A few thoughts about Worldcon, before I forget them!

It’s probably a bad idea to be posting impressions of Worldcon while I’m in the middle of Gen Con, less than a week later, but if I don’t do it now I’m not going to remember anything in a few days…I’m running on fumes a bit here, and despite how much I enjoy these conventions I won’t mind a bit of a break before my next trip to one (late October, I hope). This won’t be a super long entry, given that there are now about eight thousand reports out about Worldcon, but I at least wanted to share a few of my thoughts about the experience.

Montreal, first of all, is a much nicer city in the summer. I mention this seemingly useless fact only because my two previous trips to Montreal for debate tournaments in college and graduate school both took place during the winter, and were, well, miserable. I like snow, but this was absurd. Fortunately, it’s a much different experience in warm weather, and I actually liked the city (what I was able to see of it between panels, readings and meetings) quite a bit. (I could have done without the “music” festival every evening until midnight directly outside my hotel window, but it wasn’t that big a deal.) The Palais des Congres, where the convention took place, was a pretty cool place too…though really freaking huge. My legs were sore for a day after I got back from walking back and forth from the room on one end of the building to the other. On the positive side, since Montreal seems to have an entire underground city, I could theoretically get from my hotel to the convention without having to go outside…useful when I didn’t want to be sweating more than I already was from the walk.

The conference itself was good for the most part–my two panels were interesting ones, especially the one on the Singularity (about which more in a moment), and my reading went well…and everyone seemed to be pretty friendly. (And in one particularly mind-blowing moment, I found out that one of my co-panelists, Paul Chafe, wrote the novelization for Mission Critical, one of the most underrated computer games of all time. I thought no one knew about that game but me! Since he followed up this information by giving me a copy of one of his books, I’ve concluded that Paul is a pretty cool guy.) Other highlights: Neil Gaiman reading a story by Cory Doctorow, who spent the entire reading with this semi-dazed smile on his face (I mean, it’s Neil Gaiman, and he’s reading your short story…how would you react?), a panel on the business of writing with guests like Howard Tayler, Catherynne Valente and George R. R. Martin, and of course the Hugos. And speaking of that, congratulations are due to fellow Codexians Tony Pi and Aliette De Bodard for Campbell nominations and Mary Robinette Kowal for a Hugo nomination–and of course to my friend David Anthony Durham for his well-deserved winning of the aforementioned Campbell award.

I also had the chance to hang out with my TTS editor John Helfers and his wife Kerri Hughes, which was cool–both nice people and real professionals. I was sorry for both of them that John didn’t win the Hugo for The Vorkosigan Companion, for which he was nominated along with his co-editor Lillian Stewart Carl (who is also both nice and professional)…John because he’s John, and Kerri because of all the work she did “behind the scenes” on the book. But he took it philosophically, and it didn’t stop him from introducing me to a ton of industry people. My career conversation with him was also productive–hopefully more news on that front, in several different ways, in the near future.

Two quibbles: first, the layout could have been handled better, especially for the “teen programming” panels, most of which took place right next to the open children’s room. Gay Haldeman (who did a really good job moderating, by the way) and the rest of us on the “First Contact” panel did our best, but it could and should have been better managed. And when you have a panel on the business of writing at a literature conference and put George R.R. Martin on it, you really should avoid having it in what felt like the smallest room to be found in Montreal. It was “sitting on laps” room only. Second, on occasion the panels themselves seemed a bit oddly constructed, with the resulting tendency either to veer off topic or, in the complete opposite way, to bring something up directly connected to the subject only to be smacked down (albeit nicely) by an audience member for “going off the rails” of the main discussion. And although the Singularity panel was pretty good on the whole, with a lot of smart people involved, at times the argument seemed to be more grounded in special pleading (well, no, Vinge didn’t mean that, really–no, well, that point isn’t Vinge’s either…) than in really facing up to the points he pretty clearly made in the article.

But on the whole, Worldcon was a great experience, and I’m particularly happy I went since I won’t be able to get to it again until 2011 (I doubt a cross ocean flight to Australia is in the cards, more’s the pity). Now I’m off to bed–I need some sleep before continuing the Gen Con experience, about which I’ll report more, er, later. After sleep. 🙂