How Worldcons Work – Financial Reports

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An occasionally confusing occasional series on the inside workings of the World Science Fiction Society, particularly directed at fans unfamiliar with fandom.

Worldcon has been conducted almost continuously since 1939.  It took a short break to handle some outside business with would-be world conquerors during the mid 1940s, but other than that, there has been an uninterrupted chain of Worldcons for 72 years.  That’s one reason why this year’s Worldcon – Sasquan – is referred to as the 73rd Worldcon, as, at least in our native numbering system, 73 follows close on the heels of 72, at least if we discount fractions.  Which we will do here for brevity’s sake.

In addition to Worldcon, WSFS also (oversees? enables? grants?) operates a North American Science Fiction Convention, or NASFiC, on the North American continent (otherwise it would have to be called the SASFiC or EASFiC or AASFiC.  Which would be endlessly confusing because we’d not be able to tell the difference between the Asian Science Fiction Convention, the African Science Fiction Convention and the Australian Science Fiction Convention. Its doubtful that the International Union of Geological Services would be too keen on changing the names of continents at this late date) whenever the Worldcon is held outside of North America.  (So far as is known at this time, there are no formal plans for naming conventions should the “world” con ever be held on a different celestial sphere.)

And of course WSFS oversees the awarding of the Hugo Awards, the Campbell award, numerous other awards & etc.

WSFS refers to itself as an “unincorporated literary society” and all of its various conventions are operated as non-profit entities.  Which makes lots of non-fans scratch their heads and screw their little faces up into expressions of confusion and puzzlement because genre conventions draw lots of people and lots of people means lots of money and why wouldn’t you want to profit from that?

Not to mention that one of the things that many uninformed fans discuss, mention or attempt to use as argumentative cudgels when complaining about this or that having to do with Worldcon (mostly because they are, as previously mentioned, clueless about fandom, fandom’s history, what motivates fans or indeed just about anything fannish) is the general accusation that Worldcons (especially of late) appear to be making a lot of money off of “supporting memberships” and, since these kinds of folks are naturally paranoically suspicious (engendered by thoughts of what they would be doing in similar circumstances) they believe that that money must be accruing to someone’s benefit at best or funding nefarious schemes – like an SJW Cabal intent on taking over the literary world – at worst

Of course a little research on Google or asking someone in the know would tend to mitigate such suspicions, but why would anyone avail themselves of the wonders of the information age when it’s so much easier to wallow in a warm and treacly trough of bubble ignorance?  Far better to never have to discover that your beliefs are based on willful ignorance.

Anyway.  Since each Worldcon is operated as a separate, not-for-profit entity, it’s beholden to eventually “close its books”.  The process for doing so is mandated by the organization’s by-laws, which includes an annual accounting report requirement.  Those accountings have come due and we are recently information that the Millennium Philcon, the 59th Worldcon, held in Philadelphia PA in 2001, has closed its books.

Which is pretty cool (14 years after the fact, the convention committee is still voluntarily toiling away) especially when you take a look at the fact that the convention ended with a surplus of funds (otherwise known as profit) that they had to disburse in some reasonably responsible manner.  Which they did. To the tune of forty six thousand dollars gifted to two up-coming Worldcons, the previously mentioned Sasquan (starting next week) and to MidAmeriCon II, which will take place in 2016.

Not only have they voluntarily given nearly fifty thousand bucks away, they’ve published this information, along with the accountings for all of the other still standing Worldcons – Anticipation (2009), Chicon 7 (2012), LonestarCon 3 (2013), LonCon 3 (2014) and Detcon 1 – NASFiC (2014).  You can even look yourself, right here.

If you look closely, you will note that there are absolutely no line items for SJW CABAL.  None.  But there are other disbursements given away as grants to various organizations and causes, like the SF Outreach program (that distributes free SF/F/H books to encourage readership), or the NIU Foundation, or travel grants to important events or intellectual property expenses or…wait, what’s this?  Chairman’s Expense?  Boy, if there was ever a place to hide money…one hundred eighty six dollars and change?  Gonna have a lot of influence with that pile of dough, not!

Sorry detractors, but you’ll have to look elsewhere for something to hang your accusations on.  Fandom operates in a transparent manner, generally takes is responsibilities seriously, works very hard for little to no compensation and proves it by publicly distributing information like what can be found in these reports.

Check these financial reports out – you’ll gain a lot of insight into what’s involved with putting on a Worldcon and how real fans operate.

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