Don’t tell me the sky’s the limit when there are footprints on the moon. ~ Brad Foster (from a pen and ink drawing, 2012)
My first Worldcon [sigh].
For years I dreamed of attending the largest convention gathering of speculative fiction fans held annually in different cities around the world. I couldn’t swing the time or expense when Worldcon came to San Antonio, Texas in 2013 (LoneStarCon 3) or London, England in 2014 (Loncon 3). When I heard the 2015 convention would return to the U.S. in Spokane, Washington (Sasquan), I decided this would be the year.
I knew it would be somewhat of a lonely drive for the 3000+ mile solo round trip, four days north and east from New Mexico to Spokane and three days back. But the two-week adventure also included visits with family members in three cities along the route.
What I didn’t expect were the overwhelming choices once I got to the convention and the mad scurrying to and from meeting rooms. I stayed up late each night trying to decide which panel or workshop to attend the next day. But the madness was my own fault—since this was my first (and maybe last) Worldcon, I didn’t want to miss out.
On Thursday alone, the first full day of the convention, the program listed over 175 events between 1:00 am and 10:30 pm. It would have been fun to watch some anime, a fan film or two, or to make a pair of fairy wings. But, doggone it, I wasn’t attending Sasquan to have fun. I was there to glean knowledge about writing and publishing from the experts. I passed up discussions about Discworld, steampunk, and the Klingon language for talks I thought would serve me better on my writing journey. I made some hard choices, such as sitting in on workshops about worldbuilding, ambushes and counter-ambushes, and how to develop a realistic economy, instead of learning about the future of government, the future of military SF, and medieval science and engineering. That was just the first day.
On other days I learned about the effects of low gravity on the human body, how the experts edit anthologies, and the future of short fiction (from the editors of Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Clarkesworld, Strange Horizons, Galaxies Edge, and Lightspeed/Nightmare magazines). I took pages of notes on two of my favorite workshops that dealt with how to build an empire (double workshop) and the craft of short fiction, both of which I’ll cover in future blog posts.
But my convention experience wasn’t all a frenzy of learning. I allowed myself a Stroll with the Stars along Spokane’s Centennial Trail behind the convention center, a reading with one of my favorite authors, and the experience of a lifetime at the Hugo Awards. Here are a few more highlights:
Mr. Scalzi read from two of his manuscripts (one a work in progress), then entertained the audience with a song on an attendee’s ukulele and a fun question and answer period. At one point, he referred to his list of twelve “Standard Responses to Online Stupidity” posted as a resource on his website. Everyone who surfs the internet has probably read this list, but it was new to me. He compiled it because “from time to time, in your ordinary exercise of the delights of the online world, you may find yourself accosted by clods.” The list begins with, “I don’t care what you think” and ends with “My attention is a privilege, not a right. This is all you get.” I like #4: “You’ve attempted logic. Not all attempts succeed.” But according to Mr. Scalzi, his favorite is #8: “It appears an ***hole has hacked your account and is posting in your name.”
I took home two small pieces of artwork by Brad Foster who was one of the convention’s guests of honor. Copyright prevents me from posting my favorite of the two—an original 6×8, black and white pen & ink drawing of a cute alien looking up at a crescent moon. The quote penned as part of the artwork is great: Don’t tell me the sky’s the limit when there are footprints on the moon. (After Worldcon 2015 ended, I learned that Mr. Foster draws robot portraits, caricatures he calls “inner robots,” for a reasonable price at the conventions he attends. He also takes orders anytime through his website.)
Despite the controversy surrounding the voting process for the Hugo Awards, hosts David Gerrold and Tananarive Due did an awesome job of keeping the audience entertained. I went to the ceremony expecting to be bored at some point but ended up enjoying the entire three hours. Lots of laughter, some tension due to the possibility of No Awards in many of the categories, and a touching moment when Mr. Gerrold was overcome with emotion at the number of his friends on the in memoriam roll. A list of winners is available at the Hugo Awards website, as well as statistics that include the No Awards. And if you weren’t as lucky as I was to be in the audience, you can watch a replay of the ceremony on Livestream.com.
One final takeaway: If I decide to attend another Worldcon, I will (a) take a plane or share the drive, and (b) make sure to have some fun.
Have you attended a Worldcon? What was your favorite part of the experience?
“Worldcon,” “Hugo Award,” and The Hugo Award Logo are service marks of the World Science Fiction Society, an unincorporated literary society.