What are Guests of Honor?
Guests of honor (GoHs) are one or more people invited to Wiscon, who give a keynote speech, give readings, and, if they are interested, sit on panels during the convention. Their membership fee, hotel costs, and travel are paid for, and they receive a small honorarium. They typically receive a free membership for life thereafter (keep in mind that memberships are relatively inexpensive, around 50 dollars for the whole convention). The speeches that GoHs give can be inspiring and informative, and may appear on websites afterward. Some con-goers will make a point of buying and reading books by WisCon GoHs through the year, and getting those books signed at the convention.
How are Guests of Honor chosen?
Anyone (literally) can nominate someone for guest of honor status by emailing gohnoms at wiscon dot info. It is best to include a few sentences about why you think they would make a good GoH or why you think they are awesome. The members of the planning committee (concom) vote on who they would like to be GoH, which is one of the perks of serving on the committee. In recent years, a group of people vets the finalists to see if they meet WisCon’s statement of principles, if they require speaker fees, etc.
Who has been Guest of Honor in the past?
You can see a list at WisCon’s website and at Wikipedia (links below). As WisCon is a primarily literary convention, GoHs have usually been writers and editors of SF/F, but have also included fan writers and zine publishers, illustrators, and influential community members.
In the next post I’ll examine trends regarding race and gender over time in relation to WisCon’s guests of honor.