From the Chair: Selecting Our Guests of Honour

Hi Everyone,

Photo of Esther, a smiling woman with pink and purple hair, wearing glasses and a grey top
Esther – Bid Chair for Glasgow 2024

It’s a time of year that might seem quiet for Worldcon organisers, but this is when the Glasgow 2024 bid team are starting to make major decisions about what happens if we become a seated convention. This includes an in-person committee meeting in March, and much discussion about what sort of convention we aspire to be if seated. Part of this revolves around selecting the Guests of Honour. This is something I get asked about a lot, so I wanted to take you through Glasgow’s process in making these choices.

Who are Your Guests of Honour?

The winning bid committee announce their Guests of Honour and name of their convention during the Business Meeting immediately following the site selection count and ratification. This information usually then goes onto the bid (now Seated Worldcon) website and social media as soon as possible. Be patient! I had to do part of this for Dublin 2019, and my hands were shaking so much after the announcement that I couldn’t even paste the planned tweets and e-mails! So, for all 2024 bids, this announcement will happen at the Business Meeting, on the fourth morning of the 2022 Worldcon, Chicon 8 in September, when the vote count is also publicly circulated.

There are some reasons for this beyond just ceremony:

  • Politeness – Guests may become extremely disappointed if the bid that has chosen them loses. Like us, they want their bid to win! We also want to avoid the appearance that when bids are competing, that they might be chosen because of their guests.
  • Process – Guests of Honour typically only perform this role once, and therefore if they have been chosen by a losing bid, not revealing their name means they can be asked again by another committee, without judgement.
  • Planning – We need to make sure our Guests are happy to attend! This is particularly tricky with Guests who might be already contracted to work over the planned dates of the convention, or who turn down the role for other reasons. We also need to do things like speak to the prospective GOHs about any requirements they might have or things we should be aware of.

So, whilst I’m going to talk about how we are choosing our Guests of Honour (GoH), I won’t be talking about who we are selecting. You’ll just have to find out if we win! 😉

Who is a Guest of Honour?

Shown is a circular graphic with the Glasgow In 2024 logo in the centre. In a green and blue ring around the logo there are eight segments which each have the silhouette of a persons head and shoulders. Each silhouette has a white question on it.

Guests of Honour for Worldcons are people who have made a significant contribution to science fiction and fantasy, and the list of previous Worldcon Guests of Honour represents many of the most notable figures in the genre. The contribution may be of any kind, and past Guests of Honour have included authors, editors, performers, artists, games designers, scientists and fans. A Worldcon honours and celebrates them by highlighting their contributions and by inviting them to play a special role in the convention. The choice of GoHs is therefore one of the most important decisions that the committee makes.

Note that I am avoiding the ‘lifetime achievement’ moniker for a Guest of Honour. Our aim is to celebrate greatness in Science Fiction and Fantasy. ‘Significant contribution’ allows us to think more creatively about the people we might ask, widening our perspective.

How is Glasgow 2024 selecting the Guests of Honour?

Glasgow 2024 wants to become an inclusive, caring, imaginative convention. In order to do this, I feel it is important not only to choose our guests thoughtfully, but to consider how they reflect the creative landscape of Science Fiction and Fantasy. For our selection process, I wanted not only to involve our pre-supporters and committee as much as possible, but to make sure that we consider as many different perspectives as we are able.

Part One: Before the Committee Meeting

  1. Our first step was to ask all of our pre-supporters and volunteers for their ideas. We sent this via e-mail and on our social media in November 2021, asking for suggestions for our preliminary list. Crucially, I wanted this process to provide us with a breadth of suggestions, rather than to tally people with the most nominations. This process was instrumental in suggesting names that might not otherwise have occurred to us. As a result, we ended up with a preliminary list of 130 people.
  2. This list was then sorted to mark previous Guests of Honour, and people who were deceased. These people were still noted on the list for reference, but were unlikely to be chosen as Guests again.
  3. The brave and noble admin team then produced a spreadsheet for the committee, listing each suggestion in alphabetical order. This included a brief description of each person (eg ‘fan’, ‘author’ ‘artist’), and a link to either their Wikipedia page, or to further details about each person. The committee were given an opportunity to see the list, and add any omissions for consideration. Names begat more names and ten more people were suggested. The long list was now ready.
  4. Prior to the committee meeting in March 2022, the long list was circulated to the committee with options next to each person. These were ‘yes’, ‘no’, and ‘no preference’. The committee looked through the list and marked each person accordingly. They did not have to mark everyone, and I asked people with very strong preferences to speak directly to me. It’s really important that the committee are excited by the guests we choose and hope that con members will be too.
  5. The selection team and the chair’s team then met to decide a Short List, based on the recommendations of the committee, but also considering several other criteria which allowed flexibility in looking at the list:
      • Who will represent Glasgow in 2024’s vision of Inclusion, Caring and Imagination best?
      • Who could present an indicative picture of science fiction and fantasy in 2024?
      • Who might make an interesting Guest of Honour, able to participate to the best of their ability and help create a fun, exciting contribution to a Worldcon in Glasgow 2024?
      • What other elements, like involving local voices, varied perspectives and contemporary discussions, should these Guests represent?
      • How might the Guests of Honour look as a group? (more on this later)
  6. Phew! This seems like a lot, but at last there is a short list, and since this process is still happening, I’m expecting it to be about 30 names. We’re ready to start making the decision.

Part Two: At the Committee Meeting

  1. It’s now the in-person meeting in Glasgow, and the Committee are assembled. Let the choosing begin!
  2. Our session begins with a short discussion of our aims and objectives. How will we fulfil the vision of a Worldcon in Glasgow? What does this mean, and how do the Guests affect this? This section is a recap of what we’ve discussed before, but it’s really useful for perspective.
  3. The admin team will then present the short list, laying out a series of laminates showing each person (and sending a file to the committee members online). This enables us to quickly view our choices, quite literally rearranging the potential group in front of us. The long list is also available as a handout, just in case.
  4. Individuals may briefly champion favourite candidates, speaking briefly about why that person might be a great Guest. We also need to decide – how many guests? What sort of special things might they bring – panels, events, talks or demonstrations?
  5. We need to think very carefully about our own inherent biases. This is where the laminates really come into their own, because we can quite literally see the team we are assembling in front of us. Bluntly, we need to be aware of the implications of the choices we make. We need to avoid choosing too many of one thing – for example, accidentally selecting only authors, and we need to represent our community well, respecting them by presenting a diverse group of Guests.
  6. And finally, as the afternoon draws to a close, we need to agree on our choice. This is often slightly larger than the final line-up, because as I’ve said, people may decline. It’s time to start reaching out to people, thinking about our liaisons, and moving on to our next decision.

So, that’s how Glasgow will be choosing. This isn’t, I should stress, how every Worldcon bid makes a selection, and it’s not in the WSFS rules anywhere how this should be done. However, I hope this helps you understand how we as a team are thinking through this process, and the care we are putting into what I hope will be a really exciting choice of people.

Esther, Bid Chair, Glasgow in 2024.

We are the Bid Team for Glasgow in 2024 – A Worldcon for Our Futures. We are part of the vibrant Worldcon community. We would love to welcome you to Glasgow and the Armadillo Auditorium for the 2024 Hugo Awards. Please consider supporting us.