The Worldcon, or World Science Fiction Convention, is the annual convention of the World Science Fiction Society (WSFS). Worldcons have been held each year since 1939 with the exception of four years during World War II. Locations have included the United States, Canada, Australia, England, Scotland, Germany, and The Netherlands. Science fiction and fantasy fans travel from places as diverse as Japan, Israel, Argentina, Brazil, Norway, Finland, Croatia, New Zealand, and Russia to attend.
The Guests of Honor of a Worldcon are always highlighted in its program and events. Usually their biography and bibliography are included as part of the program souvenir book. The Guests of Honor may present speeches, participate in interviews, or be otherwise highlighted in the convention's programming, while the Worldcon also honors their years in the science fiction community. Past Guests of Honor have included authors, editors, artists and fans, including such notables as Andre Norton, Isaac Asimov, John Campbell, Jr., Gene Wolfe, Gordon R. Dickson, Arthur C. Clarke, Ray Bradbury, Robert A. Heinlein, Ursula K. Le Guin, Hal Clement, Anne McCaffrey, Samuel R. Delany, and others.
Because so many fans believe meeting other fans from around the world is important, a number of fan-supported funds have been set up to send fans from one continent to another to attend a convention. Often those funds (TAFF, DUFF, GUFF, etc.) will send their delegates to the Worldcon if they can, and delegates will sometimes delay a year for a year to make sure they can get to the Worldcon.
The Hugo Awards are generally considered a major highlight of the Worldcon and the ceremony presenting them is central to the convention. The awards themselves are nominated and voted upon by the members of the Worldcon. MCFI member George Flynn wrote an article on Hugo voting statistics.
Worldcon programs reflect the diversity and interests of science fiction fandom, and have included Nobel Prize winners, astronauts, members of Congress, ambassadors, scientists, writers, editors, publishers, artists, and fans in panels and presentations.
The Masquerade (another highlight of the program) is truly a spectacular, as costumers prepare and present their best work for this event (hundreds of hours and hundreds of dollars can go into the creation of a master-class costume). There are filk (fan-speak for "folk") concerts and artists' and writers' workshops. The film program will usually include films or TV episodes nominated for the the Hugos for best dramatic presentations. Major TV and film studios will often preview their new work at the Worldcon. Worldcon attendees were the first to find out about Star Trek, Star Wars, Bram Stoker's Dracula, and others.
Collectors and those who "just know what they like" purchase both original artwork and prints at the Art Show from new and established artists, to suit all budgets. In the Dealers' Room, one can buy books (new, used and collector's items), jewelry, toys, t-shirts, and other science fiction & fantasy-related merchandise.
If you've still got energy (and time) available, the Worldcon also has music, filking, dancing, videos, gaming, exhibitions, parties, author readings & autographings, and things too diverse to mention, some of which you won't believe until you see them.
Worldcons are run by fan volunteers, ages four to ninety-four, working from one hour to many years to produce the best event for their fellow fans.
(In years when the Worldcon is held outside of North America, a NASFIC is held in North America).