The Year We Ended The Worldcon

Ben Yalow, July 2009
... was 1969.

Perhaps a bit more elaboration would be useful. And this is part of looking at the changes in the Worldcon rotation during the period of 1968-71, when the rules were changing rapidly.

To set up some background, we can start with the rotation plan in the first Worldcon Constitution. That Constitution was adopted at Discon (1963), and was essentially a compendium of the various motions that had been passed through the years by the Worldcon Business Meeting, and assembled in one document by a committee formed the previous year at Chicon III. And that rotation plan goes back for another decade prior to the Constitution being adopted. Furthermore, the Worldcon, at the time, was selected by a vote of the Business Meeting of the Worldcon in the prior year.

North America was divided into three rotation zones, with bids generally coming from the appropriate zone (although the Business Meeting could vote for an out-of-rotation location by a three-fourths supermajority), and non-NA sites eligible to run in any year. If the Worldcon went to a non-NA site, then the rotation resumed the next year with the zone that got skipped, so if a non-NA Worldcon won in an Eastern year, then the non-NA Worldcon would vote for the next year’s site, with the Eastern zone being the default location.

(As of now, I’m still looking for meeting minutes for 1964-67, but, from the 1968 minutes, I can make some guesses as to any changes in rotation during those years. It looks like there was some plan incorporating non-NA in a more regular form, probably passed at NYcon III, but I’m not sure of its exact wording. I’d appreciate it if anyone who had those minutes could get copies to me.)

At Baycon (1968), a massive set of changes, some of which became permanent, and some of which vanished, began to be introduced. And that meeting, and the next three, produced changes that defined the rotation for three decades, until the adoption of no-zone.

The first change, which generally stuck, was to move the lead time to multiple years in advance (in this case, two years). It meant that, as a transition, the 1969 Business Meeting would select both the 1970 and 1971 sites, and then, starting in 1970, each Business Meeting would go back to selecting only one Worldcon.

The other change in the rotation was that a four-zone, five-year rotation was adopted. The four zones were the three NA zones, plus non-NA. And they rotated in order East, West, Central (similar to the previous system) except that every fifth year, the non-NA zone was the default location (and non-NA would only be in-rotation during those years), and the rotation would then continue through the NA zones. The next selection was picked to start the non-NA zone, followed by East, so 1969 would pick a non-NA site for 1970 (Heicon/Heidelberg), and an Eastern site for 1971 (Noreascon/Boston).

And in 1969, the Business Meeting abolished the Worldcon.

More specifically, it made a dramatic set of changes, as follows:

The existing Worldcon was to be turned into a North American convention only, and renamed to the “North American Science Fiction Conveniton” (abbreviated (NASFic), although, for continuity, the Worldcon numbering would be taken over by the NASFic. This change would take place starting with 1972. And an international science fiction convention would be established, which would combine with the NASFic whenever it was held in North America. The exact mechanisms for the new World convention were left for later to determine (but, since the NASFic wouldn’t go inte effect until 1972, there was time to figure those out.) And the NASFic rotation went back to just the three North American zones, since non-NA sites were not eligible at all.

The Hugo Award followed a combination of the World convention and the NASFic. Specifically, the Hugo Award was explicitly made an award for English language works, and, whenever the World convention site was a non-English speaking country, the Hugo Award authority would move back to the NASFic. That change would start to take effect in 1971.

And, for those years when a non-NA Worldcon was being held, there would be a mail ballot for site selection instead of selection by/at the Business Meeting.

At this point, people may be asking why none of this seems to show up in the list of past Worldcons, or the Hugo rules. The answer comes from a pair of motions passed the next year, by the Heicon Business Meeting.

The following motion was passed: "Moved that the World SF Con rotation plan return to a three zone system, i.e. the Western, Midwest, and Eastern zones of North America beginning in 1973 with the Midwest. Boundaries of these zones shall be as previously described. Any site outside of North America may bid for a World SF Con in any year. All bids must be placed two years in advance." As with all major action, this must be ratified by Boston, and cannot take effect before 1973. An amendment that the World Con leave North America once every four years was defeated.

A motion rescinding Rule 2.14, which limited the Hugo to an English-language award and gave the Hugo to the now-abolished North American Science Fiction Convention when the Worldcon went to a non-English speaking country, was passed.

And since neither the abolition of the Worldcon/creation of the NASFic, or the English-language rule were scheduled to go into effect before 1971, then the repeals in 1970 stopped them from ever going into effect.

Some of the changes did remain, and get incorporated into the later Constitutional mainstream. The mail ballot for site selection was later expanded to cover all years, not just those of non-NA Worldcons. And, at Noreascon, the NASFic was incorporated into the Constitution, with the convention to be held in the skipped zone whenever a non-NA Worldcon selection took place.