A Winter Wonder Worldcon

John Scalzi

Discon III, this year’s Worldcon, is moving from August — when it was likely to be entirely virtual — to December, when at least some of it is likely to be able to done in-person, including the Hugo ceremony. Some folks are going to get rocket-shaped holiday gifts, for sure.

How do I feel about this? I think it’s fine. Most of the membership (who responded to a polling about it) seem to want an in-person Worldcon this year, and I can certainly sympathize with that; after more than a year of virtual events and conventions and conferences, there’s a pent-up desire for actually being in a room, and it seems by December enough people will have been vaccinated to make it feasible. So, why not? The only real downside will be for any potential Hugo finalists, who will have an additional four months of suspense, but if that’s the major downside, that’s pretty minor, really.

(The actual major downside will be trying to fit Worldcon in to a month already jammed with holiday events and commitments. But inasmuch as several conventions have perennially scheduled themselves alongside Easter and (in the US) both Memorial and Labor Day, nerds are used to accommodating holiday conventions.)

I have a membership for Discon III and assumed that it would end up being virtual, because August is still cutting things close (September is the earliest I’d be totally comfortable with an in-person experience, if it was handled correctly, and in fact I have concert tickets for that month). So now having the option of being there for the thing is nice. And I have a few more months to see where we as a nation are on the road to in-person events. I like having options, is what I’m saying. And if I go I may wear a Santa hat the entire time I’m there. Because why not.

— JS

32 Comments on “A Winter Wonder Worldcon”

  1. To pre-empt a particular topic regarding this year’s Worldcon, I do understand and acknowledge that some folks are upset/annoyed with the Discon III for rescinding the Editor Guest of Honor slot from Baen editor Toni Weisskopf in the wake of some unpleasantness involving the now-suspended Baen’s Bar site. However, this conversational thread is about the timing of the Worldcon. So if you’re coming here to comment/complain about the rescinding of that GoH slot, let’s take it as read that you’re upset and move on. Likewise if you plan to boycott Worldcon re: that rescinding (or indeed any other reason), that’s your choice, and a perfectly acceptable one, and also not really on topic here now. Thanks.

  2. DC is just down the road from me (we live just south of Baltimore, by BWI) and we already have a family membership. Our whole household will be vaccinated by mid-May so as of now, I’m planning to go! Hope to see you there in your holiday attire. :)

  3. Sadly this means we won’t be going after all – my wife teaches and my youngest will be a high school senior at the end of a semester, so…nope. Can’t blame them, but I am sad.

  4. Does this mean we’ll have more time to cast our votes? If so, I may get a chance to read more of the Best Novel nominees than I usually do. I have no objection to that.

  5. Re: A.J.
    Yes, according to the press release they’re going to adjust the voting timeline, though they haven’t announced specifics. So no idea if you get 4 extra months or less, but either way you’ll get more time.

  6. Whoa. BIG difference in the weather between DC in August and DC in December. Granted the attendees will mostly be in a hotel, the weather outside might be pretty frightful. Past winters have seen freezes and snowstorms that grounded airlines. I wouldn’t drive in that weather, either. I hope the hotel is prepared for some folks to have to stay longer. Or for massive no-shows if airports close. OTOH, this could make it the most exciting WorldCon ever…

  7. I got excited—then I remembered I can’t get off work that close to Christmas.

    Then I got excited again, because I can find another Con next year. (Better start saving my pennies)

  8. A local WorldCon! I can Metro in from my home in Reston! It might be time to sign up.

    And no one needs to worry about the weather. December in DC is extremely unlikely to feature more than, at most, a dusting of snow.

  9. Seems too early still to me (up here in Canada — you guys might all be COVID free down there by now though).
    Also even though you left the question mark off the “Because why not” at the end of your post, I will still answer you: because wearing a Santa hat for a whole weekend will make your head way too hot and sweaty.

  10. I’m a little worried about whether conventions will be safe by August since I usually attend (and have already bought my membership for) Otakon in DC, scheduled for August 6th through 8th. I’ll be vaccinated by then (my second dose appointment is at the end of the month) but I’ll almost certainly still wear a mask if the con goes on.

    The fact that this other convention in DC thought that it wouldn’t be good to run in August isn’t filling me with confidence about Otakon, though.

  11. Cons happen on holiday weekends for a reason: that’s when we can afford the venues. Business conventions don’t want those dates.

    @Sarah Stegall: if you’re worried about the weather in DC in December being frightful, you haven’t been there in August. Summer in the District is very hot and humid. They usually don’t get a lot of snow (the roads grind to a halt when they get an inch because the drivers are so bad at driving in it), so I think the weather situation is a net gain once you are there, though travel from points north could be problematic at that time of year.

  12. According to the news this morning the world is still 22 months away from ‘herd immunity’. Y’all want to travel to party with strangers? Bit premature, imo.

  13. I have optimistically requested to move my August week off work to December, and have booked a bed a mere half-mile from the convention hotel (at less than half the price, it’ll still be worth it to take a cab back and forth!)

    I will pack my Big Coat. I wonder if there’ll be anywhere at the convention where coats can be left? Wandering around with bulky outerwear is always such a pain, especially in panels that can get crowded as is.

  14. DC area resident here. I have never been to a WorldCon and might try to go to this. Re the weather in DC in December, you just don’t know. Snow is possible, but as wiredog says, not likely to be much. Frigid cold is possible, but not likely. Chilly is more likely. You’ll just have to watch the weather forecast closer to time. The hotel is right by a Metro station on the Red Line.

  15. A surprising move – I sort of think of Worldcon as a lumbering giant of an institution, resistant to change and sluggish when it does – but a smart one. I do think, barring any major curveballs, a largely in-person convention will be feasible in December.

  16. I’m retired, so the date change doesn’t bother me. I hope this means that we will know if we have the pandemic under control.

    The delay will mean that the chances of me being there alone is decreased, because my SF con traveling buddy in Texas will have more time to save up.

  17. Dear Folks,

    For those worried about dressing for DC in December…

    Google will find you a number of websites that provide historical weather data for just about any time and location. You can easily find out what the average weather has been in DC during Worldcon week.

    You won’t know what the actual weather will be like until the 7-10 day forecasts, but I’ve found the historical average really helpful for broad planning.

    pax / Ctein

  18. Due to the need for airlines to recover lost revenues, they are gonna put the screws on those who want to travel sooner so, what might normally be a $3k roundtrip is gonna be… heavy for us at the ends of the Earth.

    Add to that the DC winter variables (far more potential for challenge than NZ winter) and travelling, internationally, during the Commercial Holiday Season and before herd immunity?

    Well… maybe Chicago.

    See y’all in the second virtual Worldcon experience!

  19. Regarding herd immunity, the US is estimated to have it by the end of June, or the end of summer, although I think it is too early to be precise.

    The UK is expected to reach herd immunity this Monday, April 12. Canada hopes to have everyone immunized by October first, but of course their imports of vaccines is not in their control.

    Canada’s number of cases per million people is closely approaching that of the US, (although Canada used to have far fewer than America) hence the travel warnings against going there.

    The only silver lining for me is that I can’t spend my money on travel and stuff, so I am saving for a sf convention after all this is over.

  20. Hoping to make it in person. From what we know now, it’s not out of the question, even for the elderly (like me).
    Though whether this will be clear enough to allow for advanced planning is another question.
    I might just settle for the virtual option.

    The organizers have had a lot on their plates, such as a hotel bankruptcy to deal with, and I hope going forward they have a smoother ride.

  21. @Sean Crawford,

    One of the problems of predicting herd immunity is that it changes depending on the infectiousness of the virus. And with new variants cropping that have been shown to be more infectious, it may well be that a greater percentage of the population will need to be vaccinated.

  22. The Health Secretary is less confident about the UK reaching herd immunity on April 12th.


    And some epidemiologists have popped up to disagree.


    There have been a couple of hiccups in the fall in the number of cases since the last lockdown was introduced (the case rate was even rising in some areas), but the case rate has now returned to falling at about 5% per day, in spite of reopening schools and subsequently relaxing some restrictions, so I suspect that there is now sufficient immunity within the population to make a dent in the spread of the virus.

    But I wouldn’t want to base policy on an estimate of herd immunity from a model whose parameters may not reflect reality. The first point is that herd immunity means that any introduction of the disease will self-quench, but that isn’t particularly relevant to the situation where the virus is circulating at a high level – we could be at the herd immunity level and continue to have several thousand new cases per day for several weeks.

  23. Canada’s number of cases per million people is closely approaching that of the US, (although Canada used to have far fewer than America) hence the travel warnings against going there.

    Uh…the USA’s cases-per-million is over 95,000. Canada’s is around 27,000. I’d classify that as “far fewer” rather than “closely approaching”, myself.

    On-topic: I’m torn, because if I’m able to move back to my previous life in Moscow this autumn, as I desperately wish to do, then there’s no way I could return for Discon in December. If I can’t move back, I’ll be miserable in general, but would theoretically be able to attend, pending pandemic, immunity, etc. I’m also not sure a big gathering of people from many geographic areas (at least within the USA – not sure how much international attendance there would be) will be a wise idea in early winter when we might be experiencing a mini-surge of sorts.

    My sympathies to the committee, who really had no good options.

  24. For all those who can’t be there in person, there are other posibilitys. I am sure Discon would love to have a lot of supporting members.
    There is also a virtuel membership, that is not much more expensive than a supporting membership, but I haven’t found it on the website, yet.

  25. The Shoreham is immediately south of (across the street from) the closed Marriott Wardman Park hotel. In the past there have been conventions (such as the February 2000 AAAS meeting) that used both of them together. Neither is “downtown”; they’re in Northwest, a few blocks south of the National Zoo.

    I’m local (Maryland suburbs) and wouldn’t want to use Metro for another year, at least, even while masked. The weather shouldn’t be a problem, though; the big storms of the past 25 years (none recently) have been in February and March.

  26. Why just a santa hat? Turn up in full Santa outfit plus beard and you could wander round full incognito! Just an idea. If i could make it, I’d be considering a santa cosplay variation.

  27. @ Susan, your figures for cases per million people are out of date.
    As of “14 hours ago,” US rates are 195.7, Canada 180.8. Hence “(Canada) is edging closer to—and may overtake—US levels for the first time. “(BBC)

    US fully vaccinated 19.6 % UK 8.5 % Canada 2% according to The BBC website. (And here I thought the UK was ahead)

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