Monday, August 29, 2016

Worldcon Post

This year I went to my second-ever Worldcon, taking place in Kansas City, Missouri. In general, I'm coming to realize that conventions for science fiction and fantasy fans tend to be more my speed than gaming conventions. If nothing else, the attendance tends to be much, much smaller, meaning it doesn't feel quite so crowded and full.

The convention center itself was gigantic - I'm pretty sure it was at least a city block long, and may have been a block wide as well. This was good and bad - good, in that there were plenty of wide hallways and areas for people to sit and recharge (either themselves or their phones) without feeling like they're block traffic; bad in that everything was a decent distance away from everything else. On a good day, this isn't a problem; however, I was using my cane the entire convention, and I was feeling the extra distance every time I walked around.

The panels themselves were, by and large, fantastic. I went to a couple of readings for authors I truly enjoy, and loved being able to hear stories from them about how they've gone about writing their works (or re-writing, in some cases). I also got to be called Mark Oshiro's favorite - when he got to the Q&A portion of his reading, my first question was "So, you mention that the main character dropped his bus card. When did he pick it back up? Because he leaves the terminal..." and got a "...God dammit, let me write that down" in response. (I later called him a terrible human being, and he thanked me. Good times were had by all!)

Several of the panels left me with lists of book recommendations, which is always a bonus. It's wonderful hearing about different writing styles from multiple points of view, and realizing once again that there isn't really a "right" way to write. It was also lovely to hear an editor manage to articulate her issues with J.K. Rowling's North American wizarding school, and not have it come across as simply bashing the author. (Her point was that, throughout the Harry Potter books, the world is a monolith - the only part of Great Britain that we see is London, and the countryside where Hogwarts is, which is not near any real city. Having one school for all of North America, and having it somehow lump all of the cultures that make up the countries of this continent shoved together, is in keeping with her already problematic writing style.)

It isn't to say that it was all wine and roses. As I mentioned previously, I personally had a little trouble with loneliness, and the first couple of days I felt as though I were being judged for using my cane and thus taking up more space than I "should". Rightly or wrongly, that was the impression I got. I was fortunate enough to (literally) stumble upon the Accessibility table on my third day, and received a badge ribbon that made things a little easier.

The demographics of the convention attendees still skewed pretty heavily toward Caucasian, though there were significantly more PoC than I've seen in the first few Norwescons I went to, for example. However, the demographics of the panelists didn't really reflect the diversity of the attendees. It can be really hard to get excited about a community that doesn't allow you to see yourself in a position of authority.

On the other hand, the Hugos were a thing of beauty. It wasn't a complete Sad/Rabid Puppy shut-out, and I didn't believe it would be - this year, they hedged their bets by including works on their slate that had a wide range of appeal. Still, we had three of the four prose categories won by people of color (including one translation, which included the translator as a part of the award, which I think is awesome), several of the award winners who couldn't make it in person used their chance to provide a written acceptance speech to call out the BS of the Puppies and how important diversity in fandom and fiction is, and two of the awards were accepted by astronauts. It's hard to beat that.

Overall, I'm very glad I went. Next year's Worldcon will be in Finland, which means I will probably not be attending, but I still plan to get a supporting membership and have the opportunity to nominate and vote for the Hugo awards. What about you? Will you make the trek to Helsinki, or watch the livestream with many of the rest of us as we see how the Hugos turn out next year?