Archive for category fandom
I recently attended the Small Press Expo in Bethesda, MD, and felt that I should revive this blog to report my observations. The book is still on hold. I am currently unemployed and in that place where I’m thinking wow, I’m probably going to have to take a terrible minimum wage job just to make ends meet.
Anyway, this isn’t about me and my life, save in a tangential manner — it’s about conventions, and going to them, and what they’re like.
So! The Small Press Expo.
First off, the good things:
This was BY FAR one of the most diverse conventions I’ve ever been to. There was a sizable population of people who were neither white nor male, both among the exhibitors and attendees. There was also the largest openly trans*/genderqueer presence I’ve seen at pretty much any convention. Obviously I cannot quote numbers because hey, it’s impossible to tell sometimes, but in many other cases there were people who were openly proclaiming their status as trans* persons, which I’ve… actually never seen at a geek convention before. Meaning: I have met trans* people at conventions, but they generally didn’t proclaim their identity loudly and in fact took great pains to be invisible (PAX was an especial case in which an individual I had met had to be constantly re-assured that everything was okay and we were here to help him).
On top of that, there was a great diversity in the materials being offered. The comics at SPX ran the gamut from goofy weirdness like the one about the boy who turns into a boat, to quite deeply serious autobiographical pieces, to hand-painted children’s comics, to straight up porn.
The Ignatz awards were what I feel the Hugo awards SHOULD be like. The Hugos used to be (as far as I can tell) a fan-run award, with the idea being that the fans of science fiction and fantasy would choose the awards. I feel quite strongly that this is no longer the case; the Hugos are chosen now by the few who can 1. afford to go to the convention in the first place (which locks out people under the age of 40, people who aren’t white, and many LGBTQ persons), 2. who actually remember to bloody vote and 3. have the time to read up on the nominees / watch the shows / whatever (which locks out people with day jobs). SPX, meanwhile, has a much lower barrier of entry, being cheap to attend and, as I said, already drawing a huge variety of different individuals.
Ballot gathering was a good deal more egalitarian as well. My own method was this:
I walked around the floor with that box on my head telling people to cast their ballots. It worked pretty darn well! It got people’s attention and got them excited about voting, even if they might not have otherwise voted. Efficient? No, not really. Fun? Heck yes!
The award ceremony itself was mercifully short and free of too much pomp and circumstance. ALL the presenters were women, which, again, in an industry that at times seems so very male focused was a breath of fresh air.
The not so good things:
There were a number of big problems with organization. I was volunteering, and first off, there was no real effort made to properly coordinate volunteers or make sure volunteers were fed to the appropriate areas. I was never really told what to do, and though I’d signed up for line management I ended up just kind of hovering around the front desk, waiting to be told what to do. I did get to collect ballots, but other than that it all felt much too ad-hoc, and I really didn’t know what to expect. I wish there’d at least been a small pamphlet explaining what to do, or more volunteer coordinators on the floor, as well as a more official meeting place for volunteers to go to get assigned than “I guess… over there? or something?”
While panel times were listed in the program, there was no hotel map indicating where those panels were located, so we had a lot of guests going “Where are the panels?” The show floor map was confusing and difficult to read. There was no schedule for official book signings, and we had a lot of questions about that too, but no schedule to give anyone to indicate when those signings were.
The main afterparty was MUCH MUCH MUCH MUCH too crowded for the space it was being held in, and how / where people got drink tickets was entirely unclear. I managed to escape the party to go hang out with friends elsewhere, but the party was seriously less a party and more a mad mob descending upon chocolate fountains. I think a party suite system like what most SF cons I go to use might be a better way to spread people out, but that’d require people on the floor to figure things out rather than the con comm, which might go badly…
Overall, I think SPX is a wonderful small to mid-sized con, and a true celebration of comic arts and the people who make them. I hope it continues to be so even as it grows larger. I wish I could have bought everything in the exhibit hall, curse my lack of funds! And the best thing about that, though, is that I felt as though every dollar I spent was going to supporting a fellow creative artist who genuinely needed it, rather than some faceless megacorp, as is the case at some of the larger conventions.
A+ would attend again.
So I just completed my registration to Chicon 7, next year’s Worldcon.
“But Jensen,” you say, “You just said in your LAST post that Worldcon wasn’t really your thing!”
First, that’s more that Renovation wasn’t my thing. Chicon is a different city, a different administrative team, a different thing entirely. Second, well, I have to go, next fall is going to be my big thesis, and while I want to go to DragonCon, Chicon is going to be way more useful for networking than DragonCon will be.
That’s not the important thing, however. The important thing is that I’d like to invite all of you to go.
Yes, you. And you, and also you. All of you!
“Yeah but uh, why?” you ask.
Many of my problems with Renovation were because there was too little representation from my age group, my people, and my interests. If I invite my friends to go, well, that solves that problem, doesn’t it? We can kick in the door, open a dialogue, and cause some real change here. And Worldcon really is a valuable experience, in my opinion. You should go at least once, just for the history, just to see that hey, this is where your culture came from (well, if you’re a nerd, anyway), this is the great granddaddy of all cons.
So what am I offering to entice you?
Thing about Chicon is that they’re offering a con rate of $150 a night… for rooms of up to quads. So here’s the thing. If I get five people to buy tickets and commit to rooming with me by January 1st, I can reduce that cost to $150 per person, total. And there’s still four beds! For con space, that’s pretty awesome. And if we’re willing to squeeze in and get friendly with eight people (2 people per bed, or we can sleep on the floor. It’s con time, come on, you should be used to this kind of thing), I can drop that cost to under $100 a person.
Come on guys. We can Make This Happen. And I assure you, it really is a good time. Not my favorite con, sure. But it is an extremely educational con, a piece of history, and something you have to see at least once in your lifetime.
Tickets to Chicon will stay at $170 (ie, semi-reasonable; for comparison this is about the same as SDCC’s cost) until September 30th. So get them while they last.
In other news! The next con I am absolutely attending is Philcon, which just so happens to be the oldest SF convention in the world (founded in 1936, ladies and gents). Looking forward to it! If you’re going, drop me a line.
So at long last, I’m going to sit here and talk about my overall feelings about Renovation, my first impression of WorldCon, and some general thoughts on the state of SF conventions as a whole.
But before I do that I’m going to talk about the phat lewt I got at the con.
The Philip K Dick, Philip Jose Farmer, and Elizabeth Bear books were a lucky grab from somebody who just yelled FREE HARDCOVERS near the free stuff table, and also make it so I had to check my luggage. Completely worth it though.
Hounded, as it turns out, isn’t actually a very good book; the author spends the entire first chapter on an infodump, which instantly turned me off. I prefer implicit narration to explicit narration when it comes to fantasy, and I do not want you to just tell me how awesome your ten thousand year old druid is. Indeed, I’d have been more drawn in if the character’s age were never stated, just implied to be really, really old. I haven’t started reading the steampunk book yet.
The Song of Ice and Fire buttons in the upper right corner I found randomly on Sunday; they were originally handed out at the ASOIAF fan club meeting. I have… way too many of them, so I’m going to be giving them away as soon as I have the free time to actually arrange mailing them out.
Finally, the towel everything is resting on is the only souvenir I bought at the con, and well worth every penny. I mean. Look at that towel, guys. I will never leave home without it again.
Alright, now onto the meat of this post: my feelings about WorldCon in general.
Overall? Yes, it was an interesting and excellent con. It has a very long history, and I had some excellent networking opportunities. The panels were, for the most part, interesting and engaging, and the parties provided wonderful ways to socialize. The Hugo Awards were fantastic to see and one of the highlights of the event.
But. And there are a lot of “buts.” Keep in mind when reading this that I approach this con not as an old-school SF fan but as someone who met fandom first through anime and second through media fandom and videogames. I am an outsider, I am a new-generation fan used to an entirely different convention scene. But I still think that my opinions and observations are entirely valid, and I’ll enumerate them here. Also: I still have two more SF cons to go to before I feel I’ll be able to safely say I have an idea of the spread of different types of SF cons, so my opinions may change from that as well.
First of all, the way I was hyped up for Worldcon did not live up to what I actually experienced. Everyone talked about it being the largest SF con, several oldfen warned me that I would be totally overwhelmed by all there was to do, reinforced by the program booklet and otherwise. Old stories of Worldcon talked about young starry-eyed fen’s lives being changed by this event, of them being lost and confused and ultimately welcomed into the fold as they rubbed shoulders with the greats.
The experience I had at the con itself was nothing like this.
First of all, Worldcon is not a large con at all. I was continually struck on the convention floor by how empty the place seemed, by how the convention occupied a space about five times larger than it needed to be in. Worldcon is 4000 people; I believe you could have fit 20,000 in the Reno-Sparks Convention Center (do NOT quote me on that, I don’t actually know the full capacity of the space, and I also don’t think you could do that comfortably… I just think you could do it), which in turn made me wonder why the hell the con committee had seen fit to rent such an egregiously oversized space. How much money was wasted on a convention center of that size? I saw many panel and meeting rooms go almost entirely unused at certain parts of the con, which again felt like a terrible waste of time, money, and resources.
Second, it was absolutely not worth the price in any way shape or form. Renovation’s tickets were around $200 at the door; for around a quarter of that price I could go to the Penny Arcade Expo and get a far, far better experience. “Yes,” you say, “But this is WORLDCON, not PAX! It’s DIFFERENT!!!” But what I’m saying is that the cost is prohibitive and I didn’t feel as though I was given my money’s worth at all. This event was not worth $200. Given that Worldcon moves around every year and is constantly in different locations, I could maybe see justifying $150 at-door, but as it stands the cost is absurd. You can argue the point all you like, but cost is absolutely a restrictive gateway for attendees, and doesn’t provide a particularly good return on the investment unless you are a pro. As a casual fan? This is not a con I would ever recommend.
Which in turn brings me to the social scene and a problem both myself and my friend Kevin encountered, in that we both felt terribly alienated here. It wasn’t quite as bad as my first Otakon (nothing will be that bad) but I still felt a genuine sense of displacement and, in some cases, like I wasn’t even wanted. In my case, if I mentioned my work on this blog, I would catch the interest of a few older fen, but this felt like they were only interested because they were flattered, and because they found they idea of a young fan researching fandom history almost exotic (the number of times I heard “but you’re so young!”…)
While I did make a few interesting connections at parties, these were largely with other younger fans who felt the same way — alienated and sometimes even ostracized by the larger fandom. In some ways, Worldcon felt like an old country club, full of people with their own rituals who had no interest in outsiders. I sometimes heard conversations where in the same breath as someone complaining about the “greying” of fandom they’d then complain about how the young people just didn’t get it, and were all too caught up in their animes and mangas to care about real fandom. Kevin elaborates on the feeling and his point on his own blog a bit better than I’m doing here.
SF fandom has fallen behind other fandoms. Where once Worldcon really was a giant of the con scene, the be all and end all, now it’s barely a footnote in comparison to other cons. You can go on and on about how the traveling nature makes it so much more expensive, about how the history makes it worth it, but that doesn’t change the fact that the young people aren’t coming to the con anymore, that we feel alienated and sometimes even ostracized, that the discussion isn’t as vibrant or interesting as it used to be. Frankly, I wasn’t impressed, and if it wasn’t for the fact that I need to keep going to Worldcon for my research, I wouldn’t go to Chicon next year.
This isn’t okay. For a culture to survive, it needs new blood, and Worldcon should find a way to make itself more inviting and palatable to people of my generation. Everywhere, people complain about the greying of fandom, but nothing is really done about this, nothing concrete anyway, and I get the feeling that nobody wants to do anything about it.
Now, on the flip side? It’s not like I didn’t have fun. I did. I got a lot of research done, I had some fascinating conversations, and yeah, I got to see the Hugos. I just don’t think that experience was worth the time, effort, and expense of the trip. Like I said, I’ll be doing Chicon next year, and in another two years I might do Worldcon if Orlando wins the bid (long story as to why), but that’s all the way in 2015, so who knows what I’ll be doing or feeling then.
And maybe it was just this particular con. After all, each Worldcon is very, very different from the rest, given the way they move around and are chaired by different people. Perhaps Chicon will be different, more welcoming, and more accessible. Who knows?
To conclude… to me, Worldcon feels like a fallen giant. I can see how back in the 60s, 70s, 80s, and even the early 90s it might have been a giant of fandom, the mainstay of the geek scene and the heart of all conventions, but now it feels like a fallen monarch, ousted from its glory by a combination of bigger, better, friendlier cons. I still think it’s worth going at least once, just to say you did, but it will not be a mainstay of my con stable.
(Also again, I’m sorry if this comes off as excessively bitter: I really did have a great time and really did get a lot of research done! The people who I did interact with were great. But I still had a lot of problems with the con I felt I needed to get off my chest.)
I should have been tired and hung over Friday morning, but my internal clock’s confusion over the time change combined with my amazing superpower to instantly fall asleep upon taking off in an aircraft (thus ensuring that I’d gotten seven hours of sleep before reaching the con) meant that I woke Friday morning by practically throwing myself out of bed. HAD TO GET TO ALL THE PANELS. EVERY LAST ONE. OH YES.
That said, I actually didn’t end up going to panels until noon. Instead, I spent my morning perusing the Free Stuff table (and seeding it with business cards, just in case), then meandering the Dealer’s Room picking up free swag. I had a nice chat with the gentleman at the McFarland & Company booth about my book; he seemed to be of the opinion that if I could finish it, I could certainly sell it, and encouraged me to submit. Personally I think my work isn’t quite academic enough and is more on the “creative” side of nonfiction (I think of it like a combination travelogue and history book; at any rate I’m not doing much academic analysis here). Even so, the vote of confidence was nice. I also had a chat with a fellow selling books for the Eclipse Phase RPG and apparently left quite an impression.
After that, I stopped by the fanac.org table. I was a bit shy at first, they’re actually rather intimidating people (though I imagine they’ll insist they aren’t), but after a bit of lurking I got up the courage to talk to Joe Siclari, the man behind the project. Joe was very nice and patient with my questions; he offered to introduce me to David Kyle on the spot. A combination of nerves and being late for a panel prevented me from taking him up on that offer, however.
I rushed to get to the Convention Running 101 panel. The panelists were Janice Gelb, a veteran Program Ops specialist; Andi Scheter, who started out in Star Trek conventions, and in addition to SF cons runs Mystery conventions; Gary Ehrlich, a native of my own Maryland and involved in Filk cons; Charlene MacKay who founded two western cons and is working on the 2015 Worldcon bid for Spokane; and finally James Shields representing the other side of the Atlantic as the con chair of several Irish conventions.
I have about two pages of notes on this panel which I won’t bore you with. The main points were to be very, VERY careful when negotiating with hotels and appoint a hotel liaison to ensure that one can get the best deal possible, that budgeting WILL bite you in the bum unless you keep a tight leash on it, and that it’s super important to find alternate sources of revenue. The overall impression I got is that running a convention is even harder than I assumed (I already knew it was back-breaking labor, but this was above and beyond.) Particularly, fan-run conventions like WorldCon are even harder to put on than conventions like, say, PAX or ComicCon because it’s all done by volunteers. None of these people make any money, it’s all non profit, and they don’t even have corporate sponsorship.
After that panel, I went to a panel called Consistent Magic Systems in Fantasy. The panelists were kind of a big deal, with L. E. Modesitt Jr., Tim Powers, Pat Rothfuss, Jo Walton, and Gregory A. Wilson. The main conclusion drawn at this panel is that magic was a sliding scale, but if the magic got too rule-based, it ceased to be magic and became a kind of science. In order for magic to really be, well, magical, it had to have some sense of wonder. That doesn’t mean that it’s not based on rules, but rather more that the rules aren’t explicitly stated; if the rules are known to the author but left for the audience to figure out, that’s how one attains consistency. All in all a highly enjoyable panel, as the panelists’ personalities played well off each other.
After that, I went to Tim Powers’ Guest of Honor speech. He meandered a bit, but was largely entertaining. My favorite quote (at least, that I wrote down!) was this: “What I think I read [science fiction] for is vertigo, disorientation, dislocation, precariousness. I assume you’ve read Flatland; I want to be A. Square experiencing ship rigging or a cathedral. Despite the weirdness, I want it to be believable. I want to experience the events, not merely know them.”
He also told a great story about a time that a group of Jehovah’s Witnesses came to his door. They asked him if he knew about Jesus, and he answered that he was Catholic, which they responded to by saying that was even worse than being an atheist, and he was surely going to hell. He listened politely, then said that he could prove that they were wrong, he just needed to see their bible. They handed it over, and he took out his magnifying glass so he could get a better look.
Now, it just so happened that it was a bright, sunny day, and he was angled so his magnifying glass caught the light just so…
Needless to say, he was never bothered by Jehovah’s Witnesses again; and the Witnesses maintain their low opinion of Catholics.
Following that panel, I think I went for lunch, but cannot actually remember. I believe I may have also taken a short nap, but my lack of sleep plus running around a convention center all day was catching up to me!
My next panel was called F*** Your Knight and the Horse He Rode In On, with panelists Saladin Ahmed, Aliette de Bodard, Christopher Kastensmidt, and Ken Scholes. The panel was about challenging the traditional fantasy staple of the medieval western fantasy by using elements from other cultures. The authors on panel, for instance, used everything from Aztec mythology to 16th century Brazilian folklore to Arabian myths. Everyone in the audience seemed to agree that we’re all very tired of medieval European fantasy and want something fresh. As for me? I ended up with four more authors on my giant “To Read” list.
I ended up fifteen minutes late for my next panel, Post-Modern Fantasy, Epic and Otherwise. Of all my Friday panels, this one was the most disappointing. The panelists were N. K. Jemisin, William Lexner, Nick Mamatas, Peadar O Guilin, Brandon Sanderson, and Brent Weeks. By the time I arrived, the panel had gone from discussing postmodernism to a large argument over just what postmodernism really was; not only that, but several audience members grumbled about how much they hate the genre and wished that SF writers would stop trying to use it (to which I could only ask “Why are you HERE then?” I’d gone in with the hopes of seeing some real discussion and finding yet more books to add to my list, but was ultimately disappointed on both accounts. Most of the panelists didn’t seem to have any background in postmodernism and thus no idea how to talk about it efeffectively. I did briefly get to chat up Brandon Sanderson after the panel, so not all was lost.
After that, I caught back up with Amanda and Kevin and we went for dinner at the Gas Lamp Grill. The fare was decent enough and far better priced than the stuff at the Atlantis. Unfortunately, I’d already come down with what I like to call Con Nerves, an affliction whereby nervousness and anxiety means I can’t eat very much. The food was still very good, I just couldn’t get any of it down. The conversation was pleasant, and all three of us shared our various in-progress stories (makes me wish I could go back to writing fiction – I miss it. Soon… soon.) Alas, the excellent conversation meant we were very, VERY late for the Masquerade. The event was hosted by Phil and Kaja Foglio, and was… rather long, actually. The costumes were good, but I was a bit underwhelmed by it all, particularly because everyone had hyped up the event so much. Far more entertaining was Paul Cornell hosting “Just A Minute”. The contestants were Bill Willingham (who was quite drunk), Seanan McGuire Lauren Buccas (I have spelled her name wrong, I know, but I don’t have a written list), John… … John “I can’t hear his last name on this recording, sadly”. (The recording is here, so if anyone can correct these names please do.) Seanan won by a landslide thanks to her mastery of the ridiculous list.
The awards themselves were poorly organized, so the three of us adjourned to the Atlantis, where I eventually wound up at the Convolution party. They tempted me in with sushi-shaped candies and delicious chicken satay… none of which I actually ended up eating, oddly enough. Even so, the atmosphere was great (the whole room was decorated in a dark urban fantasy motif) and the conversation excellent (though damned if I can remember what was said. Again.)
At some point, we ended up back at the hotel, but when exactly I can’t recall.
And that was Friday! My Saturday and Sunday reports will have to come at a later date, as I’m quite tired and I have a lot of work to do over the next two days…
Again, as a reminder to those of you who got Kickstarter rewards: don’t make me come after you. If you don’t tell me what photos you want, I will not be able to send them to you!
My Renovation experience began in earnest when I stepped off the plane Thursday evening to meet Amanda, a person whom I had only known for about a month through an online RPG. We didn’t even play with each other; it was through a conversation with someone else entirely that we discovered we were both going to WorldCon, and we figured well, why not? It’s this kind of random friendship-from-thin-air that I feel really makes a con. To put it another way, a convention is anywhere between three hundred and thirty thousand friends you never knew you had.
The first order of business was to hit the hotel – not the Peppermill or Atlantis, mind you, but the Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham Reno Airport. I’m a graduate student, there’s simply no way I could have afforded the other two, much as I desperately wanted to stay in the Atlantis! The Hawthorn Suites was cheap though, and breakfast was included, so I can’t complain. Amanda was staying in the hotel right next door, so she helped me drop my stuff off, check in, and get situated. Then it was off to the Peppermill first for some gaming!
Our journey was perilous indeed, as it involved crossing – gasp – a casino floor. It’s been years since I was last in Nevada, and I’d almost forgotten how labyrinthine casinos can be. The Peppermill was especially bad: my friend Kevin described it as “a Gibsonian nightmare,” a not inaccurate descriptor considering all the damned blinking lights. It took us a while to get through, but eventually we figured out where the gaming rooms were.
They were surprisingly empty, but I put it down to this first not being a gaming con and second to the parties all being in the Atlantis (and alcohol is a great motivator.) I briefly looked in on the tail end of the Dresden Files LARP, just finishing that very hour. I was quite sad my flight hadn’t got in earlier, as the rules looked interesting. All was not lost, however, as Amanda and I soon found ourselves a game of pick-up DnD Encounters. It took four editions, but I finally had my first taste of edition-hate – Encounters really doesn’t deliver the experience I’m looking for. Don’t get me wrong, I had fun, but everything felt a little too board-gamey for my tastes. Great as a pickup game, but not DnD. While there, I was also entertained by stories from the Dresden Files LARPers, and from meeting a new friend, Robert, who I kept running into throughout the con.
After that, I suggested we go pick up my roommate for the con, Kevin. Kevin was over at the launch party for The Magician King, and it’s at this point that things begin to get a little fuzzy for me, as there was an awful lot of free alcohol. I do recall speaking to a kilted gentleman who had provided the beer, which was excellent. This would become a theme – basically, Lev’s parties were where the good beer was. While in the midst of a conversation, someone popped in from across the hall to shout “THEY HAVE A JACCUZI FULL OF BEER AT THE TOR PARTY!!!”
Enticed by this image, I was compelled to cross the hall in search of more beer. The beer in question was far less fine than the stuff at the Magician King party, but more abundant, and it was getting to the point that I was having difficulty telling the difference.
At some point, I ended up telling a story about my time in Japan, which segued into a talk about my project. Apparently, talking about fan history draws old fen like flies to honey, and I was soon surrounded, sharing (drunkenly and incoherently) my drive for the project, my nervousness that I would not be able to finish it (apparently even delicious beer can’t shake my anxiety!) and what research I’d done so far. One gentleman saw fit to inform me of the locations of several excellent fanzine collections, including the one at UC Riverside. He gave me his email address, and it was a solid three days before I realized that the man in question had been David Hartwell! This encounter set the tone for the rest of Worldcon – I made so many contacts and encountered so many big name fans and authors that my head is still spinning.
At this point, I suggested going back to the hotel. I think Kevin likely wanted to stay a bit longer, but Amanda was tired and I was jetlagged, so we headed on back. Kevin and I managed to keep each other up with good conversation until four in the morning. I’m fairly certain I finally fell asleep in the middle of a thought, my body vetoing my mind’s desire to keep talking.
NEXT UP: FRIDAY
Ladies and gentlemen, I am returned from Worldcon.
Of all the cons I’ve been to thus far, this has absolutely been the most successful in terms of the information I got out of it. It wasn’t the most fun I’ve ever had at a con (that’s PAXEast) nor was it the most well-organized con I’ve ever been to (… again, the award goes to PAXEast), but unlike every other convention I’ve ever seen I got a real sense of history. Worldcon has a weight to it, a sense of real history I’ve never seen at any con. Maybe it was because I got to meet the (in)famous David Kyle in person, maybe it was seeing the Hugo Awards and the most heartfelt acceptance speech I’ve ever seen anywhere ever, I’m not certain. I met a lot of people who all shoved business cards at me (and I at them!) and I hope I can remember to contact them all (seriously folks, I’m staring at this pile going WAIT… I THINK I REMEMBER YOU?)
Over the next few days, I’m going to be emailing everyone whose business cards I got and posting day-by-day con reports, starting with Thursday evening. I’ll also soon have my Kickstarter reward articles up (though those may take a while longer).
But speaking of Kickstarter: I owe pictures! Sadly I’m a pretty terrible photographer, and the con itself wasn’t all that glamorous. Worldcon stopped accepting outside sponsorships in the 50s (they used to take out large advertisements from SF publishers and magazines; now they pride themselves on being self-contained, at the expense of being one of the most expensive fan conventions in the US) so there were very few big displays, almost no hall costumers (though many steampunk outfits) and I didn’t get a chance to explore the Reno countryside.
Those of you who Pledged $10 or more on Kickstarter, please tell me what photographs you want (email me at firstname.lastname@example.org) and I’ll get them to you as soon as I can.
So, before I do anything else: THEM PICTURES!
If you’re in any of these pictures and you don’t want them up here, PLEASE email me (email@example.com) and let me know. Kickstarter people: Tell me which photos you want! Email, comments, whatever.
Next up: Day one of Worldcon.
So now I’m going to talk about the panels I CAN get to! Yay! much more exciting.
Events in BLUE represent free time that I can do whatever I want in. Events in RED represent stuff that I CANNOT MISS EVER. Events in GREEN are just suggested things to do with my time. Yes, it looks kind of packed, but hey, it’s a con. Sleep is for the weak.
I’m pretty excited about all these panels. Man, I still can’t believe I’m actually going tomorrow. Woo!
In every convention, there are always panels we have to miss, be it due to time constraints, schedule mixups, or being too tired from partying all night the night before. I’m aware of this fact. I’ve come to terms with it.
… except this time for Worldcon, I’m just kicking myself for not going the full five days.
I have my reasons! It’s pretty expensive to do a Worldcon, and at the time I thought I’d be working. It’s just, coincidentally, I’m actually working fewer hours this week (which I didn’t know in advance) so I feel like a moron for not going for the full five days, hotel costs be damned.
The panels that I’m missing, though, would have been a huge boon for my work. I’m going to list them here, for posterity. And actually, if anyone reading this blog happens to be going to these panels, I’d love to know what’s said at them! Or heck, if there are, for whatever reason, youtube videos, or anything really, please point them to me.
Opening Ceremony — 3:00 pm, C04 — Self explanatory. I’ve actually only been to one convention opening ceremony before in my life, period; I feel like I should go to more. Not this one though, I guess.
Done to Death: Program Topics that have Outstayed their Welcome — 4:00 pm, A10 — “Which common panel topics should be retired, and why? When does a topic become outdated and cliche?” This panel would have been a great way to get a feeling for the convention environment, to see what people want to talk about and what con veterans are tired of.
Tim Powers’ “On Stranger Tides” — 4:00 pm, A13 — Okay, I admit it — this one isn’t so much for this project as it is because I just really liked On Stranger Tides. That, and a friend of mine did ask me to write him an 800 word article on Tim Powers! But even if I was there Wednesday, this’d conflict with the “Done to Death” panel.
Fandom Online: Is the argument over? What was (is?) the argument about? — 5:00 pm, A16 – “Many SF fans are part of the online community too. Yet we seem to keep emphasizing opposition rather than overlap. Are some of us always looking for a fight or is there still real cause for concern?” — For me, this would have been just more of a barometer for SF fandom itself, getting a feel for what the online community is like.
Convention Running 101: Legal Compliance for Non-Profits — 11:00 am, A18 — “So you want to run a convention? What do you need to do to be a nonprofit? You’re working on a con? What can you write off? What are your obligations?” Do I even need to explain why I wanted to go to this panel? Do I??? Holy mother of god, this is everything I’ve been wanting and needing to know! I’ve been looking for so long to find out the technical aspects behind running cons, and this is just the ticket, especially since I got asked to help run a convention for the fans of the webcomic MS Paint Adventures (Don’t quote me on that — not sure if I can make the commitment). But I can’t go, as I will be on a plane until 8:30 pm.
Anime Cons: When will they grow up? 12:00 pm, A09 — “Is the program at anime cons essentially free publicity venues for distributors? If so, will this change?” This has been a question in my mind ever since I broke out of the anime con circuit and realized that at other cons, you have panels that are actually about things. Like, for instance, the state of the industry, or how to break in, or the physics of superheroes, or nanobots, or whatever, while anime cons you have panels on… Gaia Online. Or Yaoi panels that are basically an hour of fansqueeing with no real discussion about anything. It also would have been a good way for me to launch my research into anime cons, to get really started with that avenue of inquiry.
How did we get to where we are? A Brief History of the Hugos — 5:00 pm, A16 — “We take a look at the awards from the first Science Fiction Achievement Awards in 1953. Categories have come and gone over the years, including the #1 Fan Personality. What category was strongly considered to be dropped in the mid-70s. Why were there so many variations in the categories? How were the winners chosen, really? Other alternatives?” — History of the Hugos, folks! This is stuff I need to know. Again.
Regional and National Conventions: Past, Present, and Future — 5:00 pm, A18 — “The regional and national SF convention, while it does not date to the very beginnings of fandom, has a long and interesting history. Our panel looks back at days gone by and speculates on the future.” I would have had to pick between the Hugo panel and this one; I’d pick this one. This panel is about the thing I am writing this book on, right here, it is the perfect panel. And. I’m missing it. Whoops.
This isn’t to say that I’m not going to a whole bunch of great panels. Indeed, tomorrow I’ll have a full schedule up of the panels I’m trying to go to. This is just me lamenting what I’ve missed. Again! If you or someone you know are going to these, please tell me, so I can press them for information.
Even with me missing Wednesday and Thursday, I’m looking forward to this con. I just hope I can afford Chicon 7 next year (it’s… unlikely. But I’ll do my best.)
So recently there was a most excellent convention in which a lot of people had interesting talks about the speculative fiction industry!
“YEAH!” you are saying, “SDCC, right!?”
Nope because it happened last weekend and I was actually able to go.
Yeah, sorry to everyone who was expecting MAD SDCC COVERAGE here, I shall not be attending this year (though I have several friends going and will be glued to their twitter feeds). Instead I’m going to talk a little about a lesser known con, Readercon.
Readercon is a smallish SF Con — only 850 attendees — that takes place in Burlington, Mass every year around July. Even moreso than Boskone, Readercon is focused on SF and fantasy literature. Boskone at least usually has some TV, film, and videogame based programming; Readercon has only panels about writing and reading SF. The upshot of the tiny size and narrow focus is that if you’re interested in meeting authors in the field, you can get quite up close and personal with them, and even get invited along for all sorts of hangouts and events.
Highlights of the con were two of David Malki!’s panels: “True Stuff from Old Books,” concerning weird stuff he finds in old books (mostly, the Victorians were very fond of absolutely terrible puns) and “Tin Foil Hat Open Mic,” a wider panel about bizarre conspiracy theories (highlight: the pyramids were built by intergalactic doughnuts), and Meet The Pros(e) Party, a big party in which the authors attending the con handed out stickers with their favorite sentence from a recent work of theirs, and the guests got to talk with them and re-arrange the sentences as they liked (I got a few really funny flash fiction pieces out of this; I’d share, but the page is somewhere on the floor of my room). I also greatly enjoyed the after party on Saturday night that I got invited to, wherein I was instructed on the proper way to drink scotch.
What I noticed most about Readercon was the intellectual nature of the discussions and panels. Most of what was said wouldn’t be out of place in a college lecture hall, giving the whole con a delightfully intellectual air. Definitely a great con, I’ll be happy to go back next year.
So now ABOUT SDCC…
Like I said, I won’t be able to make it this year, but for those of you who ARE going, if you guys would be so kind as to tell me about your experiences I’d greatly appreciate it! I’m especially interested in things like how the surrounding city prepares for the deluge of nerddom (SanDiego natives, I’m even MORE interested in what YOU have to say). Those of you at the con itself — I’ve heard rumors that the multimedia presence at SDCC is going to be downplayed this year as major film studios move on to more profitable venues? Tell me your stories! Link me your favorite SDCC related blogs!
Hello, everyone; I’m not dead, just caught in the throes of a lazy summertime.
I recently finished the book The Immortal Storm by Sam Moskowitz. This book is a chronicle of the history of science fiction fandom in the 1930s. It happens to be the most thorough resource I’ve found thus far on the beginnings of fandom, far easier to track down than ancient fan magazines. Furthermore, while it is biased, it’s biased in a different direction than most resources of its type: most of the memoirs of early fandom (Pohl and Asimov, for instance) are firmly in the Futurian camp. Moskowitz, of course, was one of the leaders of New Fandom, the counter-resistance group to the Futurians, thus this book isn’t precisely kind to the latter. That said, my cross-referencing with other works, including primary source documents and a confession by one of the Futurians, suggests that while they weren’t the demons Moskowitz sometimes makes them out to be, they certainly were rather arrogant and entitled towards fandom as a whole.
Sadly, the book is about as dull as a sack of hammers. There’s very little about what the clubs were like in their day to day meetings, almost no physical description or even notes about the personalities of those involved. Nearly the entire first half of the work is little more than a list of fan magazines.
That said, it still remains the most comprehensive account of early fandom I’ve found thus far, and there are some real gems in it. Moskowitz’ account of the first World Science Fiction Convention is fantastic, as are his accounts of the various indignities he suffered at the hands of Donald Wollhiem – not because they’re shining unbiased accounts, but because they’re a glorious account of the infighting and backbiting that went on in fandom in those days. I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again: fandom has never changed, people have always spelled things badly, fought over irrelevant things, and gone on giant ego trips.
I think the most interesting thing I’ve discovered thus far was that Moskowitz was only 19 years old when he ran the first Worldcon. Given that, I hardly find the fact that he banned the Futurians from entering, I mean, I would have too if I was nineteen years old and had been repeatedly trolled!
I’ll be trying to take more detailed notes before I have to send this book back through Interlibrary Loan. I wish I owned a copy, but the only available ones are $50 (!) and I just don’t have that kind of cash, especially for a book I’m likely to cover with notes and highlighter. If only there was a way to make a digital annotated copy… ah well.