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Tilting at Windmills

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April 1, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

WORLDCON QUERY....Chad Orzel reports on his diet success:

How big a dork am I? Well, you can see from the graph at left, roughly thirty pounds less of a dork than I was at the beginning of the year.

Bill Hooker responds in comments:

You're using the wrong units. Dorkiness is measured in units called Trekkies, abbreviated Tk. People who get married in Klingon combat suits are the unit standard for 1.0 Tk.

Speaking of dorkiness, I learned last week that this year's World Science Fiction Convention is being held right down the road from me in lovely downtown Anaheim. Despite reading science fiction since approximately age 5, I've never been to a Worldcon, and part of the reason is that it always seemed like the kind of thing that probably isn't a lot of fun unless you can tag around with someone who's a Worldcon veteran and knows what's what. But Anaheim is certainly convenient. So: who's going this year? Any advice? Should I buy a membership? Will I learn to write like Connie Willis if I attend?

Kevin Drum 1:37 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (72)

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Depends whether you think "science fiction" means top-quality writing by people like Philip K. Dick and Gene Wolfe, or space westerns like "Star Wars." There's not really much overlap between the two, but I have no way of knowing which is primarily represented at that convention.

Posted by: wahoofive on April 1, 2006 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

Watch the film documentary "Galaxy Quest" before you go!

Posted by: JC on April 1, 2006 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

If I were that close, and I knew that people like Teresa and Patrick Nielsen Hayden were attending, not to mention Mike Ford and Charlie Stross, I'd be there in a shot.

Posted by: Linkmeister on April 1, 2006 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

Go! Worldcons are a lot of fun.

And if you really need a native guide, drop me an e-mail.

Posted by: Tony Zbaraschuk on April 1, 2006 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

I can say that I have been to one Star Trek convention in San Antonio, Texas. Now, I'm a Star Trek fan but not anywhere near the level of the people that showed up in full Starfleet Uniform/Ferengui/Vulcan/Klingon gear. Counselor Troi (I don't know her real name) was the speaker and I distinctly remember being shocked hearing her british accent. It's one of those you can say you have done and use it as a conversation ice breaker ... or ... something...

Posted by: RM on April 1, 2006 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK

Well, Worldcon is about both Gene Wolfe and Star Wars, but falls more on the literary side than the film one, usually. I'm sure that in LA/Anaheim both will be very well represented. I'm sure you'll have a very good time if you go, but if you are looking for some advice about Worldcons from a veteran, you could do a lot worse than to ask Patrick Nielsen Hayden (he edits SF for Tor Books) who has occasionally posted here and shares a weblog with his wife, Making Light.

Posted by: David W. on April 1, 2006 at 2:15 PM | PERMALINK

Just don't show up in Sci-Fi costume without some dialog and action planned to flesh out the effect. This is the problem with almost every renaissance festival, ever: plenty of design, but no script. If it ain't on the page, it ain't on the stage.

Posted by: ferd on April 1, 2006 at 2:17 PM | PERMALINK

And no, Patrick's wife is *not* named "Making Light", that's the weblog's name.

Posted by: David W. on April 1, 2006 at 2:17 PM | PERMALINK

And build your Star Trek uniform from the boots up. If all you can afford is boots, you'll look great, but the whole ensemble plus black rubber galoshes doesn't cut it.

Posted by: ferd on April 1, 2006 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

I went to my first Worldcon (and my first fan convention of any kind ever) last year, in Glasgow. Not being a veteran made no difference whatsoever to my enjoyment.

Get a hold of the programming schedule, do some pre-planning regarding what you'd like to see (I can almost gurantee that you'll not be able to see everything you'd want, because there are so many program items over the week, not to mention the dealers' room and the art show), and consider trying the evening's suite parties at the party hotel(s) where you're bound to meet a lot of interesting people.

L.A. Con IV is trying a new innovation of having a 'taster' membership. Go in, buy a day membership (I think it's $75 at the door). If you bring the pass back within three hours, all but $20 will be refunded. It's enough time to determine whether the con's for you or not.

Posted by: Elio M. Garca, Jr. on April 1, 2006 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK

I went to the last one when it was in Anaheim Dizzyland in 1984 (gad! 22 years ago! time flies). It's actually pretty cool, if you've ever written any science fiction (I have so done, in fact a certain movie of mine was on the Sciffy channel two weeks ago - called a "classic" no less, LMAO! - and raised the weeknight sciffy moron movie IQ from its usual negative number to a triple-digit positive number - but it's going back into triple-digit negative territory tonight with "SS Doomtrooper"). The reason it's cool that way is these folks are among the few on the planet who actually think Being A Writer is a Good Thing. Although after I see the Serious Trekkies and the Star Warriors I sometimes have a several month period of being unable to write at the thought they are the audience. But the rest make up for that. It's fun to sit with people who "get it" when you talk about the fact that 98% of Sciffy is crapological. One of the organizers recently threatened to ask me to speak on a panel there, but hopefully saner heads will prevail soon and I won't have to do my Harlan Ellison imitation and deter the deterrable (as they should be).

Posted by: TCinLA on April 1, 2006 at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK

Worldcons tend to be representative of most types of science fiction fandom. If you want to attend Star Wars panels, you can. If you want to attend reading or literary discussion panels, there will be plenty of those. During the day, there can be twenty or more simultaneous programming tracks, when you add in films, gaming, and children's programming.

At night, there will be more programming, all-night filking (science fiction folk singing), and the room parties, which are the reason for going for many fans. In other words, don't plan on going home early.

Many of the well known science fiction writers will be in attendance, particularly those based on the west coast. Most will do readings or "kaffeklatches". A LOT of business gets done at Worldcons, and the attendence of editors and such means that there will also be a track for those interested in the business side of SF publishing.

There's also usually a "geek track" discussing the issues of the day. Probably this year it'll be copyright and DRM and maybe software patents. And there'll probably be a science track which will vary depending on who's coming.

Anyway, fun for everyone. Even someone who's been going for twenty years can usually find something new.

And join now and you can vote for the Hugos (and go to the ceremony, too)!

Posted by: MW on April 1, 2006 at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, please don't learn to write like Connie Willis. The "Doomsday Book" was one of the most boring novels I've read in years. A list of blog entries written in that mode would make a good cure for insomnia, but would be a big step down from the Washington Monthly blog.

Posted by: Shermaclay on April 1, 2006 at 2:47 PM | PERMALINK

What if he wrote like she did in "To Say Nothing Of The Dog" instead?

Posted by: Viserys on April 1, 2006 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

You should definitely go. I actually had a note to myself in my calendar to drop you a line as the event approached, to ask you if you were coming and if you'd like to do lunch.

The World Science Fiction Convention, begun in 1939, is today an intersection of a bunch of different branches of science-fiction fandom, prodom, and academia, with traditional print-oriented fandom slightly dominant, but seasoned with enough silliness that there are always plenty of people in goofy costumes for the local TV station to focus on while the rest of us cringe and roll our eyes. On balance that's probably a good thing; it keeps the rest of us from taking ourselves too seriously. (The same can probably be said of the deliberately retro "space cadets" theme adopted by this year's organizers.)

There's generally a lot of decent programming, primarily panels and talks, and a great deal of socializing in the evening. Tor invariably throws a gigantic party on one of the several evenings, which is unlisted in the official schedule but which Anyone Who Is Anyone is allowed into. You're definitely anyone. Another feature of Worldcon is of course the Hugo Awards ceremony, which even offers bloggy interest this time, since three of the five Best Novel nominees (John Scalzi, Charles Stross, and Ken MacLeod) are well-established bloggers as well.

Posted by: Patrick Nielsen Hayden on April 1, 2006 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

Get ready to see a lot of very fat people, and a lot of women with saggy tits.

Posted by: Sci Fi on April 1, 2006 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

A sci-fi convention? God, what a sausage party that must be.

Posted by: Peter on April 1, 2006 at 3:05 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, go. It's an event parts of which you'll like, parts of which you'll find interesting to observe.

It could be a decade or two before it's back in CA,
let alone convenient commuting distance.

Posted by: Barry on April 1, 2006 at 3:28 PM | PERMALINK

I've gone before with my friend Stephen Sandoval, a comic artist, and I must admit I felt a tad out of place. I too have been a lifetime fan of Sci Fi, but I tend more towards sanity than most at these conventions.

Posted by: nutty little nut nut on April 1, 2006 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

Go! Worldcons are great fun, more to do than you can fit into the 5 days they last. Worldcons cover a wide range of things, though with an emphasis on the literary. They have a different vibe to the Trek cons and media Sci Fi cons, more relaxed, less obsessed, and less commercial. I like them enough to travel from the UK to Anaheim for this years.

Posted by: Eddie Cochrane on April 1, 2006 at 4:37 PM | PERMALINK

No one can write like Connie Willis. Sometimes, not even Connie Willis can write like Connie Willis.

Enthusiastic plug here for To Say Nothing of the Dog.

Posted by: mg_65 on April 1, 2006 at 4:57 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not fan enough or rich enough to travel around the world to see the Worldcons, but I went to Anaheim for the 1996 one, combining Disneyland for the kids and the Worldcon for all of us.

I never miss a local Worldcon.

It's great. I don't wear costumes or anything (Photoshopped costumes are a lot easier than real ones) but have a lot of fun, especially in the dealers room (do they still call them "huckster rooms?")

Worldcons lean more to the professional end of SF, rather than catering to Trekkers or other specialty groups, but everyone is made welcome. Costume contest is a must-see. Some people make careers out of Worldcon costumes.

Posted by: tbrosz on April 1, 2006 at 5:23 PM | PERMALINK

Get ready to see a lot of very fat people, and a lot of women with saggy tits.

And another...

A sci-fi convention? God, what a sausage party that must be.

You do realize how much y'all sound like Ann Coulter, don't you?

Oh, and yes, I liked The Domesday Book. I'd call it a test of character, except my wife didn't like it, and I prefer to stay married to her.

Kevin, if you react the way the first two posters I quoted do, then don't go. But if you like people, and people watching, and talking to writers, by all means go. I'll bet you can get into some really interesting conversations with any number of people there.

Posted by: Doctor Jay on April 1, 2006 at 6:24 PM | PERMALINK

Ya know its funny to watch Political 'intellectuals' try to understand space and time.
Dressed up like a Pajama Party from Space.

Get your Space Coke HERE! --Cheech&Chong

Posted by: one eye buck tooth [X^B on April 1, 2006 at 6:41 PM | PERMALINK

Did they remove Kevins Brain and Replace it with Oprah Winfreys?

I have got more useless knowledge in the last two posts than I do with an Hour Of OPRAH!!

Posted by: one eye buck tooth [X^B on April 1, 2006 at 6:44 PM | PERMALINK

One of the great fun things I did with my kids when they were younger was to go to a Star Trek convention, so that we could, well, people-watch.

Somehow it never occurred to us at the time that we might be some of the people other people people-watch. I'm not sure we could have handled that.

Posted by: frankly0 on April 1, 2006 at 6:51 PM | PERMALINK

I think you will that regardless of what you think of the Doomsday Book, Connie Willis is a very witty and warm individual. You'll also discover that a lot of sf writers fall into the category I call "Big Brains, Big Heart, and Big Mouth". And you'll see that the question you asked a while ago about growing up liberal and/or conservative depending on whether you were an Asimov or a Heinlein person is a helluva lot more complicated than you thought.

Posted by: Arthur Byron Cover on April 1, 2006 at 7:11 PM | PERMALINK

If you DO go for one day (which is probably the best idea for a 'taste'), Saturday is the day to go - the best panels, events and film programs are on Saturday and you'll get to see a WorldCon in all it's unwashed glory on that day more than any other...

WorldCons (particularly in L.A.) tend to run the gamut from hardcore literary fans to diletantte Trekkers and everything in-between...

Posted by: Indy the Indy-pendent Demo-cat on April 1, 2006 at 7:36 PM | PERMALINK

I loved the Worldcon in Boston, I usually make a trek to Boskone in February every year and I get completely energized by the enthusiasm and intelligence of the crowd. I'll take the crowd at at science fiction convention over the crowd at a professional sports event any day of the week.

Posted by: clambreath on April 1, 2006 at 8:39 PM | PERMALINK

I went to the annual comicon here in seattle last year. It was more fun than I expected given that I only rarely read a comic.

I'd have to say the women there were better looking than the regular occupants of the building (sports fans, it was in the stadium complex).

It is very likely a good place to get some old pulp novels if you are into that kind of thing. The comiccon was.

I wouldn't drive miles to get to it, but it was an enjoyable hour.

Posted by: jefff on April 1, 2006 at 10:17 PM | PERMALINK

God, Kevin: Go!

I don't go to cons much anymore (and we've got a zillion of 'em here in the Pacific NW) but if a Worldcon ever parked itself in my corner of the world, I'd break all speed records to get there.

A Wordcon is an all-you-can-eat banquet. You get every flavor of fan there is, a trainload of writers and artists whose work you've enjoyed all your life, a Huckster Room to die for, an Art Show to die for, and of course the infamous Costume Competition.

Posted by: CaseyL on April 1, 2006 at 10:25 PM | PERMALINK

If you love written science fiction you should definitely go. Unfortunately I don't think I'll be making it to this year's Worldcon. I've been to quite a few of them and worked on a couple. In fact next month will be my 30th anniversary of attending science fiction conventions. Some people posting here are a bit confused between a convention like Worldcon and the media conventions. While the costume contest produces some truly awesome examples of the costuming art the overwhelming majority of attendees never wear a costume at all. I never have.

And yes, Connie Willis is a great writer and a wonderful person who is a joy to be around.

Posted by: Jim S on April 1, 2006 at 10:26 PM | PERMALINK

I went to one in Chicago in the early 1980s. Haven't been back but that's because they were always far away. I think there was more hard science fiction in those days, less sword and sorcery, and only a modest fraction of the crowd were in (often immodest) costumes. There was some serious discussion and a lot of pleasant conversation.

It would also be a good place to dust off your political blog luncheon once again. See if one or two authors who write on speculative political issues would join.

Posted by: Bob G on April 1, 2006 at 11:38 PM | PERMALINK

ferd: but the whole ensemble plus black rubber galoshes doesn't cut it.

I can't stop laughing at this image.

tbrosz: but I went to Anaheim for the 1996 one, combining Disneyland for the kids and the Worldcon for all of us.

Oh, I'll bet. I can see it now: tom comes home and says "kids, honey, I have a surprise for 'all of us'" and the kids are going "geeeez, dad, not another one, and what's the deal with that helmet? You're soooo embarassing."

Posted by: craigie on April 2, 2006 at 12:11 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin: If you go and later write about it, allow me to suggest a title: 'The Heart of Dorkiness".


Posted by: CFShep on April 2, 2006 at 9:47 AM | PERMALINK

I love Galaxy Quest.

I recently aquired both GQ and that early Tim Burton gem 'Mars Attacks' for $5 each from the markdown bins. Such a deal.


Posted by: CFShep on April 2, 2006 at 9:49 AM | PERMALINK

Yall owe it to yourself to check out Triumph The Comic Insult Dog's take on these things, via G4:


Posted by: flike on April 2, 2006 at 11:24 AM | PERMALINK

Noticing that I left one word out of my previous post, I then followed some of the themes in the others more closely, and I must conclude that you folks who stereotype sf fans and for that matter fandom as dorks simply don't know what the #%@! you're talking about. While it is true that those in organized fandom might be outsiders because of their physical attributes or certain idiosyncractic social skills, after over thirty years of working in science fiction shops (and owning one for over twenty Dangerous Visions in Sherman Oaks, CA), I discovered that intellectually sf fans were that much different than those of the sociall acceptable or beautiful LA people who came in. There are some movie stars who would fall under your dork insult. Besides, most of the people who shop at Costco are pretty damn ugly, and I bet they don't read sf. In fact, I doubt most of the people reading these pages are more beautiful than sf fans. So get off your high horse and join the rest of humanity. PS I'm on the programming committee for World Con. Know your audience, folks.

Posted by: Arthur Byron Cover on April 2, 2006 at 11:32 AM | PERMALINK

Yes, if you read science fiction you should go to the Worldcon. There is that taster membership for the doubtful or nervous, but remembering your past expressions of interest in SF, if you have the time and money you should plunk for the whole thing.

You don't need a guide. There's panels and talks all day, dealer's room and art show to see, and open parties in the evening. Even introverts can find people to talk to.

And, Kevin, you will find people who know you. SF fandom has a lot of liberals (the rest seem to be mostly libertarians), and some of them read this blog. Heck, man, Patrick Nielsen Hayden invited you to lunch! Go!

A Worldcon is not like the convention in Galaxy Quest. It's not a big show to see TV stars on stage or get their autographs. It's much more varied, cut up into pieces (big plenary sessions are only a small part of the whole), and with rare exceptions the biggest stars are the writers.

Like Connie Willis. You won't learn to write like her, but you will get to hear her speak, which is even more fun than reading her.

Posted by: Simon on April 2, 2006 at 11:50 AM | PERMALINK

I love Galaxy Quest.

As do I!

I recently aquired both GQ and that early Tim Burton gem 'Mars Attacks' for $5 each from the markdown bins. Such a deal.

"Dark is the suede that mows like the harvest."
Rod Steiger: "What the fuck are you talking about?"

(I paraphrase, but close enough. Cracks me up just thinking about it.)

Posted by: shortstop on April 2, 2006 at 12:00 PM | PERMALINK

You do realize how much y'all sound like Ann Coulter, don't you?

Just making an observation. Touched a nerve, did we?

Posted by: Sci Fi on April 2, 2006 at 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

I guess if you want to blow a few hundred bucks on a membership it's a good thing.
On second thought, ....naw.
My first was in 1974.
My last was Holland (created that one).
Mostly you'll find 80% of the population to be geeks or dweebs.
The other 20% feel duty-bound to act like they run the culture (think I'm kidding? "S.M.O.F"= Secret Masters of Fandom).
Well, there is sort of a positive note. Mostly it tends to accept people. Mostly.
But if you do go, don't forget. L.Ron Hubbard created Scientology on a five dollar bet with Arthur C. Clarke.
You'll likely find a few interesting people to talk to (but then again, any subculture will produce that). I suggest a stop at:
For a fair and balanced view of fandom.
You also might want to do a search on "Cat Piss Man"

Posted by: Neil Belsky on April 2, 2006 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

You do know that people who mostly only meet online often get together for a lunch or room party or coffee at these things, right? (I frequent the newsgroup of a writer I like, and half of the denizens of it are currently at Ad Astra in Toronto, having lunch together right now for all I know :-( )

If you decide to go, be sure and ask if readers want to do a "Political Animal" gathering somewhere/when. Or at least, announce a place you'll be at a certain time so that your "fans" can gather round and bug you for autographs. No costumes. Promise.

(Now I really want to go. I've been thinking about it, but it's expensive... My promise to myself is if I sell enough stories to cover the membership, I'll go...)

Posted by: KarenJG on April 2, 2006 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

Well, I think you should go, but I go almost every year, so I'm a biased sample.

Posted by: Eva Whitley on April 2, 2006 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK

And, the LACon's livejournal has already mentioned the possibility that you may attend.


Now you gotta go.

Posted by: KarenJG on April 2, 2006 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

I went to my first one in 1976, and I remember saying to my friend "The good thing about this one is that we are anonymous. We don't know anyone and no one knows us. That will never be true again, so I intend to enjoy this." It was great. I've gone to them when I can since then, and will go to the one in Anaheim.

There will inevitably be blogger panels and gatherings, so you might meet someone you want to know anyway. A lot of SF folk have blogs. I recommend the Neilsen Haydens to you -- http://www.nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/

Posted by: Scorpio on April 2, 2006 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

I never miss a local Worldcon.

That explains a lot. Of course conservatives are going to have a "rich" fantasy life as they have tremendous problems living in the real world.

Worldcons lean more to the professional end of SF, rather than catering to Trekkers or other specialty groups, but everyone is made welcome.

Uh huh.

Costume contest is a must-see. Some people make careers out of Worldcon costumes. Posted by: tbrosz

Yes, these people are commonly know as weirdos, people with, at best, severe problems with adulthood. In Japan, this is a sub group of the larger genus otaku - social retards who have problems dealing with the real world.

Posted by: Jeff II on April 2, 2006 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

I would like to know what evidence Jeff II has to support his notion that people who are brilliant at making costumes have severe problems dealing with the rest of the world. And then I would like to know how good he is at it, and what great insight he has into human nature that allows him to make grand pronouncements about people he hasn't met and knows nothing about. And face it, which is a more healthy hobby -- making and wearing costumes, or shooting cage-reared birds 70 to 80 at a time and calling it a sport?

Posted by: Arthur Byron Cover on April 2, 2006 at 2:45 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin -- go!

I was a guest speaker at WorldCon two years ago in Boston, and have done science lectures at many Star Trek conventions. WorldCons have something for everybody!

Posted by: ccp on April 2, 2006 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

There are many different kinds of conventions, but Worldcons are the best of them. Guests number over 200 usually and the chances are you will not only see many of your favorite authors, but that you will be able to sit down and chat with them. It is entirely volunteer run (nobody makes a profit) and for all that is better run than many professionally run conventions.

This post to another blog just before the 2003 Worldcon in Toronto can give you a great idea of what to expect, should you want some more info.

Additionally, The Alien Online (UK publication) interviewed several people before last year's UK Worldcon, including a Co-Chairman of the convention and British Author, and journalist Charles Stross. It will give you several people's replies to common questions by one who had never been to a Worldcon. http://www.thealienonline.net/ao_060.asp?baa=1&tid=1&scid=11&iid=2763

And boy, would you ever be a welcome sight there! If you wanted to I'm sure you could get onto programming to as some of the panels discuss political futures, but there are many subjects you would be a gem to have on.

Posted by: Grant Kruger on April 2, 2006 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin: I will be celebrating 30 years of going it sf cons at this year's worldcon. (There'll be a party and you're invited.) Worldcon has been variously described as sf's family reunion and as our Big Tent. There's something for everone. If you come, I'll introduce you to Connie Willis. Or any other writer you might like to meet. Just drop me a line.


Posted by: Mary Kay on April 2, 2006 at 3:22 PM | PERMALINK

I've been going to Worldcons (when I can afford to) since 1976.

Worldcons really aren't that much like the con in Galaxy Quest. Lit fans tend to focus on writers and each other. If actors show up (as they sometimes do), that's fine, but most readers are more likely to line up for Neil Gaiman than William Shatner.

I bet there will be in excess of 500 bloggers/LJers at Worldcon, and that's a conservative estimate.

The person who likened it to an "All you can eat buffet" hit the nail on the head.

And, this year, taster memberships will be offered. If you buy a one-day membership, and leave in less than three hours, you get a partial refund.

Posted by: Laurie Mann on April 2, 2006 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

And face it, which is a more healthy hobby -- making and wearing costumes, or shooting cage-reared birds 70 to 80 at a time and calling it a sport?
Posted by: Arthur Byron Cover

Neither. Their both for losers.

I seem to remember when I was growing up that Halloween came just once a year. And, though it holds no appeal to me, I'd say bow hunting is the only version of the shooting "sports" which deserves even grudging respect.

Posted by: Jeff II on April 2, 2006 at 5:52 PM | PERMALINK

Some of the best costumers I ever knew were also into building models from scratch and other similar projects. Once they made a ten foot tall pink dinosaur that one of them could fit into and make it walk. It was even designed so that a petite girl could ride it in her "barbarian" costume. They wound up in L.A. working in special effects.

The 1976 WorldCon here in Kansas City was my first Worldcon as well and only my second SF convention. I doubt I'll ever stop attending conventions.

Posted by: Jim S on April 2, 2006 at 7:26 PM | PERMALINK

Worldcons: Too big, too crowded, too hectic.

The last Worldcon I went to was in 1984. I've come to prefer smaller, friendlier conventions. (Bubonicon, in Albuquerque, NM, each August, attendance about 400, is one I try not to miss.)

If my writing ever took off to where I might have business to conduct at a Worldcon, I'd probably go. But a short-story sale every year or so doesn't meet the cost/benefit line.

Full disclosure: I am a grumpy old crank. Plenty of people have good times at Worldcons; I used to.

Posted by: Bruce A. on April 2, 2006 at 8:51 PM | PERMALINK

And face it, which is a more healthy hobby -- making and wearing costumes, or shooting cage-reared birds 70 to 80 at a time and calling it a sport?
Posted by: Arthur Byron Cover

Neither. Their both for losers.

I seem to remember when I was growing up that Halloween came just once a year. And, though it holds no appeal to me, I'd say bow hunting is the only version of the shooting "sports" which deserves even grudging respect.

And we are supposed to care about your opinion and/or respect, why? Your behavior thus far exemplifies professional authors' tales of the worst aspects of fanish behavior. Although I'm sure the fate of western civilization depends on yoru definition of winners and loser.

Posted by: Arthur Byron Cover on April 2, 2006 at 10:44 PM | PERMALINK

I see loads of varied opinions, but how many from people who actually go to Worldcons? People may tell you something is "for losers", but those are merely their own opinions, and your mileage may vary. The best advice I can give you, is check it out for a bit on the "taster" membership, and decide for yourself.

I've been reading SF since I was 5, too. I've been attending Worldcons as a fan here and there for 2 decades, and the majority have been pleasant and entertaining, for my husband and for our children as well. (My High School student daughter's first Worldcon was Chicon V, before she turned 1.)

As for "fat people" and "women with saggy tits", people with all sorts of body types (and ages) may be found anywhere, not just at Worldcons. I myself am a 5'9 martial artist, 130 lbs, and am told frequently by many people that I resemble Carrie-Ann Moss (but younger.)

My family and I will be at Worldcon in LA, and lots of our friends. We already expect we'll have a good time. ::)

Posted by: Average PTA mom on April 2, 2006 at 11:58 PM | PERMALINK

Well, you already know my opinion :)

Ignore the nay-sayers here (most of them, anyway), or at most make note of just exactly WHO are making immature comments and acting like dorks here.

Worldcons are fun for folks who read SF, like meeting other folks who read SF, and like a good intellectual discussion or five. And the liberal/libertarian overlap within SF fandom can be quite fascinating. We're mostly people who don't like being told what to do, and hence have a lot more in common with each other than one might imagine.

Posted by: quietann on April 3, 2006 at 12:55 AM | PERMALINK

Amusing to see a number of the usual suspects out from the voodvork come, slightly out of usual context.

It would be easy to write a very long comment of advice and suggestions; but, then, a jillion people have written such articles over the years; you can find a number -- some awful, some okay, some good -- on the web.

A few short bits of advice, though: get a list of nightly parties from someone clueful (emphasis on the "clueful," as in someone who has lots of connections with people at the con); the parties, and generally hanging around talking with interesting people, is one of the best, if not the best, parts of the con.

Wear sneakers and comfy clothes; convention centers are huge, things are far apart, and there's always a thousand times more walking than you'd like at a modern worldcon. Keep in mind that food actually at the convention center, rather than the hotels, is apt to be crappy and expensive: a twofer.

Do as much arranging in advance to meet people for lunch, dinner, drinks, breakfast, etc.; there are an awful lot of people at a modern worldcon, and it's always hard to find them, save passing them in the hallway on their way in a hurry somewhere. Carry a notebook for making notes.

A few days before the con, go through the program schedule that will be online; a lot of this will be changed by the actual con, but it should at least give a good general idea of some of the items you'd be interested in attending -- most of which will tend to be opposite each other, at the most distant ends of the convention center and hotel -- and some of them may actually come off at the listed time, with some of the listed people.

Allow more time than you expect, due to all the walking. Carrying a water bottle is also advisable.

Don't be afraid to stare at name tags, or ask people who they are when their's isn't visible; you never know which famous writer/artist/editor/scientist/whomever they may turn out to be; all sorts of interesting people turn up for Worldcon from all walks of life (could be Janis Ian; could be Newt Gingrich; could be Sidney Coleman; you just never know).

I won't be there, but with any luck, you'll have an excellent time, I suspect; and if you mention that you're interested in attending to the right people doing programming, it's not impossible you might not be asked to be on a panel on politics or blogging or something, though, of course, maybe not; but this would also give you a decent chance of possibly having your membership fee refunded some time after the con, if their budget allows for it. Not something to count on, but conceivable (alternatively, you might be able to get a press pass of some sort -- again, not something to count on, but a very polite and gentle inquiry might not hurt).

Have fun. (And, yeah, ignore the blitherings of all the people who've not been to Worldcons, but think they know what they're talking about; ignorance and willingness to display it is rarely an attractive or interesting quality. And, no, it's not going to be much like Galaxy Quest, which was amusing, but showed a commericial media "show," which aren't much at all like real sf conventions, which are non-profit, mostly about people actually convening, meeting each other, and talking, and have relatively little to do with actors or big stages, overall [although an LA-area Worldcon will, of course, have vastly more attention to movies/films than a Worldcon anywhere else], and probably a smattering of actors in the huckster room, far more than any other Worldcon would; but with luck, a fair number of book dealers, as well; don't miss the Art Show, by the way.)

Posted by: Gary Farber on April 3, 2006 at 1:48 AM | PERMALINK

This will be my fourth Worldcon and I cant wait.

There is enough going on that you can pick your poison. The art show and dealers room can fill an entire day. But for me, the true value is in the panels, often the space ones alone are worth the price of admission. And by space I don't mean
discussions of the science of Trek but actual presentations by scientists from NASA, JPL, etc.
The DS1 flight team did a fascinating presentation
of their Comet Borrelly fly-by a few years back.

Posted by: Suzdal on April 3, 2006 at 3:31 AM | PERMALINK

To see what has happened at a previous convention (and people's reactions to it), you might look at the Noreascon Four web site. It has a lot of information about what the 2004 Worldcon was all about, including the program, reviews of the convention, and various people's photography collections.

The folks at L.A.ConIV give good con. :-)

Posted by: Deb Geisler on April 3, 2006 at 12:44 PM | PERMALINK

I went to the World Con event in LA in the early 80's, and my range of memories of that was one of..."hmm, well, this is different" to "OMG, are any of these people for real!"

However, the more pleasant part of the experience is having some top line authors doing short reads of new works, and the vendors area where some classic SF work resides if you're willing to dig.

One funny memory was of a group of people I call "Baby Huey's" in which you get a 6'6" tall guy, weighing in at about 400 lbs, with a belly extending way out of his ill fitting Star-trek t-shirt, bounding down a hotel hallway going, "Hey John, I got that book!"

Posted by: sheerahkahn on April 3, 2006 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

In the 90s, I worked as a journalist in LA and was assigned several times to cover the Pasadena Star Trek convention. The convention is a media con, is very similar to what was lampooned in GALAXY QUEST, and, as such, is primarily about exhibiting the actors in front of their die-hard fans. The convention was not to my personal liking (actors, with few exceptions, are the least interesting part of the movie-making process. Wasn't it Hitchcock that lamented interference from actors as being "when a body with a voice thought it had a brain?"); I was glad when I quit having to cover the show, and, yes, it is where you are most likely to encounter a Klingon bridal party.

By contrast, since I became professionally involved in SF&F literature in 2000, I have attended every World Science Fiction Convention since, and I count it as one of the highlights of my year. A literary con is night-and-day to a media one, and is much more concerned with intelligent discussions of challenging literature. As opposed to queing up to have William Shatner tell you to get a life, WorldCon is about interesting discussions (many over good beers) with fascinating people. There will still be some odd folk for the news media to focus on, but percentage-wise, no more than you would find scattered among the crowd at a football stadium. If you judged every sports fan only on the shots on tv of beer-bellied fans with painted faces and giant foam hats, you would be making the same mistake that many of the posters above commit.

Posted by: Lou Anders on April 3, 2006 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

I'll add my name to those urging you, if you have a serious interest in science fiction and fantasy literature and art, to attend L.A.con IV, this year's Worldcon, particularly since it is close to you. My first Worldcon was the 1984 Worldcon in Anaheim (1996 was also in Anaheim). I attended it on my own without any "local guide," but I still had a great time, and at the end of five days, I didn't want it to end. I've attended every Worldcon since 1989, including the one last year in Glasgow, Scotland. I also co-chaired the 2002 Worldcon, ConJose, in San Jose, California.

The people who are characterizing Worldcons by what they saw in Galaxy Quest have obviously never attended a real SF convention. (They may have attended a "gate show" where the whole purpose of the event is to watch a TV/movie star on a stage.) As it happens, the opening ceremony of ConJose was intended to be a riff on Galaxy Quest, with me in the Chairman role. Afterwards, our head of Events told me (truthfully) that I didn't fit the role too well -- I'm too serious and not geeky enough. (See this photo for me holding a 2002 Hugo Award trophy during ConJose, and this page from the 2002 Hugo Awards pre-event reception as something of a refutation of the idea that everyone at an SF convention is dressed as a Klingon.)

The people who complained that Worldcon is "too big and too crowded" have at least been to a Worldcon, and they're expressing a matter of taste. There is a reasonable expectation that there will be between 5,000 and 7,000 people attending L.A.con IV. Compared to monster anime conventions such as Anime Expo or other events such as Dragon*Con and the San Diego Comic-Con International, the Worldcon is a quiet, intimate gathering.

Worldcon is, in my opinion, a "gathering of the fannish tribes" -- a place where lots of different people with a common love of the field can get together and celebrate and appreciate science fiction and fantasy.

As others have pointed out, you can go for a single day, or for as little as three hours for only $20, but if you consider yourself a fan of SF & F, I recommend buying a full five-day membership now. It's really a bargain when you look at the hundreds of panel discussions and events going on over the five days -- not to mention that things usually actually get going the day before the convention formally starts. Plus, if you join now, you'll be eligible to vote on the 2006 Hugo Awards, the premier honors of science fiction and fantasy, which will be presented at a ceremony on Saturday night of the convention.

I hope you are able to attend L.A.con IV and that you enjoy yourself there.

Posted by: Kevin Standlee on April 3, 2006 at 1:47 PM | PERMALINK

I am prejudiced. I met the love of my life at a regional SF convention; we were married at one, 25 years ago come June 12; our 10-year-old has been to 40 so far.

That said: the bigots who post stereotypes here, and the ones who make Galaxy Quest jokes, don't know what the dickens they are talking about; they're channeling O'Reilly or Limbaugh or [insert name of despised bigot here] whoever. Actual SF conventions (as opposed to the commercial media shows which the MainStreamMedia reliably misinforms you are "science fiction conventions") are gatherings of the tribe of the ImagiNation. Everything such respected posters as Patrick Nielsen Hayden and Arthur Byron Cover and Mary Kay Kare and Eva Whitley has said, is true. This is the Big Pow-Wow of the fannish community; and while you will see the fat guy in the too-small t-shirt, you'll also meet a lot of good writers, and more than a few rocket scientists, epidemiologists, historians, union staffers, state legislators, janitors, ministers, etc. I only wish I could afford to join you this year.

Posted by: Orange Mike Lowrey on April 3, 2006 at 3:09 PM | PERMALINK

It can be quite entertaining working press office at a Worldcon. The journos tend to arrive with a story in mind. They get quite upset at finding everyone dressed in jeans and t-shirts and beg us to find them people in costume that they can film/photograph. A classic example is the 2003 event in Toronto. The newspaper reports used pictures of an exhibit of costumes worn at the 1973 Toronto Worldcon because they were far more outrageous than anything people at the 2003 event were wearing.

Posted by: Cheryl Morgan on April 3, 2006 at 3:37 PM | PERMALINK

Go to the site of LAcon IV, www.laconiv.org, and look around for yourself. There's information about programming, other activities, membership rate, and the new two-hour "taster" membership that they're offering. Then judge for yourself.

Posted by: Lew Wolkoff on April 3, 2006 at 3:51 PM | PERMALINK

Go. You will have more fun if you get tips from Patrick N-H. I am interested in how many of the blogs I read (mostly about politics, economics and science and all liberal or left) are written by people who know and like science fiction; and clearly I am not the only science fiction fan who reads Political Animal, as you can tell by many of the posts above. (Fan in this case means a member of fandom, which is the science fiction subculture. We are the awful geeks described by several of the above posts, which were not written by fans.) What does this mean? I'm not sure. But we are going to want a con report from you, after you go.

Posted by: Eleanor on April 3, 2006 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK

Go. Wear comfortable shoes. And be sure to attend the Business Meeting, which can be one of the most entertaining events of the entire Worldcon.

Posted by: purpleranger on April 3, 2006 at 5:37 PM | PERMALINK
And be sure to attend the Business Meeting....
Hush! That's supposed to be a secret! Posted by: Kevin Standlee on April 3, 2006 at 8:19 PM | PERMALINK


The only time I've ever gotten up early enough for the business meeting was when I was working on a bid. Otherwise I've generally been up far too late at the parties to drag myself out of bed early enough for that one. I'm also fascinated by how many people I know or have at least heard of posting here on this topic.

Posted by: Jim S(atterfield) on April 3, 2006 at 9:52 PM | PERMALINK

Whether Kevin Drum goes or not, the net effect of the entire discussion has been to make me want to go.

Posted by: Kevin on April 4, 2006 at 12:16 AM | PERMALINK



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