So, until about two weeks ago, the notion of me attending WorldCon in August, when it’s hosted by Mid AmeriCon II in Kansas City, was a pretty distant dream. This weekend, I made tentative plans to attend WorldCon 75 in 2017, when it will be in Helsinki. This possibility was not even on my radar, to the extent that I told one of the chairs of WorldCon 75 that I had supported the Helsinki bid, even though there was a close to 0 percent chance that I could make it there. This turned out to be the most awkward thing I could have said at that moment, because it turned out she had approached me to extend a personal invitation for me to be there.
Now, before certain conspiratorial tongues begin wagging, let me explain a few things about how this works in the real world. When I say that she invited me personally, I mean that she said to me, as a person, “You should totally come!”, a statement which grants me no perks or privileges beyond those of any individual who is aware of the con and its attendance policies. When I say I was invited, what I mean is I was invited to purchase transportation to Finland, membership in the convention, and food and lodging while I am there.
I say this not to shame her for expecting me to pay my own way, but because I am an adult human being who understands how things work in the real world. The chair of a convention has very little power and very much responsibility. She cannot waive the con’s fees that pay for its existence and operation. She cannot access some bottomless pool of money to pay for things beyond the con’s control, like airfare. A literary sf/f con does not have the budget of a big media con, and even big media cons wouldn’t last if they paid for the appearance of people who do not bring in even more money for the convention in return.
Yet there are people out there who don’t know how the world works, but who imagine they do, and who imagine that these affairs are endless circles of cliquish nepotism where insiders pay each other to travel and lounge around and speak as experts. Two years ago there was a trumped-up tempest in a teapot “outrage” where people who had barely heard of me and only just heard of WisCon believed I was being paid to fly in and speak about “Social Justice” because I was on a panel about internet culture. This year someone interpreted my announced plans to be at World Con to mean that I was likewise a paid guest, and that’s the charitable interpretation where that rumor didn’t start as a deliberate lie.
Now, I want to mention the fact that a chair of World Con 75 personally invited me to fly out to Helsinki and participate because, heck, let’s face it… that’s pretty cool, isn’t it? She told me, in so many words, “You’re part of this. You’re part of this world, part of the community. You’re the real deal. You belong here.” That’s cool. Now, I don’t mean to suggest that the chair of a WorldCon has the authority to act as gatekeeper for who belongs in sf/f fandom, because she doesn’t. The chair of a convention basically only has the authority to throw a convention, and that only just barely. But anybody has the power to give another human being validation, and I got some from a person who is helping to head up the 75th World Science Fiction Conviction in Helsinki in 2017, and that’s something worth mentioning.
It’s just a shame that I can’t mention it without translating for those who fevered imaginations have overcome their grip on reality. Just you watch, come next year or even as soon as WorldCon 74 is over and I begin firming up my plans for 75, there will rumors swirling about what I’m being paid or what’s being paid for. I’d give even odds that someone even links to this post with a claim that if you “read between the lines” it says this, or there’s a “clear implication” it says that… I mean, we’re talking about the people who took David Gerrold’s ironclad (and very proper) insistence that all nominees and winners would be accorded all decorum and respect at the WisCon 73 Hugo ceremony last year as an open promise to do the opposite.
This is probably the last time I’ll bother qualifying something neat like “a WorldCon head personally told me she’d be jazzed if I were there” by explaining the real world to dedicated denizens of a carefully constructed artificial reality, for the simple reason that I know it doesn’t work. It’s more my fascination with the disconnect between actual reality on the ground and the stories that swirl based on a few glimmers of that reality and much speculation that prompts this post.
What a different world we live in than the one that is ascribed to us.