Should One Attend Worldcon?

5 comments Written on April 19th, 2011 by
Categories: News

Earlier this morning I responded to a Live Journal post from an acquaintance on the desirability of attending the Worldcon. She’d never been to one before, and was asking for opinions and suggestions. A number of people chimed in. After I added my two cents, I kept thinking about it. I really love the Worldcon, and it seemed worth expanding on my original post and sharing it with you here.

I have been attending Worldcons regularly since 2001 (I’m not counting the Chicago convention in 2000 where I showed up for an evening to do a mnemonics demonstration), and they are my favorite convention, bar none.

I attend even when I am in great pain: In Phlaidelphia for 2001, I needed root canal. I discovered this during my reading. It was probably painful for the audience to watch me struggle through the thing, but I had a reading at a Wordlcon, and I wasn’t going to quit!. In 2003, during Toronto, my back went out on me in the middle of the convention floor, and I spent much of the con in a wheelchair. I had a great time even so. 2007 saw me traveling to Japan to lose the Campbell Award. I was so thoroughly exhausted that on the night of the Hugos I collapsed in bed before midnight, unable to party any longer. 2009’s convention in Montreal is mostly a blur because of the pain killers I was tossing back like candy (my back, again) but I’ll never forget the hallucinations I had of sitting at the convention center chatting with Roger Zelazny. So, yeah, I’ve had some pretty rough trips to this annual event, but I’ve never regretted attending.

As a general rule, I do not like large conventions (I can’t imagine ever going to Comicon or Dragon*Con). I especially hate waiting around in lines; it’s just not a good use of time. When possible, I try to arrive at the convention a day early, just so I can check into my hotel room, get my badge before things get hectic, and in general just settle in. The Worldcon can be quite large (LAcon IV clocks in at over 6,000 people), but because it’s spread out, I’m never bothered on that score.

Yes, it’s more expensive than other conventions (with the possible exception of WorldFantasy) but I believe it’s worth it. It’s an opportunity to see/meet/hear/schmooze with many more people than you’re likely to get otherwise, in a context that I find far superior to WorldFantasy. It’s the event that, more than any other in this field, is the “must attend” convention. Maybe that will change (as so much does in this industry), but I hope not. Like a lot of other “pros” I started as a fan, and the Worldcon lets me wear both hats. I get to sit on panels and share my thoughts with audiences, but I also get to go to readings of some of my favorite authors and grin like a happy idiot as they share their personal anecdotes and experiences. Life is good.

Another perk of the Worldcon stems from its popularity as a convention destination. It’s not uncommon that you’ll get to meet people you only know through email and blogs (such as myself), or visit with friends you otherwise wouldn’t see for years at a time. And of course, as they’re doing the same thing with others, you should expect to be introduced to plenty of new people too. This for me is one of the very best things about the Worldcon, expanding the network of amazing people I know.

For folks who have been through workshops like Clarion or Odyssey or Taos Toolbox, as well as for members of online communities like Codex or Critters, there are invariably reunion meals to attend, and these are always wonderful and too brief, and so much better than those dreaded high school reunions. It’s a wonderful opportunity to catch up, share in the successes of your peers, and bask in the simple pleasure of coming together.

And you frequently hear people talking about networking opportunties at conventions, but especially at the Worldcon. To this I can only add a couple stories of my own: In 2004 at the Boston Worldcon, literally as I was on my way out of the hotel, having settled up my bill and while wheeling my suitcase to the car, I ran into a small press e-publisher who’d been looking for me throughout the convention (unsuccessfully) and wanted to know if I’d be interested in doing an electronic collection of some of my science fiction stories. I said “yes.” And, more recently at the 2008 Worlcon in Denver, I met my publisher face-to-face for the first time (I’d been selling him short stories for anthologies for a couple years). We talked. By the end of the convention, we had a rough deal, and on a handshake I sold him a novel. Fast forward to the Montreal Worldcon where, despite the aforementioned pain medications (and the fun hallucinations they induced) I sat down with him again and we worked out a deal for two more books. Guess what I’m expecting to do when I see him again in Reno this year?

So, yes, you should go to the Worldcon if you can. Whether it’s for the entire run (which, trust me, can be quite fatiguing) or even for just a day. Go. If money is an issue, the community is such that it’s not that difficult to find people you can crash with to save hotel funds. Valerie and I like splurging and exploring the fine-dining options in the various cities that host the convention, but if you feel the need to be frugal you can just as easily graze at the con suite during the day and at parties at night to save on meals. And yes, the convention can be overwhelming with so much going on, so many tracts of programming, so many Big Name Authors (and lesser known folk like yours truly). You can go it alone and have a great time, but personally I recommend you attach yourself to some group of writers and/or fans, form yourselves into a posse, share one another’s views and opinions as you experience each and every little bit, and immerse yourself in the sheer joy of being at the Worldcon.

Oh, and also, be sure and come to my reading! 🙂


5 comments “Should One Attend Worldcon?”

Remember me? I would have thought you’d have been at IguanaCon, or one of the earlier Los Angeles worldcons. I knew you before the KLI, when you and P.K.M. were doing fantasy zines with Letraset and Presstype, before you were Dr. Schoen.

David, I recall your name, but nothing else is coming up in my memory (granted, we’re talking about more than 30 years ago).

I wasn’t actually part of the staff for Fantasie, but I did help out with collation on occasion. Though your recollection is correct, and I did learn a lot about doing paste-up by hand in those pre-Macintosh days.

I believe Paula attended IguanaCon (I think that’s where she met Glen), but that was 1978 and I had just finished my first year of college. I would have been spending the summer working, to help pay for the following year’s education.

Interesting post — thank you for it. I’ve been attending Worldcons for most years since 1968. I like them.

I don’t attend them to network — I go there because I’ve developed an amazing set of friends and contacts (for the difference between contacts and networking, look at Samuel Delany’s book Times Square Red, Times Square Blue). If you’re going there for a single reason, I think you’ll find that reason isn’t enough to keep you coming back. If you’ve got multiple reasons, it’s very worthwhile. One thing I’d recommend — volunteer. It’s an amazing way to meet people in somewhat more depth than just attending gives one. And where else do you get a chance to be part of something where (literally) hundreds of people from several continents are coming together to make their own fun for many days? (Burning Man is the easy example to point at — there aren’t many others I can think of.)

Thanks for your thoughts, Tom. And thank you too, for the very enjoyable ConJose back in 2002 (for anyone else reading this, Tom’s too modest to point out that he and Kevin Standlee chaired that Worldcon).

I admit that when I was writing this post my main focus was still on the young author whose earlier LJ query had inspired my reply. As an author, I don’t think of “volunteering” per se, because in my mind I’m working the convention as a participant, appearing on panels, doing workshops and readings, and sitting forlornly at the autograph table hoping someone comes by with something for me to sign during my assigned slot. That said, Tom makes an excellent point about volunteering, all the more so because amazing as it may seem, every Worldcon is a labor of love and relies entirely on people donating their time and labor and passion. The specific Worldcon may take place in a particular city, but the staff come from all over to make it happen, for themselves and for the rest of us.

There’s that whole tradition of “paying it forward” in our field. I’ll be representing that idea by lending my time to the writers’ workshops (both before the convention by writing up critiques of submitted works and during the convention when I meet with my assigned writers). The rest of you, do consider taking an hour (or two, or ten) out of your convention schedule, and volunteering. Your help and assistance will be greatly appreciated, and you’ll find yourself a part of a wonderful community with a grand tradition of service.

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