Science Fiction, WorldCon, and Finland

Last week I can back from Archipelacon, the Nordic SF&F convention at Mariehamn, in the Åland Islands of Finland. I had a great time, the convention itself was quite special, and here’s why:

  • It was brilliantly well-organised.H17-bear
  • It had a great vibe.
  • Everyone was welcome.

There’s more I could say about the venue, the pool bar, the top-quality panels and panelists, the workshops, the fact there was an academic stream (I said everyone was welcome), that GRR Martin was one of the Guests of Honour* and there was a Game of Thrones burlesque show.** In brief, I came expecting good, and it was better.

I could say a lot more, but I want to talk about something else. So if you do want more thoughts on Archipelacon there are links to blogs on the convention’s web site, and others, such as the report from Ian Sales. The thing is, I want to write about WorldCon, the World Science Fiction Convention (no, not the Hugos, that has all been said). Voting to select the site for the 2017 WorldCon is now taking place, and one of the bids is for Helsinki, Finland.

I’m supporting the Helsinki bid. I’ve put my money behind it as a bid supporter because I not only hope it wins, I think it deserves to win.

That said, perhaps there are some reasons why Helsinki is not the best choice.

“It’s too far away.”

Too far away from where? WorldCon hasn’t spent much time outside of North America (I’ll come back to that), but it has been held in Australia and Japan. They weren’t ‘too far away’. Helsinki has excellent global transport links.

And hang on. Too far away? Really? I thought we were SF & fantasy fans. The whole point of these genres is that they take you far away. Here’s a chance to visit somewhere a little different, and quite special, with no spaceship or portal required. I promise you, once you come to Finland you’ll fall in love with the place.

“Finland is too small for a big convention.”

This one is easy because Finland has been hosting FinnCon for nearly 30 years. If you haven’t heard of it, this is one of the biggest European SF&F conventions, and is about the same size as a WorldCon. These guys have done this before. A lot.

H17There’s a second part to this, and it’s Archipelacon. Archipelacon was about as close to a pop-up convention as you can get. There’s never been one before, there may well never be another one again (though I hope there is). In my opinion this was the best organised convention I have ever been to. From the ferry tickets, to having everything ready for my panel, to letting me add some of my books to the trade stall because I’d forgotten to ask in advance, everything worked, and it worked well. Finns not only know how to run a convention, they’re proud of the fact.

There is another very good reason why WorldCon should leave North America again. From 2000 WorldCon has been held in the USA 11 times, Canada twice. Including next year’s event in Kansas, that’s 13 out of 17 years. And how many times has it been held outside of the English-speaking world? Just once, in Japan. To my mind this is reason enough to have the WorldCon in Finland.

While we’re on the subject of language, Finland is essentially a tri-lingual country. Finnish and Swedish are the official language but most people are fluent in English too. For us monoglots only able to speak English, language is not a problem.

In brief, there is absolutely no reason whatsoever for WorldCon NOT to be in Helsinki on 2017. More to the point, there are plenty of strong, positive reasons why it should. WorldCon is supposed to be a global convention. Let’s help make it so.

If you are going to this year’s WorldCon in Spokane, or you are a supporting member, I urge you to vote for Helsinki as the location for the 2017 convention. Please.

If you want to know more I suggest you get in touch with the bid team.

I hope to see you there!


* Along with Johanna Sinisalo, Karin Tidbeck, Gary K. Wolfe and Parris Mcbride.

** Trust me, you had to have been there, I cannot adequately describe this show. I’m probably not even ALLOWED to describe some of it. It was – ahem – for grown-ups. Ask George, he was there. In fact he was there twice.

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