WORLDCON REPORT — FRIDAY, AUGUST 19 — Panels Panels Panels!

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!

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  1. #1 by Jason on November 10, 2011 - 6:31 pm

    Typically many cards had been simple black text on white stock; these days a expert business card will occasionally consist of 1 or much more elements of striking visual style.

  2. #2 by Matheus on May 23, 2012 - 12:22 am

    , I think a Worldcon that averaged 10,000 meebmrs would be a more robust and exciting event, and have enough financial clout to lessen some of the recurring facilities problems. And I think getting there is a matter of some pretty minor tweaking that wouldn’t in any way compromise either Worldcon’s history or purpose. It would help with some of those ROI problems, too.

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