I've written before about the learning tool that is genre gossip and rumor. As Neil Gaiman wrote in his classic Sandman graphic novel series, "Only a fool listens to rumors. Only a fool ignores them."
While attending Readercon earlier this month I heard several rumors about Worldcon which disturbed me. Specifically, one person told me that Sasquan, the 2015 Worldcon in Spokane, Washington, was failing to meet its membership goals. Another person said that if I was going to purchase a supporting membership to Sasquan I should do so soon because they would be raising prices due to lagging membership numbers. A third person told me she knew of several people who weren't going to Sasquan because it's too expensive to travel and stay there.
I don't know if any of this is true. Perhaps this is merely the standard grumblings one hears a year out from every Worldcon. But as someone who is considering whether or not to attend Sasquan, I decided to do a little digging. Here's what I found.
Last month Sasquan released its first progress report and reported that—with only a year and two months to go before their Worldcon—their membership stood at 1171 for attending members and 896 for supporting members.
Perhaps Loncon 3 isn't a good comparison for membership numbers since that Worldcon is being held outside the United States. I also checked the progress reports from Chicon 7 and LoneStarCon but their initial reports don't give exact breakdowns on purchased memberships like Loncon 3 and Sasquan do.
However, the Renovation progress report 1 states that they had 710 attending members and 312 supporting members a year and a half out from their Worldcon, which isn't that far below what Sasquan has a year and two months out. So it's possible Sasquan is simply following the standard process for membership signups for a US-based Worldcon. (If anyone has a breakdown of Worldcon registration numbers from a year out, please send them to me.)
But I also noticed something else which gave me pause—Sasquan didn't even release their first progress report until June of this year while previous Worldcons have released their first progress reports much earlier in the process. For example, LoneStarCon released two complete progress reports by the summer a year out from their Worldcon, and Chicon 7 and Renovation both released their first complete progress reports in April the year before their convention.
All of this may be making too much of nothing. I've heard for years of the declining attendance at Worldcons and this may be merely a symptom of a greater illness. But when three separate people raise a genre issue with me, it's also something which catches my attention.