My 2019 Worldcon Experience

It was great!

Okay, that’s it, thank you for coming.

Oh, wait, you wanted details? Well, I mean, okay, I guess I can do that. In no particular order:

* Krissy and I actually started our trip a few days before the Worldcon started. This year the Worldcon was in Dublin, Ireland, and neither of us had been either in Dublin or in Ireland, and we wanted to make sure we had time to be tourists and see the city before we basically confined ourselves to a single convention center for several days.

And we totally did the tourist thing! We saw the Book of Kells! We visited the crypts at Christchurch Cathedral! We ate adequate Irish food at a tourist trap in Temple Bar! We visited the Guinness Storehouse, which is like the Willy Wonka tour with beer! And so on! I really enjoyed Dublin because, at least where we were, it’s very walkable and pleasant to get around in. Krissy also managed to get outside of the city when she and some gal pals took a day trip to the shore. It was all very excellent.

So, Dublin and Ireland: A+++, very much enjoyed, plan to enjoy again at some point in the future. It had always been a dream of mine to visit the country, and this initial trip to the Emerald Isle did not disappoint. I have hundreds of pictures; I will probably put some up in a separate post when I get the time.

* My personal Worldcon was also delightful. I did not overschedule myself, confining myself to a single event per day (sort of; more on that later), so that left lots of time for hanging out with friends, which is probably the major reason I come to conventions these days. I like most writers spend most of my time looking into a screen, so bulk-loading friendships at conventions is kind of an actual thing. I got to see friends from the US, of course, who had made the trip, but I also got to see friends from Europe and elsewhere who see less frequently, including some I’ve not seen for years. It was fabulous.

Of my own events, I have to say the highlight was the dance I DJed on Saturday. As ever, I wondered whether people would show up — but they did, and from 10pm, when the dance started, to 1am when it ended, the dance floor was never empty. There’s something delightful about a whole, fairly large room of nerds getting sweaty to the greatest dance hits of the last several decades. As for myself, it will not surprise you that in addition to being the DJ I also danced, pretty much for the entire three hours. Two things about that: I dance almost exactly the way I did when I was in my early 20s, and also, I am now 50, so I’m still feeling it on Tuesday. I could barely walk down the stairs this morning. I think if I’m going to keep doing this dance thing — and I will — I should probably stretch more than I do.

I also read from two upcoming books, The Last Emperox and A Very Scalzi Christmas, and both were well received. I got help in reading from the second by my very good friend Yanni Kuznia, who is also the COO of Subterranean Press, which is publishing the book. She was delightful reading as an exasperated boss having to deal with an enthusiastic but clueless subordinate, read by me. If you know either of us, you may realize that this was typecasting. She was wonderful.

I also did an interview with Diane Duane, who was one of the guests of honor at the Worldcon. Diane and I had known each other online for more than a decade but the Worldcon was the first time we’d ever met in real life. I’m very happy to say we got on like the proverbial house on fire, and that Diane is simply delightful, both to have drinks with and then to have a conversation with in front of a couple hundred people. It was, in fact, pretty effortless, and also, the phrase “I have two highly polished uranium spheres, watch what happens when I clack them together” may have come up at some point in the conversation. You had to be there for that, but it brought the house down.

* Overall I thought the Dublin 2019 Worldcon was well-run and enjoyable, but I think it struggled with the number of people who attended (about 7,000 as I understand it), which is a high class problem to have, but still a problem. The convention center itself could only hold so much programming, so there was a satellite site for the art show, autographing and some other programming, almost a kilometer from the convention center proper. I definitely got my steps in during the week. It also meant that while pretty much every panel was well-attended, there was a lot of stuff people couldn’t get into, and lots of queuing. I know everything I had was jammed, to the point that I added both a second kaffeeklatsch and a second reading in order to accommodate attendees who wanted to see me (and here I give mad props to the Dublin 2019 programming staff, who made those happen on the fly). Every Worldcon — every convention, really — has its own challenges. As far as I can see, Dublin 2019 mostly handled them pretty well.

* And what did you think about the Hugos this year, Scalzi? Well, I think by now everyone knows how I feel about the Best Novel win, and otherwise I was very pleased by how the results sorted themselves out. Mind you, this is in no small part because I thought the composition of the finalist lists was very very good this year — you pretty much could have had entirely different winners in every category, and I would still walk away, as a reader and appreciator of the genre, with a feeling of satisfaction. I like Hugo years when it is really hard to decide what is one’s first choice, and this was indeed one of those years.

The award ceremony itself I thought was really well done except for one thing, which I will get to in a minute. Things that were praiseworthy were the hosting, the set design (as well as the design of the Hugo itself), and the interstitial bits, which included live music (which it should have, this is Ireland) and also a chance for both hosts to have their minute in the spotlight. All accomplished in just about two hours and fifteen minutes! That was pretty impressive.

The one thing that didn’t work was the attempt at live captioning, which was shown on a screen hanging above the presenters and hosts. The live captioning was apparently done via machine rather than by human translators, and it showed, because it mangled what presenters were saying, which was sometimes comical, but also messed up people’s names, which was not appropriate. Ultimately it became distracting and disconcerting. Ada Palmer, who was there to present the Campbell Award, didn’t know why people were weirdly and spontaneously laughing at her speech (which was interesting but not intentionally comical), until she finally looked up and saw how the machine translation was mistranslating her words. She took it with good grace, but she deserved better.

* I wrote something here about Jeannette Ng and her Campbell win and speech, but then after I was done writing it I realized I wrote a whole post inside a post, so I made it its own post, which you can find here.

* I showed my ass yesterday on Twitter — funny, that! — in discussing the the Best Related Work Hugo win of An Archive of Our Own, the fanfic repository initially started by (among others) Naomi Novik. I saw a headline from The Mary Sue saying something along the lines of “Thousands of Fanfic Writers Now Hugo Winners” and I RT’d it and was all “Well actually it doesn’t work that way blah blah blah blah blah,” to which fanfic people were all “Yeah, we all know that, but we’re invested in the win anyway, and also that’s coming across as pedantic and dickish, so that’s a great look for you,” and I was all “Yeah, you’re right, I’m a dumbass, sorry.”

And I am sorry! I was pleased with the Archive win and happy for the fanfic folks because I think they get dismissed a lot when what they do is really fundamental fanwork, and I’m generally supportive of fanfic, both as a writer and a fan. And also, you know: Fuzzy Nation. It’s totally fanfic. I made people feel bad who I should not have made feel bad, and now I feel bad, which I should, because I was bad. I used bad a lot in that last sentence. Anyway. I done fucked up, and if you’re a fanficcer and I made you feel bad because I came across as an elitist dick, I apologize. That’s on me and there’s no excuse. I’ll do better.

(What was nice was that after I apologized people were all, “well, you’ve been traveling so your brain was probably fried,” which while accurate is not a good excuse. But I appreciate people rationalizing my dumbassery. Thanks, folks.)

* I’ve seen some grumbling in the usual whiny dude quarters about the Hugos being dominated again by women this year, and my thought about that is what it usually is, which is: Meh. Even if I were inclined to suspect A CONSPIRACY OF THE FEEEEEEEEEMALES, which to be clear I am not, it’s hard to complain when the individual works and people under consideration are so strong. Unlike other recent conspiracies one could think about, The Feeeeeeeemale Conspiracy did the actual work. If it existed, which it doesn’t. And on a personal level a bunch of the people who won (and who were finalists) are people I like, so there was that, too. It was a good Hugo ceremony for me.

(Plus! Because I’ve lost weight recently I fit into a suit I hadn’t been able to wear for a few years, and I will tell you what, it looked good on me. I’ll take it.)

In all, the Dublin Worldcon was really happy-making for me, and I’m glad I came. They made a good one this year, folks. I’m looking forward to the one in New Zealand next year.

35 thoughts on “My 2019 Worldcon Experience

  1. Could you provide a list of names to go with faces in the photo of everybody on the Awards stage?

  2. What the closed captioning did to Ada Palmer was unfortunate and unfairly comic.
    What it did to Annalee Newitz was unforgivable, and it was not forgiven.

  3. Your dance party was really fantastic. Honestly my favorite event of the Worldcon. It is true, what they say: If you have not danced with Scalzi, you have not danced. Thank you!

  4. Nickpheas:

    I didn’t see what happened with Annalee because by that time I was looking down when the captioning was up because I found the errors too distracting. I think the live captioning came down permanently shortly after.

    Markus:

    Thank you!

    Matthew D Healy:

    Not at the moment, I’m afraid. I’m working on other writing.

  5. As someone who was initially sceptical, thank you for a fantastic DJ set – genuinely the best I’ve ever experienced.

  6. On your AO3 comments: I realized that (1) you had just returned from a long journey and probably hadn’t enough sleep and (2) you may not have been aware of some of the factors that went into the fanfiction community’s enthusiastic reaction to AO3 receiving the Hugo. (Personally, my reaction was: 45 years! It’s about time!) I was thrilled that you retweeted one of my comments, responded to it, and placed your view on the record.

  7. Do you have any comments on the Hugo Losers Party controversy? Apparently some people that should have been able to get in, couldn’t because of lack of space. Was the space not big enough or were there just too many people that didn’t ‘belong’ there there? I’m not even sure if you usually attend or who all is invited.

  8. @Joan, I was trying to count up the years for an argument in another forum. 45 years takes you back to Kirk/Spock, but I’m going to count Sherlock Holmes ‘pastiches’, as promulgated by the Baker Street Irregulars, as a classic fanfic activity dignified by the fact that the institutional fandom was predominantly – and explicitly, in the case of the BSI — male. The BSI were founded in 1934.

    While Googling to find that date, I ran into this essay. http://www.criminalelement.com/upon-the-clear-distinction-between-fandom-and-the-baker-street-irregulars-lyndsay-faye-sherlock-holmes-arthur-conan-doyle-elementary/ Keep reading. It isn’t going where you think it is.

  9. I do want to call out some specific things that I thought Dublin 2019 did VERY well. I thought the committee did a simply stellar job with accessibility, other than the crowding due to too many people in too small a venue which affected everyone. And I thought they did a superb job of actively promoting inclusivity throughout the event, which I appreciated very much.

    The biggest reason I think those deserve emphasis is that at least one other WorldCon committee within the past less-than-a-decade did an absolutely horrendous job with both, and their event was an unmitigated disaster from my perspective as a result. So I have special appreciation for the work that the Dublin 2019 committee did in those areas.

    As to the crowding, well, the sad truth is that the committee simply did too good a job of advertising the event. The CCD could have comfortably held maybe 3,500 people. 4,000 would have been a stretch, but could have been made to work. But instead of capping membership at a number that could be accommodated in their venue, they kept selling more and more and more memberships, and as a result, there were a whole lot of folks who spent a boatload of money to be there and who couldn’t actually participate in and enjoy the con. There were around thirty program items that I wanted to see. I got into seven of them. Fortunately, Dublin is an awesome city and I found plenty to do elsewhere. It was just annoying not to be able to participate more in the event that I traveled 4,000 miles to attend.

  10. As a fan-fic writer (done a few dozen Harry Potter stories, now where did I park them? senility sux.) it’s nice to see the whole ‘genre’ get any recognition at all. Yeah, we borrow, but we bake some love into our work, so… Don’t sweat it, John, you’ll make bigger mistakes someday ;-)

  11. If guys are upset because too many women are winning awards, couldn’t they–and I know this sounds crazy–write better books and stories so they could win more awards? Just another one of my crazy ideas.

  12. As a Deafblind person, I have had lots of trouble with automated Close Caption. I sometimes have someone type it to my braille display so then I can read it. I once had a Deaf/sighted person type from automated captioning and they just gave up after a while it was such a mess. But I never thought about how it could affect the person speaking. Wow, that would be disconcerting! I think at some point, automated close captioning might get there. But it is not there yet. I hope this example, since it affected not only Deaf people but the crowd and the presenter as well, might make them think twice about just putting up the money to hire a human transcriber.

  13. On Saturday I semi-jokingly told two of my friends (on Facebook, since we passed on Worldcon this year to help save money for next year) that the best people were getting into The Hugo Losers’ party without consequences.

    Of course that was only because 5/6 of the finalists got that privilege.

    This year’s finalists was probably the best I’ve seen in my somewhat short years in Worldcon Fandom (and slightly fewer years as a sometimes insider).

  14. Madame Hardy, the 45 years refers to the 1974 Hugos, where Jacqueline Lichtenberg and Laura Basta were nominated for Best Fan Writer Hugos because of their fan fiction, as opposed to the beginning of fan fiction itself. (And K/S didn’t appear until after that.) They didn’t win, and there was a movement among some sf fans to make sure no one would be nominated on the basis of fan fiction writing again.

  15. @Joan, wow, nifty! Thanks for the information. According to Wikipedia, the first Kirk/Spock to appear in a zine was *also* in 1974, Diane Marchant’s “A Fragment Out Of Time”. A year full of ferment.

  16. A note on the picture. It is all the presenters and winners (or acceptors) from the Hugo Awards. I haven’t seen a good captioning of the group photo (and during the awards ceremony it wasn’t always clear who was accepting for an absent winner). I was hoping there might be a posted pic of the group (with names) from Dublin or Locus but haven’t seen anything yet.

  17. Yayyy! I’ll get to a DJ Scalzi event in 2020 :-)
    As for closed captioning, as someone who’s started turning it on so that I don’t have to have the volume up so loud it annoys my partner — it certainly has its moments. From captions that run 5 minutes behind what’s actually happening, to captions that don’t match what dubbed voices are saying to programs that say they have it but don’t; I can only imagine how frustrating that would be for people who are much more hearing impaired.

  18. I had a Great time as well .enjoyed your reading but the lines were off putting. And come on putting you and others in a room with only 50 seats?

  19. As an aside on Fuzzy Nation- the fanfic bonafides of the book are debatable, actually! While certainly a transformative work based on media by someone else, the fact that it was written by a) a professional author 2) for money 3) outside a “community of fans” means that maybe it’s not, depending on who you ask. A sizable percentage of people define fanfic as exclusive of 1 or more of those 3 points, though it’s by no means universal for any of them. Basically, the community is mixed on if fanfic is objectively dependent on the work’s artistic form, or if it’s also/instead based on the cultural context of its creation.

    Not super relevant to most of this post, but food for thought.

    Source: https://www.fansplaining.com/articles/towards-a-definition-of-fanfiction

  20. @PresN Endless electrons have been separated from their loved ones while debating THAT one!

    I tend to incline toward “If you’re getting paid for it, it isn’t fic”, but then what do we do with the serial-numbers-filed-off TWILIGHT? Or, Lord help us, FIFTY SHADES? Both of them were fic up until they weren’t?

    I will say (sorry, John) that once the owner of the intellectual property gives the imprimatur, it stops being fic any more And then we get into the whole pastiche/continuation/fic debate, and I reach for my apple brandy.

  21. PresN:

    In fact it wasn’t written for money; I wrote it for myself when I was out of contact and didn’t intend to sell it. My agent had to talk me into sending it to him to look at. Likewise I’m not sure how being a pro author enters into it, as just recently Scott Lynch wrote some fanfic and posted it on A03. I feel pretty confident Fuzzy Nation qualifies.

  22. “I wrote this because I’m a fan of the source material” is the only real measure of fan fiction.

    One’s ‘professional’ status as a writer doesn’t mean squat, although I would expect a better level of writing from a pro.

    Neither does one’s possible compensation for said writing. (As long as the source material’s writer or their estate does not object.)

    jmo-ymmv!

    PS – Several years back Time magazine did a long article on fan fiction, with some interesting takes on it. Many authors love work based on their own, a few *hate* it.

    (One could argue that a fair part of ‘Potter-mania’ derives from the fan community’s engagement via their own explorations of the Potterverse.)

    http://content.time.com/time/arts/article/0,8599,2081784,00.html

  23. Colonel Snugglesdorf, above: “As to the crowding, well, the sad truth is that the committee simply did too good a job of advertising the event. ”

    This is likely to happen next year in NZ as well. A country that hasn’t had a Worldcon before, may never have one again — based on reports from Dublin this year and my own experience in Helsinki in 2017 — word gets out and then the convention Becomes A Thing. A lot more people are interested in a once-in-a-lifetime nearby Worldcon compared with US fans, who have Worldcons in their own country (if not nearby) more years than not.

    The enthusiasm is great! But bidding committees should recognize this effect and plan accordingly.

    London (2014) – 7000
    Spokane (2015) – 4500
    Kansas City (2015) – 4500
    Helsinki (2017) – 6000
    San Jose (2018) – 5500
    Dublin (2019) – 7000

    (Figures to nearest 500; using our gracious host’s estimate for this year’s attendance)

    CoNZealand’s “About” page says that they are planning on 2000, based on previous attendance at Australian Worldcon’s (1975: 600; 1986: 1600; 1999: 1600; 2010: 2100).

    Taking recent non-US attendance trends into account, and adding the unique opportunity for local (or even local-ish, Auckland is about eight hours’ drive away) fans, the chance for international fans to combine Worldcon with LotR tourism, and the chance that The Winds of Winter will be finished, I’d bet that NZ will have a lot more interest than they are planning on.

  24. Thank you for the apology. It is appreciated. (Speaking as a fanfic writer who was active back when Diana Gabaldon denounced us all as criminals and perverts, it’s INCREDIBLY nice to have some positive press.)

    I’ve told some of my fellow winners that we need to get together and give each other acceptance speeches, but we’ll probably just drink and exchange high-fives.

  25. Okay! The con oversold the site. However, after the first morning of chaos with everyone trying to crowd into the events, the staff rose to the occaission and brought some order to the situation. Kudos for the effort they made and the results they were able to show. I didn’t get too see every panel I wanted, but I did get a fair number of them.

  26. Is DC for 2021 now official? I’ve never been to a WorldCon but the past couple years you and Seanan McGuire have made it sound so much fun, and DC would be doable for me.

  27. Re 2020 numbers. Valid points from Doug. However these are offset by significantly lower local population (Wellington is a tenth the size of Melbourne, all of NZ is the same as Melbourne or Sydney) and significantly worse weather for outdoor tourism. BTW Travel time/cost isn’t a significant issue for Aucklanders in comparison to accommodation, a return airfare (an hour at the airport and an hour in the air is a better option for most than a drive) bought well in advance is about the same $$ as a hotel room night.

  28. Re ConZealand, I’ve just realised it is going to coincide with the start of the month long Wellington On A Plate food festival (aka oh god the burgers are coming)…that is going to make for interesting times :)

    Wellington is going to be a very crowded place on the 1st and 2nd of August. next year…’

  29. My friends traveled from Chicago to attend world con and they had so many great things to say. They attended at least one of your talks because they posted a pic to Facebook. If you saw the human equivalent of a super intelligence Ewok married to a loud and friendly Chewbacca, then you met them! Lucky you. Welcome back from a wonderful adventure.

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