lovely at that time of year.

It does sound like the ideal time to visit. Sigh.

The tradition has been that a strong foreign bid will get the nod. The question is whether Helsinki counts as a strong foreign bid. (I’m delighted to see them trying for it, even if they don’t win.)

Absent that, people seem to mostly vote for the city they’d like to visit. This has led to problems in the past as the city most desired to visit *didn’t* necessarily have a con committee up to the job. (And it bemuses me, because most folks seem to come in, attend the Worldcon, and never actually *see* the city it’s held in.)

Between Spokane and Orlando, I think Spokane will win on city points, but I suspect Orlando has the stronger committee.

Between Spokane and Orlando, I think Spokane will win on city points…

Interesting. I actually had the concern that more people would want to go to Orlando than Spokane. Then again, you’ve been at this longer than I have, and doubtless know more of the players who make these things happen.

It isn’t that I don’t like Helsinki — I know next to nothing of it. But I think a pair of overseas WorldCons back-to-back at this point will have dire effect on the process of WorldCon which, despite the name, has always had a US and North American focus, much as the World Series is a baseball event for North American teams. I’d really hate to end up with a choice of goign to another NASFIC so soon after Phoenix!

Me, I’m leaning fairly heavily to Spokane — it gets me a longer train trip across prettier/more interesting country than Orlando does. The Orlando “Manifesto” makes it sound as if all of the WorldCon institutions we know will be replaced by something new, without telling us what or who, or how. But I like Worldcon more or less like as it has been (went to my first in 1974, IIRC), so the revolutionary motif is offputting. The Spokane Bid has more familiar names on the committee, and the city sounds more walkable to me — like they want to put on a good time rather than have me overawed by theme parks. Never been a theme park junkie, me.

One take.

[Spokane] sounds more walkable to me — like they want to put on a good time rather than have me overawed by theme parks. Never been a theme park junkie, me.

This is my take as well. And yet, Finland still calls to me.

A quick glance at the airlines (looking at approximate dates for next year because you can’t book the actual dates yet) show no nonstop flights from Philadelphia to Spokane, with the cheapest (one stop) flights running about $525 per person and requiring about six hours of travel time (that includes the plane change at the hub). The same dates to Helsinki from Philadelphia cost $1035 per person and take thirteen hours (though that seems to include first going to Chicago, so I assume I could do better, at least time-wise, flying out of NYC).

A Helsinki bid could be very serious. Finncon, for example, is the national SF con. 5000-5500 attendees in a country of 5.4 million. And it’s free, paid out of the arts budget. A Helsinki Worldcon would be in English with a Finnish track. And Helsinki is a lovely city.

I was there in 2003 — we’d go back in a heartbeat.

That’s my two cents.

Dr. Phil

A Helsinki Worldcon would be in English with a Finnish track.

I’m not sure how I feel about that. I’ve only been to one non-North American Worldcon, and that was Yokohama. In Japan it felt like there were two conventions going on side by side and I didn’t experience much crossover (though I did get to meet and chat with the creator of Astro Boy at a meet-and-greet of SFWA members and their Japanese counterparts). But that could have been my fault.

My point though is that if I’m going to Finland for a Worldcon, I want if not an immersive experience then at least certainly a blended one.

Lawrence et al…

Disclaimer: I am affiliated with the Spokane In 2015 Worldcon Bid.

I wish to concentrate on Helsinki’s bid for 2015. They previously announced a hoax bid for an island off the coast of Finland for 2016 against Kansas City. Ironically, they left that in place. They announced their 2015 bid at the Chicon 7 Business Meeting on Friday of Worldcon. They don’t have a site selected yet within Helsinki. They discussed Finncon, their national convention, and admitted that because of advertising income, government grants, etc. there is no cost to attend Finncon. This won’t be the case for Worldcon. When I asked the Bid Chair why pick 2015 with two pre-existing bids rather than a future year with only one or no bids, his reply was that “we feel it’s the best year for us to win” or close to that. At the Saturday Business Meeting there were more presentations and Helsinki participated again. When I asked the same question the Bid Chair’s answer was slightly longer. “I admit we’re being rather mercenary about this bid.” He then reiterated the above comment about 2015 being their best year to win the bid.

My opinion of this last-minute bid for 2015 was that there were folks behind the scenes unhappy with both Spokane and Orlando. Thus, Helsinki was “encouraged” to bid to give them someone to vote for. Some opinions expressed at Worldcon included this Helsinki bid as an initial attempt to get their name out there for a future year win. Others were confused by Helsinki’s bid just one year out with two other bids on the plate. Most folks whom I queried felt I was probably right.

As an historical reference, I was involved with the Phoenix In 1993 Worldcon Bid that was voted on in Den Haag (The Hague), Netherlands, in 1990. San Francisco had announced first, then Phoenix. When support for Phoenix (due to SF’s unpopularity) began to dissolve within the community, there was an attempt to get a bid for Hawaii together. It failed to meet the bid filing deadline to make the ballot, and so ended up being a write-in bid. The Zagreb, Yugoslavia, bid was mostly because they were getting grants from the government to travel. The Hawaii bid was very agressive and even pre-typed their name on the ballot which got sent out to pre-supporters. That caused another controversy which ultimately got resolved by the voting deadline. In the end SF won, but Hawaii came in second. However, the experience with a third bid supported because of unhappiness with two pre-existing bids was quite unpleasant. I’m beginning to see the parallels for 2015.

For folks who don’t know the voting rules, Worldcon uses the Australian balloting method. Your first choice gets a 1, your second a 2, etc. In this way if no pile of votes with 1’s wins with a majority on the first round, then the smallest pile gets redistributed using the 2’s on those ballots. If no winner occurs on the second round, then the current smallest pile gets redistributed, and so on. So there is a chance that Helsinki can win by getting the most 2’s if folks are highly polarized on the 1’s: Spokane vs Orlando.

I personally would be in support of Helsinki if they pick another year, although there are now two bids for 2017: Montreal (formerly bidding for 2019) and Japan. New Orleans failed to announce for 2018 despite earlier interest. Montreal’s bid for 2019 has moved to 2017, so 2019 is open to my knowledge. Detroit is talking about possibly going for 2019, but that’s only getting started. Then New Zealand has been talking 2020 ever since 2010.

Hope this perspective helps with a more three dimensional picture of what’s going on…

Mike, I appreciate the disclaimer, as well as the detailed perspective.

The more I come to know SMOFs, the more in awe I am at the work they do, the tasks they accomplishment.

In my opinion, there’s little chance that a Finnish World con will have the same language barrier problem as Nippon 2007. I’m from Sweden, and the most common complaint I hear from English speakers who have moved here is that they don’t get to practice their Swedish as Swedes like to practice their English. This seems to be true for the other Nordic countries as well.

Sure, we don’t speak perfect English, but well enough to make a Finnish Worldcon a truly international convention.

Also, it would be nice if the American cons had more overseas visitors. To get more Europeans who are willing to travel to North American Worldcons, they will have to try them out in Europe first. =)

I suspect you’re right, but similar things could have been said about the Yokohama Worldcon — specifically that plenty (if not most) of the Japanese fans in attendance spoke reasonable English (nearly everyone I met did). Nonetheless, the programming was organized as it was, which yielded my experience of two conventions running more or less independently of one another.

My point is, I don’t necessarily think the problem is one of English fluency. Other assumptions will be made (or not) by the convention’s committee that will shape the results.

Yes, I agree that is is important that the programming does not create an unnecessary language divide. Personally, I don’t see the point of having Worldcon panels in any other language than English, as it is theclosestthing to lingua franca we have (though there’s a case to be had for children’s panels in more than one language).

I was merely making the argument that there is a big difference between a population where plenty can understand and speak English reasonably well, and a population where there’s difficult to find someone who cannot follow an argument in English (or do I give the Finns too much credit here?).

Am a fin and in minority of scifi fans that don’t think it is so hot idea. Firts and foremost because it seems that American fans don’t like to go into “small” town. Idea if being someking of consolation plan does not feel good. Other is that whole thing is just too F***ing big .

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