Attending Worldcon Dublin 2019

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!

Worldcon 2019 Registration Area

Worldcon Registration Area, Dublin Convention Centre, Thursday 15th August 2019

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:

Worldcon Wildcards Quiz

“Wild Cards: Wild West Trivia” George R.R Martin quizzes authors Charles Stross, Carrie Vaughn, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Paul Cornell, Peadar Ó Guilín and more, Thursday 15/08/2019

Worldcon Panel: Done to Death

“Done to death: the art of killing characters” panel with Daryl Gregory, Su J. Sokol, Veronica Roth, Aimee Ogden, and Patrick Rothfuss, Friday 16/08/2019

Worldcon Panel: Apollo at 50

“Apollo at 50” panel looking back at the Apollo missions with Jeanette Epps, Mary Robinette Kowal, Ian Sales, Dr David Stephenson and Geoffrey A. Landis, Friday 16/08/2019

Worldcon Panel: Fantasies of Irish emigration

“Fantasies of Irish emigration” panel with Dyrk Ashton, Deirdre M Murphy, CE Murphy and Randee Dawn, Sunday 18/08/2019

Worldcon Panel: What I read when I was young

“What I read when I was young” panel with Hugo finalists Yoon Ha Lee, Becky Chambers, Catherynne Valente, Naomi Novik and Mary Robinette Kowal, Sunday 18/08/2019

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.

Worldcon Orchestra

Worldcon Orchestra performing Game of Thrones theme, Friday 16/08/2019

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.

Worldcon 2019 Hugos Ceremony

Waiting for the Hugo Awards Ceremony to start, Sunday 18/08/2019

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.

Back to the Future DeLorean in the Dealer's Room

Back to the Future DeLorean in the Dealer’s Room, Worldcon 2019

Dragon costume at Worldcon 2019

Dragon guarding the gates to the Dealer’s Room, Worldcon 2019

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 🙂

My signed copy of Children of Time

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.

Queuing for Scott Lynch Signing, Worldcon

Waiting in the queue to get Scott Lynch’s autograph, Saturday 17/08/2019

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.

Dublin Convention Centre

View from the Dublin Convention Centre, Worldcon 2019

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).

The Long Room at Trinity College

The Long Room at Trinity College

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:

The Great Telescope at Birr Castle

The Great Telescope, aka the “Leviathan” at Birr Castle, built 1845

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!

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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!

13 thoughts on “Attending Worldcon Dublin 2019

  1. Pretty awesome. And wow! What a thing to come back home to?! (wisdom teeth out; I did all four around this time last year…hope you’re doing well)

    I’m new to all the convention things, so I thought Worldcon was only held overseas (not in US). I’ll be on the lookout if it ever comes back on this side. I’d like to attend.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Haha yes it wasn’t the nicest thing to come home to but at least I had fun beforehand. I’m going well now but the first week was rough and I got very sick of soup… though I’m sure you know what it’s like if you had all four out too.

      I think Washington DC actually won the bid for Worldcon 2021, and Chicago might be bidding for 2022 – so if those aren’t too far, you could go! I definitely recommend it. (Oh and in case it’s helpful: they often offer discounted memberships for first-time Worldcon goers or people who register early, so it can be beneficial to keep an eye out for those the year before – e.g. I registered in September last year for this year’s one)

      Liked by 2 people

      • Lol! I can imagine. I got sick of porridge and my mom chose that week to make some nice peppery jerk pork. I snuck a piece and nearly cried when I remembered I can’t really chew.

        😮 I’ll go to both then! I’ll stay on the lookout. Will check to see if they have a newsletter or something to subscribe to so I don’t forget.

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        • Oh no! I tried to do the same with some chicken and was really disappointed when I realised trying to chew was more pain than it was worth 😦

          Good idea! Maybe also see if they have a twitter or other social media account you can follow – that’s how I found out about a lot of the Dublin stuff (e.g. I think the Twitter for the DC one is @Worldcon2021)

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  2. I recently found out about WorldCon happening in NZ (my current home) from a fellow commuter in the bus as I was reading Terry Pratchett.

    I don’t think I will go but I am happy that other readers from my part of the world will have an easier chance.

    Liked by 1 person

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