Worldcon Recap: The Nonsensical Version


I got back from Worldcon yesterday night.  Things are still a bit of a blur.  My mind has been dragged every which way by so many good feelings.  Truly.  Honestly.  So what follows is a recap of things I can remember right now, in a completely random and nonsensical order.  If I forgot you for some reason, please smack me in the comments.

I went to Worldcon with my besterestestest friend ever!  On top of that, I met a lot of folks I consider to be friends, but whom I have not met in person.  Friendship is wonderful!


General Reaction
I’ve never been to Worldcon (or any straight SF/F convention), so I didn’t really know what to expect (I suspect the same is true for Jen, who came with me, but I can’t speak for her).  Sure, a few folks offered a lot of opinions about it, but since we’re all a little different, I didn’t know exactly what to make of it all.  There were also those worrisome bits involving The Song of the South and what not prior to the actual event.

That said, I had an absolute blast.  I’ve been to anime conventions before, but since I’ve never been embedded into the anime world, I always felt a little like an outsider at such places.  At
Worldcon, the tables had turned.  I actually knew people.  More surprising was the fact that some folks knew me.  Nothing could really have prepared me for that.  In a weird way, Worldcon felt like the kind of place at which I belonged — a literature-heavy SF/F/ bonanaza!  Would I go again?  Yes.  And if I can afford to do so next year, it’ll happen.

We recorded a whole bunch of interviews and discussions at Worldcon.  Expect them to appear on The Skiffy and Fanty Show soon!  Needless to say, it was awesome.

WSFS Meetings
After hearing about the horror show on the first day of the WSFS meetings (from Rachael Acks), I decided I’d rather spend my days talking with people who won’t make me feel like stabbing myself.  There’s a podcast about this stuff coming soon…

San Antonio
It sucks.  The Alamo is about as unimpressive as the giant ball of twine in Cawker City, Kansas.  I get that you’re not really supposed to leave the hotels and convention areas, but San Antonio made it so you never had a reason to anyway.  Maybe that’s kind of the point.

I’m not sure if this is normal, having never attended before, but the average age of a Worldcon attendee seemed to be in the area of 55.  More 20s-30s seemed to show up over the weekend, but they were insanely outnumbered by older folks.  We talked about this very thing in one of the recording sessions at Worldcon, which will show up on The Skiffy and Fanty Show page eventually.

There were an awful lot of white male folks at Worldcon.  Perhaps that has something to do with the venue, or maybe it’s just a normal occurrence.  All I can say is this:  it’s just weird.  That’s how I feel about it now.  I spend my workdays surrounded by women, people of color, etc.  So going from a relatively (though incompletely) diverse space to one that seemed, at least from my view of things, nearly monolithic in form…well, it was just plain weird.

I’ll break this down into mini sections:

  1. I was genuinely surprised to see so many panels about SF from elsewhere in the world.  Based on some of my interactions with certain factions of the SF/F community involved in Worldcon, I seriously expected the world to get ignored.  Future Worldcons should certainly do more, but I applaud the effort.
  2. The combat panel with Elizabeth Bear, Elizabeth Moon, etc. was quite interesting, though Jen and I were both surprised at the weird gender split:  this particular panel featured all women; the other combat-related panel featured all men.  I don’t know what to make of that right now.  In any case, the panel was awesome.
  3. I think we went to every panel on which Tobias Buckell was a panelist.  He was awesome.
  4. Myke Cole did a stint as Lou Anders for a panel featuring authors I happen to really like.  He was hilarious.
  5. Why were Scott Lynch, Nick Mamatas, Myke Cole, and so many other authors and professionals absent from the programming (with the exception of Myke, who moderated a panel)?  Seriously.
  6. The most annoying thing about programming at Worldcon:  all the folks who have no business being on a panel about X because they are not reasonable authorities about X.  Jen and I went to several panels in which one or two of the panelists either didn’t know why they’d been pegged for that panel or simply didn’t belong.  Case in point:  the panel on the future of the US-Mexico border featured absolutely zero Mexican and/or Hispanic panelists (as far as I could tell).  Apparently what counts as “qualified to talk about the US-Mexico border” are “folks who live or lived near or crossed a border somewhere on the planet.”

    This is probably the worst example, but we also saw a lot of panels about science or subgenres or writing that featured folks who simply didn’t fit in.  There were so many professionals and knowledgeable folks at Worldcon, so it doesn’t make much sense, to be honest.

  7. Would it be possible to stop having panels about subjects SF/F peeps have been debating pointlessly for decades?  And can moderators start cutting these questions out from consideration?  Why are we still talking about the definition of space opera or loose explanations for the connection between science and genre?
The list of people I met, however briefly in some cases, is so long that I’m still drawing blanks.  That said, I’d like to thank all of these folks for talking to me, even if only for a few moments (in no particular order):
  • Julia Rios (for putting up with my ridiculous humor and being awesome)
  • Mike Underwood (you upstaging bastard…also:  you sold me a lot of books, man)
  • Emma Newman (for the lovely mini-view)
  • J.A. Pitts (for hanging out at lunch and the amazing conversation on Monday)
  • Arley Sorg (ditto)
  • Tobias Buckell (for putting up with my fanboy nonsense and agreeing to an interview)
  • Nick Mamatas (for so many many many things, not least of which involved buying me breakfast, agreeing to an interview and discussion, and offering to help get Japanese authors on The Skiffy and Fanty Show next year)
  • Myke Cole (for fun times and for trusting Jen and I enough to open up to us about things I won’t mention here; it was incredible meeting you for the first time, and I’m certain we’ll be friends for a long time to come)
  • Stina Leicht (for being awesome)
  • Cassandra Clarke (for hanging out during lunch and having so many interesting things to say about so much)
  • Chuck Wendig (for talking to Jen and I at the last minute, and for saying nice things about us on your blog and Twitter)
  • Keffy Kehrli (for stalking me relentlessly — kidding!  You rock!)
  • Paul Cornell (for saying you enjoyed the interview we did with you on The Skiffy and Fanty Show — warm fuzzies)
  • Jay Lake (saw your film and it was amazing, but not nearly as amazing as you — it was also wonderful seeing both you and your daughter on stage at the Hugos)
  • Sam Sykes (for being incredibly interesting in a random hallway in the dealer’s room)
  • Rachael Acks (for being incredibly awesome and coming to every single one of our walk-by recording sessions)
  • Justin Landon (for doing things that we will not discuss in public, because what happens at Worldcon stays at Worldcon — it’s on Twitter, though…)
  • Michael J. Martinez (for hanging out and making life interesting — also:  we’re inventing a game called “Find Mike”; players will have to look at random pictures from Worldcon and see if they can find you in the sea of faces)
  • J.R. Vogt (for chatting about RPGs, writing, and geeky things with us)
  • Max Gladstone (for the wonderful chat at Drinks with Authors)
  • Paul Genesse (for forgetting my beautiful face, but making up for it beautifully with a signed book!)
  • Laureen Hudson (for the in-depth talk about small presses, life on a boat, and so much more)
  • And so many other people I can’t remember at the moment.  It was wonderful meeting you all!
Patrick Hester
You better watch yourself, sir.  I’m coming for you.  *grrr face*
The Hugo Awards
Meh.  I will probably have more extensive thoughts later…
The only things I’d like to say now are the following:
  • George R. R. Martin and Rory McCann (who plays The Hound on Game of Thrones) showed up to accept an award.  Holy crap!  That’s awesome!
  • I was pleasantly surprised to see Ken Liu’s short story win over Aliette de Bodard’s “Immersion.”  Though I voted for the latter, it’s hard to be disappointed with Liu’s amazing work winning an award.
  • Some of the things folks picked to win will probably haunt me for a decade.  Wrong, wrong…WRONG.  Go figure.
I feel like the motto of all conventions should go something like this:

Person #1:  The panels are done for the day.  How are we going to keep this party going?
Person #2:  With alcohol.  Lots and lots of alcohol.

My liver is still recovering…
They gave so many books away at Worldcon that even if I hadn’t bought a ton of things from the Angry Robots table, I probably still would have had that experience where you have to take stuff out of your checked luggage because it’s too heavy.  But, of course, I spent a lot of money at the Angry Robots table…and Jen and I won a bunch of books from Justin Landon’s magic Drink with Authors party.
What did I get?  Here’s the list:
  • Galaxy’s Edge #4 edited by Mike Resnick
  • The Stars Do Not Lie by Jay Lake (booklet)
  • Justice League International #1 and #2
  • Just League of America #2, #3, and #5
  • Asimov’s Science Fiction (July 2000 and October/November 2000)
  • Obsidian & Blood by Aliette de Bodard (omnibus)
  • A Walk in the Abyss (various authors)
  • Emilie & the Hollow World by Martha Wells
  • Nexus by Ramez Naam
  • Crux by Ramez Naam
  • Dreams & Nightmares #93
  • Between Two Thorns by Emma Newman
  • A Star Above It (vol. 1):  Selected Stories of Chad Oliver
  • The Straits of Galahesh by Bradley P. Beaulieu
  • The Assassin’s Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke
  • Sixty-One Nails by Mike Shevdon
  • The Blue Blazes by Chuck Wendig
  • Greatshadow by James Maxey
  • King Maker by Maurice Broaddus
  • Bedlaw by James Lovegrove
  • Hounded by Kevin Hearne
  • The Darwin Elevator by Jason M. Hough
  • The Concrete Grove by Gary McMahon
  • Crown of the Blood by Gav Thorpe
  • The Alchemist of Souls by Anne Lyle
  • Chris F. Holm by Dead Harvest
  • A Discourse in Steel by Paul. S. Kemp
  • The Lowest Heaven (various)
  • Speculative Fiction 2012 edited by Justin Landon and Jared Shurin
  • Entertainment by Algis Budrys
  • Far From This Earth (vol. 2):  Selected Stories of Chad Oliver
  • Self-Reference Engine by Toh EnJoe
  • Lord of Mountains by S.M. Stirling
Also:  the TSA checked my bag on the way home, which meant they fecked up the order of things.  Jerks.
And that’s where I’m going to stop for now.  There’s too much to say and so little time to say it!
If you attended Worldcon, let me know how you liked it!

About the Author:

Shaun Duke is an aspiring writer, a reviewer, and an academic. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Digital Rhetoric and Writing at Bemidji State University. He received his PhD in English from the University of Florida and studies science fiction, postcolonialism, digital fan cultures, and digital rhetoric.

4 thoughts on “Worldcon Recap: The Nonsensical Version

  1. I filled out the programming questionnaire, and in the end received the "sorry, we can find no use for you on panels" form letter. This same letter asked if I still wanted to do a signing; I responded that I would take any combination of signing/reading/kaffeeklatsch they liked. Nobody ever responded. I sent an e-mail withdrawing myself from my previous request about three days before the con (at things as busy and chaotic as a Worldcon, I'm a firm believer in reasonably sufficient advance notice); not that I expected anything at this point, but nobody ever acknowledged this e-mail, either.

    I don't personally regret occasionally getting passed over for programming; it's healthy for authors to be reminded that the party can't always be about us. I also acknowledge that programming is a complex, messy thing run on volunteer labor. With that said…

    I requested any number of panels at all, and received 0. My girlfriend requested 3-4, and received more than 9. After informing the con that she would be leaving Monday morning, two more events were added to her docket… for Monday afternoon. When she informed them that she couldn't make these, on account of being in the sky on her way to Minnesota, these events were stealth-moved to Thursday/Friday, without advance warning to her, and her schedule was already quite full.

    This is a story I heard over and over again all weekend… qualified panelists with 0 official items, and harried panelists walking around with 8-12 on the backs of their badges. Qualified unemployed panelists wondering who they'd offended, while panelists all over the place were introducing themselves with "Gosh, I have no idea at all why they put me on this." I know the process can't be magical and perfect for everyone, but surely it can be more balanced than this.

    Mary Robinette was kind enough to offer to split her Sunday afternoon reading with me, and I accepted, but a particularly savage anxiety attack drove me off at the last minute and I had to spend a few hours recovering my equilibrium for the Hugos.

    Mike Martinez, Myke Cole, Kay Kenyon, Courtney Schafer, and a few others arranged an off-site signing at the Twig bookstore, which I joined, and I also did some quick Reddit AMAs… there were other opportunities for some of us, to perchance arrange signings at the SFWA tables or otherwise make our own fun, but as I said, I'm a big believer in advance notice.

    I like to think I'm not a total stuttering monkey when it comes to panels, and I would love to have made myself useful on some this year… but that's why it didn't happen, as seen from my side of things. Thanks for noticing. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Yeah, I hear some similar things from other authors. It's good to hear about it, though, as I had nothing to do with that side of Worldcon.

      Maybe I'm wrong, but I think we go to panels to hear knowledgeable people talk about things about which they are knowledgeable. So it doesn't make much sense for authors who wanted to be on panels (on topics about which they are authorities) to end up getting none. I can understand dropping folks out if you don't have room, but there were so many panels with folks who shouldn't have been there.

      In any case, maybe next year will be better! And it was awesome meeting you in the car from the airport ๐Ÿ™‚

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