September 2nd, 2007

Crapping On the Midwest

Well, it looks like the 2009 Worldcon has been voted to Montreal over Kansas City. This greatly dismays me, but doesn't surprise me. The elimination of the rotation zones has predictably led to us having no Midwestern Worldcons.

The last Worldcon in "the Midwest zone" was in Toronto in 2003. And, to be honest, Toronto is as far east as Pittsburgh and almost as far east as Buffalo, both of which are clearly "Eastern zone". The only reason Ontario's in the old "Midwest zone" is because of the large, much more sparsely populated section of the province that overhangs the Midwest. But I wouldn't bet on a Thunder Bay Worldcon ever happening. So by geographic measures, the last Midwest Worldcon was probably Chicon 2000. Wow!

It's definitely been the "screw the dealers" decade for Worldcon. Since ConJose in 2002, the Worldcon has gone to Toronto, Boston, Glasgow, Los Angeles, Japan, Denver, and now Montreal, with a dead certainty that the next Worldcon will be in Australia, because the SMOFfish contingent would be sure to punish anyone who dared bid against it. Three Worldcons out of eight on the right side of the customs barrier.

If you're making your living from your fannish business, you might as well just start planning on going to Dragoncon. (We don't and I don't.) Who knows? Maybe that was part of the SMOFfish objective too. I've heard this constant background rumble that Worldcons had gotten to be too large.

I guess that's been fixed. Heck, even the most recent LACon was much smaller than we might have expected a few years ago.


The Graying of Fandom

I talked with daisy_knotwise about the status of the Worldcon over lunch. For a long time, it was the premier science-fiction event of the year. Since back in 1976 with MidAmeriCon in Kansas City, it's been big, with memberships in the multiple thousands -- at least for U.S. sites.

But you know, it's not the premier SF event any more. Either Dragoncon or the San Diego Comicon have a much better claim to that title, based simply on the number of people who gather there who are interested in science fiction. And it's a crowd that skews younger than the Worldcon crowd too, at a time when we're sitting around at our regional cons and lamenting the graying of fandom and declining attendance.

And there are moments when I'm cynically led to wonder if that's not what some folks want, especially for the Worldcon. I've long heard folks lamenting that the Worldcon was too big, that there were too many people there who didn't belong at Worldcon.

So you do things to make going to Worldcon less attractive. I remember when the Worldcon dealers room was the most wonderful bazaar in the world. But the rooms in Winnipeg and Toronto were weak and sickly things, because the U.S. dealers were effectively locked out. It didn't do much for the art show either.

Of course, with the Canadian Worldcons, there's no NASFiC, but that hardly matters any more, because the NASFiC's been a weak and sickly thing itself since it was once hijacked by Dragoncon. The last NASFiC that I went to was in L.A. in 1999 and -- as I recall -- barely a thousand fans showed up. I don't remember what NASFiC attendance figures used to be like for sure, but I remember having a fine time in Louisville, and Austin, and Phoenix.

I didn't even bother to go to the NASFiC in Collinsville this year. Sad, isn't it, when I can't muster enough enthusiasm to drive a few hundred miles for the NASFiC? (Mind you, Gretchen's surgery would have caused me to abandon any plan I had, but I never had a plan.)

So if Worldcon voting fandom is saying "screw the dealers" and "screw the artists", it can't be any great surprise if they're discovering that they can make more money elsewhere -- maybe not in places I want to go, but I'm not making my living as a dealer, so I don't have to go there.

And the Worldcon gets less attractive and the marginal fans go elsewhere too. And fandom gets a little grayer.

It's a shame too. SF's never been stronger in the mass media than it is now. But to a lot of fans, media's a dirty word. Written SF's the thing that counts.

And, you know, I love written SF. And I love good SF and fantasy films and TV. And I still love my comic books.

You know why I ended up a voracious reader of science fiction? Two words: Julie Schwartz.

I read Green Lantern. I read Adam Strange. I read the bleeding Atomic Knights.

And later, I graduated to the hard stuff.

Where are we going to find that next generation of readers?