Increase in Convention Sizes in the 1970s

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The 1971 Worldcon, Noreascon I, was attended by 1,600 people and was the largest Worldcon to date. Three years later, Discon II was attended by over 3,500 people and fandom worried (with good reason) that Worldcon was growing beyond the ability of fandom to run it and into something fandom no longer recognized.

It's worth remembering that Worldcon had not yet started to use a convention center along with a hotel, so Worldcon size was limited by what a single hotel could support. And the very concept of using a convention center edged into being “something fandom no longer recognized.”

The root cause was probably the success of Star Trek in the late ’60s, which was very popular with existing fans and which brought many new people into fandom. Simultaneously, existing regionals were growing and new ones being founded.

The sheer growth in numbers caused consternation, but the development of sub-fandoms also worried many. For example, the SCA, founded in 1966, was well on the way to turning into a group separate from fandom, but with many members in common, and the Star Trek Conventions were busy growing into giants (the first, in 1972, in New York City expected 500 members (a very respectable size for a regional) and got 3,000.)

As a consequence, the bidding and planning for the 1976 and 1977 Worldcons was dominated by fear of out-of-control growth. MidAmeriCon, the 1976 Worldcon tried to control growth by raising the membership price to unheard-of levels in the months before the convention, while the 1977 bidders (7 in '77, New York in '77, Philadelphia in 1977, Washington in '77 and Montreal in '77) were often questioned about their plans to control size.

Future Unbounded, meanwhile, was in the forefront of the large convention movement. Chuck Crayne wrote in the program book for their 1968 event, "The F-UNcon is an attempt to show that — when properly planned — the larger a convention, the better the convention."

The Rise and Fall of the Giant Boskones was the next development.

Linda Bushyager's newszine Karass had several issues in which the growth of Worldcon was a major topic:

  • Karass #9 (November 1974): Big article on future of Worldcon
  • Karass #10 (January 1975): More on the future of Worldcon
  • Karass #11 (January 1975): Discussion of future bids
  • Karass #15 (June 1975): Letters responding to previous discussion

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