Each Worldcon is a completely independent organization while WSFS iitself s unincorporated with no continuing officers or staff -- the WSFS Business meeting each year has a set of officers appointed by that year's Worldcon and their term of office is only for a few days. This system suits fandom's distaste for authority, but has downsides which have been apparent from nearly the beginning.
WSFS, Inc. in the mid 1950s was intended to provide a continuing corporation to guide and, if necessary, manage the individual Worldcons, but it failed, primarily because it was seen as a vehicle for some fans to tell others what to do. The next formal expression of this sentiment came in the early '80s when the Standing Committee was established by the WSFS Business Meeting to exist between Worldcons and take care of whatever business that needed to be taken care of. Initially, it was given responsibility for the protection of WSFS's trademarks, but as the decade progressed, other small tasks were entrusted to it.
Membership in the Standing Committee was complicated and deliberately diverse -- one of the major contributors to the failure of WSFS, Inc.., was that it was created by and perceived to be controlled by a small clique of New York fans. Part of the membership of the Standing Committee was by election with each Site Selection zone having representatives, while the rest of the committee was members appointed by each current or recent Worldcon or NASFiC. (This membership scheme was continued when the Standing Committee became the Mark Protection Committee.)
While the Standing Committee was a much more fannish organization than WSFS, Inc.., and much more democratically controlled and with much smaller power, many fans saw it as a camel's nose tentatively poking into the Worldcon tent. (And that was certainly the intention of some of the organizers of the Standing Committee.) This discomfort came to a head at Confederation, the 1986 Worldcon, when enough fans uncomfortable with the Standing Committee attended the WSFS Business Meeting and voted to replace the Standing Committee with an identically organized Mark Protection Committee which was specifically and strictly limited to protecting the service marks of WSFS. This was ratified in 1987 at Conspiracy '87 and has remained the rule since.
(Many con-runners who favored the Standing Committee in the '80s have since concluded that all such efforts are doomed to failure since, like Con Ops or Security, "You don't want anyone who wants a Standing Committee to be on it.") Therefore, a number of other limited-mission WSFS Committees have been formed.
See Mark Protection Committee for more on its role and a discussion of a bit of mission creep back in the direction of the Standing Committee.
Also involved: - Committees - Standing-committee - World SF: An Organization of SF Professionals
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