Tuesday, August 23, 2011

WORLDCON 2011 or "HOW I SPENT MY SUMMER VACATION"

Nearly 4,000 SF fans and pros from around the world gathered in Reno, Nevada this week for Renovation, the 69th World Science Fiction convention. 

It was a blast.  I had five days of hanging out with some of the best writers and most amazing fans in the world.  I worked in Program Operations at the con, and enjoyed that as well.  Much of our work was dealing with crises involving program items--panelists who don't show up, communications breakdowns regarding room set-ups--and I again appreciated just how many volunteer hours go into making a Worldcon happen. 

I was also on the program at Worldcon.  My first panel was on Thursday afternoon: "Tall Tales vs. History in Pirate Research".  What a great discussion! The room was full of fans and my fellow panelists were Tim Powers (On Stranger Tides), Carrie Vaughn of "Kitty the werewolf" fame, A.C. Crispin, who wrote Jack Sparrow's backstory for Disney, and John G. Hemry, who writes "The Lost Fleet" military sf.  We could easily have gone longer discussing all the books and characters we'd researched for our own work.

The evening was when parties really kick-off.  There were bid parties for future Worldcons, thank-you parties by past Worldcons, private parties, weird parties and special interest group parties.  Despite all that I was in decent shape for Friday's programming, my busiest day.  As long as I remembered to drink water fairly constantly, I managed to avoid problem.  It did feel though that the moisture was being sucked out of my Florida body every time I stepped into the arid desert heights of Reno.

Friday started with "The Continuing Popularity of Jane Austen".  I was the moderator and my fellow panelists were Brenda W. Clough, Martha Wells, Ellen Asher and Madeleine E. Robbins.  All of us shared a love of Austen and discussed how her work affected us as readers, editors and authors, and how her themes are still used today in works like "Bride and Prejudice" and "Clueless".  I also learned about Raptor Red , which I haven't read, but I'm told it's Pride and Prejudice as told by velociraptors.  Seriously.  It is truly amazing what information you can pick up at Worldcon panels.

Friday afternoon I moderated "Elements of Romance in Speculative Fiction".  That panel featured Sharon Shinn, Louise Marley, Christina York and Lois McMaster Bujold.  I have to credit the Renovation Program staff with putting together panels that contained some of the best mixes of panelists I've ever seen, and I've been on Worldcon panels for over 10 years.  This was another well attended session, with discussions that could easily have gone on another hour.  Each of the panelists contributed to a discussion that was like a layer cake--we could all bring a different ingredient and keep it delicious.

I would have loved to stay and chat more with people afterward, but I had to dash over to the Children's Programming for "Pirates for Kids" with Carrie Vaughn and Tim Powers. James Bacon should get an award for putting together the childrens program schedule.  It was so awesome we had adults coming into Program Ops and asking how they could get in to see panels on topics like "What Happens When Blood Flies?" by a spatter expert.

But it was kids only, as it should be in their special area.  We weren't sure what we would find but thought we'd be talking to young readers, and were prepared to discuss our favorite pirate books.  What we found instead was a mostly younger pre-literate crowd, so we rose to the occasion and talked about why pirates have parrots, what pirates eat (weevily bread was a huge hit), Muppet Treasure Island and similar topics.  We tried to keep it simple, and no one burst out in tears (I was most worried about the panelists), so it was all good.

My final program item was Sunday, "Fashion Design for Memorable Pirates".  Karen Dick, a costumer, and A.C. Crispin were sharing the dais with me for that.  I learned quite a bit from Karen about what goes into making a costume, an area unfamiliar to me.  We talked about pirates in the Western canon, and also Asian and Indian pirates in case people were looking for variety.  Anne Crispin had to research pirate wardrobes for her Jack Sparrow book, and of course, fashion and clothing research is a huge part of my writing historical romances.

In between panels I joined friends for some fabulous suppers, went to a few other panels, mostly worked in Program Ops, and made time to check out the dealers' room and the art show.  It was an exhausting five days, and I'm looking forward to being in Chicago next year for Chicon 7, the 70th World Science Fiction Convention.

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