Crystal Huff | Helsinki in 2017

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HELSINKI IN 2017 is a campaign to bring the annual World Science Fiction Convention, Worldcon to Helsinki, Finland in 2017. Worldcon is the longest running science fiction event in the world and is the home to Hugo Awards. If successful, it would be the 15th Worldcon to be held outside the United States and the 75th Worldcon in total.  We caught up with one of the spokespersons from the campaign, Crystal Huff, to find out more.

STARBURST: Why Helsinki?
Crystal Huff: Helsinki is an amazing adventure, and I think we should boldly go where no Worldcon has gone before. Helsinki is a location where Worldcon has never been. It has a lot of amazing fans and convention runners who are experienced at running Finncon, which moves around every year (like Worldcon does) and has a variable number of attendees (like Worldcon does). They have a useful skillset. The Finnish government gives grants to science fiction events to help them happen, and Worldcon will be eligible for that should we win. The program would be in English and other languages. The city of Helisinki has said that if we win the bid, all Worldcon members will receive free public transport to and from the convention. Not only will they be able to run around the city, they’ll be able to see all the tourist attractions in Helsinki very easily.

Most people probably only know Finland for The Moomins. Is there much science fiction in Helsinki?
Yes. Recently, there’s Emmi Itäranta who wrote the Clarke nominated Memory of Water; such an amazing book. It’s haunting and lyrical, and Emmi wrote it in English and Finnish simultaneously. There’s also Hannu Rajaniemi, who missed the Hugo nomination for The Quantum Thief by two votes. There’s World Fantasy Award-nominated author Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen with The Rabbit Back Literature Society which came out in 2013. Also check out JP Ahonen’s Sing No Evil, an excellent graphic novel.

What is the venue like?
The venue is Messukeskus, the Helsinki Exhibition and Convention Centre. It is the best convention centre in Finland. It hosts a number of events, almost one every weekend. They are spread out over two floors within the conference centre and the attached Holiday Inn as a number of rooms as well. There is no commute through the dreadful 24 degrees Celsius weather. [laughs] Messukeskus has an amazing amphitheatre; I really want to see the costume masquerade and other events there. Certainly you can fit an orchestra in there. It’s also very accessible, which is very exciting because it means everyone can enjoy the venue. Messukeskus can host events of up to 20,000 people and we will have all of the hotel rooms of the attached Holiday Inn. 

I don’t speak Finnish; is that going to be a problem?
I speak a few words of Finnish and I didn’t have to speak a single one. As an example, when I was over there looking at the Messukeskus centre, I went to a coffee shop nearby and bought some pastries. As I left the shop, I realised it had nuts in it, and as my partner is allergic to hazelnuts, I thought maybe I should ask someone. I stopped two old ladies on the street, both of whom must have been over 70 and asked. One replied, in perfect English, “Pardon me, for my English is not very good. I believe that is a hazelnut. I will not try it for you, for I am also allergic.

If I want to see Worldcon in Europe in 2017, how do I make that happen?
First thing you need is a membership for Sasquan in 2015. This is required in order for you to vote.  Get a membership and vote for Helsinki. Only 20% of Sasquan memberships are outside America.
Helsinki in 2017 is on the ballot for site selection. The ballot has been published by Sasquan and is available online.

The process has been changed a little for this year. You can pay online, print out your site selection ballot, fill it in, sign it, scan it, and email it to Sasquan. It goes to  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  if emailed. People can also send it by post. Either way, they need to be received by August 10th, so folks need to get a hurry on. And if they get their membership by the end of July, they can also download the ebook packet and vote on the Hugo Awards.

Does it cost to vote?
The way that this works is that when you vote on site selection you pay a fee - $40. Then you fill out the ballot, in order of preference; Helsinki at the top, for example. Your vote, once processed, will automatically become a non-attending membership for Worldcon in 2017, no matter where it is. It’s the least expensive way to get a supporting membership for Worldcon, and it’s the least expensive way to convert that membership so you can attend the full event. If you participate in site selection, you are always buying the least expensive route to membership; it’s in Worldcon’s constitution. It always surprises me that more people don’t do it that way. Less than 10% of Loncon’s members voted for site selection.

Is a supporting membership of Worldcon really worth?
It totally is! With a supporting membership, you can nominate for the Hugos the year before, the year during and year after your membership. With a current membership, you can vote on those nominees. You also get a Hugo packet, which includes the works of the nominees. It’s not guaranteed to include everything, but usually barring rare circumstance you will get an e-book/pdf version of the works. In 2014, that included the entire Wheel of Time series.

You can find out more about the Helsinki Worldcon bid on the website

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