Worldcon 2019 (Dublin): An Accounting of Events with a Side of Bacon!

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I am on my way home from Dublin OR have already arrived. Like science fiction, my future is fundamentally about the present. Naturally, that means Worldcon has ended along with my sadly short vacation in Dublin, Ireland, a quaint little city… Oh, who the hell am I kidding? Dublin is really cool, y’all. And since “recaps of adventures” are a thing in the science fiction community, I’m here to, well, recap my adventures. This one will be a long one, y’all. So here…we…go!

The Dublin Worldcon was a bit like a dream. I pre-supported (or whatever it’s called) fairly early in the game AND bought an upgrade for my badge at the Worldcon in Finland (2017). I really wanted to go to a Worldcon in Dublin. More importantly, I wanted to support strong bids for non-U.S. Worldcons because, well, I actually take the “world” part of the name literally, and I don’t think you can have a “Worldcon” that doesn’t make an attempt to occur in various parts of the world.1

Originally, I had not planned to attend the event. I recently moved to Minnesota for a new job, and that meant a lot of moving expenses ended up on credit cards (ahem, I have a ko-fi). So I made the choice that I would save my money to pay down debt (ahem, I have a Paypal, ahem). Then y’all nominated my podcast, The Skiffy and Fanty Show, for Best Fancast. And when you’re nominated for a Hugo to be announced in Ireland, you have to scrap your previous adult plans for nerd shenanigans.

Also:  I will apologize in advance for forgetting anyone I might have hung out with, encountered, conversed with, etc. Dublin was a bit of a whirlwind, and I am notoriously forgetful. I also do want to apologize to folks we meant to interview for the podcast. Stuff sorta fell through, partly because of me and partly because of things I couldn’t control. However, I expect to record new stuffs with you folks in the near future!

So with that in mind, here’s a day-by-day accounting of the events in Dublin:

Day One (8/13/19 – 8/14/19): Dubliners

Thanks (seriously, thanks) to all the lovely folks who donated to my fundraiser (to cover the flight and hotel expenses), I was able to stay a little longer in Dublin than I might have if I could only rely on work reimbursement.2 One of my co-hosts and co-producers, Jen Zink, had procured accommodations at Trinity College for Friday through Tuesday, so I decided I’d take a few days off from work to enjoy a bit more of Dublin.

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know that my departure did not go smoothly. I left Bemidji for Minneapolis with more than enough time for a 2+ hour early arrival. But Minnesota decided the 13th would be the day to dump Florida-level rain on the whole damn state. By the time I hit Minneapolis, I had lost at least 30 minutes of lead time. In Minneapolis, things were even worse. The roads were swamped with slowed sections and accidents. I even took the wrong turnoff, which put me in even worse traffic and sent me through back roads trying to make my way. Normally, losing a 2-hour lead on a flight wouldn’t worry me. When I fly domestic, I usually don’t have any issues at the Minneapolis Airport and end up with over 90 minutes of free time. International flights aren’t always as smooth, so I was certain I’d miss the flight. So certain I think I had my first case of real road rage in a long time. I even called Jen to rant as a way to calm the nerves.

Needless to say, I made it with time to spare because Minneapolis is weird.

And if only that were the last disaster! Ha! Upon arrival in Dublin (about an hour late), I received the delightful news that the airline (KLM-Delta) had lost my luggage. And by “lost” I mean “somehow they got it off the plane and misplaced it on the way to the baggage carousel.” This happened to everyone’s luggage for the flight. The airline tried to claim that the luggage had come on a different flight due to weight concerns, but I call bullshit. 3

At the time, this really stressed me out. In retrospect, it’s honestly not that big a deal. I was just damn tired and didn’t want to go shopping for supplies while in an unfamiliar city after a red-eye flight.

The good news? I ended that day by chilling with Gareth Kavanaugh and ickle_tayto (it’s a reference!). We had dinner at an Irish pub place, where I devoured a Guinness and an Irish stew. So the evening ended quite well indeed!

Day 2 (8/15):  Let the Great Pre-Con Spin

The second day turned out a bit better. As you do when you’re in Ireland, I started off with a full Irish breakfast at a local pub. Nomnom. Aside from lingering pain from my leg (hey, leg pain!), I had a pretty good time socializing and wandering the convention center.

One thing I did get to do was catch up with Anne Lyle, who has been one of my go-to “hey, we randomly happen to be in the same place” friends. She seems to pop up at the same conventions, and we never coordinate anything. We just run into each other, and it’s a happy friends time. On top of that, I joined up with Julia Rios and her husband, Moss (who is a delight), and all four of us had a lovely dinner at a local sushi place.

I’m also pretty sure this is the day I met Matt (a.k.a. runalongwomble). We had a beer (thank god for European conventions), chatted about a lot of stuffs, and enjoyed general merriment. Matt is awesome!

That pretty much sums up that day. I weirdly didn’t go to any panels, which I’ll blame on jet lag and the fiasco of the previous day. Honestly, if not for catching up with old friends, I imagine it would feel wasted, but as it stands:  totally a good day.

P.S.:  This is one of those days where my memory is quite fuzzy. If we talked on this day, please remind me, because the brain has deleted my browsing history…

Day 3 (8/16): The Picture of Loopdilou

By Friday, the Skiffy and Fanty crew had begun to accumulate like some kind of troupe of Might Morphin’ Power Rangers (yeah, I went there). Julia and Alex were already in town. Trish was probably hiding somewhere. And Jen was on her way from Colorado. I’m told the weather in Colorado was pleasant in her absence, which meteorologists attributed to the absence of her Storm-like aura of radiation (X-Men rule!).

I mostly spent the day enjoying good food (another full Irish breakfast, y’all — Spar’s got it goin’ on), chatting with folks, drinking beer at Martin’s (the “pub” offered by Worldcon because European Worldcons are like that), and so on. Mostly, I spent half of the day waiting for Jen, who decided to be late to the party. I also recorded an interview with Ariela Housman and Terri Ash of Geek Calligraphy (forthcoming).

Once Jen arrived, we got checked into our room at Trinity College, proceeded to hunt down Julia and Alex and Trish, attended Julia’s and Alex’s readings, and then poofed off to a local Irish pub for eats with Anne Lyle in tow. Oh, fun fact:  Jen totally fell like a cartoon character after “running into” a foot traffic barricade. It was hilarious.

After those shenanigans, we went to Julia’s hotel room, acquired some lovely alcohol, and recorded an episode of Torture Cinema with Skiffy and Fanty super fan, Linnea. You can listen to the episode here! Jen spent most of the evening snoring.

Day 4 (8/17):  A Portrait of the Panelist as an Old Fart

The next day was an eventful one. It was the first day I got to really enjoy panels at Worldcon. Here’s a quick rundown of the panels I attended (some will link to Twitter threads and what not):

One of the big panels I attended was “What is African Science Fiction?” starring Nick Wood and Geoff Ryman. This panel was meant to have others in attendance, but alas there were some issues that prevented that. You can read some of my notes on the panel via this Twitter thread:

https://twitter.com/shaunduke/status/1162667073962741761

And even more can be found via Vanessa Rose Phin’s thread:

Vanessa Rose Phin on Twitter

Already a queue at the African SFF panel. Yes, I’ll be livetweeting this one too. #worldcon2019 #dublin2019

I do just want to add that the problem of tourist visas is one that we’re going to need to deal with in the future. I’m not sure how much conventions can do to mitigate the damage this causes, but we all need to be more proactive in making sure people from other parts of the world can attend conventions and be part of our conversations. Otherwise, we’re just not the global community we should be. There’s more to be said on this, but this post is already ridiculously long!

From there, I decided to hit up “Building the SFF Community Online,” which I hoped would give me some insight into managing online communities. I semi-run two semi-communities:  The Skiffy and Fanty Show and StarWarsFanJoy, both of which I’ve semi-neglected because I am overwhelmed by life. The panel starred Christopher Davis, Kat Tanaka Okopnikfromankyra, Elio Garcia Jr., and Heather Rose Jones (M).

I also attended a “Muslim SFF” panel starring S.A. Chakraborty, Yasser Bahjatt, Harun Šiljak, and Peter Adrian Behravesh (who looks like an English professor who took a class in Awesome). I really wish I had kept notes on the panel because they mentioned a lot of old school and relatively recent work, some of which was from Arabia and some of which was from elsewhere in the world (Bosnia!). I mostly go to these panels to find new stuff to check out, and in this case, I just missed a lot because I am still fairly new to the way names from Arabia (and, well, Bosnia) are spelled. In other words, I just missed a lot of names. But there’s good news for this one:  it was streamed live on YouTube! See here:

So go get you some Muslim SF/F!

The last panel I attended that wasn’t one of my own was “Audio Dramas and Radio Plays,” starring Phil Foglio, Roger Gregg, Fiona Moore, and Jeanne Beckwith (M). I mostly went because my co-hosts, Jen Zink and Trish Matson, were interested. I think we both expected to get something different out of it:  Jen probably wanted more tips on audio narration and dramatic presentation for her work as a podcast producer on non-Skiffy and Fanty things; I mostly wanted a better understanding of audio drama to see where there might be crossover for an actual play RPG podcast I’d like to do.

And, well, we didn’t really get much out of it. Except chuckles. The panel briefly talked about podcasts, but it was pretty clear that nobody on the panel actually knew anything about podcasts. That might not bother me except they were meant to be there as experts of a kind on audio dramas and radio plays, both things that have been part of the podcasting community for longer than I’ve been a part of it (I joined in 2010 and started listening in 2008 or so). Then one of the panelists basically said you shouldn’t start a podcast just to have fun, and all three us did one of those comedic “oh really” turns, and then Jen muttered “we really fucked this up.” We probably would have disrupted the panel with laughter if we hadn’t contained ourselves just a wee bit.

Beyond that, I had one panel and one event of my own to attend. It was a busy day! My first panel for Worldcon was “The Use of SF in Higher Education” starring Mary Anne Mohanraj (M), Nora E. Derrington, David DeGraff, and Corry L. Lee, Ph.D. We largely talked about how to navigate using SF in classrooms with emphasis on getting students to think about the world around them. There’s good reason for that:  most of the panelists teach physical sciences (physics and the like). I did get to go on a mini-ramble about the importance of using literature to think about digital technology, social media, and the like. This was one of those moments when I wished that panels could be longer or that we had more time between panels to have conversations with audience members. But Dublin tried to keep things moving, so…

The last thing on the list was a Literary Beer with, well, myself. These are basically kaffeeklatsches with beer instead of coffee. Free beer, I might add. Mmm. Free beer.

Anyway. I was pretty concerned about this because I do not consider myself much of a celebrity despite being a Hugo Award finalist two times in the same decade. However, my table ended up being full. In attendance: Valerie Valdes, who I had met at some point earlier in the convention (along with her lovely husband, Eric, who chatted my ear off about cinema sound production4), S.C. Flynn, old friends Evergreen and Gary, Eyal Kless, and a whole lot of other folks! Honestly, I went in feeling very much like an impostor, but left feeling pretty good. For the most part, the conversation wandered into everything from Star Wars to toxic fandom to podcasting to separating the author from their work, etc. I have no idea if that’s how these things are meant to go, but I certainly enjoyed myself.

I ended up grabbing dinner on a boat with Evergreen and Gary, which was lovely, then nabbing beers, socializing, and then towing Jen back to Trinity College. It was a pretty good day.

Day 5 (8/18): The Book of Panels

Ah, Sunday. The big day. The awards day. The day we lost another Hugo Award. Ha!

For the most part, I didn’t get to attend any panels other than my own. There was a lot of sleeping in, eating full Irish breakfasts, socializing, and otherwise keeping our minds focused on being emotional wrecks. For the most part, we succeeded.

The first panel of the day was “Academics and Acolytes: Learning in SFF Worlds,” starring Karen Simpson NikakisKenneth Schneyer, and Ali Baker. We mostly discussed how learning systems function in SF/F narratives, what they get right and wrong, etc. It was pretty fantasy heavy, but I think that’s largely because most narratives with memorable education systems happen to be fantasy narratives. We did have some fun at the end when an audience member asked which school from an SF/F story we’d like to attend. My answer was pretty reasonable:  Starfleet if for no other reason than that my chances of death on campus are remarkably low. Let’s be real:  most schools in fantasy worlds put their students in a lot of danger. I have no idea how any fantasy school manages to have insurance for the premises.

The other panel was simply called “Fan Podcasts,” starring Alexandra RowlandJonathan Strahan, Heather Rose Jones (M), and Jen Zink. Unlike a lot of podcast panels I’ve been on, we didn’t focus on all the technical details. Instead, Heather kindly directed us to talk about the trials that go into producing a show, our intentions and desires, and related components. It led to a lot of back-and-forth between the different podcast hosts, each of whom had different perspectives. All in all, it was a solid ending to my panel allotment!

And then the real scary stuff happened! The Skiffy and Fanty Crew got to attend another Hugo Awards ceremony together, beginning with a mini-party-whatsit (which we attended with Eden Royce and her husband, Mark Taylor). Brandon O’Brien, Trish Matson, Julia Rios, and Alex Acks were also in attendance. As far as Hugo Award ceremonies go, this one had quite a few hiccups. The biggest was the closed caption failures that brought about a lot of laughter during Ada Palmer’s award introduction. At first, I did find the inaccurate translations of Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones as “Bored of the Rings” and “Cream of Thrones,” but the more I think about it, the more of a colossal screw-up it turned out to be. Obviously, they put that there for folks who are hard of hearing, but it’s clear that they needed a better system or some other method entirely, especially since the laughter completely disrupted the show. Beyond that, though, I think the awards were perfectly fine. There’s no online stream as far as I can tell, but you can learn about the winners here.

Naturally, we didn’t win. Surprise! But we did get to watch some really phenomenal folks get trophies and light the world on fire with some of their speeches.

After that, we headed to the now-infamous Hugo Losers Party. Infamous for unintended reasons… Much has been said about the issues surrounding the HLP. My voice is among the many, though I am by far the least significant voice. Instead of retreading here, I’ll simply point you to this string of Twitter threads and posts (mine will come last). A couple quick points to note:

  1. The Dublin Worldcon folks are not responsible for the party, though they did put the invitations in finalist packets. Some of the threads tag Dublin 2019 in the mix, but they were minimally involved in the event. This suggests that there is a LOT of confusion about who runs the Hugo Losers Party, who manages things like transportation, etc.
  2. New Zealand’s Worldcon crew are also mentioned in some of these threads. They were involved in the party, though I’m not sure to what degree. I do know that they were at the front doors and contributed, intentionally or otherwise, to the confusion outside. Hopefully, they took a LOT of notes.
  3. There are also likely some inaccuracies in some of these threads, especially those written in the moment or the immediate wake. Again, this speaks to the degree of confusion about the event, who manages it, who said what and when, etc. It also shows just how much confusion there was at the doors. My friends and I honestly had no idea what was going on beyond “it’s full and you can’t get in,” and when we asked questions, we often got conflicting information, no information, or got told something that, in our eyes, seemed wrong (like dumping our +1s at the door like discarded luggage).
  4. While there is a lot of anger in all of this, I don’t think anyone blames those who did attend the event for attending. It wasn’t their party, and they were simply doing what they thought they were allowed to do. More importantly, some of those folks, including convention staff, left when they found out that finalists were being refused entry. They shouldn’t have had to do that, but I appreciate that they chose to do so on our behalf. This is likely the reason Jen Zink and I managed to gain entry (see my thread below for more on that).
  5. GRRM does partly finance and run this shindig, for which I think most people are grateful. Indeed, it’s a nice thing to do. Most of the issues that came up concern how people felt in trying to attend the event and the apparent dismissal of those feelings after the fact. You’ll see that in most of the threads.

Here are some initial reactions (understandably annoyed reactions):

Alex Acks on Twitter

So apparently if you’re a Hugo loser you don’t get to go to the loser’s party. Wheee hey @dublin2019 you dumped an entire bus of us here and we are not allowed inside #HugoAward https://t.co/eV4WG0SXOF

Abigail Nussbaum on Twitter

Some thoughts on the Hugo Losers’ Party clusterfuck, from someone who a) wasn’t there, b) has somehow managed to go to the Losers’ Party at every other Worldcon I’ve attended, and c) was getting live updates from friends at (and outside) the party all night.

GRRM has now responded to some of these thoughts. I recommend you start with Alex Acks’ blog response to that post, which pretty well covers a lot of the major issues surrounding the party and the explanations that followed. Then look at these Twitter threads:

https://twitter.com/LoopdiLou/status/1168215279286898688

Alasdair Stuart is back on his bullshit on Twitter

So there’s a thing that’s come up a bit in the Hugo Losers Party discussion and it’s cemented itself as my least favourite element of fandom discussion. The ‘Oh no he’s a fan. He understands.’ Thing and, sorry, but just a world of No.

Vajra Chandrasekera on Twitter

only got partway through this extended ramble by GRRM on how everything that went wrong with his event is other people’s fault https://t.co/hJchM4Bv7u

Alexandra Erin on Twitter

Reading this postmortem of the Hugo Losers Party where the explanation boils down to “we had to account for the people who just show up without an invitation” and “we expected the venue to let us overflow” and… some people really lead different lives. https://t.co/gZAjBXxT4s

D Franklin on Twitter

I take responsibility. But I’m not to blame: saying the problem was anything to do with me is wrong, you were in the wrong, YOU WERE WRONG!” is not even close to the appropriate fucking tone here. F770 did GRRM no favours letting him publish this there https://t.co/OhNTS2D5Qf

You can read my initial reactions to the party here:

https://twitter.com/shaunduke/status/1163256621985927168

And my post-GRRM explanation reactions here:

https://twitter.com/shaunduke/status/1168168091819421699

Dr. Grand Moff Duke🐍🚀 on Twitter

Look, the entire Hugo Losers Party thing could have been mostly resolved by GRRM simply saying “we screwed up, and I am sorry. Next year, we will do better.” We don’t need a lecture. We don’t need the sff community re-entrenching its borders and isolating people. We need growth.

These are by no means the only reactions. I am certainly missing quite a few, so if you have suggestions for things to include, please let me know in the comments!

Other than that, the day was a good one. It might have ended awkwardly, but that’s just the way life works sometimes!

Day 6 (8/19):  Worldcon’s Ashes

Monday began with a quick meetup with Tanya DePass. Jen and I interviewed her about I Need Diverse Games and related gaming issues (forthcoming) before joining her for her reading from Game Devs & Others: Tales from the Margins. It was good stuff!

Beyond that, Monday is a bit of a blur. It was the last full day of Jen shenanigans, but she wasn’t feeling well enough to do much more than hang at the convention center. I’m sure I did a lot of socializing there, but I’m just drawing blanks while writing this (sorry).

I do know that we attended the closing ceremony party thing. We procured some bean bags with Gareth Kavanaugh. Ian Sales showed up, and we had a lovely chat about his recent move, making lists of movies where we accuse the other of being totally wrong about their choices, and other fun things. Then we retired…

Day 7 (8/20): Duke’s Travels

With the convention officially over, it was time to say goodbye to some people and get some last-minute Dublin adventures marked off the “to do” list. Jen and I joined Alasdair Stuart and Marguerite Kenner for breakfast as a farewell. They were all leaving relatively early in the day. We had a lovely conversation over burgers and fries, talked genre shenanigans, commiserated over the previous Sunday’s fiasco, babbled about audio production and Netflix shows, etc. It was pretty awesome.

Then we parted ways. I said goodbye to one of my best friends (and two new ones). To be fair, Jen and I are not allowed to be in the same region for more than 6 days due to some pesky international treaties signed between Thailand, the United States, and Poland. So don’t expect us to hang out again soon.

After that, I had the pleasure of joining Juan Sanmiguel (from Orlando’s SF/F fan community). We decided to check out Dublin Castle, which is pretty darn cool (see the pictures), the EPIC museum (also incredible), and Chapters, a massive new and used bookstore in Dublin.5 I certainly didn’t get to see as much of the city as I would have liked, but you can’t have it all, right? We ended the evening at J.W. Sweetman, a brewery and pub in the center of Dublin. Yes, I tried all of their beers (in very small glasses).

As I write this, Juan is doing more Dublin things without me.6

Afterwards, I bought some souvenirs and turned in.

Day 8 (8/21): Thy Journey Might Cease

And so it all ended. Here I am writing up a longwinded report on my Worldcon activities from the relative discomfort of an airplane flying at 33,881 feet in -45 C temperatures at nearly 720 KMH. We just crossed the Atlantic and will land in Atlanta or something in a few hours. Be amazed that this is even a thing!7

All in all, Worldcon was pretty fantastic. Yeah, there were some snafus and the like (and my leg was in extreme pain for most of it), but I met a bunch of folks, caught up with folks I already knew, and got to hang with my bestestest friend, Jen. And I got to see Dublin. It’s hard to complain too much now, right?

With that in mind, I’ll leave it to the Internets. If you attended Worldcon, what did you think? Did you have a good time? What were some of your favorite panel experiences? What did you see in the city that amazed you? Let me know in the comments!

Oh, and for those that like pictures, here you go:

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  1. I also recognize that logistically, it is quite difficult to run a Worldcon in every place on Earth. First, you need an established community that could reasonably handle a con the size of a Worldcon. Second, you need a space that can reasonably provide for potential attendees. Also: with the dystopian turn around the world, I have particular concerns about safety for convention attendees, especially if they come from marginalized groups. There are no easy solutions to this problem. After all, the West has decided to flush its progressive movement down the toilet. Most of us are fairly privileged in the West, and I am reminded of my nearly tearful smile in the EPIC Museum in Dublin when the fancy screen reminded us that Dublin was the first (or one of the first) countries to legalize gay marriage by popular vote. Respecting other cultures is one thing, but we also have to consider the safety of attendees in places where rights-based progress has not occurred. And, yes, I recognize that my home country, the United States of America, has SEVERE issues when it comes to safety right now. I would be hesitant to support a Worldcon in the U.S., which is likely to attract people from Mexico and other heavily Hispanic or Latinx nations; no U.S. Worldcon can guarantee that they won’t get randomly picked up by ICE and deported even though they are legally in the country. Worse, no U.S. Worldcon can guarantee that anyone picked by ICE for deportation won’t have their lives put at risk when they are detained in some ICE facility without the provisions necessary for comfort. I’ll remind people that simply being in the U.S. is not a crime, and being in the U.S. illegally is so minor of a crime that any argument suggesting they be treated like hardened criminals is, frankly, some fascist bullshit. Yes, fascist. OK. I’ll stop now…
  2. Work will basically cover all the stuff that isn’t flight or hotel related. Without your support, I probably would have been there for two days and then come back, which is kind of a waste of a trip. This way, I could cover some bills and experience a bit of Dublin.
  3. Pro-tip, folks. Bring a change of underwear in your carry-on luggage. T-shirt and sporty shorts are also a plus.
  4. Eric, you are totally evil for getting me back into Pokemon Go. You monster!
  5. I discovered the Antonio Benitez-Rojo wrote novels. Ask me about it some time.
  6. Actually, he’s home now, but I can’t be bothered to keep times accurate.
  7. Remember when I said I wouldn’t keep times accurate? I’m obviously not on a plane anymore, but just imagine that I am because that would mean I’ve been stuck on a plane for over a week!

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.

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