Thoughts on World Fantasy Con

I’ve been hearing a fair amount of frustration with this year’s World Fantasy Convention over various issues.

WFC was the first “world-level” convention I attended, more than a decade ago now. It was intimidating and overwhelming, but also fun and rewarding. Sadly, I won’t be at WFC in Brighton this month. Which could raise the question, “Why am I griping about a con I’m not even going to?”

I’d like to think this isn’t griping. (At least, not just griping.) I think the problems being pointed out are important to be aware of and talk about even for those of us who won’t be at this particular convention. Since a decent number of authors, fans, and conrunners check in on this blog from time to time, I figured it was worth a blog post. I’ve also tried to do some rumor-checking and dig up more information on the various complaints I’ve heard.

The point isn’t to bash the volunteers who’ve been working their asses off to make the convention happen. It’s to say hey, it sounds like there are a few problems here. Maybe some of them can be addressed before the con. Hopefully we can also address them at future conventions.


WFC is charging £5 to attend Kaffeeklatsches and Book Clubs?


I’ve had one kaffeeklatsche as an author, and there was no charge to attend. It was a lot of fun — a chance to hang out in a more informal setting, enjoy a few snacks and drinks, and just chat. In this case, the WFC website says they’re charging for two reasons.

  1. They’re passing along the hotel charge for biscuits and coffee.
  2. As a way to “prevent people taking advantage and reserving multiple slots and then simply not turning up.”

I know I would personally be very uncomfortable with people having to pay to come chat with me at a con. My understanding — and I could be wrong — is that most cons cover the expense for kaffeeklatsches the same way they cover other hotel expenses, bundling it into the cost of the convention instead of presenting this kind of add-on fees.

The only other thing I’ll say is that I know some authors have declined to do a kaffeeklatsche at WFC because of this.

I’d welcome thoughts and input on this one from folks with more experience.

Is WFC deliberately set up to be exclusive?

To some extent, yes.

Under the FAQ explaining why World Fantasy is so expensive, it says, “Unlike many other conventions — particularly World SF — the attraction of WFC is its very exclusivity.”

For the record, this makes the convention significantly less attractive for me. But I suppose your mileage may vary.

Comics will not be sold in the dealer’s room.


While this does not seem to be specific to this particular World Fantasy Con, I agree with Cheryl Morgan that excluding comics because you’re a “literary” convention is a serious fail. I guess I have a very different definition of literature than whoever came up with this rule. I hope this is a policy the WFC Board will reconsider in the future.

Wait, most authors get only one panel or one reading, if anything?

I believe this is correct, though I haven’t found an official policy statement anywhere. It’s also in line with what I’ve seen at other world conventions. Given the number of pros in attendance, most of whom want to be involved with programming, well, there’s only so much room for everyone.

Were they really planning a panel called “Broads with Swords” about those new lady writers “embracing a once male-dominated” genre?


While WFC certainly isn’t alone in spotlighting “Women in ______” panels, this one felt particularly clunky and painful. Just read Jess Haines’ post on this one.

What I don’t know is whether the WFC programming folks heard the feedback to this panel and have changed/removed it. Does anyone know if this is still on the schedule?

Is accessibility an issue at this location?

It originally sounded like this was a problem for at least some convention events. However, an update from the WFC Facebook Page states:

“After further discussions with the Hilton Brighton Metropole hotel, they have revealed that there **is** wheelchair access to the Chartwell room via a staff lift/elevator off of the main hotel lobby. We apologise for any confusion our earlier announcement may have caused.”

I don’t know if there are other issues, but hopefully the con is continuing to work to make the event as accessible as possible. (After all, it’s not like convention accessibility is a thing nobody’s ever talked about before.)


Newbie support!

I also wanted to offer props to WFC for having a designated “Newbie Liaison” for people who are attending their first WFC, or their first convention period. I really like that the con is actively trying to create events and get-togethers for new people, and I’d love to see more conventions follow suit.