Mary Robinette Kowal is the new chair of the 79th World Science Fiction Convention. The decision was made by BWAWA, the Baltimore-Washington Area Worldcon Association, which is the host organization for this year’s Worldcon.

Mary Robinette Kowal is a former President of SFWA, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and a four-time Hugo Award winner. She has a long history with conventions beginning with her career in theater and extending through science-fiction and fantasy. Prior to becoming president of SFWA, she ran programming for the Nebula Conference for six years in addition to stepping in to reinvent and manage the programming for 2018’s Worldcon 76 in San Jose. Last year, she chaired the 2020 Nebula Conference which made the rapid and highly successful two-month pivot from in-person to virtual.

“I’m excited to be working with DisCon III. One of my conditions before saying yes was that I wanted to speak to the Division Heads first. It will be a pleasure to work with such a dedicated, competent set of people,” Kowal said. “I believe that Worldcon begins with the fans in all our complex diversity. It is, at heart, about connecting with our community and celebrating our shared love of science fiction and fantasy.”  

The appointment of a professional author as Convention Chair of a Washington Worldcon has precedent. In 1974, the successful DisCon II was co-chaired by science fiction author and biologist Jack “Jay” Haldeman II.

“We knew we needed someone experienced to guide DisCon III across the finish line,” BWAWA president Michael Nelson said. “Mary Robinette Kowal’s background as the former president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, her experience with crafting the 2018 Worldcon’s program, and involvement with the annual Nebula Conference brings an interesting new perspective, especially related to the challenges of making a hybrid convention experience. As Mary Robinette herself has said, ‘All pros start out as fans.’ She is the perfect embodiment of fandom’s unique relationship with the creators of SF&F. After Mary Robinette met with many of the key members of the DisCon III convention committee, it was clear to everyone she would be a great fit for the convention.”

Because Kowal is a finalist in two categories, DisCon III intends to keep a full firewall between the chair (and any other Hugo finalists working on the convention) and the voting and administration of the 2021 Hugo Awards. One of her conditions for considering the role was that the longstanding practice of an Independent Hugo subcommittee remain in place to isolate the Chair and other staff from Hugo Awards decisions. This separation will be further reinforced by the appointment of a vice-chair with independent authority to manage any needs of the division. Any questions about the Hugo Awards should be addressed to

DisCon III is the 79th Worldcon, and the third to be held in Washington, DC. Previous DC-based Worldcons were held in 1963 (DisCon I) and 1974 (DisCon II). DisCon III will be held at the Omni Shoreham Hotel from December 15-19, 2021.

DisCon III is sponsored by the Baltimore-Washington Area Worldcon Association, Inc. (BWAWA, Inc.), a 501(c)3 non-profit organization based in Maryland.

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