Thursday, September 9, 2010
I'm a con virgin, not just a Worlcon virgin, but a complete con virgin. I've never been to a convention. We do have some in Australia, but they're generally small and not usually centred on science fiction and fantasy literature, but TV, movies or comics. The last time Worldcon was held in Australia was in 1999 and I wasn't even aware of it at the time, nor would I have termed myself a fan then.
I wasn't really sure what to expect. The other cons I'd heard about seemed to involve a lot of costumes and props, but the stars of Worldcon aren't former TV or movie people or comic book heroes. They award the Hugos at Worldcon, the stars of Worldcon are the writers. People like Robert Silverberg, Kim Stanley Robinson and George R.R Martin. It's a literature centric convention, although there are comic book writers and a number of TV writers for cult shows like Doctor Who or Star Trek Next Generation.
The big thing at Worldcon is the opportunity to interact with writers, agents and editors. You can attend panels on any number of subjects, from tips of on how to write or get published to discussions about whether or not the next Doctor Who should be a female. There are signings, and meetings with authors, known as kaffeeklatsches. There are two major shows at Worldcon. One is the Masquerade Ball, which is a theatrical event and the other is the Hugo awards.
Looking through the schedule my wife and I lamented that we could not clone ourselves. There were so many panels which interested us that were on at the same time, but you could only be in one place at one time. On a couple of occasions when one of us was free we attended a panel that was of interest to the other so that we could report back and kind of get the best of both worlds.
Because this event was in Australia there were a large amount of local authors, which was actually quite useful and informative for anyone who is an aspiring author in this country. It was also good to have the international perspective from the international guests as well, though.
I planned a lot of my schedule around George R.R Martin. Kim Stanley Robinson may have been the official Guest of Honour, but for me it was George Martin. I've been following the man's epic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire for the last 14 years and I was not going to pass up the opportunity to hear what he had to say about that and the industry in general.
My wife has a great interest in the long running British sci-fi series Doctor Who, so she had a lot of panels about the show on her schedule. In fact Sunday was actually Doctor Who day.
I discovered 2 authors of which I was previously unaware, who I now wish to read. Hugo nominated Catherynne M. Valente (Palimpsest) and John W. Campbell award nominee Seanan McGuire (the Toby Daye series). It was largely by accident. Seanan was on a Supernatural panel and for some reason Catherynne seemed to be on nearly every panel I attended. I loved the conversation they had one afternoon where they discussed everything from pumpkins (a particular passion of Seanan's) to their upcoming work.
One panel that sticks in my mind was one featuring all Aussie authors about whether trilogies and series are really one book broken up or if they're written as separate books. The subject itself was interesting, but what made it memorable were the actions of it's moderator; Fiona McIntosh. She looks a little like a strict school mistress and this image was further reinforced when her stern British voice reminded people to switch off their mobile phones as they walked in. Totally at odds with that was her comment that the lollies in the little jars for the panellists tasted like household disinfectant. When people were reluctant to go up the front and test this out, Fiona quite happily threw handfuls of them into the crowd, she also gleefully offered them to late coming panellists who weren't in on the joke.
My personal highlight came on Sunday when I got to attend a kaffeeklatsch with one of my literary heroes George R.R Martin. I'd wanted to sit down and talk to George about pretty much anything ever since I first read A Game of Thrones, so to have the opportunity to chat with him for an hour with other like minded fans was just heaven. George was very accomodating and we covered a wide range of subjects and even got some stories about his writing process for some of A Song of Ice and Fire.
The Masquerade Ball is also a must attend for people at Worldcon. The event was hosted with great hilarity by local artist Nick Stathopoulos (he designed the base of the Hugo for the 69th Worldcon) and fan Danny Oz. Among the contestants were Rorshach from Watchmen, the 4th Doctor Who (Tom Baker), King and Queen of the faeries Oberon and Titania, some Aes Sedai from The Wheel of Time and a very cuddly Cthulu. Nearly everyone got a prize, but Cthulu was the winner for mine, if for no other reason than the costume must have been very hot and uncomfortable.
I had a great time and I can't wait for Renovation in Reno next year.