First of all, I blame Mike Resnick for getting me into all of this. Sure, I've been a fan of science fiction since I was a kid and had occasionally heard about conventions, but most of what I heard involved Star Trek conventions and the like, which held no particular appeal for me. Then a few years ago I joined Mike Resnick's mailing list. He was an author I admired, and someone whose writing had inspired me to go back to my own writing on a more serious footing.
Mike was also a fan. I didn't realize exactly what this meant at the time, but I read the messages as they came in, lurked in the background and so forth, and soaked up what came in. Gosh, but this fandom stuff sounds like fun! Eventually I became more active on the mailing list and started asking question.
I searched the net and found some information on conventions and fandom. A whole new vista lay before me to be explored. I started reading books _about_ science fiction, that weren't just about how to write it, and learned about the Futurians, early conventions, and the fan spirit. I learned about fanzines and the locations of fanac.org's archive and Mimosa on-line. I read con reports, fan articles, all of Mike's "Worldcon Memories" and got more of a grasp of what the whole Big Beast was about.
So I knew that eventually I'd have to get to a convention. By this time, Chicon 2000 had come and gone. I "attended" a number of the on-line panels they arranged, but it was a pretty pale experience compared to all the reports on the real thing. (Typical for the internet) Granted, I had fun during Hugo night as a bunch of other cyberfen sat in some IRC rooms and got a running commentary from someone who was actually at the ceremony, but again—it was on-line, and not near the same thing as being there oneself.
Work and other obligations got in the way of attending either Arisia or Boskone which were somewhat local to me, but sometime around February this year, I _knew_ I had to be in Philadelphia. I got lucky and bought a transferring membership and, with the help of Mike Resnick, hooked up with a couple of guys to share a hotel room (at the convention hotel, no less). Money was going to be an issue. Worldcons are not cheap. In fact, they're probably the most expensive con to attend of them all and, reportedly, MilPhil's hotel rates were the highest ever for a worldcon. Fortunately, my friend, Chris Reilly, helped me set up a massive e-bay auctioning of some of my book collection and with a little saving and budgeting I managed to scrape together enough to fund the trip.
The month before leaving I read _everything_ I could get my hands on regarding worldcons and fandom in general. I hounded known worldcon vets for "advice for the neofan" and got a couple of similar threads started on some newsgroups at sff.net.
Finally the day came. Two backpacks and a handful of bus tickets and I was on my way!
After a long bus trip that involved a few hours sleeping on the floor at New York's Port Authority, I arrived in Philly! Finding the con proved to be no huge chore; I lugged my bags out of the Greyhound station and started looking for people wearing con badges (the bus depot was only a block from the convention center). Sure enough, I found some random fans and got my directions. After leaving some luggage with the bell captain, I made my way to the convention registration which wasn't nearly as long as I had expected it would be (based on reports from previous cons) and I was surprised, pleased, to discover that barely twenty minutes after landing in the City of Brotherly Love, I had my badge, pocket program, big program, and ready to dive headfirst into the Mardi Gras of fandom.
The first thing I did was try to make sense of the convention center layout. It was a pretty sprawling affair, but the nearby Marriott hotel was conveniently connected to the main part of the convention center. The hucksters' room hadn't opened yet, so I went up to the Overhead Cafe to sit and read through the pocket program and compare it with my custom-made program to see if there were any significant changes. So far, so good. Nothing had really begun yet other than registration, but the hucksters' room eventually opened so, armed with camera, I went down for a look around. There were a lot of people milling about and renewing old friendships from either past world or regional cons. People were dressed casual, semi-casual, in costume, with vests covered in buttons, some with wierd hats, many with loud shirts.
One of the very first people I bumped into (literally) was Harry Turtledove who, in addition to being a very fine author, was very friendly and readily agreed to pose for a picture. (All the pros I met were very nice, friendly, and loved to be photographed.) I thanked him and went looking around some more. Once the hucksters' room had opened, I found the _Asimov's_ table where Mike Resnick was already busily signing autographs next to Walter Jon Williams. I sussed out the location of the Wildside Press table and grabbed a copy of Mike's latest "paying forward" book, I HAVE THIS NIFTY IDEA, and brought it over for him and WJW to sign. Things were a little rushed at the signing table, so I didn't have a chance to introduce myself properly and allow Mike a chance to finally put a face to the name of the person he's chatted with online so much, but that was fixed soon after. I moved along and met some other pros including Gregory Benford, of whom I was currently reading a book by, and Phil and Kaja Foglio. I also managed to meet Gardner Dozois, Esther Friesner, and Bob Silverberg. I surprised myself by becoming a bit of a minor autograph/photo hound. There was no way I'd have been able to carry around books by every pro I met, but I had a couple of anthologies with me and managed to get a more than a few autographs to go with pictures.
I took a break and, considering I hadn't had anything to eat since the night before, went off in search of food. Across the street from the convention center was the Reading Terminal Market which featured about a hundred different food stalls, none of which were related to a fast food chain whatsoever. I grabbed a Philly cheesesteak and didn't give it the justice it derserved by wolfing it down too quickly. I wanted to get back to the con as soon as I could.
In the Overhead Cafe, I looked over the pocket program some more and picked my first panel attendance: How To Enjoy Your First Convention with Gay Haldeman and Rusty Havelin. I had been sitting in the cafe trying to make sense of the convention center layout when Joe Haldeman came by, also looking for that panel. We figured out the convention center map and made it in plenty of time. Joe is as pleasant and friendly as you'd expect, but his wife takes the prize as nicest-person-you'd-ever-want-to-meet-at-a-con award. Small wonder that they both received the Skylark for their contributions to fandom. The panel itself was very positive. Most of what was said I already knew from months of reading up on worldcons, but it was good to get some confirmation.
Still thinking that I'd be sticking somewhat to my prepared panel schedule, I found the Redsicovered Authors: Eric Frank Russell, Fredric Brown, Henry Kuttner, & Others panel with Jack Chalker, Peter Heck, Rick Katze, Steve Miller, and Mike Resnick. The panel was well-attended (which I think surpised and pleased the panelists) and I got some good suggestions for golden-age SF that I hadn't considered before. (I've been reading Fredric Brown for years and had recently discovered Kuttner, but Russell and C.L. Moore are authors I definitely need to get reading.)
Next up was the Docent Fan History tour, but I had some time before it began so I went to the lobby and to meet one of my roommates, Jeff Corkern. I grabbed the rest of my stuff and we went up to our room and met another roommate, Tom Gerencer. Our fourth would not be arriving until much later that night. All three were both perfect roommates. I suppose it helped that none of us used our room much other than for sleeping and showering, but figure four guys and one bathroom—things were pretty civilized. (I'm an early riser, so that helped me.) I think Jeff was the only one of us who had ever attended a worldcon before, and I discovered we knew some of the same people from Resnick list and Compuserve IMPs. Tom was going to be heading from Worldcon straight to another convention of white-water rafters. Go figure. With four guys and two beds, we had arranged for an additional rollaway bed, but that still meant one person on the floor or two sharing. As it turned out, while I was still putting my things away, a second rollaway bed appeared. We had some cramped quarters, but we each had a bed.
The Docent Fan History Exhibit tour was lead by Mike Resnick who had written several articles on fan history and certainly knows his stuff. Our largish group saw an impressive line up of past Hugo awards and got the background stories to just about all of them. Most of what Mike related can be found in the "Worldcon Memories" series published in _Mimosa_, but Mike added a few extra bits of story and gossip that were not published. It was a very interesting tour and I got to make a proper introduction with Mike and also meet fellow listee Robyn Herrington.
After the tour, I visited the Overhead Cafe again and randomly met some people by taking whatever chair was empty at the moment. I met some nice folks, including Carol Berg who has a couple of new fantasy books out (TRANSFORMATION, REVELATION). She's recently broken into the market and it was fascinating to hear her talk about the trials of writing and finding the time to write while working full time. This is something everyone struggles with, but it's good to see that people _can_ make it through. There's something to be said for discipline.
I still had one more panel scheduled for that day, that being Dialogue on Life, the Universe and Writing with Lois McMaster Bujold and Lillian Stewart Carl. It was no big surprise that most folks were there to see Lois, and apparently she and Lillian are old friends, and Lillian did much to encourage Lois in her writing and in developing Miles Vorkosigan. We loved her. Heck, we loved them both. The panel became more of an extended question and answer period regarding both Lois' past and future Vorkosigan books and her recent fantasy novel, CURSE OF CHALION. (I'm sorry, but I still think Chalion should be pronounced "kalion". It's more alliterative.)
Then came the height of the day, heck—for me, it was the defining moment of the con. 'Twas time for the Resnick Listerve Party at Obscura Press's Gordie Meyer's suite. We had a very good turnout and I finally had the opportunity to meet Carol Resnick who is twice as nice as everyone says (and brother... that's a lot of nice). All of the listserve members who were attending worldcon showed up as well as a number of pros, publishers, and even an agent. I finally got to put names with faces such as Gordie Meyer, Adrienne Gormely, Donna Drapeau, Robyn Herrington (who I had met earlier that day), Josepha Sherman, Roger Sims, Scott Pendergrast, and many others. Mary Martin, the Benfords and Walter Jon William showed up. Jeff Corkern came and Tom Gerencer (who, with Tobias Buckell, was one of Mike's Clarion kids). Also in attendance was Janis Ian who, it turns out to be, is not only a fan of Mike's but of science fiction. She reportedly had a blast all weekend exchanging autographed books for autographed CDs. She and Mike have a best-selling story at fictionwise.com and she's joined the Babes for Bwana as Chorale Director.
And the snack spread was great. Fancy cheeses, brie, fruits, veggies and dip, and _melted choclolate_ with strawberries and watermelon for dipping! Christy Hardin Smith did a fantastic job in preparing the spread and her hard work was much appreciated.
Mike held court, in the way only Bwana can, by regaling us with fannish folktales and waxing eloquent on current issues and trends in publishing (and e-publishing). Scott Pendergrast of Fictionwise.com had brought along a selection of items from the Fictionwise shop: coffeemugs, mousepads, t-shirts, and so on which Mike autographed and pretty much anyone could grab. Mike also made sure that me, and the other neofen in the room knew how to find out where the good rooms and parties were (the best, I thought, was the location of the CFG suite) and answered any questions we had with the wisdom of so many worldcons already under his belt.
Then unexpected, but very welcome, entertainment arrived!
Apparently a group of bellydancers had been ejected from the SFWA suite and had been directed to us. (I guess the music was interfering with the shoptalk... silly pros.) These three lovely veil-clad women came in with music and bells and danced to a very captivated audience. We had people wandering in from the halls just to find out what all the noise and cheering was about. (Check out my worldcon photo pages. It's a sight to behold.)
They performed a veil dance and covered Bwana, who was enjoying himself immensely, in a mountain of pink, blue, and purples veils, then they brought out swords and danced with those, and then feather fans, and pretty much tickled the hell out of everyone--especially as they got a couple of the Babes for Bwana to join in the fun.
All in all, the Listserve party was a huge success and I stayed until around two in the morning just listening to the tales and talk. But I knew I'd have to hit the sack pretty soon as I had been pushing myself pretty hard for more than a day, so I made my goodnights and stumbled off towards bed.
Only I didn't go straight to bed. I had promised a couple of folks, including my co-workers, that I'd check my e-mail at least once a day in case there were any questions or problems and to give brief reports to others. The way to the internet lounge was clearly marked and I was pleasantly surprised to discover that instead of row after garish row of ugly iMacs (like I saw in photos from Chicon 2000), they had real computers! All the web-browsing computers were running Linux while for those of us who only needed to do some basic telneting had VT220 dumb terminals. Needless to say, there was never a waiting period for the VTs, so I always had access to my e-mail.
Another section in the Internet lounge had been reserved solely for computer gaming. I never saw a single unused console and, for that matter, saw very few consoles that did not have at least one other person waiting for their turn. I looked over a couple of shoulders and saw folks, mostly kids, playing Starcraft and some first-person shooter game such as Wolfenstein. I wasn't tempted, although I was impressed with the setup for gamers overall. Separated by a long blue curtain was a whole other section of the hall devoted to gamers tables. There were usually half a dozen groups playing a wide assortment of paper and pen, card, or board games. It seemed like an ideal location as several water coolers were set up and one wasn't far from finding refreshments. (The other gaming area was located at the opposite end of the con, was more cramped in space, and noisy as it also shared with some dealers and folks going to panel and reading events.)
I checked my mail and assured myself that the outside world was, indeed, still intact, so I retreated to bed with confidence and assurance that all was well.
My fourth roommate had already shown up, set up the beds, and was fast asleep. I had been told his name was Josh Cruciotti, but for the first couple of days he was nothing more than the sheet-covered profile on one of the rollaways. Someone suggested it might be Harlan Ellison _in cognito_ and that theory seemed as good as any, but I wondered why, if it was indeed Harlan Ellison, he didn't take one of the big beds. (I didn't know at the time he was at Dragoncon that weekend.)
A little bit of mystery is good for the soul.
Woke up feeling somewhat sore from all the running around I'd done the previous days. I had wanted to attend the writing exercises workshops that were being held each morning, but found they were not only located in the most remote conference room at the center, but already pretty full up by the time I found the place (late). Alas. I also had plans to meet up with some RISFC and Resnick folks for breakfast later that morning, but my belly was already rumbling. I abandoned the workshop idea and spent three bucks on a muffin and nearly as much for a coffee at the convention center then went to the overhead lounge to appease my stomach and do some of my own writing exercises. (Sadly, this would be the last of my creative writing until Sunday night. So much for discipline.)
On my way back to the hotel to meet the breakfast crew, I got a chance to inspect the infamous, low-tech, voodoo board. Ivy Yap had left me an invite to attend a Bujold listserve party, which I unfortunately missed although I made it to the second gathering later. The voodoo board, itself, is just a great idea and very simple to set up. Atendees who had preregistered were listed on a series of bulletin boards. You put a checkmark next to your name to indicate that you've arrived, and when someone wants to leave a message, they put a red pin beside your name. You see the pin, then go to a little card file that has everyone's name alphabetized and find your message. This must be what things were like before bulletin boards went electronic. Outrageous! *g*
I dropped by the hucksters room, but it hadn't opened yet so instead I visited the worldcon bid tables and signed up as a presupporting for Japan's 2007 bid. I remembered some readings I had wanted to attend, so hightailed it back down to the other end of the convention center just in time to catch the last half of Jeffrey Carver's reading and the whole of Fred Pohl's. Along the way and in between readings, I had a good time introducing myself to fellow fen and getting a nice feel for fandom. Friendly folk. I don't think I met a single unpleasant fan the entire weekend.
There were about four or five worldbuilding panels going on throughout the course of the weekend, all apparently part of the same series, but I knew I had no chance of visiting all of them. I did manage to make it to the one paneled by Greg Benford, Hal Clement, and Yoji Kondo (of the Lab for Astronomy & Solar Physics). It was a lot of fun listening to what's often just theory put to practical question and wished it was possible to get notes for the entire series. Fortunately these sort of panels repeat themselves year after year, so I'll have many chances in the future to check these out.
After that I decided to do some serious foraging in the Hucksters' Room. I had a few things I knew I wanted to find, and looked forward to discovering something new. I found a bunch of _Science Fiction Reviews_ from the late 70s and picked some up. It's a shame I didn't know about that sort of thing when I was a kid. It would have gone a long way in introducing me to fandom earlier. Maybe collecting old zines seems a bit silly, but part of going to a con, I think, is indulging oneself a bit, and fandom _does_ have this tendency toward nostalgism. I found some copies of _STET_, a fanzine I had been wanting to learn more about, and some print issues of _Mimosa_. I've a long way to go before I amass a fanzine collection of any significance, but I'm having fun getting started. On a whim, I got myself an "official" ImpSec photo ID card from a gentleman in a rather impressive-looking ImpSec uniform. (For you poor unfortunates who know not of what I speak, hie thee hence to your nearest bookstore and start buying Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan books. I'll wait... Do you have them now? Good.)
Sated for the moment with the treasures thus far gathered, I retreated to the Overhead to rest my poor tired feet. I ended up sitting next to a quartet of teens engaged in some sort of roleplaying combat game that involved no paper, no dice, no cards, no little lead figures, no nothing but their own imaginations and voices. I don't think they even had a DM, although I think one kid was a judge, but not called on often. I overheard some references to some anime characters I know of (Rurouni Kenshin among others) and we got into an interesting conversation about anime and roleplaying. They seemed as surprised that this old guy (hey, 34 isn't old) knew about such things as I was surprised as such kids (they seemed like smart kids) would know of such things. Okay, okay, anime and RPG have been embraced by the next generation, but I remember when it was all still so new. Alas. Anyway, it was a fun talk and they surprised me further by asking me to DM a D&D game for them. As tempting as it was, I had to decline. Partly because I couldn't see myself sitting still for three or more hours, and also because I'm 1st Edition and these kids were all 3rd Edition of which I know nothing of other than the rules have been changed all around. But it was nice to be asked.
I decided to go find the SFF.net suite and check in to what all was happening there. I arrived in time to catch a reading by David Honigsberg. After that, I went wandering for a bit and discovered the con suite and the fan lounge. The fan lounge was the more interesting at the time because of the bull session in progress on aspects of fandom I'm much too new to understand, and it's impressive collection of fanzines for the reading. I probably spent an hour just paging through their collection, reading zines the titles of which I'd never heard of, but enjoyed just the same.
Next, I went to go crash for a bit before the evening got underway. I ran into a hurdle that would repeat itself throughout most of the rest of my stay and one of the very few complaints I'd have regarding the hotel staff. By then it was around 5pm and it's not an uncommon time for most con-goers to want to go to their rooms to rest up before starting the evening's activities and/or change. Unfortunately, that was also the time when the housekeeping staff was just getting to my room—which meant no nap. I retreated to the hotel lobby with some books and ended up doing some people watching and meeting fen as they came and went. I saw Bob Silverberg, Rob Sawyer, and Janis Ian doing some picture posings before heading out to some pro activity.
I eventually got in a short nap, but it was still too early to hit some of the parties. On a whim, I decided to check out one of the anime-related panels. The classic Legend of Galactic Heroes seemed to have been a theme this year for the anime program, which was more than fine with me as it's an excellent anime as well as entertaining science fiction. The room was pretty crowded and the panelists didn't make much use of the microphones, so I left early and went to the film room to catch the fan-made, home grown silent movie, "Longer Than You Think", the 1950s PSFS Worldcon Home Move. It was... interesting. Not quite what I expected. Really really horrible actually, but in a fun, "Plan 9" sort of way. By the end, the audience members were calling out in Mystery Science Theatre fashion, and fun was had by all.
After seeing the immense line for the Retro-Hugos, I decided to give it a pass and just wait for the results to be published in the daily newsletter. Most of the room parties were getting underway by this point. The Japan 2007 was always a crowded affair, and they could have benefited from a larger suite, but it was fun. They had an impressive collection of Japanese SF materials for folks to paw through. I picked up some calendar cards and did my best to translate my way through an issue of Hayakawa SF. After that I hit the Brotherhood of the Banner party just in time for George R. R. Martin's arrival. He seemed to be enjoying himself immensely, and his fans made for a very good showing. Someone had brought along a very real seeming sword with the idea of asking George to knight them. A quick wit questioned the wisdom of letting George near anyone with a sword given the manner of some of the events in his books.
The best place to meet people, I eventually discovered, was not at the overcrowded noisy parties, but at the hotel's lobby/lounge/bar. It was a large open space on the ground floor with a circular bar set up in the center, another to the side, and loads of couches, chairs, and coffeetables set all around. Very casual. Very comfortable. I found the best thing to do was grab an open seat and just start chatting with whoever was neearby, or if there were no empty seats by groups, sit alone and someone else was bound to join me. I met some nice folks who welcomed me to fandom including a SCAdian named Ken who was toting a harp around with him. (I learned an awful lot about harps that night.) I also met my mysterious roommate. Turns out it wasn't Harlan Ellison after all, but a nice guy named Josh who spent most of his con either at panels or in the lounge also meeting new fen friends.
I went off exploring again and then went to the 21st floor to find the SFF.net Chocolate Party in full swing. After dosing up on sugar and caffeine and dropping a few bucks into the kitty, I dropped in on some filk sessions which were entertaining, but hard for a newbie to feel comfortable at. I then followed the sound of laughter and learned that the video room was showing a bunch of wartime Warner Bros. cartoons. Some of these I hadn't seen since I was a little kid. Some of these I'd never seen before at all.
I went back to the lounge and met Josh again as well as a couple of Boston fans who talked me into going to Boskone this year, and possibly Arisia. Very good people who made me feel welcome and they made an excellent case for the Boston in 2004 bid as well. After that, I hit the con suite and availed myself of a fairly impressive deli spread, met some more fen and found out the results of the Retro-Hugo Awards which were pretty much as I expected them to be. My next stop was the Cincinnati Fan Group (CFG) suite and where a lively, but sedate, party was in progress. I got a chance to talk with Rusty Havelin and thank him for providing such a useful panel on Thursday. A bunch of Resnick listserve and Compuserve IMPs were there playing an odd little card game that involved improvisational storytelling. After a reading of the rules and a practice hand, I got into the game. Was much fun, even if I didn't win a single hand. hehe. Nick DiChario dropped by, as did Mike Resnick who was in and out and enjoying himself immensely.
By this point, it was pretty late in the evening and I had been going at a pretty breakneck pace for a while. I hit the lobby one last time, then up to bed. To sleep and recharge for the next day.
Next day was up and at ‘em. I got up at my usual earlyish time and discovered subterranean mall that had a place that served excellent coffee and delicious cinnamon buns at a price that was a relief after being gouged at the convention center. I dropped some film off at a nearby Kmart (more on this later) then struck out for the Heinlein Memorial Blood Drive.
Now I've not donated blood, I'm ashamed to say, for about ten years, so I can't say whether or not this was a poorly done affair or not. What I _can_ report on faithfully is that three hours had gone by before I saw the outside again. There was a lot of waiting, and the acoustics of the Methodist church were surprisingly bad, which meant I missed my name being called the first couple of rounds.
Still, after the frantic pace I had put myself through Thursday and Friday, it was a good thing I was forced to sit still for an extended period. And I got to meet some very nice folks. Gay and Joe Haldeman came by to visit with those of us waiting and waiting. I chatted with Gay for a while as Joe signed books and Chicon 2000 trading cards for people. Greg Benford showed up as well and somehow the conversation had gone around to nuclear explosions set high over cities and so forth. (Someone had a story idea and was working on the physics of it—I realized later it was Brenda Clough.) While I was missing most of my planned morning panels, including Ellen Kushner's radio show Sound and Spirit, I learned more than I expected I would about medieval Italian court dance and music.
Eventually I heard my name called and went off to go lose a pint. As I hopped off the table and went for my juice and cookies, I met Fred Pohl and Elizabeth Anne Hull who, like Greg Benford and the Haldemans, were visiting fans doing the blood thing. I got some pictures and autographs and got to talk with Fred for a bit, which was a treat for me, and then ventured out for some food and then back to the con—a pint less, but made up for in spirit.
I made it to Jack Chalker's reading, which was as interesting as it was entertaining, being an alternate history type of story about Millard Filmore. Unfortunately, the scheduling for the readings allowed for only half an hour instead of the traditional hour, and the reading was cut short despite Jack's best attempts to push on. It got a little awkward with the next reading, but this really was a poor piece of planning. Granted, there were a lot of pros who wanted to give readings, and perhaps only limited space and time slots, but given the time taken for arriving, introducing, finishing, and trying to be friendly, the author has very limited time to read. Ah well, despite all that, Jack gave a good reading, even if the bulk of it was rushed.
The hucksters room called again, but I managed not to blow any money this time around. That evening was the Masquerade so already folks in hall costumes were milling about and I got a few good photos. I dropped by the Lois McMaster Bujold mailing list SIG gathering (yes, I'm on the list—I even pipe in on occasion) and had a nice time meeting some fellow list members. Lois came by with Lillian Stewart Carl and there was an extended question-and-answer period as well as some photo-taking. The only drawback from this event was the lecture room-style seating with all the list members sitting in rows of chairs facing the table where Lois and Lillian sat. All agreed that a more informal arrangement would have been nicer, but given the crowd and the small size of the room, I suppose this was the best that could be managed. Still, the LMB list members are all nice folks and I'm glad to have put some faces with names after all this time.
I hit Chinatown for some noodles, then went off to nap, but went through the same wait-for-it with the hotel staff as they were just getting to our room. I eventually did manage to lay down for about forty-five minutes when I decided to get up and go find someplace the catch the Masquerade. I'm not such a fan of costumes that I wanted to sit in cramped quarters peering over heads, so I had already decided to go the closed-circuit TV route. Just then, Jeff Corkern came in to grab some cups and told me that the IMPs were all on the floor below me watching it together and I was invited to join in. (Nice folks, them IMPs.) I went down and grabbed a spare spot and had a blast. A couple of folks had come in their own costumes (BJ Galler-Smith was a pirate!) and the Masquerade itself was a lot of fun to watch. Oh there were a couple of lame entries, but the stars of the show were definitely: "Friday Nights at Ten" entry which payed homage to The Twilight Zone by bringing out versions of some of our favorite episodes. Another entry involved a 2001-styled spacesuited person coming up to an artifact with a TV screen mounted into it followed by a montage of media sounds, and as the astronaut removed its helmet, revealing an ape head growling underneath. Very clever. The other favorite entry of mine, and again I can't recall the name, featured a young Chinese folk tale hero who is too small for the big spear she's carrying. Along comes a huge Chinese dragon who surrounds the young warrior, and upon leaving reveals a grown woman where the young girl once was. Very magical.
Later on I hit the lobby lounge again and looked for fandom. Easy enough to find. I hooked up with Josh and some folks from the Rhode Island Science Fiction Club and chatted about local stuff and some computerese. Then Mike Resnick showed up with Tom Gerencer and Tobias Buckell. We all compared con notes and relaxed, took a collective breath, then went off in search of more con activities and parties.
I visited the SFF.net suite again and caught some of the "Red Dwarf" videos. I've only seen the show once or twice, not being a huge fan, but one of the actors looked awfully familiar. Turned out that Chris Barrie, of the British TV show "The Brittas Empire" played some sort of twisted AI on "Red Dwarf". Go figure, you learn something new every day. Anyway, I wandered out eventually and found myself returning to the CFG suite where I hooked up with Adrienne Gormely and Mary Martin and we discussed Andre Norton, an author I really need to read more of.
The evening eventually found me in the lobby again where random fandom pulled me into a rather bizarre metaphysical debate about perceiving alternate dimensions. Haven't had a conversation like that since my "experimental" days back in college. Can't say I missed them either, but they were nice guys and the topic eventually turned to more interesting subjects.
Two in the morning, my general go-to-bed time for this con, and off I went. Lord only knows how I managed to get back onto my usual sleep schedule when I got back to work and would get up at 5am.
Sunday morning was a peaceful affair. I grabbed some Starbucks coffee and met a Missouri fan in the lounge. We chatted for a bit and then I decided to get some sunlight and walk the five blocks to the MacDonalds for a cheap breakfast. I wasn't the only one to have had that idea as I saw many a group of badge-wearing fen standing in line and taking up tables.
Afterward I wandered back to the con in time to bump into Hal Clement who I had met once about 20 years ago when he came to visit my school. He made quite an impression on me back then, and was a major part of my embracing science fiction. I'd recently read his latest book, HALF-LIFE and am pleased to see that, if anything, he's gotten better.Later that day I also ran into Phyllis Eisenstein whose Alaric books and SORCERER'S SON I enjoyed many a year ago, both in paperback and the pages of F&SF. She has a sequel to SORCERER'S SON coming out from Meisha Merlin Press soon.
As a loyal member of the Resnick listserve, and a regular reader of the _SFWA Bulletin_, I _had_ to check out the live Resnick/Malzberg Dialogue panel. As expected, the two are as good arguing in person as they are in print. I understand that this was Barry's first worldcon in 18 years, but you wouldn't know it by seeing him. Apparently he did rather well at the autograph table, too.
Later I went to Tor's Coming Attractions panel and heard all about their new line of Young Adult books and new releases for adult readers. I jotted down a lot of titles and authors to go exploring for the coming year. (Actually, as of this writing, KUSHIEL'S DART should be in the mail on its way to me.)
From the "sounded too good to be true" file: I made an attempt to go pick up the film I had left at Kmart Saturday only to discover that it wouldn't be back until Tuesday. This was a major mess-up on their part in that while management was fully aware of delays due to the holiday weekend, the general staff was not and I, perhaps gullibly, believed them when they swore up and down that I'd get my photos before I left for home. Thankfully, the folks of the Kmart in Philly were cool and they not only express mailed my photos as soon as they came in, but they didn't charge me a cent. You'd think I'd have learned my lesson when I went to my local Walgreens to have the rest of my photos developed. They were nearly a week late in getting me my photos (yes, I had asked for a special service) and in addition to not offering any sort of discount, they messed up the order by charging me more than I was quoted. They were pretty rude and unapologetic about it as well, so Walgreens will never see my business again. Next year I'm going digital.
Anyway, back to the con. After the abortive photo pickup attempt, I swung by the Strangehorizons.com tea party. They were kind enough to purchase two of my book reviews this year, one for Mike Resnick's THE OUTPOST and another for Ben Bova's JUPITER. It was a pretty civilized affair, although a bit cramped. I did get a chance to talk to Editor-in-Chief, Mary Anne Mohanraj. I left early in hopes of catching David Gerrold, but he didn't show, and apparently had missed some of his other appearances which suggests he was a last minute no-show. Pity. His recent book on writing, WORLDS OF WONDER, surpasses nearly every other book of its kind in practicality and usefulness.
I went, instead, to the overhead lounge and met up with (you guessed it!) several more fans and talked shop and gossip. By this point in the weekend I was feeling less the neofan and more the old hand. I've a feeling I'm not alone in this when it comes to attending one's first major con.In keeping with that feeling, I attended a great panel run by Gay Haldeman, Janice Gelb, Priscilla Olson, and Teresa Nielsen Hayden on the growing rift twixt fans and pros. I wasn't aware of this so-called rift, and attended more so's to gain an insight to the state-of-fandom as it exists today. For the most part, the pros were pretty accessible and it wasn't that unusual for me to run into say, Mike Resnick, Fred Pohl, Greg Benford, Nick DiChario, Lois Bujold, the Haldemans, and others in the course of making the room party rounds or visiting the suites. During the day, pros were in obvious attendance, but I did notice that at night, they disappeared right quick. Of course you have to take a number of things into consideration. Wordlcon, for a lot of pros, isn't as much about the fans and it is about business. Pros go to worldcon to meet editors and agents, meet up with fellow pros and talk shop, and promote themselves. While this seems like it goes against the spirit of fandom and the first worldcons, I can understand where they're coming from. But it still disturbed me somewhat when I saw pros actively separate themselves from the folks who buy and read their books. One person in the panel audience reported overhearing a pro refer to another person attending the con as a "mere fan." You can imagine the amount of booing this illicited. Toward the end of the con I overheard one neopro announce their frustration in trying to shift from "fan to pro." What's wrong with being both? Thankfully, that didn't ruin the con for me. As much fun as I had meeting the pros, it was the fans who really made the convention. That's how I think it was always intended, and how it should always be. And should my hard work turn me pro someday, I really hope I don't succumb to that same silliness.
Another thing that got me going about this particular panel, was the idea of the panel program itself becoming a victim to this supposed rift between pros and fans. With so many pros, particularly neopros, wanting to promote themselves and their books, did that mean some fans who make good panelists didn't get onto the program? Perhaps, the panel admitted, but one of the real challenges is keeping everyone happy. A worldcon needs to attract pros, but some pros just don't make good panelists (just as not all fans do, either). I've got a lot of respect for the folks caught in the middle of Programming who have to try and balance everything.
Regarding the 2004 worldcon results. Boston won, and won well, but there was a good showing for Charlotte—perhaps too good a showing. I was torn, personally, as Boston is my backyard and I know it well. Charlotte, however, is outside of New England, and isn't part of the point of going to worldcons is to get away from home once in a while? Charlotte hosted a good party and did its most to be visible throughout the whole con. We all know what a kittyhawk looks like now. But in the end, however, I threw my support to Boston whose supporters impressed me the most with their enthusiasm, organization and experience.
After that last panel, I went to go change and get in line for the Hugo ceremony. While many folks I knew were going to be watching the event through the closed circuit TV system, I knew that for my first worldcon, I _had_ to attend the event in person. I don't regret it. As an audience member, you know you're taking part in fan history, even if just a little bit.
I got in line early (of course I brought a book!) and waited. Some friends had tried to save a seat for me, but CFG rules and a clueless, but not-purposally-evil, person separated me from them. We were packed in shoulder to shoulder and for someone like me who's not a big fan of crowds, it was a little uncomfortable. It didn't help that the person to my right had this habit of coughing on me (which I suspect is the origin of my cold, and the cold so many others came home with) and there were some loud German fans behind and to the right of me who seemed to be in a world of their own. But these minor things, and having to crane my neck a bit to see the video feeds from around one of the cameras, didn't detract much from the overall experience.
The Hugos were a lot of fun to watch, even if not all the the results were what I'd have hoped. Esther Freisner is a delightful individual and she really shines on stage. She entertained the audience with a (blessfully) short rap song ("Rapmaster Toast") and had a good number of one-liners up her sleeve.
One of the funniest scenes that night was Connie Willis preparing to announce the winner of the Best Short Story, but stalling the audience with aside after aside. It was then when some clever, quick-witted person manning the video feeds added a line on the display that read "Connie Willis knows we are twenty minutes ahead of schedule." This had the audience rolling, and I'm sure Connie had no idea why, although I suspect she had a couple of good guesses.
Some high- and low-lights:
Kristine Smith's acceptance speech for the John Campbell award was very touching and sincere. I loved it, and feel the award is very well deserved.
Local boy (to Rhode Island), Bob Eggleton, walked away with not one, but two Hugos. Conventional wisdom had predicted a split vote among the art fans giving Mike Whelan the Best Pro Artist and Bob the Best Related Book. Still, Bob's wins were well-deserves and he was probably the most exuberant of the winners.(He certainly knows how to work a crowd.)
Mike Resnick lost out the Best Short Story to Dave Langford who had already also won a Best Fan Writer that night. This came as a surprise to me personally as I thought Mike's story was by and far the best, and while we were somewhat resigned to "Redchapel" and PUTTING IT TOGETHER to lost in its categories, we had high hopes for "The Elephants of Neptune." Alas.
Unfortunately, the mood was brought down further when we learned that a Harry Potter book won Best Novel. I have yet to find one person who's voted it for first place. Everyone seems as dismayed as I am. I've heard theories ranging from the Internet voting to Australian tabulation, but the fact remains is that a book that has already enjoyed much, perhaps too much, attention in the mainstream beat out such favorites as George R. R. Martin's A STORM OF SWORDS and Rob Sawyer's CALCULATING GOD.
The Harry Potter books are well-written, and very popular, but they are children's books, and to be honest—hasn't it won enough awards already? I can just imagine, "Ms. Potter, you've won something called a Hugo. What shall I do with it?" "Oh, just put it in the pile, thank you." Okay, maybe that's unfair, but Ang Lee managed to send a pleasant, sincere note of thanks for the "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" win, but Ms. Rowling sent neither message nor representative. A local children's librarian who had been in attendance had been tapped to receive the award should it have won. Many wonder if Ms. Rowling even knew she had been nominated. Is SF fandom becoming mainstreamed? I won't comment, but I'll look long and meaningfully at the rows and rows of media tie-in books and let you do the thunkering. The other Novel nominees wuz robbed.
That aside, I still horned and bulled my way through to the photo session and snapped the happy winners. Immediately after, I beat a path to the internet lounge and passed on the news to the Resnick listserve members (who were salivating for news), the RISFC mailing list (of which Bob Eggleton is a member) and the folks at RI_Fantastic. My duty done for those left behind this year.
It being the last official evening of the con, the parties were noisier and more rowdy; the smell of booze in the elevators was more obvious. With the exception of visiting the SFF.net suite for their Pan-galactic Gargleblaster Party and the relaxation of the CFG suite, I spent most of the night in the lobby lounge hanging out with new friends and drinking non-alcoholic beer.
I saw Warren Lapine and grabbed him to find out if the rumors were true about _Aboriginal SF_. Sad, but true, another good SF magazine is biting the dust, but give credit where credit is due, Warren has done a lot to save the genre magazines and can't be blamed for one failing slick out of six or seven others he keeps in print. Actually, _Science Fiction Chronicle_ is doing well enough to move from Semi-prozine to full prozine. Unfortunately, this means it can't compete for a Hugo any longer with Locus and the others, but on the plus side, this means that more coverage on the field is going out than had been before.
Unexpectedly, I found myself spending the last portion of the evening working on some writing. I had been feeling guilty over not writing for the past couple of days that during a quiet moment in the lounge, I pulled out my notebook and began expanding on some character development for a fantasy novel I'm working on. It was pretty gratifying as I broke through a barrier and got down to some nitty-gritty darkness in my characters, particularly with the anti-hero. I had been having a problem with that, and I don't write evil well unless it's humor. Then I noticed George R. R. Martin and friends at the next table over and figured that I must have been drawing off some of his karmic energy, or whatever it is that allows him to write scenes of such shuddering brutality that I feel physically assaulted after reading them.
I wrote for about an hour and a half and finally went up to bed after hitting the seventh and eighth floors to see if anything interesting was still happening. Saw some folks, made some chatter, then off to bed, a weary boy.
Last day of the con. One thing that pleasantly surprised me was the sense that the time didn't just fly by. Despite all the running around I did, despite all the activity and so forth, I still managed to feel relaxed by Monday morning. Not read to go back to work, mind you, but relaxed just the same.
The hotel wanted us out of our room, understandably, so I packed up, left the last of my room tips, and left the bulk of our baggage wth the bell captain first thing in the morning. I still had a con to attend. I didn't make it to any more panels that day, but I did take advantage of opportunity to meet more folks. I met up with Nick DiChario in the lounge and chatted with him a while until Mike Resnick and some more listserve members showed up. We took some final photos together, and went our separate ways to attack what was left of the con. (Mike had a business meeting actually, but I saw him a couple of more times before he left later that day.)
I hit the hucksters room one final time and gathered up some magazines that had been reduced in price. I also made sure I had some souveniers for the folks in my office who were, and would be, toiling away in my stead during my absence. Met a few more pros, took another roll of pictures, and talked with a whole lot of people until they finally kicked everyone out of the hucksters room for good. My bus was leaving at six, so I spent my last hour in the lounge talking with people. Many folk had either left or were in the process of leaving, although I met a few who planned to stay an extra day to take in the local sights. As for me, I was finally ready to go home.
The bus back wasn't as pleasant as the bus going, although I managed to get a seat to myself for the New York-to-Providence run. Unlike my arrival trip, it was too dark out to make out the World Trade Center, a pity considering that I'd never see it again, but at least I saw it one last time on the way down to MilPhil. And I've learned later from someone who claims to be in a position to know that the blood we donated was sent to New York to help where it could.
I arrived back in Providence exhausted and ready to collapse. My luggage was among the last to come out, so all the cabs had disappeared by the time I was ready to roll, but through preservance and a handleful of change for the phone, I made it home and crashed to sleep by 4am Tuesday morning.
It's tradition among worldcons to hold gripe sessions at the end of each con. Personally, I had a great time, and wasn't in the mood to listen to complaints about things I didn't even notice. Everything ran fine from my neofan perspective. Sure, the nametags were impossible to read, but that was easily fixed. The convention center charged way too much at their food and beverage carts, but with hotel Starbucks, Reading Terminal Market across the street, a MacDonalds up the way, the underground mall, and all of Chinatown... who cared? While the hotel vending machines were never stocked, the gift shop had good hours and was a better deal anyway. And as for the convention center staff, the hotel staff, and everyone on the concom, they were as pleasant and helpful as they could be and made for a very enjoyable experience.
There is something called The Neofan Manifesto that was handed out at Chicon 2000. It was written by Julie Stickler (there's a copy at http://www.emcit.com/neofan.shtml) and it talks about how to make new fans feel more welcome at Worldcon. Fandom has been around for a long time now, so it's natural that there is a certain well-established "in crowd" involved. It can be pretty intimidating to arrive at a con, a newcomer, and not know many people beyond contact on the internet. I had a lot of help from Mike Resnick, the list members, and the folks at sff.net prior to the con, and from many people during the con, both fans and pros, who made me feel welcome and part of the family.
People asked me, after I returned, how I enjoyed my trip. Invariably, I answered, "It was the best time I've ever had... anywhere!" and I meant it. If you've never been to a worldcon, I highly recommend it to you. Sure, it's expensive. Sure, there's travel involved. But it's more than worth it. Whether you're going to meet pros or fans, whether you're going to attend or give panels, whether you're going to network and publicize, whether you're going to fill in a blank long weekend, it doesn't matter. Just get to worldcon.
See you at San Jose in 2002.
John's MilPhil 2001 Report Page
John Teehan's Home Page