Between trying to read as many books before the Hugo voting deadline as possible, finalising a draft of a novel, going to Worldcon, going on holiday, and getting all my wisdom teeth out (a nice treat I saved for my return home), it’s taken a while to find the time to blog again… but I’ve finally managed it, so I thought I’d share a few pics and experiences I took away from my first World Science Fiction Convention.
For anyone who’s not familiar with Worldcon: it’s a convention that focuses on fantasy, science fiction and horror that’s been held since 1939. It happens once a year in whichever city won the bid to host it that year. In the past it was mostly in the USA but in recent years there have been an increasing number hosted in other countries.
The fact this one was held in Dublin made it easier for me to get to, so that was part of why I decided to go. I’d never been to a convention of this size before: there were over 5000 attending members and hundreds more who got day passes… it was massive!
The program was so packed there were often 4 or 5 panels or events I wanted to go to happening at the exact same time (many a time-turner joke was made), and lots of queueing… but luckily I still got into most of the things on my must-see list.
I was pretty star struck at suddenly being able to see so many authors whose books I’d read: Eoin Colfer (whose Artemis Fowl books I grew up reading), Holly Black, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Patrick Rothfuss, George R.R. Martin, Naomi Novik, Veronica Roth, and of course pretty much all the finalists for the Hugo Awards, together with a lot of other authors whose books I haven’t yet read but want to read. In fact, I saw and met so many who made me curious about their books that my to-read list might have exploded a little bit.
I was also excited to discover the program participants included not only many authors, editors and artists, but also other interesting people on the science side of things, such as NASA astronaut Jeanette Epps and astrophysicist Jocelyn Bell Burnell (who was a Guest of Honour).
I won’t include pictures of all the panels because there’d be too many, and also because my photography skills leave much to be desired – but here are a few samples:
I didn’t know anyone when I arrived, which was a little daunting – just going from panel to panel without talking to anyone can get lonely. However, I was lucky to meet up with writers and bloggers I’d been in touch with online (many of whom write great posts and reviews for Fantasy Faction and the Fantasy Hive) who all made me feel very welcome. As a result I spent a large portion of each day getting to know new people and chatting at the café or the bar or while queuing for panels, which made it into a really awesome weekend.
Every evening there was a large event happening in the auditorium, and I attended two of these: the orchestra on Friday night and the Hugo Awards Ceremony on Sunday night. The Worldcon Orchestra was fantastic and a nice break from panels and talking. It was pretty stirring to hear the Game of Thrones theme and other classics performed by a full orchestra, and they also had Irish musicians playing great local pieces.
I nearly missed out on going to the Hugos, because there were epic queues in the rain to get wristbands and when I came back to check after a panel they were all out, but it turned out they had spares later in the evening (from kind people returning ones they didn’t need). So another friend I made, writer and blogger T.O. Munro, and I were able to go in and see what it was all about. He’s actually since written a great article referencing the many moon-journey-themed panels at the con that’s worth reading: To the Moon and Back with Worldcon Dublin.
Although none of my favourites to win actually won (more about the Hugo results to come in another post!) I was glad I got to see the ceremony, and found it pretty cool to watch Mary Robinette Kowal, whose books are about lady astronauts, being presented the Award for Best Novel by an actual NASA “lady astronaut” Jeanette Epps.
The Dealer’s Room was a great area full of info booths and stalls selling books, costumes, trinkets and more, and of course there were people wandering about everywhere in cosplay outfits. I also checked out the Art Show in the warehouse area, which had some impressive works too.
Probably my most fangirl moment of the whole con was getting a copy of Children of Time signed by Adrian Tchaikovsky and talking to him about the book. I think I might have babbled like a crazy fan but oh well, he humoured me 🙂
I was also really excited to get a signature from Scott Lynch and briefly talk to him about the audiobooks of his series, which I’m a big fan of.
I even got a surprise signature from Peter V. Brett in the Dealer’s Room, because another writer who I was checking out a book stall with, RB Watkinson, recognised him standing nearby and encouraged me to buy a copy of The Painted Man (a book I’ve been meaning to read for a long time) and get it signed. I’m usually too shy to approach authors so I was lucky to be surrounded by more courageous folks than myself.
My autograph-collecting efforts were, however, nothing compared to those of another author I met: Dyrk Ashton has been collecting signatures on a copy of Nicholas Eames’s novel Kings of the Wyld at various conventions with the plan to raffle it off for charity at the end of the year. I enjoyed leafing through and seeing all the signatures and doodles, of which there are over 200 (you can check it out on his blog), so of course now I want to win it! I guess I’ll just have to enter the raffle whenever it happens.
By the 5th and final day of the con I expected I’d be sick of it, but I was actually a bit sad when it was all over. I did come down with a cold the next day though so ultimately it was good I didn’t go around infecting people and could catch up on lost sleep.
This trip was also my first time in Ireland, so I used the week after the con to explore the country and its historical sights, including the 5000 year old tomb at Newgrange, bog bodies in the National Museum of Ireland, and the Long Room and Book of Kells at Trinity College (a library that truly feels like something out of a fantasy book).
One of the panels I attended at Worldcon, “Ancient Astronomy Meets Future Astronomy”, actually inspired me to add a stop to my itinerary. The panelists (which included astrophysicist Jocelyn Bell Burnell and the Director of the Vatican Observatory, Brother Guy Consolmagno) talked about the importance of the Great Telescope, which was built at Birr Castle in the 1800s, and how it was the largest in the world for 70 years. So on my way west I stopped to check it out, and it was pretty impressive:
All in all it was an incredibly fun and jam-packed trip – even more that I expected it to be. I’m used to mostly only chatting about fantasy and the books I love online, so at the con it was a novelty to be surrounded by dozens of real life people who’d read a lot of the books I had and wanted to talk about them. I got to fully unleash my inner book-nerd 😀 I also met a whole lot of lovely people who I hope to see again at future conventions. In fact, I’ve decided I’m going to head over to the UK for BristolCon soon!
I’d love to go to next year’s Worldcon too, which is happening in New Zealand (I even have family there), but since I live in Germany it’s probably too far and too pricey for me. However I know other Australians who’ll be taking advantage of the shorter-than-usual distance, and I’d encourage anyone who lives in the region and has been thinking about going to a Worldcon to do it. It’s a really unique and fun experience, and a great way to make new friends!
Have you ever been to a convention like this, or do you plan to one day? Do you have any favourite bookish conventions or festivals? Let me know in the comments!