SF Predictions in the Real World (or a small bit of self-congratulation)

Several months ago, probably close to the time that Loncon3 announced that their membership was likely to top 7,000, I predicted (somewhere:  I know it’s in print, just can’t find it*) that the Worldcon’s attendance would reach or exceed ten thousand (10,000) members.

There was a little scoffing from some corners, but today’s announcement that Loncon3 had reached that number and was exceeding it by about 20% (!) due to a last minute surge of local attendees, completely justifies my seeming unjustified exuberance.

How and why I was able to come to my prediction is at least somewhat instructive for future Worldcons.

There was certainly a bit of having purchased the right tea leaves, and an equal dash of wishful thinking, but the bulk of my (now accurate) prediction was based on a number of solid, factual datums and the application of trend analysis.

What did I see that others might not have?

Worldcons have been growing over the past several years. At least from Denvention in 2008 (and discounting Aussiecon – Australian Worldcons are unfortunately under-attended due to fans’ reluctance to have to stand upside down for a week), there has been a steady increase in both attending and supporting members. (You can view attendance information on the Long List of Worldcons.)

The Hugo Kerfuffle and vote fixing (plus the Hugo packet):  Fans are not moved easily, but when something inspires them to action – meet the unstoppable force.  I suspect that not a small percentage of voting members joined to counter specific nominees.

European Fandom:  Finncons have been growing in size and influence; there’s been greater penetration of non-Anglo works, fans, cons, websites over the past several years and it’s been nearly a decade since the last European Worldcon (Glasgow, 2005). (Glasgow also managed attendance that was statistically in line with North American Worldcons).  There was a lot of pent-up demand, as well as a strong desire to keep Worldcons coming back to Europe, which meant to me that European fans would be working hard to insure that Loncon3 was well-attended.

North American Fandom:  has never been shy about supporting cons in the UK and have always sent a strong contingent.

The Con Committee:  Well experienced and motivated and see below:

Willingness to Adopt Some Change:  Several years back I joined a bid committee for the 2015 Worldcon in Orlando.  I wrote a manifesto for that bid that outlined a strategy for helping Worldcons become more competitive with commercial conventions (SDCC, Dragoncon, etc) while at the same time preserving and protecting the traditions and feel of Worldcon.

That bid lost out to Sasquan (Spokane WA 2015), but in conversation with many of the movers behind Loncon3, I learned that many had the same thoughts and had identified the same issues as had been articulated in that manifesto.  More importantly, I learned that the Loncon3 Committee intended to implement many of those same concepts in a variety of different ways.

Most importantly, I learned that a number of fans who have been intimately familiar with the running of Worldcons for many years had identified the same problems I had and were committed to not only addressing those problems but fixing them, in ways that only creative fans could imagine.

So it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that Loncon3 – despite a couple of hiccups along the way (ones that did give me great pause for a day or two) – would deliver the most well-attended Worldcon in history.

I fervently hope that Sasquan and the bids that win future Worldcons understand the message that Loncon3 is sending:  Worldcon CAN appeal to a much wider audience;  it CAN continue to champion the cause of fandom and fan-run conventions, Worldcons CAN be successful and CAN effectively compete with commercially-oriented megacons and it CAN do ALL of that while still remaining true to Fandom.

(*Please let me know if you find it somewhere on the web)

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