Texans Michelle Villafranca, Vincent Villafranca, Jonathan Miles and Renee Babcock celebrate FACT's successful bid for the 2017 World Fantasy Convention at the 2015 World Fantasy Convention, held earlier this month in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. Photo by Meg Turville-Heitz.
Just four years after serving as site of the 2013 World Science Fiction Convention, San Antonio will play host to yet another major speculative fiction show: World Fantasy 2017.
The World Fantasy board made the venue selection this month at 2015 WFC in Saratoga Springs, New York. Austin’s Fandom Association of Central Texas (FACT) — which hosts the annual Armadillocon and ran two prior World Fantasy cons — placed the winning bid.
While World Fantasy draws a smaller attendance than media-heavy shows such as the Alamo City Comic Con, it dependably pulls major star power from the world of fantasy literature and gives fans rare opportunity to interact with favorite authors, artists and editors. It’s a con that’s less about the dealer’s room and photo ops than professionals and aspiring professionals doing business, networking and talking craft.
I asked longtime FACT members Renee Babcock and Jonathan Miles, the convention’s co-chairs, to talk about how the site selection process went down and what fans and pros can expect from WFC 2017.
FACT knows its way around a World Fantasy Convention, having run one in 2000, then in 2006. Why bring this one to San Antonio rather than Austin, where you had success in 2006?
We wanted to bring World Fantasy back to Central Texas so we took a look at the cities that were appropriate — both in having the facilities necessary and having a reputation that would make people want to go to World Fantasy there. Pretty quickly, we narrowed the candidates down to San Antonio and Austin. While we have run a World Fantasy in Corpus Christi before, the distance caused a lot of problems and we preferred not to go that far afield again.Sadly, it’s become increasingly more difficult to find hotels in Austin that meet the unique space requirements of World Fantasy and that are able to work with us in the Fall, due to the various festivals and the F1 race happening in the same time frame. San Antonio has a vibrant cultural and restaurant scene, appropriate hotel space, easy access to an international airport, and it seemed obvious to us that San Antonio would be perfect. It also helped that a lot of the World Fantasy Board knew San Antonio from the two previous Worldcons, so we didn’t have to explain how good a fit it would be for World Fantasy.
World Fantasy is a considerably smaller show than WorldCon, but as we all know, attendance isn’t the only measure of a con’s significance. Why should South and Central Texas fans be excited World Fantasy is landing in San Antonio in 2017?
World Fantasy is unique because it’s primarily an industry event, despite being run by fan organizations. This means there is an unusually high number of writers, artists, editors, publishers and agents from all over the world who will be in attendance. It’s a tremendous opportunity to meet some of your favorites working in the field of fantasy. At the most recent World Fantasy in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., you could have seen over a hundred authors and artists, including Steven Erikson, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Julie Czerneda, L.E. Modessit and Charles Vess.World Fantasy is a fairly intimate convention, despite still being a major convention. There are so many opportunities to sit and talk to people about the field, about books, art, the things we love, often over a drink in the bar.
Programming in general is lighter at World Fantasy than at a lot of other cons, which allows for those opportunities. Our hotel in San Antonio has a spacious bar, and we will have a large overflow room that is attached. That’s because a lot of business gets done in the bar, both professional and social. World Fantasy is one of those conventions where you are as likely to find well-known authors at the bar chatting as you are to find them at panels. There is also a single mass autographing on Friday night, which is a lot of fun. It’s a great chance to meet your favorites and get books signed.
Can people already pay for memberships? If so, how do they grab one, and what’s the advantage of doing so early?
People may buy a membership online now for $150 at http://www.fact.org/wfc2017/. This is the cheapest our membership rate will ever be, and the rate will be going up sometime in the late spring. In addition, World Fantasy has a strict attendance cap. Once we’ve reached that cap, we will no longer be able to sell memberships. Several of the last World Fantasies have sold out their cap well before the convention, so we recommend getting in while you can.
Do you know who the guests will be, or is it too early to discuss that?
We are in discussion on who we want to bring in as guests. Once we have guests to announce, they will be announced on our website as well as our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/wfc2017/).
Any thoughts on the flavor of this particular show? How might it be different from previous World Fantasies? Are there any past mistakes you’re hoping to avoid?
It’s hard to say what the flavor of this particular World Fantasy will be this far out. Part of the joy of World Fantasy is how the feel of the convention changes depending on the location. While there are a lot of authors who will go to almost every World Fantasy, there are also a good number of authors who will only go when it’s nearby. Since we haven’t had one in Texas for a while, we expect to see a lot of authors who live in the area to come on down.
Our theme is secret history, and that will inform at least one track of the programming. One of the best things about World Fantasy is how enthusiastic authors can be when you have interesting panels and we believe we will have great programming. Also, given the location, we’re hoping to show off San Antonio a bit to convince more authors to visit more often.
Sadly, just as all happy families are alike and each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way, every convention will have areas that will be seen as not as good or could have been done better. There are plenty of past mistakes that we will seek to avoid; however, we just as arduously hope to not make any new mistakes, though we probably will.
The two of you oversaw FACT’s bid for the show. Could you talk about the challenges of putting the bid together?
It’s a little harder putting a bid together in a different city from where you live. We had a lot of help from Charles and Willie Siros, who initiated contact with the Wyndham and really got the ball rolling for us with the hotel and fleshing out our theme. The four of us went to San Antonio to tour the hotel and meet with them, make sure it would fit our needs. And then of course, we had to put together a bid packet for the World Fantasy board and email it to them prior to our arrival in Saratoga Springs, so that they had enough time to review the materials and ask any questions prior to the board meetings on site at WFC.
What was San Antonio’s and FACT’s ultimate selling point to the committee?
They were impressed with the completeness of our bid presentation. The bidding requirements are available on the World Fantasy website (http://www.worldfantasy.org/), and we made sure we hit all the requirements in our proposal. In addition, we have a track record of having run two successful World Fantasy conventions in 2000 (Corpus Christi) and 2006 (Austin). Finally, the Riverwalk area is known to and liked by a lot of people in the fantasy community, because of the two WorldCons that have been held there. The last several World Fantasies have been in the Northeast, and I do think the World Fantasy board are also looking forward to bringing WFC further west in 2017.
Will you be looking for volunteers and program participants in San Antonio? If so, how does someone get in touch?
We will absolutely be looking for volunteers! A con this size does not run without a strong group of volunteers. We will put up information on our website and our Facebook page about reaching out for volunteer opportunities in the near future.
There’s a website but it’s pretty bare bones at this point. When can folks expect it to expand and include more information?
The current website is and was only intended to be temporary. We wanted to make sure we had a web presence and the ability to sell memberships immediately if we won the bid for 2017. We are in the process of securing our permanent domain and we hope to have our permanent website up and running early in the new year.