Category Archives: WisCon 2022

Let’s Save WisCon!

This update is written by me, Kit Stubbs (they/them), both in my role as Treasurer for SF3, WisCon’s parent not-for-profit organization, and in my role as WisCon 2022 co-chair. Thanks to Ira Alexandre (WisCon 2022 co-chair, acting Personnel chair) and Aileen Wall (WisCon 2022 co-chair, Hotel) for their help.

First of all: Thank you to everyone who participated in our recent Town Hall, as panelists and attendees! Special thanks to our Board members Arley, for organizing and moderating, and Annalee and Charlie Jane, for organizing and helping with logistics.

WisCon’s roots are grounded in white feminism, and WisCon continues to struggle with racism and with finding ways to center attendees of color who have been harmed. The Town Hall marks a key point in our antiracist work to bring WisCon, particularly as experienced by our attendees and volunteers of color, into better alignment with our values—even if this means that white attendees will have to sit with discomfort.

Working towards a more antiracist con is just one of the major challenges that we face. Unless we, the WisCon community, also take significant action this year in terms of finances and our volunteer pool, within the next few years we will no longer be able to run WisCon.

Why? What’s going on?

Right now, in addition to pushing harder on antiracism, WisCon is facing big challenges on two other fronts: money and labor.

TLDR:

  • We don’t have enough funds to pay for what happens if we don’t fill our contracted block of hotel rooms, and we can’t afford to cancel the hotel contract. We need about $76k in additional income to our general fund by the end of WisCon 2022 to put the con back on solid financial footing.  Thanks to a generous donor, the first $5k we raise will be matched. Donate now to double the power of your donation!
  • We are in a volunteer shortage crisis. It takes a LOT of people to make WisCon happen, and we lack dozens of volunteers in key positions.
  • The Board of SF3 (WisCon’s parent nonprofit) and WisCon organizers are already starting to work on these challenges. There are many things, both large and small, that you can do to help!

What are the financial challenges?

Ideally, when we finish running one WisCon, we should have enough money to cover our expenses for the con that’s happening in two years. Why? Because shortly after each WisCon, typically, is when we sign a contract with the hotel for the con that’s happening in two years. As a ConCom member, I remember hearing “WisCon is very slowly losing money” for several years now. But it didn’t really seem urgent, somehow.

In an ongoing-pandemic world, this has become urgent because of the way our hotel contract works. Right now, we only have a contract signed with our host hotel for May 2022. We have committed to the hotel that WisCon attendees will reserve a certain number of rooms over a certain number of nights. This contract was signed pre-pandemic and assumed normal pre-pandemic WisCon attendance. We pay the hotel some extra rental fees, but most of the hotel space the con uses we get at steeply discounted rates, assuming that we fill those hotel rooms. We’re allowed to reduce our commitment before the deadline by 20% at no penalty, but if we have more unsold rooms than that, WisCon has to pay the hotel for them.

The budget that was approved by the previous Board assumed that we would have fewer in-person attendees this year, but it assumed we would still book our entire block of hotel rooms—the same size hotel block that we would normally book pre-pandemic.

But if we’re expecting fewer in-person attendees, we should also expect fewer hotel rooms to be booked, and that is a cost that WisCon is really not able to absorb.

Couldn’t we just cancel the hotel contract?

We can’t afford the cancellation fee. If we cancelled now, according to our contract, we would owe the hotel $158,000, which we absolutely do not have the resources to cover.

I’ve run some new, conservative budget projections since becoming Treasurer in October. These projections account for online memberships, which our current budget doesn’t (yay!) but also accounts for attrition in hotel rooms, which our current budget also doesn’t (oh no!). I assume that we will take a big hit on hotel rooms in 2022 and that we’ll gradually recover in 2023 and 2024.

If we take no action to change our current trajectory and only book half of our contracted hotel rooms in 2022, SF3 will go broke: We will have spent about $7,000 that the organization does not have.

If we want to get WisCon to a healthy place—meaning we’re at best fiscal practice and have enough money for the con that’s two years out in the bank—we need about $76,000 more in income for 2022 to our general fund. (This $76k doesn’t include funds for any new initiatives, this is just basically keeping the lights on. And this is separate from any WisCon Member Assistance Fund fundraising we do, since WMAF dollars legally can’t be used to pay for anything except grants to members for travel assistance.)

The good news: I’m not saying that we need to suddenly raise $76k in donations alone. This income that we need could come from selling more memberships (online or in-person), booking lots of hotel rooms (so we don’t have to pay the hotel for unused rooms), selling Dessert Salon tickets, grants, or donations. An additional $76k of income to our general fund would help keep us afloat through 2022 and 2023 and help ensure that we would have the funds to run in 2024 and 2025.

If someone were to magically appear and donate $76k to us right now, though, we’d still be in trouble because of our other current challenge: a lack of volunteers.

What’s going on with volunteers?

We’re in a volunteering crisis right now. It takes about 70 pre-con volunteers to make WisCon happen, and we have barely half that.

SF3 is WisCon’s parent not-for-profit organization. WisCon happens because there are a bunch of committees of people within SF3 who do the work, and right now, we have a record number of vacancies.

SF3 has a Board of Directors. Under the Board there are four committees: Personnel (helping to recruit, onboard, and offboard volunteers); Communications (taking care of the newsletter, website, and social media); Strategic Planning (looking at our vision and mission); and the ConCom (the Convention Committee, which handles the logistics of running WisCon). Of those committees, only the ConCom has chairs right now—Personnel, Communications, and Strategic Planning have a few volunteers, but none of these three committees has a leader.

The ConCom itself is made up of the three co-chairs and 28 departments of varying sizes. Currently we have 8 departments that are completely empty and at least 8 that are critically understaffed.

In general, the ConCom has been dwindling for the past several years. We had 71 members in 2017, but only 56 members in 2019. (Here is a graph showing Concom participation by the numbers over the past several years.)

If you’re reading this now, and you’re already a WisCon volunteer: Thank you. I’m not writing this expecting you to suddenly start putting more work on your plate. (If you have the extra capacity, great! But I’m not expecting that of anyone.)

The State of WisCon

We are definitely having a WisCon in 2022. Without more volunteers, we won’t be able to offer nearly as good an experience as we have in the past. Without more financial resources, WisCon 2022 may be the last one.

I believe these challenges are surmountable, but as members of the WisCon community, we have to act quickly to make change.

What are WisCon organizers already working on?

  • The SF3 Board is applying for grants on behalf of WisCon.
  • I (Kit, as Treasurer) am starting to recruit large donors for a matching funds campaign that will help double the power of small donations to WisCon. We already have a match pledged for our first $5k raised!
  • Our Personnel Committee continues to onboard new volunteers as quickly as they can.
  • While the Dessert Salon may work a little differently this year due to health concerns, the ConCom is still organizing a Dessert Salon for 2022! The Dessert Salon is a fundraiser for WisCon in general, and any funds raised through Dessert Salon ticket sales will absolutely help.

What can I do to help?

  • Please sign up for our email newsletter! One of the biggest challenges we have is reaching out to our own community. Sign up and encourage your WisCon-going or potentially-WisCon-going friends to sign up, too.
  • Register as soon as you possibly can when Registration opens this week. The more people who register in advance, the better idea we’ll have of how much additional income we need to bring in. For in-person attendees, consider supporting the con by buying a ticket to our Dessert Salon fundraiser when you register!
  • Book your hotel room as soon as you possibly can. The more hotel rooms we have booked, the less additional funding we’ll need to raise, and the sooner we know how many people will be staying at the hotel, the better.
  • Help spread the word about WisCon. We’re struggling to reach new people, especially younger speculative fiction fans, who might be interested in joining us and who may not know that you don’t need to be an academic or big name to attend WisCon and be on panels!
  • Tell us you’re interested in possibly volunteering, and/or register to attend our Volunteer Info Session on 12/12 at 3pm Central. We’ve previously posted some of our needs from Communications and Personnel and the ConCom. You don’t need to be in Madison to volunteer, and we have many positions open that don’t require you to attend WisCon in person.  If you’ve volunteered for the ConCom in the past and have the time and energy, please consider joining us again. We could really use your expertise!
  • Can you give $5k or more to help save WisCon? Write me (Kit) at treasurer@sf3.org to join our matching funds drive.
  • Have a smaller amount you might be able to contribute? Thanks to a generous donor, the first $5k we raise will be matched. Donate now to double the power of your donation!

Yes, we recognize the pandemic is still going on—if you’re able to book your hotel room and/or register early, great! If you’re able to chip in financially, great! But if not, no worries.

We need to address our issues with money and labor within a larger antiracist framework.  And I think we need to be honest that we’re in a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation: We’re short on money and volunteers to implement new antiracist policies and practices, which we need in order to attract and retain volunteers, especially volunteers of color.

If you’ve made it this far: Thank you. Posting this feels like the scariest thing I have ever done as a WisCon/SF3 organizer, and I really appreciate your time and energy in reading it.

Call for Volunteers: WisCon 2022

WisCon 2022 planning season is upon us! It’s been a tough couple of years for us all, so we’re hoping we can put together an event in 2022 that is cathartic, engaging, intellectually stimulating, fun — and, above all, safe. To make that happen, we need to start early– and we need your help.

To make a WisCon happen in 2022 that’s in keeping with the SF3 mission and the shared values of our members, we need a fully staffed Convention Committee (ConCom). That means enough members in every department to reasonably and equitably spread the work around so that no one gets burnt out. This is even more important as we move through the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

We have to be honest: ConCom participation has been trending downward. The ConCom had 71 members in 2017 and participation had declined to 56 members in 2019. (Here is a graph showing ConCom participation by the numbers over the past several years.) In a year when putting on a successful WisCon will face many challenges, we turn to our smart, talented, resourceful membership to help make it happen. There are going to be some tough calls to make: If we can’t staff a department or event in a viable and sustainable way this year, the chairs may have to cut it entirely. So if you’re passionate about a particular part of WisCon, please do whatever you can to help. If you can’t sign up, then spread the word on social media platforms, or even offline.

This year we are recruiting for the following specific positions. We have listed a brief description of the duties, any required experience, and the expected time commitment in the year before the con and at the con itself. Please note that applying is neither a commitment nor a promise: If you change your mind, please feel free to let us know and bow out of the process; if you apply, you may not be guaranteed a position. But the more people apply, the better chance we have of achieving a sustainable level of staffing for this year. If you’re interested in any of these positions or in pre-con volunteering with any other department, please email personnel@sf3.org.

Thank you so much, and here’s hoping we’ll be back together in May of 2022!

Convention Committee (ConCom) Positions

Anti-Abuse Team Co-Lead (1)
Anti-Abuse Team Member (3)

The Anti-Abuse Team keeps records of Safety incidents and other violations, and participates in vetting all SF3 volunteers. Anti-Abuse Team Members must be able to recognize problematic behavior, hear out cases, and take actions and render judgments that protect the rights of our attendees, including the needs of marginalized and multiply marginalized attendees. The Anti-Abuse Team Co-Leads have the authority to ban people from con spaces or to veto Guests of Honor. The Anti-Abuse Co-Leads need to be reachable during the con to verify incident history and render bans or penalties. The Anti-Abuse Co-Leads interact with the Safety Co-Leads and the ConCom Chairs. Utmost confidentiality is a must.
Pre-Con Commitment: 1 hour a week
At-Con Commitment: Leads should be reachable during the con but in-person attendance not required

Bake Sale Lead

The Bake Sale Lead accepts and documents volunteered baked goods prior to the con and arranges for appropriate allergen signage. At the con, the Bake Sale Lead receives the baked goods and arranges for their display and distribution. The Bake Sale Lead manages the at-con volunteers who handle the sales. At the end of the Bake Sale, the Lead documents and collates the proceedings and passes them to the Otherwise Liaison.
Pre-Con Commitment: 1 hour a week
At-Con Commitment: 5 hours

Dealer’s Room Team Member

Dealer’s Room Team Members assist in going through vendor submissions, vetting potential vendors, and dealing with the physical logistics of the Dealer’s Room at the con. At the con, the Dealer’s Room Team Member will assist the Dealer’s Room Lead in ensuring the Concourse Hotel staff set up the space according to the plan the department has agreed on.
Pre-Con Commitment: 1 hour/week
At-Con Commitment: 1 hour at the start and end of the con for setup and breakdown

Gaming Team Member (preferably open to being trained to be next Lead in 2023)

The Gaming Team Member assists in collecting, vetting, and collating game submissions and scheduling gaming sessions prior to the con. The Gaming Lead will provide a signup binder to be used at the con to sign up for the scheduled games, which the Gaming Team Member may take shifts watching over.
Pre-Con Commitment: 2 hours/week
At-Con Commitment: 3 hours

Guest of Honor Liaisons (4)

A Guest of Honor (GOH) Liaison interfaces with their specific GOH, making sure their travel and accommodations are taken care of and that they are familiar and comfortable with their schedule, as well as addressing or conveying any additional concerns or requests they may have. At the con, GOH liaisons introduce the GOH at the reading on Thursday and make sure the GOH has everything they need while at the con. We would like our GOH liaisons to share as much background as possible with their GOH, or to know them already. Our GOHs for 2022 are Zen Cho, Sheree Renée Thomas, Rebecca Roanhorse, and Yoon Ha Lee.
Pre-Con Commitment: 1 hours/week
At-Con Commitment: 1-3 hours/day

Kids’ Programs Lead

The Kids’ Program Lead oversees program items for children and teens. Teen programming at WisCon is by teens and for teens, but the Kids’ Program Lead will provide spaces and means to schedule, and will be advised by the departing Lead. Must be able to attend at-con in 2022.
Pre-Con Commitment: 1 hour/week
At-Con Commitment: light duty 8 hours a day

Online Con Team Members (5-6)

With the success of WisCONline in 2020 and the uncertain situation looking ahead to May 2022, we need to be prepared to provide a robust online component for the con. Roles in this department will be shaped by our resources and circumstances as the year leading up to WisCon 2022 unfolds. We welcome anyone with experience in running online events or building successfully moderated online spaces, or anyone who has video production expertise to apply to this department. In particular, previous experience with OBS (open broadcast software) and familiarity with Zoom, MS Teams, Jitsi, and/or administrating Discord are most welcome.  As we learn more about what we’ll need in May 2022, we will separately recruit for an appropriate number and type of online moderators.
Pre-Con Commitment: 3 hours/week
At-Con Commitment: dependent on role and evolving needs; in 2020 the entire Online Con traded off panel production duty during the 3-4 hours a day panel programming was run

Panel Programming Team Member

The Panel Programming department collates panel idea submissions, checking for problematic ideas or language and combining panels that are sufficiently similar. This is done with the aid of panel programming software. Once the list of panels has been edited, Panel Programming administers the interest survey where WisCon members vote. Once the votes are in, Panel Programming draws up the actual panel schedule, taking into account expected attendance and accessibility needs. At the con, Panels Programming puts up the ad-hoc programming chart but does not administer anything on it.
Pre-Con Commitment: 3 hours/week
At-Con Commitment: none other than putting up the chart, so we’re happy to have remote volunteers

Registration: At-Con Leads (2)

As part of the Registration department, At-Con Leads coordinate setting up and tearing down the Registration & Information Desk area, manage scheduling and training of Registration volunteers, and are on-call during the convention in case of any escalated membership or payment issues. At-Con Registration Leads also handle cash reporting at the beginning and end of each day, and before the con they coordinate with the Pre-Con Registration Lead about any outstanding payment or membership issues. (Our existing Registration staff are flexible in their roles, so if you would prefer to help out Pre-Con, get in touch to learn more about what that involves!)
Pre-Con Commitment: 3-6 pre-convention (planning)
At-Con Commitment: In addition to opening and closing the registration desk (approx. 30 minutes at start and end of day), the leads trade off being on-call for escalated issues throughout Registration Desk hours, usually cover at least one 1.5-3 hour shift per day, and may need to cover additional unstaffed shifts. 

Safer Spaces: Disability Safer Space Volunteer

We are looking for BIPOC members who would like to volunteer with the Disability Safer Space. Disability Safer Space volunteers participate in preparing the space prior to the con and volunteer inside or at the space during the con. They report any incidents to Safety.
Pre-Con Commitment: 1 hour/week
At-Con Commitment: Shifts inside the Safer Space as possible, healthy, and safe

Safer Spaces: Trans and Genderqueer (TGQ) Safer Space

We are looking for TGQ members who would like to volunteer with the TGQ Safer Space. TGQ Safer Space volunteers participate in preparing the space prior to the con and volunteer inside or at the space during the con. They report any incidents to Safety. Multiply marginalized TGQ members encouraged to apply.
Pre-Con Commitment: 1 hour/week
At-Con Commitment: Shifts inside the Safer Space as possible, healthy, and safe

Safety Co-Leads (2-3)

The Safety Co-Leads are in charge of making sure there are enough Safety volunteers to cover the entire weekend, scheduling shifts, and responding to any incidents. There must be at least one Safety Lead available at all times during the con. Safety Leads often take turns being “on-call” over the weekend to manage at-con and on-the-spot volunteers and to respond to incidents. Often interfaces with Anti-Abuse Team to record incidents and with ConCom Chairs to give updates or request assistance. Experience in de-escalation and crisis management or Safety or ombudsman at other cons a plus.
Pre-Con Commitment: 1 hour a week
At-Con Commitment: At least half a day for every day of the con

If you’re interested in any of these positions or in pre-con volunteering with any other department, please email personnel@sf3.org.

Updates on WisCon in 2022

We would like to again thank everyone who participated in Visioning WisCon in May. Visioning WisCon was not intended to replace a full online con and was organized differently from our usual structure.  We’re glad that our community was engaged that weekend across a variety of virtual spaces, and we’re grateful for all of the feedback we’ve received on the event. We’re working to incorporate the lessons we’ve learned as we look towards WisCon in 2022. Speaking of which…

We have some exciting news about our next in-person WisCon in 2022!

  • Our wonderful host hotel, Madison’s Concourse Hotel and Governor’s Club, has opened room reservations! We have a group discounted rate that is available from now through April 26, 2022. Please show your support by making your reservation today.
  • Guest of Honor nominations for WisCon in 2023 are open! Anyone is welcome to nominate someone to be a Guest of Honor (GoH) by sending an email with the nominee’s name to gohnoms@wiscon.net. (If you already nominated someone any time during/after WisCONline in 2020, we have your nominations and will include them for 2023. Thanks!)
  • We have Co-Chairs! WisCon is organized by a group of volunteers called the Convention Committee (or ConCom, for short). For 2022, Aileen Wall (she/her), Ira Alexandre (they/them), and Kit Stubbs, Ph.D. (they/them) are co-chairing the ConCom. Aileen is a previous WisCon co-chair who has also served as our Hotel Liaison with the Concourse for the past six years. Ira and Kit co-chaired WisCONline in 2020 and continued volunteering as chairs of the Personnel Committee and the Communications Committee, respectively, throughout 2020 and 2021.While Aileen, Ira, and Kit are all awesome people, they need more volunteers to join the ConCom to help organize the con. If you’re interested in finding out more information about volunteering on the ConCom please let us know (signing up is not a commitment, just a request for info!) Look forward to role descriptions and an online information session coming soon.
We’ll continue to post updates about how con planning is going on our blog and email newsletter.

Our FOUR Guests of Honor at WisCon in 2022

As we mentioned in our last update, we’re thrilled to have four Guests of Honor planning to attend our next in-person WisCon in 2022: Rebecca Roanhorse and Yoon Ha Lee, who were originally invited to attend WisCon 44 in 2020; as well as Sheree Renée Thomas and Zen Cho, who were originally invited to attend WisCon in 2021.

Below you can learn more about each of our Guests of Honor:

Zen Cho

Zen Cho
Zen Cho
Zen Cho is the author of the Sorcerer to the Crown novels and a novella, The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water, as well as the short story collection Spirits Abroad (joint winner of the 2015 Crawford Fantasy Award). She is a Hugo, Crawford and British Fantasy Award winner, and a finalist for the Locus and Astounding Awards. She edited the anthology Cyberpunk: Malaysia, and won a 2019 Hugo for her short piece “If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again”. She was a juror for the Speculative Literature Foundation 2014 Diverse Writers and Diverse Worlds grants, served on the Board of Con or Bust and has been a SFWA mentor for emerging writers. She was born and raised in Malaysia, resides in the UK, and lives in a notional space between the two. She is a past WisCon attendee. Connect with Zen Cho on her website, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter.

Yoon Ha Lee

Yoon Ha Lee Headshot
Yoon Ha Lee

Yoon Ha Lee’s debut novel from Solaris Books, Ninefox Gambit, won the Locus Award for best first novel and was a finalist for the Hugo, Nebula, and Clarke awards. Its sequels, Raven Stratagem and Revenant Gun, were also Hugo finalists. His middle grade space opera Dragon Pearl won the Locus Award for best YA novel and was a New York Times bestseller. Yoon’s short fiction has appeared in publications such as F&SFTor.com, and Clarkesworld Magazine, as well as several year’s best anthologies. He lives in Louisiana with his family and an extremely lazy cat, and has not yet been eaten by gators. Connect with Yoon Ha Lee on his website or Twitter.

Rebecca Roanhorse

Rebecca Roanhorse's headshot
Rebecca Roanhorse

Rebecca Roanhorse is a New York Times bestselling and Nebula, Hugo, and Locus Award-winning speculative fiction writer and the recipient of the 2018 Astounding (Campbell) Award for Best New Writer. Rebecca has published multiple award-winning short stories and five novels, including two in The Sixth World Series, Star Wars: Resistance RebornRace to the Sun for the Rick Riordan imprint, and her latest novel, the epic fantasy Black Sun. She has also written for Marvel Comics and for television, and had projects optioned by Amazon Studios, Netflix, and Paramount TV.  She lives with her husband, daughter and dogs in Northern New Mexico. Connect with Rebecca Roanhorse on her website or Twitter.

Sheree Renée Thomas

Sheree Renée Thomas
Sheree Renée Thomas
Sheree Renée Thomas creates art inspired by myth and folklore, natural science and conjure, and the genius culture created in the Mississippi Delta. She is the author of Nine Bar Blues: Stories from an Ancient Future (Third Man Books, May 26, 2020), her first fiction collection. She is also the author of two multigenre/hybrid collections, Sleeping Under the Tree of Life, longlisted for the 2016 Otherwise Award and Shotgun Lullabies (Aqueduct Press), described as a “revelatory work like Jean Toomer’s Cane.” She edited the two-time World Fantasy Award-winning volumes, Dark Matter, that first introduced W.E.B. Du Bois’s work as science fiction and was the first black author to be honored with the World Fantasy Award since its inception in 1975. Her work is widely anthologized and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and received honorable mention in the Year’s Best volumes. Her essays have appeared in the New York Times and other publications.She serves as the Associate Editor of Obsidian: Literature & Arts in the African Diaspora (Illinois State University, Normal). She lives in Memphis, Tennessee and is a past WisCon attendee. Connect with Sheree Renée Thomas on her website, Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.