Sunday, September 08, 2013

LoneStarCon3, or, "How I Spend my Summer Vacation--Worldcon 2013"

This was my first visit to San Antonio, since I'd had to miss LoneStarCon 2 in 1997, but it was worth the wait. While everyone was complaining about the 100F temperatures, my response was, "Ahhhh...dry heat!" When you live in North Florida, almost anyplace is a better place to be in August.

Most of my time was spent at the convention, and I enjoyed it immensely. After picking up my program participant materials and checking my schedule, I tracked down the crew for the Hugo Award Ceremonies and the Green Room, both areas where I'd volunteered. I added rehearsals and Green Room shifts to my schedule, then dropped off books at Old Earth Books in the Dealers Room. They've always given me table space and sold my novels for me at con, which makes my life much easier.

For those who've never been to the World SF Convention, it's important to note that unlike other major SF & Fantasy events (Dragon*Con, SDCC), Worldcon runs entirely on volunteer help, from the con chair down. I've felt obligated to volunteer from my very first Worldcon in Boston, because it truly is an area where you have to pay it forward. If people don't volunteer, there's no event. My first job was gophering, but over the years I've worked in Program Operations, Green Room, Hugo Ceremonies, and as a Program Participant.

I always check the "willing to moderate" box on the Program form, so this year I had two panels I was moderating, and two where I was participating. My first morning at Worldcon I worked in the Green Room, helping direct people to their panels, inviting them to partake of the refreshments, the usual small things that help the participants meet-and-greet before they go on-stage. Then I switched hats, took my seat at the tables and met a couple of my fellow panelists for my afternoon item, The Future of the Small Press with Gary K. Wolfe, Michael Underwood and Neil Clarke. I think I was the only one who was purely a writer, not involved with the publishing end of it, but it was a good topic and we had excellent questions from the audience. For the record, the consensus was that while the small press world is changing, it's still very much alive and vibrant.

Later that afternoon I was on The Fake Hugo Awards with Dave McCarty, Guy H. Lillian III and Nicki Lynch, and I had prepared quite a list of awards I thought should be given out: "Most Unnecessary Sequel", "Series That Should Have Stopped at Book Five (or One)", "Most Egregious Use of Photoshop for Book Covers", "Most Baseless Self-Promotion by an Author", and more. As you can tell, it was largely in a humorous vein and the audience happily chimed in with their $.02.

Much of the real action of Worldcon is the evening parties where various conventions bid to host future Worldcons. Since voting continues into Saturday (the convention starts on Thursday), there were parties from Spokane, Helsinki and Orlando, all bidding for 2015. Spokane was the ultimate winner. There were also parties from other sites thinking ahead to hosting Worldcons (Dublin, Japan, New Orleans) and thank-you parties from the immediate past Worldcon, Chicago. Special interest groups also had their get-togethers, so you could party hop well into the wee hours. And I did.

Nonetheless, I was up bright and early the next morning because I was moderating two panels. The first was Magic Realism and it was amazing, not because I was moderating, but because of the other authors on the panel: Howard Waldrop , Rudy Ch. Garcia, Guadalupe Garcia McCall and Stina Leicht. If you haven't read these folks, you need to add them to your reading list. We could easily have gone for another hour talking about the use of Magic Realism in Latino literature and politics, but also its use in European lit, non-Western writing, and whether there were great books in US publishing using magic realism as a theme.

After a lunch break I moderated I Married a Werewolf: Paranormal Romance with Carrie Vaughn, Jean Johnson, Gail Carriger and Charlaine Harris. There was so much amazing talent on the dais (no, I am not including myself, I was only the moderator) that it was a wonder the microphones didn't explode. The panel was very well attended too, with fans of all the authors well represented in the audience.

More visits to the Dealers Room and exhibits, and if you're wondering what I do when I'm not on panels, I run across old friends from previous Worldcons and catch up with them and their lives, exchange fannish gossip, talk about the publishing industry and have a great time. I also attended some other panels on various topics, though as usual the Children's Programming had some of the best items ("How to Interpret Blood Spatter." Seriously.)

Sunday is Hugo day. After my Green Room shift my schedule was freed up for rehearsals with Paul Cornell, the Toastmaster of the convention. The winners' script was embargoed until later that evening, but we could practice walkthroughs, timing, sound checks, that sort of thing. My role was that of the House Announcer, aka "The Voice of God". I did the opening and closing announcements ("Please set your phones on stun...") and said "Accepting for Joe Smith is Cindy Jones..." when the winners weren't present.

There were some technical glitches in the broadcasting of the program, but overall the ceremony itself went well, the Hugo statues were quite lovely this year and the winners were thrilled. The Hugo statue is always a rocket ship, but the base design changes with every convention. You can read more about the Hugos, and who the winners were, here.

After the Hugos comes the Hugo Losers Party, where I was both a guest and a volunteer. The party is traditionally hosted by the next year's Worldcon, and London2014 (LonCon) did a lovely and elegant presentation, transforming a hotel suite into a black-and-white stylish venue. My job there was to be a Door Dragon, politely checking guests' invitations at the door.

My final panel was the following morning(!) but I made it, bright-eyed and coherent to discuss Writing Outside Genre with Ellen Datlow moderating, and Lezli Robyn and John Maddox Roberts joining me as panelists. Post Hugo panels are always difficult since some folks leave right after the ceremonies, but we were pleased by the number of con goers who made the effort to join in our panel and our discussions.

After that it was goodbyes, collecting my earnings and leftover books, closing ceremonies and the hand-off to London. We received the very sad news that Fred Pohl, one of the true masters of SF had passed away, and that evening many toasts were drunk to his memory. Despite that, the convention was viewed as a success by those who worked, spoke, performed, and won awards, and I'm looking forward to doing it all again in London next year.

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