Volume 30, Number 1, Fall 2011

Renovation WorldCon 2011 Convention Report

By Fred Curtis Moulton

The 69th World Science Fiction Convention was held Wednesday August 17 through Sunday August 21, 2011 in Reno, Nevada, USA. The Reno-Sparks Convention Center was the site for most of the events with some held at the Peppermill, in particular the Masquerade and the Hugo Ceremony. The Atlantis Hotel hosted the Hospitality rooms (aka Room Parties) and the Con Suite. Being held in casinos in Nevada meant there was more smoking than many attendees might have been used to, however, it was not as bad as I had expected.

The hotels and convention center are located south of downtown Reno and thus were not near the classic older Reno hotels such as the El Dorado or the Silver Legacy. While it would have been better if the Peppermill was closer to the Atlantis and Convention Center, the separation of less than one mile did not appear to me to be a major issue. I was able to walk from the point where the Peppermill property meets the sidewalk to where the Atlantis meets the sidewalk in about eleven minutes the evening following the Masquerade. And there were shuttles which ran from the Peppermill to the Convention Center and to the Atlantis Hotel.

The Atlantis Hotel was connected to the Convention Center by an elevated and air conditioned walkway. However, I found that I seldom used it since I enjoyed being out in the fresh air. Plus there was an added bonus of the side exit from the Convention Center nearest to the Atlantis had an enclosed entryway with metal pieces mounted near the ceiling being struck and producing a surprisingly soothing sonic experience. I would occasionally just stop and listen and relax before heading to the Atlantis and I noticed that I was not the only one.

The convention center was large enough for most panels and only a few were standing room only. The events featuring Dr. Demento were well attended by fans who enjoyed the recordings he played and the commentary about them. Of course, as with any Worldcon, it is impossible to attend every event. However, there were always quality events throughout the day.

The dealers’ area had a good variety of merchandise and interested fans and was well arranged with aisles wide enough that traffic jams were not a common event. In the dealers’ room were L. Neil Smith and Scott Bieser at the Big Head Press table

Greg Benford’s book Chiller was reissued as an ebook with additional material. To involve the more traditional booksellers with ebooks, there was a card purchased from the traditional booksellers which has a code for the purchaser to redeem online for the book; I found that this worked well.

The Art Show had interesting works on display. Although a few were for display only and not for sale, there were many which could be had at very reasonable prices. And the temptation to purchase was great (I only gave into temptation once). In addition there was a special exhibition of works from the collection of the late Kenneth A. Moore, a longtime fan, Con runner, and lover of art.

An important feature of this Worldcon was the special track for teachers held on Wednesday the first day of the Con. These panels focused on teaching SF and facilitating literacy. The reports I heard were very positive. By not having this Worldcon over Labor Day weekend this special programming for teachers was possible. Because so many schools are starting before Labor Day many families with children, teachers or even older students have conflicts with Worldcons scheduled on Labor Day. Persons complaining about the “graying of fandom” should take notice. The Renovation Worldcon had a date and a series of panels which worked for teachers. Not to mention that Labor Day conflicts with Burning Man and DragonCon.

Each Worldcon has a Business Meeting and the Business Meeting for this Con had several long and complicated issues relating to various subcommittees and the Hugo awards. Several contentious issues were handled and for those interested, video of the proceedings are online.

The Libertarian Futurist Society awards ceremony was held on Friday at 1:00 PM. The event began with remarks about the Hall of Fame winner Animal Farm by George Orwell. Then the Prometheus Best Novel was presented for Darkship Thieves and Sarah Hoyt delivered some well-received acceptance remarks. The question and answer session followed, and then the event concluded with photo opportunities.

On Sunday morning, various LFS members and friends gathered for breakfast in the Purple Parrot restaurant in the Atlantis for breakfast and lively conversation.

The conversations were far ranging and I had several positive reports about the enjoyment of the breakfast gathering.

The Con as a whole seemed to be upbeat. Various groups were seen either in fan tables or at room parties. The Heinlein Society had their annual meeting and a table in the hall near the fan area, as well as displaying three paintings previously owned by the Heinleins. The Heinlein Society project of supplying a CD of materials is having a good reception amongst teachers. Several of the bids for future Worldcons had well attended bid parties. There was discussion of various new conventions being planned for various areas and hopefully these plans will come to fruition.

The only complaints I heard were related to difficulties with the Con Suite and room parties in the Atlantis. Perhaps the Atlantis was made aware or could not accommodate some traditions of SF fandom in particular, the Con Suite was very restricted on what types of items it could serve. From the reports I heard, the Security personnel at the Atlantis had differing approaches to working with the fans, particularly on the party floors; my personal experience was that they were generally friendly and in at least one case, a hotel security person asked to be assigned to the party floor just because he enjoyed the fans. I also heard about the security person who had read SF for decades and was not aware of SF fandom and conventions until Worldcon was at the hotel at which he worked.

At the time of the writing of this report the final membership numbers both supporting and attending are not available. However, based on what I have heard, unofficially membership was higher than many people expected. This worldcon set a record with 1006 valid Hugo nominating ballots and yet another record with 2100 valid Hugo final ballots.

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