Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is a Worldcon?
The World Science Fiction Convention ("Worldcon") is an international gathering of the science fiction and fantasy communities. The Worldcon attracts members each year from North and South America, Africa, Europe, Australia, and Asia. In the last decade, the convention has been held on four different continents.
Worldcons are organized and run by fans, volunteers all. The majority of the organizing/operating committee changes each year with the location of the convention, although many members volunteer their time year after year regardless of location. And yes, all the volunteers buy their memberships, too.
Attendees include authors, artists, editors, publishers, gamers, vendors, musicians, and fans. Everyone who attends joins by buying a membership. This means there are no paid guests aside from the convention Guests of Honor — everyone else you see, regardless of whether they are a first timer or an author who has sold millions of books, has paid for the privilege of attending.
You will see exhibits, vendors, the Hugo Awards ceremony, the Art Show and auction, the Masquerade, and hundreds of program items. Just before the convention, a complete program will be posted on the website so you can start planning each day of your convention. (Although you can print or access the schedule at home, when you get to the con you will receive a printed bound souvenir book and a pocket program).
Q: What are the Hugo Awards?
The Hugo awards are the premier award in the science fiction genre, honoring science fiction and fantasy literature and media as well as the genre's fans. You and the other members of the convention nominate and then vote on the winners of the awards for the year.
One of the highlights of the convention is the Hugo Awards ceremony. It's similar to the Oscars except that if you've participated in the process by nominating and voting, or read or seen the nominees, you're even more likely to have personal favorites to root for.
Q: What is the Masquerade?
The Masquerade is a judged costuming competition. It is divided into categories based on the costuming skill levels of the participants, and judged by a panel of costuming experts. The Masquerade will be held on Saturday night. If you're from the U.S. East Coast, expect to see costumes done with the same skill as you would see on Broadway or at the Mummers Parade; if you're from the U.S. West Coast, be thinking Hollywood or Las Vegas.
Q: Can I wear a costume as well?
Sure! While Worldcon isn't really a costume party, you will occasionally find members in hall costumes or pieces of costumes, such as a Dr. Who scarf, a propeller beanie, and the like. While the majority of members don't wear a costume, you won't be out of place if you do.
Q: What about parties?
The nightlife at a Worldcon is, well, very alive. Each night of the convention there will be room parties—some hosted by publishers, some by cities bidding for future Worldcons, some by fans or groups of fans. The majority of room parties are open to all members.
At the room parties you'll find snacks, drinks, and lots of good conversation. You might find someone making ice cream with liquid nitrogen. You might find someone else playing a theremin. You might find belly dancers.
Filthy Pierre's Official Party List will be posted each afternoon so you'll know which parties you want to check out each night.
Q: Who and what are Guests of Honor?
Each Worldcon selects a small number of Guests of Honor chosen for their lifetime commitment and contribution to the field. The list of past GoHs is filled with major names, from Asimov to Clarke and Bradbury to le Guin. Chicon 7 is adding six new names to this list—Jane Frank, Rowena Morrill, Story Musgrave, Mike Resnick, Peggy Rae Sapienza, and John Scalzi. For more info on the GOHs, check out the GOH pages on our website.
Q: Why does Worldcon cost more than local conventions?
The World Science Fiction Convention is different from local conventions in several respects. A local convention will start on Friday, possibly Thursday, and be loaded out on Sunday or sometimes Monday morning. A Worldcon starts loading in on Tuesday and loading out the following Tuesday; that more than doubles many of the expenses. A typical convention may have 14 hours of daytime programming, while a Worldcon is likely to have more than twice that.
|"Hotel": five nights sharing with one person|
"Meals": extra cost of eating in restaurants
Because Worldcon has seventy years of tradition and a global membership, it appeals to a wider diversity of interests than any local conventions. Even conventions that are much larger usually have a narrower focus, resulting in less need for function rooms per member. Local conventions also focus on finding cheaper locations for conventions; since the membership cost is only a small fraction of the total cost of attending a Worldcon, Worldcons are typically located in downtown locations that have more attractions for visitors.
Remember that Worldcon has a global membership, and so the committee has to offer enough of a convention to attract people from around the world. Cutting services and expenses will drive away many more non-local members than can ever be made up by local members. Local conventions benefit from year-over-year marketing, while Worldcon's year-over-year membership is by definition global. With some expenses (publications, hospitality, etc.) being per-member costs, it would require a more than 700% increase in local membership to achieve a 50% reduction in the membership cost, and that is outside the scope of any marketing or other convention planning.
Chicon 7 budget|
Therefore the committee focuses on running a great convention for a global audience. The benefit to local members is that they avoid most of the travel-related expenses. No matter what the membership rate, it will still be a lot cheaper for Chicagoland fans to attend a Worldcon in Chicago than in Texas, London, or other places likely to host Worldcons in future years.
Also, what you pay for is not exactly the same as what you get. You pay for rooms, chairs, microphones, main room lighting and speakers, program book printing, registration badges and bank charges, and various other items. But what you get is the experience of seeing and meeting some of the world's finest authors, artists, costumers, filkers, and contributors in many other fields. Many things distinguish a Worldcon from any other convention:
- The Hugo Awards
- international membership
- top-ranked authors, artists, and other pro and fan program participants and other contributors
These are what bring people from around the world, and these are what no local convention can offer. If this sounds interesting, you should come!
Q: Where is Chicon 7 being held?
The con hotel is the Hyatt Regency in downtown Chicago, on the Magnificent Mile, the Chicago River, and Lake Michigan. All of the main events of Chicon 7 will be held in this hotel. Chicago is the third-largest city in the U.S. by population, and is easily accessible by plane, train, and car.
Q: What's the weather like?
What's it not like? Seriously, although Chicago's weather can be changeable, late August/early September in Chicago is likely to be warm (in the 80s F), humid, and sunny. The famous "cooler near the lake" weather will probably affect temperatures, keeping the lakeshore a few degrees cooler than the rest of the city. Chicago does get some major thunderstorms in late summer, so bring an umbrella.
Q: What else can I do in Chicago?
Main article: Visiting Chicago
Lots. There are world-class museums, fabulous restaurants in any price range, world class sports teams (and the Cubs), and lots of sightseeing places, including "The Ledge": a clear glass ledge extending out from the Willis (formerly Sears) Tower 1,350 feet in the air. Willis Tower is the third tallest building in the world. We also have two nearby zoos, an aquarium, a planetarium, a nature museum, and the lakefront. And shopping— the Worldcon hotel is right on the Magnificent Mile, which features some of the world's greatest stores. Water Tower Place is a quick bus ride north and State Street is a couple of blocks away.
Q: Can I smoke?
Chicago public spaces are smoke-free by law, so there is no smoking in restaurants, theaters, stores, and so on. The hotel public areas where the Chicon 7 functions will take place are also smoke-free. The hotel rooms are also non-smoking, so you can't smoke in your sleeping room or suite. Smoking in non-smoking areas can result in large fines, so think twice before lighting up.
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