Worldcon - Convention Committees

Convention Committees

See also: Science fiction convention

As WSFS itself is an unincorporated society, each Worldcon is organized by a separate committee incorporated in the local jurisdiction; in the United States, these are usually set up as 501(c)(3) non-profit corporations. These may be standalone committees, or they may be organized by an existing local group; a few groups such as MCFI in Boston and SCIFI (Southern California Institute for Fan Interests), Inc. in southern California are permanent corporations set up to run Worldcons (or other one-off/rotating conventions) in different years in the same area. Like most non-media science fiction conventions, all Worldcons are run entirely by volunteers, with no paid staff; senior committee members devote hundreds of hours (not to mention thousands of dollars in travel expenses in some cases) in preparation for a particular convention. While each convention is run separately by the local committee, an informal and self-selected group of volunteers constitute the "Permanent Floating Worldcon Committee" who volunteer for many Worldcons in different years; this group offers a measure of institutional continuity to otherwise disparate legal organizations.

Recent Worldcons have had budgets running close to a million dollars. The main source of revenue is convention membership; Worldcons also collect fees from exhibiting dealers and artists and advertisers in publications; some conventions manage to attract sponsorships up to 5% of total income. The main expenses are facilities rental and related costs, then (if possible) membership reimbursements to program participants and volunteers, then publications, audiovisual equipment rental, and hospitality. Traditionally, all members (except for guests of honor) must pay for their membership; if the convention makes an adequate surplus after covering operating expenses, full or partial membership reimbursements are paid back after the convention. Most Worldcons run a small surplus, which under the rules of WSFS and the non-profit legislation in their jurisdiction, they are required to disburse to qualified organizations; typically half the surplus is donated to future Worldcons, in a tradition called "pass-along funds".

Because of their size, Worldcons have two layers of management between the chair and the staff. "Departments" operate a specific convention function, while "divisions" coordinate the work of several departments. Department heads (sometimes called "area heads") have one or more deputies plus a large staff, or they may have no staff at all. Most Worldcons have between five and twelve division heads who form the convention executive.

In order for convention staff and members to quickly identify the function of other staff at the convention, Worldcons use ribbons of differing colors which are attached to convention badges to signify different roles and responsibilities. Often there are ribbons to signify rank, division, and department or specialized functions; ribbons are also used to identify program participants, other noteworthy members (for example "Past Worldcon Guest of Honor", "Hugo Award Nominee", etc.), or classes of members ("Dealers", "Artists", "Party Hosts") who are interacting with convention staff. Some members of the committee may be performing a variety of current or past roles and could have a large number of ribbons attached to each other hanging from a badge. Extending this tradition, other groups and individuals create more ribbons for use at the convention; these may be serious or silly. Convention badge ribbons are important memorabilia, valuable years later because they evoke memories of events at the convention, and so will often be displayed in exhibits at future conventions. It is commonplace for Worldcon attendees to wear their ribbons from previous Worldcons alongside or below their current Worldcon ribbon, occasionally incurring minor confusion.

There is also a convention badge, displaying each attendee's name, membership number and (if desired) fannish nickname. The customary practice is for all attendees at the same convention—occasionally excepting Guests of Honor—to wear badges of the same design, but each Worldcon's badge design is unique to that convention. As with ribbons, Worldcon attendees will often wear their badges from previous Worldcons alongside or below their current badge.

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Famous quotes containing the words committees and/or convention:

    When committees gather, each member is necessarily an actor, uncontrollably acting out the part of himself, reading the lines that identify him, asserting his identity.... We are designed, coded, it seems, to place the highest priority on being individuals, and we must do this first, at whatever cost, even if it means disability for the group.
    Lewis Thomas (b. 1913)

    Every one knows about the young man who falls in love with the chorus-girl because she can kick his hat off, and his sister’s friends can’t or won’t. But the youth who marries her, expecting that all her departures from convention will be as agile or as delightful to him as that, is still the classic example of folly.
    Katharine Fullerton Gerould (1879–1944)