Terri and her family are still vacationing and sightseeing, but I am back home. Her post-con report will come later, but here is mine.
I come home from my very first WorldCon glad I went, but with some significant complaints. I had some extremely joyous moments, but there were a lot of frustrations, too. I came to the con with three goals: to sell art, to meet people, and to attend the Hugo Losers Party. (No, going home with a rocket wasn’t a goal, but we’ll get to that later.) Of my three goals, I had mixed success with all three and had significant difficulty on all three counts.
This was our first ever show outside of the United States, and we’re not sure what was a matter of difference between European art shows vs the US and what was just plain screwing up. I’m coming out of it totally unsure if another overseas art show is a good idea. (Terri will tell you about her own conclusions.)
This was a two-building convention and Art Show was put in the secondary venue, Point Square. It got a an utterly enormous warehouse space, at least double the size of any other art show I have seen. Unfortunately, that’s mostly where the good parts end. The lighting was terrible and the room was not clean. The show wasn’t laid out in a way conducive to buying, with the Print Shop tucked away in a teeny back corner that one wouldn’t find unless you knew to look for it and the gallery show having a mostly empty panel as the first one you see when you enter. There was also next to no signage indicating that it was an art show. There were some A4 printouts saying “Art Show Entrance,” but they weren’t visible from where people queued for the panels at the venue could see them. They might have seen the art show or the signs vaguely as they were rushing to get into their panels, or as they were being herded back out of their panels, but it was not a place that would pick up casual foot traffic at all. The “Art Show Reception” was not actually held in the art show, but rather in a room off to the side, with booze and snacky foods that could not be brought into the show; there was no incentive for people to be in the show looking at the art rather than getting some of the only free comestibles in the entire convention. (Also, I got harassed at the reception, fun times! Yes, a report was made and the response team dealt with the person in question.)
From the chatter with other artists, we are not alone in our frustration over these issues, and sales were not at all what people hoped they would be. But in addition to lost money, Terri and I are stuck wondering why we didn’t make the sales we were hoping for. How much of that was due to the venue and mismanagement? Did we price too high? Is my art not a match for a European market? I just can’t know. So not only did we lose money, we didn’t get any new information out of it on which we can build. That's super frustrating.
This is where the convention really shone for me. I got to meet a lot of people I have only interacted with online before, and some people who were entirely new to me. I also got to spend more time with some people I have met before, and those are developing into actual friendships. Terri and I also got to talk to [REDACTED] about artistic collaboration, and while we can’t say anything about it yet, OMGWTFBBQ I AM SO EFFING EXCITED TO SHOW YOU THE ART WE WILL DO.
Did I meet everyone I wanted to meet, and did I click with everyone I did meet? Of course not. But I experienced an extremely low jerk ratio.
So where’s the downside? The downside was, again, the venue. Neither venue was a hotel themselves, and even though the convention reserved large blocks of rooms at nearby hotels, they were so appallingly expensive that comparatively few people stayed in them. So people had much further to go to get home, and if they left for dinner (there weren’t so many restaurants right nearby), they might not come back. It was hard to find a central gathering place. I would not have known any of this, but the people I did find and manage to talk to all confirmed that this year’s “BarCon” was severely lacking.
On a related note, this was also the first time I have ever had complete strangers, people who know neither me nor Terri, come up to me and say how much they like my art. It was a pretty awesome experience, but I got all awkward and tongue-tied about it. I need to practice that for the future.
Attending the Hugo Losers’ Party
The party for Hugo Finalists who did not win an award is apparently a longstanding tradition with a bit of a complicated history. While it used to be hosted by next year’s convention, in 2016, in response to Puppy nonsense, George RR Martin started hosting it again after a long hiatus, and it seems they have kinda merged into co-hosts, maybe? (This is a VERY simplified history. Who owns the party is actually an extremely complicated question.) It is apparently quite The Do. Winners are allowed in only after a significant delay, must wear ridiculous hats, and are subjected to razzing. I have heard that it was supposed to be great fun and was very excited to go.
As the interwebs reported, this year it turned out to be clusterfork. The party was held in the Guinness Storehouse, with a few shuttle buses bringing people there from the Convention Centre. But by the time my bus arrived, the fire marshal had declared the venue full and would not let anyone from the bus in. At first we were told to wait on the bus, but then the bus driver said he needed to leave, so we were all unceremoniously left on the cobblestones by the entrance in the cold. For people with mobility issues this was a particular nightmare. (And apparently there were significant access barriers once you got inside as well.)
Eventually there was a shout for finalists and their +1s to come to front of the line (I was rather surprised at how many people on the bus and in the line were neither finalists nor guests of finalists), and Terri and I got in. I thought at the time that all the finalists got in, but I found out later that this wasn’t the case.
Once we got in, I was shocked to find that the finalists were in the minority in the party, and it was mostly people who didn’t seem to have any connection with the awards at all, at least not this year’s awards. There was also a very loud live band that, while playing lovely music, made conversation nearly impossible. Overall, it was nothing like what I was expecting and I didn’t stay long.
It’s a pretty rotten feeling to be told that the promised consolation for a significant professional disappointment is not available to you after all because other people took it first. And while I did get in after a fairly short wait, others did not, nor did it erase the burn of being denied initially. Pretty solid thumbs-down for that entire experience.
Panels and Programming
I moderated three panels and sat on two more. They were good experiences overall, and I got some compliments on my moderation, so yay for that!
I had less success at attending panels. Lines to get into panels were very long, and there was a serious lack of large panel rooms, so one could queue for over half an hour and still not get into the panel after all. It meant that if you were on a panel, you would not be able to attend another panel in the slot right after. The panels in the two venues were offset, CCD panels starting on the hour and Point Square panels starting at half past, which was a nice idea to let people travel between the two venues but was alas completely defeated by the length of the queues. As a result, I chose really carefully and only attended three panels in my entire five-day convention. I went to Mary Robinette Kowal’s book signing, and I managed to be there when she saw the original in the art show for the first time, which was just amazing. In the realm of bad decisions, I attended the fountain pen meetup; turns out pro calligraphers have a really different approach to pens than enthusiasts, and I felt very much out of place.
I didn’t attend any of the main events because one also needed to queue for those twice: once in the middle of the day to get an admission wristband, and once right before the event to get a seat. I usually had other obligations during the queue time in the middle of the day and only realized much later that I could have asked someone else to get a wristband for me. I have also never been to an opening or closing ceremony that wasn’t mostly dull, though I hear these were quite good. Either way, the auditorium was very small for the main convention space in a major city, so admission was quite curtailed. (Okay, I was at the Hugo Awards, but that wasn’t exactly as an attendee.)
Overall, it seems like the programming probably had awesome content, but again, issues with the venue prevented me from getting to much of it where I wasn’t working.
The Hugo Awards
Again, the goal of the Hugo Awards wasn’t to come home with a rocket. The goal was to meet my fellow finalists, dress up in truly extra outfits, and have an awesome time. As we have discussed before, https://geekcalligraphy.com/blog/2019/4/8/hugo-eligibility-revisited, and if one votes based on works declared eligible by the committee, as I feel one should, then frankly my portfolio was not deserving of the crown. So to everyone offering me condolences on the loss of the award, could you please not? Thanks ever so.
The thing that really sucked was discovering, while on a panel with fellow finalists Likhain and Meg Frank, that everyone else in the Best Fan Artist category got emails saying “Congrats, you’re a finalist!” while I got one that said “Congrats, people voted for you, but we need to make sure you’re actually eligible.” What the entire frak, Hugo Committee?!? Yes, four of the six finalists are repeat finalists, and the only other first time finalist is deeply entrenched in the fandom-running circles that Committee members run in; that should not make one iota of difference in the way you communicate with us. Your very own rules, which you dote upon so much, say that the best artist in the world might not have made eligible works that year. Either you perform due diligence on everyone, or you don’t do it for anyone. You are all welcome to take a long walk off a short pier, you gatekeeping dickweasels.
I was quite gratified that Likhain and Meg were both horrified on my behalf, as was everyone else we mentioned this to. But this? This right here is why fans can’t have nice things. I can only imagine what that would have been like for someone who was marginalized along more axes than I.
I’m glad I went, but I would say that my best times came kind of despite the con, only because of it insofar as everyone came for it. I hope my next WorldCon experience is better.