By Fred Curtis Moulton
Aussiecon 4, the 68th World Science Fiction Convention, was held September 2nd - 6th, 2010 in Melbourne, Australia. Melbourne is a wonderful city for a Worldcon with good facilities and fine people. The local tram system had a stop in front of the Convention Center. The part of the Convention Center area used by the Con was set back from the street however most people handled the walk well. On the opposite side of the street from the convention center was a casino and shopping mall with a food court featuring some very tasty food. While I did not see many Worldcon members heading for the casino; the food court received a lot of con business. Behind the convention center was the connecting Hilton hotel with another mall next to it. The hotel for the hospitality events (aka room parties) was the Crowne Plaza across the river from the convention center. The hospitality events wound up being held in various function space locations in the hotel rather than in rooms; I have heard various stories about the background on this but nothing definitive. Since this was a much smaller than usual Worldcon, the number of events and attendees was small enough that it all more or less worked.
Other hotels were in the downtown part of Melbourne within either easy walking distance or a quick tram ride. Purchasing the one week tram pass worked for those who had hotels outside walking distance. The trams ran relatively frequently and generally on time. Melbourne has a wide variety of restaurants and cafes reflecting the many different immigrant groups which have come to Melbourne. You can have an inexpensive and tasty lamb kabob for a quick lunch one day and then the next evening visit a very nice Italian restaurant and have pasta with pumpkin sauce. The Immigration Museum in Melbourne has some great exhibits on the waves of immigration from all over the world. Melbourne also has some fine taverns and several members of the con had a pub crawl on Wednesday prior to the beginning of the con. I had a wonderful time on the pub crawl; just the way to get ready for starting the con the next day.
For a variety of factors, this Worldcon was lower in attendance than typical. Part of the lower attendance was the distance from North America and Europe, which means travel is both longer and more expensive. Plus, the economic situation did not help. The on-site attendance was over 2000 which is in the same range as many regional cons in the USA. The lower attendance was reflected in a smaller than normal Art Show, though it still had some fine works. The dealers’ room had an assortment of publishers, book dealers as well as clothing and costume tables. It was not uncommon to hear fans expressing concern about having room to fit items into their luggage or triggering extra fees by going over airline weight limits. The Masquerade was also had fewer entrants than is typical for a Worldcon.
The area for fan tables and Site Selection voting was spacious with a few tables where fans could sit and chat with friends, new and old. Also, in that area was a stand selling snacks, coffee, tea and other beverages, which was useful since there were no water fountains in the facility. I was told the lack of water fountains was by design, to generate revenue for the convention center from sales of bottled water and sodas. It was annoying, and many fans tried to use their own water bottles in order to reduce waste. But other than the water fountain issue and some signage issues the convention center was a fine facility. In particular, auditorium space for large functions such as Opening Ceremonies and Hugo Awards ceremonies was excellent with good visibility and comfortable seating.
Most conventions have a glitch or two and Aussiecon 4 was not immune. However, the glitches I saw were not major and the con was generally well run. The most common complaint that I heard was people having a problem reading some of the name badges. The background art work and the location of the printing on the badge did not always work well. In particular, I heard that some of the people helping with Site Selection had difficulty reading membership numbers on badges; checking membership numbers is a key part for the Site Selection voting process. Badge designers need to be sure that what is produced is easily readable after being printed and viewed from a distance with tired eyes in less than perfect lighting. If future cons do that, I suspect that everyone will be happier. Another bright spot of the con was the newsletter The Echidna. You can get a taste of the con by reading the online copies, which are available at
The Libertarian Futurist Society Prometheus Awards ceremony was held Friday afternoon. Steve Gaalema did a fine job of reading the acceptance remarks that Karen Anderson had composed for presentation for the Hall of Fame award for “No Truce with Kings,” by Poul Anderson. The remarks gave interesting background of the writing of “No Truce With Kings,” and copies of the cover art referenced in the remarks were passed around the audience during the reading. Dani Kollin and Eytan Kollin, authors of the Prometheus Best Novel winner, The Unincorporated Man, sent their remarks to be read since they were not able to attend. Patrick Nielsen Hayden a senior editor at Tor Books was present to accept the awards plaques for the Kollin brothers and did a really great presentation of their remarks.
Overall I had a wonderful time in Melbourne. I heard a lot of positive comments about the con and Melbourne. Virtually everyone I spoke with had a wonderful time and enjoyed meeting friends old and new from around the world. And although attendance was not large, Aussiecon 4 did attract enough attendees from the USA to be noticed. The day before the start of the con I just finished a midmorning snack of toast and espresso when a member of the wait staff asked if she could clear my plate. When I answered, she asked if I was from the USA, I replied in affirmative and she asked why so many people from USA were suddenly arriving in Melbourne. So I explained about Worldcon being in Melbourne.
And closer to my home in 2011, the Worldcon will be in Reno, Nevada [Renovation, from August 17 - 21, editor], and based on what I have seen thus far will be great.
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