Worldcon Wrap-Up

We are back in Niskayuna now, where SteelyKid is using her new powers of bipedal locomotion to help me burn off some of the excess calories from the weekend in Montreal. She's only been walking for a couple of weeks, but she can really move.

I'm pretty fried, even after napping for two hours earlier today (we dropped SteelyKid off at day care on the way home, so we could unpack and rest a little), and I have a few commitments that will limit my blogging time in the next few days, but I figured I ought to throw out a few things about the last day or two of Worldcon.

-- The Hugo results were kind of "Meh." I don't have any strong objections to any of the major category winners, but only one of the four fiction categories was even close to being the best in its category, in my opinion (Ted Chiang's "Exhalation," which I put below Kij Johnson's "26 Monekys" by the narrowest of margins). I was surprised to see that Weird Tales won Best Locus, and Cheryl Morgan won Best Dave Langford. Variety in two of the least variable categories-- imagine that!

-- The full nomination data are available at the above link, as a PDF, and provide some useful context for the earlier argument about the Hugo field. The last Best Novel nominee to make the ballot was Zoe's Tale with 54 nominations. Best Novella needed at least 40, Mike Resnicks godawful magic store story got on the Novelette ballot with 38 nominations, and his hideously awful religious-robot story squeaked onto the Short Story ballot with 31 nominations. This is more than some past years, but not a huge number. If people really care about the composition of the ballot, it is entirely possible to change it.

-- In other categories, Kate got 10 nominations for Best Fan Writer. That puts her one behind Wil Wheaton, and ahead of Elizabeth Bear, Mike Resnick, and this year's Worldcon Fan Guest of Honor, Taral Wayne. I don't know who the other eight people besides me and Jo Walton who voted for her were.

(My other two nominations, James Nicoll and Jo Walton, got 22 and 19 votes, respectively. The last nominee to make the ballot had 26.)

-- I haven't said anything about my last couple of panels, on science blogging as a possible replacement for science journalism, and on pathologies of fannish culture because they were fairly unremarkable. The science blogging panel was somewhat sparsely attended (though fellow ScienceBlogger John Dupuis made an appearance), and I don't think anything stunningly original was said. I plugged Built on Facts and Dot Physics, because I think they're awesome, and should get more attention.

I was somewhat quieter than normal at the "Fans Aren't Slans" panel, mostly because Patrick Nielsen Hayden has forgotten vastly more about fannish culture than I have ever known, and I was happy to defer to him on just about everything. The room was quite full, which was kind of surprising for 2:00 on a Monday afternoon.

-- No Worldcon post would be complete without some bitching about the program, so here you go: While there were many interesting panel topics on the program, the execution left a lot to be desired. Granted, this is only the third Worldcon I've been to, but the others haven't featured anywhere near the amount of panel-shuffling that was here. Last-minute additions and deletions of participants are unavoidable (Graham Sleight, for example, came down with the swine flu and couldn't make it), but this featured a surprising number of panels that were cancelled entirely, or moved to different times, and that I haven't seen before.

For example, Jordin Kare's very interesting talk about lasers as a tool for getting stuff into space was originally supposed to be late Sunday, but actually took place in the middle of the day Saturday. A panel on "Cross-Genre Hard SF" also changed time by quite a bit. I hadn't planned on attending either, because of other time committments, but I made it to both, though not all that many others did. Neither of the changes were on the grid sheets (which differed from the online preliminary program), but turned up in tiny little type on the pink change sheets handed out at the beginning of each day.

I have no idea why this would've happened. The program participant notification emails weren't any later than the ones for Japan in 2007, and that didn't feature the same degree of shuffling. They also failed to update anything on the Web (and really, the Web is made for this sort of thing), and I heard third-hand that all of the program descriptions had to be re-written at a late stage of the process because of limits in the database program.

There were also some inexplicable panelist assignments. Kate was less than pleased by the "Post-Colonial SF" panel consisting mostly of S.M. Stirling (I made it through about five minutes of that), and I was disappointed to find that the "A Little Learning Is Dangerous" panel about techniques writers can use to research or just plain bluff their way through fields they know nothing about only had one actual writer (the always interesting Karl Schroeder, who had his hands full), which contributed to its devolution into "Stupid Science Errors in Star Trek."

They had some excellent and ambitious ideas, but some of them fell flat due to poor organization. It was a good program, but it could've been better.

-- The party situation also had some logistical problems. I don't know what the people at the Delta hotel had been told to expect, but they were not ready for what they got. The party suites were kind of badly designed (small, oddly-shaped rooms on two levels), and they were only allowing one elevator to go to the party floors. On Saturday night, I didn't make it to any parties because they had exceeded the fire code capacity of the 28th floor, and were only letting people go up after other people came down. On Sunday night, we just set up shop in the bar of a different hotel, and didn't even bother with the Delta.

That said, I had a good time at the parties I did make it to, and in the bar Saturday night (where I got sucked into watching a baseball game, and stayed out much later than I had intended). And Sunday night at the Hotel Intercontinental, I had a really good time hanging out with James Morrow, Jo Walton, and Michele Sagara, among others.

-- On the hotel logistics front, I see that the 2011 Worldcon will be in Reno. The combination of "Worldcon" and "casino" seems to provide some opportunities for Epic Failure. I think they missed a golden opportunity by not having Steven Brust as guest of honor (though Tim Powers isn't a bad choice).

This ought to be interesting. I can't really say it's interesting enough that I would commit to going, but it's interesting.

And that's really about enough of that. Somehow, it's gotten to be late, and I need a good night's sleep if I'm going to take SteelyKid to the pediatrician tomorrow to get shots.


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I've stayed at the Delta Montreal Centre-Ville before (it's a convenient location for drivers from the east coast since it's one block from the end of the A10). It sounds like the designated party room was the restaurant/observation deck on the top floor. I don't know how many people attend Worldcon, but if they expected a meeting big enough to fill the Palais des Congres to have an official party in that restaurant, somebody wasn't thinking.

I was at a scientific meeting once where entire sessions got moved around (dates, not just rooms) after the conference started. Yes, that's annoying, and shouldn't happen (as opposed to having a speaker cancel due to illness or visa troubles, which is something you have to put up with when it happens).

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 12 Aug 2009 #permalink

@Chad: WRT the "Little Learning" panel; I'd have liked to have asked you to join in, but (a) I wasn't the mod and (b) even if I were I would have felt like it'd put you on the spot. I was disappointed in it too as I had hoped for another writer and at least one real scientist to make up for my "I worked with/for a lot of them for nine years". At least you weren't nodding off in the front row like one attendee.

@Eric: it was the 28th floor that was used for parties, since that's where the two-level suites are, plus the 5th floor conference suites.

I do feel that perfectly reasonable, "it would be good to have a different Best Fan Writer" sentiment sometimes has a tendency to bleed over into "there's something bad about Dave Langford." Which is unfortunate, because Langford is a) a very good fan writer, and b) (by reputation, at least) a very fine fellow.