Worldcon 75 – the most prestigious science fiction and fantasy convention comes to Finland

In August, Helsinki will host the 75th World Science Fiction Convention, the longest running convention of science fiction and fantasy. Sini Neuvonen from Espoo City Library interviewed both the event organizer and a first-time attendee.

The 75th Worldcon will take place in Messukeskus from the 9th to the 13th of August, 2017. Worldcon, despite its name, originated as primarily a U.S. event, with the first one held in New York in 1939. It is the world's oldest annual science fiction and fantasy event, a "con". Only 20 Worldcons thus far have been held outside the United States, and this is just the fourth time that it has been located in a country whose main language is not English.

If you are familiar with the concept of Finncon, Worldcon is that 10 times over. Worldcon, though, is not free of charge and only Guests of Honour get to attend without paying, but the event’s purpose is not to generate profit; it is organised and staffed completely by volunteers.

Guests of Honour in Helsinki this year are authors Johanna Sinisalo, Nalo Hopkinson and Walter Jon Williams, comic strip (bande dessinée) artist Claire Wendling, and Swedish fan, translator and literary critic John-Henri Holmberg. The Science Guest is British mathematician and science fiction and nonfiction writer Dr. Ian Stewart, who is an Honorary Wizard of Terry Pratchett’s Unseen University. In addition, Worldcon 75’s “Also Appearing” list is packed with the names of many other well-known writers, artists, musicians, editors, publishers, critics, scientists, and fans.

How Worldcon came to Finland

The chair of the Helsinki convention board, Jukka Halme, tells us how Worldcon came to Finland:

– I got the instigating phone call by Eemeli Aro in August 2012. He was then attending the Worldcon in Chicago, where he was encouraged to organise this event in Helsinki. I was one of the two people he called from there. I thought the idea was unlikely, but since it seemed like a fun thing to do, I said ok.

– After promoting for a year, we lost the site-selection vote at the 2013 San Antonio Worldcon in the third round by only 35 votes. We were disappointed, but resolved, and did a lot more work; and so in 2015 we won against three other site candidates, in the first round! At this stage, we had in three years done various presentations all around the world, spent hundreds of hours behind information tables at different conventions, and had thousands of conversations with other fans.

The arrangements for the event are now proceeding well, Halme tells us.

– The closer we get to the event itself, the more detailed the arrangements will become. Big guidelines have already been drawn, now we fill up holes and put the pieces into their places. There are, of course, plenty of important tasks still to do, but everything should now be at the point where we get no more big surprises. All of this is made possible by around 200 volunteers fulfilling many different tasks.


Photo: Jukka Halme (left) and actor David Tennant in Worldcon 2014 in London.

Five days of experiences

So what does the Worldcon really offer? I went to my first Worldcon in London in 2014. I was surprised by the size of the event, but it was so special that I probably will do yet another Worldcon abroad. You can read more about my Loncon 3 experience from the Espoo Fantasia blog (in Finnish only, sorry).

Jukka Halme expects Worldcon 75 to be an all-encompassing experience for its attendees.

– I expect W75 to be a pervasive experience. People can experience several WOW moments, create new, international connections, and enjoy the full spectrum of science fiction and fantasy literature with old friends. A first-timer should keep their eyes and expectations open, try everything, and enjoy the international atmosphere. During these five days, there is an opportunity to meet and hear dozens of celebrities, to find new friends, and get an overload on all that is available. Hopefully, W75 will be an experience that is never forgotten.

A Finnish debut author looks forward to the discussions about literature

Sini Helminen, a librarian in the Helsinki City Library whose first book Kaarnan kätkössä came out this spring, will be attending her first Worldcon. I asked her what she expects from the event as a writer and a librarian.

– As a newly-published author, I look forward the most to meeting my colleagues, both domestic and international. Fortunately, I’ve already seen George R.R. Martin once at a Finncon, because the hit TV series Game of Thrones has caused a boom with the crowds [of people wanting to see him] compared to that time. In particular, I am interested in seeing the masters of the YA fantasy genre. I almost fainted when I saw my name on the same list with them.

– As a geek and a librarian, I look forward to awesome panels, literature discussions, awesome costumes and the atmosphere when you meet with like-minded people all over the world. I look forward to the programme announcements. As a first-timer who has only visited smaller cons, I'm sure I can not even guess how excited I should be!


Photo: Debut author Sini Helminen.

If you are interested in the science fiction and fantasy literature programme track, please visit the Worldcon 75 website for more information. Some of the programme events will also be held at the Pasila Library auditorium, which will of course be free to all.

Hugo Award candidates for Best Novel

The Hugo Awards are given out each year at Worldcon. They are one of the most respected awards in the SFF genre. This year, the finalists for the Best Novel category are:

You can also find works from other Hugo categories in the Helmet-library! Here is a list of all the 2017 Hugo finalists.

Text: Sini Neuvonen
Photos: Sini Neuvonen ja Worldcon75

Translation: Sini Neuvonen