Volume 32, Number 01, Fall, 2013

A day in the life of Worldcon

I believe my last full Worldcon experience came in 1998, in Baltimore. I’ve attended Armadillocon a few times, DragonCon once, Westercon once, the World Fantasy Con once, and the full Worldcon three years in a row (1996 in Los Angeles, 1997 in San Antonio, and 1998 in Baltimore). Conventions are exhausting. Maybe I’m not a people person. I’ve attended a few panels (and appeared on panels at DragonCon and a small programming/SF convention a few years ago). I mostly enjoy spending time in the dealers’ room. I skip the parties, find the masquerade baffling, and the Hugo Award ceremony overly long.

After skipping conventions for years, I happened to be in Colorado during Denvention 3, in 2008. I made a side trip to Denver and bought a one-day membership, specifically to attend the Prometheus Awards ceremony, and then later a small dinner with a group that included L. Neil Smith and Fran Van Cleave. Looking back, 2008 seems like such a long time ago. I remember the convention well, as while I was there the company for which I worked at the time fired a co-worker, and though we shared an office no one ever fully explained why he was gone for quite some time.

In 1997, when the last Worldcon took place in San Antonio, I lived 90 miles to the north, and drove down for the occasion. Victor Koman won the Prometheus Award for best novel for Kings of the High Frontier. Sam Konkin, whose motto of carpe noctem I’d learned of previously at Westercon some time before, called me one night at 3 or 4am to remind me I’d promised to drive him to a Kinkos and help print his conzine, Daily Frefanzine. I still remember navigating to that Kinkos in a strange city in the middle of the night, probably the only car on the road. Now I live in San Antonio, only one mile from that Kinkos, and every time I drive between it and the university across the street, I remember Sam Konkin and his efforts to print the newsletter from his PowerBook to Kinko’s weird printers.

The 2013 Worldcon showed up at my doorstep, in San Antonio, Texas. In the intervening years since my last Worldcon experience—Denver in 2008—cities like Montreal, Melbourne, Reno and Chicago had hosted Worldcon. LoneStarCon 3 took place in San Antonio August 29 through September 2, and there I was again, with my one-day membership, bought just to attend the Prometheus Awards and drool over books that I could not afford in the dealers room (anyone have a spare $2000 for an Arkham House edition of Ray Bradbury’s Dark Carnival?). The Prometheus Awards ceremony took place in a small room, in a distant corner, and finished all too quickly. Neither winner was there, though Best Novel winner Cory Doctorow sent some very generous remarks that his editor read (or rather, speed-read). These remarks appear here for those unable to attend the awards presentation.

I attended one panel later in the day, walked around the dealers room multiple times, and came away with two handfuls of books. Not willing to spend a couple of grand on a Ray Bradbury first edition of Dark Carnival, I settled for books by James Blaylock, Clark Asthon Smith, James Patrick Kelly, and Dan Simmons, among others. I also found a far more reasonably priced Bradbury short story collection that I didn't own, in hardback.

Later, I went to a small dinner with a handful of LFS people. The temperature was a scorching 100 even at 6pm, the walk a fair distance from the convention center, but the experience (brief as it was) certainly enjoyable. The last time Worldcon was held in San Antonio, a bunch of LFS people gathered at a Tony Roma rib eatery a mere five minutes’s walk from the convention center.

Sadly, the number of LFS attendees at Worldcon remains woefully low, which makes me wonder if Worldcon is a destination for LFS members. I attend very few conventioms, and the past two have been as a day-member only. Is there a future for the LFS at Worldcon? The programming has given the Prometheus Awards a reasonable time-slot, but few people attend; either they are not there, not aware of the awards, or attend competing panels. I am not sure how other non-Hugo/Nebula award presentations take place, whether these are just announced or they happen at conventions. Maybe the LFS should reconsider our resource allocation for the Prometheus Awards. Do we get the biggest bang for our buck by hosting these at Worldcons? Are there other options? In 2014 the Worldcon will take place in London, an expensive venture. In 2015 it is closer home, in Spokane. Do we follow the same format or strike out in a different direction?

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