Well, the 71st World Science Fiction Convention – LoneStarCon 3 – held just down the road apiece in San Antonio (I live in College Station, Texas) is three weeks gone, and now comes time for me to address how it all went down from my perspective. But first, a few words about convention reports.
Long a popular feature in fanzines, con reports have provided detailed and not-so-detailed write-ups of fan gatherings that fall under the general label of “convention.” These can be anywhere from major events such as the WorldCon or DragonCon (which, by the way, was held over the same Labor Day weekend as LoneStarCon 3) to large regional conventions (Westercon, DeepSouthCon, Convergence, Balticon, Boskone, Windycon) to small conventions held all over the science fiction map. It is a safe bet to say that a science fiction related convention is now being held every single weekend of the year. Time was that wasn’t the case. In fact, cons were once a rarity. But once fans became more mobile in the Post World War II era, SF cons proliferated like the proverbial turd of hertles, and the fanzines that were being published at an ever-increasing rate began running con reports.
In their own way, fanzine con reports provide a living history of how the science fiction community has grown since the 1930s. By reading them, fan historians – and, yes, these people exist, even writing full-blown doctoral dissertations on fandom (a potential other topic to blog on someday) – get a firsthand account of the events and people involved in fandom at any given time. Take these verbal snapshots, and their accompanying photograph illustrations, together and one can create a literal history of science fiction fandom. We can read about what was on the minds of SF fans and professionals at X-named Convention (Yes, there is an X-Con, but I’ve never been to one) and learn a lot about the genre and the world from their perspective. Convention reports give admittedly very biased opinions and observations on people and things, but that’s part of the fun: read another couple of reports from other attendees of that same convention and then sort the grain from the chaff to see where correlations occur and diverge. I admit to being a bit of a fan history nut because I believe it is good for fans to know how, where, when, and why this nuttiness began and how it has evolved into the beastie it is today. For me, convention reports are the best way to get this information. (Okay, fanzines in general are a great way to do this, too, but that’s yet another potential blog topic. Yeesh, this is turning into a bit of a brain-storming session, isn’t it? Hmm. I had better get back on topic.)
What follows, therefore, is not so much a proper convention report about LoneStarCon 3 – that will appear in part in my paper-only fanzine Askew, followed by the major report in Askance (projected publication date, this November). – but a summation of how I felt the whole she-bang went. In My Humble Opinion, of course.
Overall I believe it went quite well, or it seemed from my limited perspective. The attendance was apparently down from last year (Chicon 7’s attendance was over 5000), and soon we should be hearing the final LSC3 attendance figures. The general feel of this WorldCon was not of crowdedness but of spaciousness. By that, I mean everything was spread out like crazy; the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center (the main venue) is HUGE, so the main exhibit hall held almost every major element in one location: art show, exhiibits, dealer’s “room”, fanzine lounge, press “room”, fan tables, and so on and so forth. I was in charge of the fanzine lounge, and that was literally at one end and off to the side of the Convention Center, while the panel rooms were way the heck over on the OTHER end of the Gonzalez Center. Yes, there were some meeting rooms in my neck of the woods, but they were on the far side of Ballroom A, which was in front of the fanzine lounge and fan tables. Plus there were panels held at the Marriott Rivercenter hotel, which was across the street and behind another Marriott hotel – the Riverwalk – and housed the nightly room parties, which were mostly blocked off on floors 32-35.
Bottom line: yes, Virginia, everything in Texas is bigger because hell, the state has the space for it. And this became a problem for me. Allow me to elaborate (as if you have a choice…).
My wife and I stayed in a hotel a mere three blocks from the Gonzalez Center, so that wasn’t an issue, but Valerie is an artist, so she had to set up her artwork in the Art Show, which meant I had to schlep all the material inside. Granted, unloading at the main dock wasn’t a problem, thanks to the fork lift drivers (Freeman’s) hired by the concommittee to aid the off-loading and transport of dealers and artists goods inside. Those guys were tops and helped so much. Without this, getting everybody’s stuff into the hall would have been a nightmare. Thanks to the drivers, it went very smoothly. I doff my hat to them.
But parking afterwards was a major problem. It became necessary to simply keep the car at our hotel lot and walk over and back each day, which was not a big deal (except in the heat of the afternoon), especially at night; the downtown San Antonio Riverwalk is beautiful at night and was definitely a highlight of the weekend for us. Still, walking around the Convention Center itself was good enough exercise to work off the pounds; I believe I lost at least three pounds during the WorldCon just by doing so much walking. Who-ever would have thought that attending a World SF Convention would be a great weight loss program? There was definitely a lot of ground to cover each day, which contributed to my general feeling of “urgh” during the weekend. The “urgh’-ness of LoneStarCon 3 bothered me; still does.
See, I wasn’t able to do even a fraction of everything I wanted to see and do. Part of this is because I volunteered to host the Fanzine Lounge, which went alright, but left me feeling “meh” when all was said and done. (More about that in Askew and Askance, folks.) Doing so made me realize a truism that I had never really experienced before in all my years of con-going: “you only get out of a con what you put into it.” In other words, make an effort to be a part of a good number of events at a world convention and you will have a good time. I did meet many old friends and new friends – especially folks I’ve known for years in fanzines but had never met in person before – and that was wonderful. After all, my main reason for attending was not to simply be on the committee, but to be with friends, and hosting the fanzine lounge was a great way to accomplish this.
So what were the highlights of LoneStarCon 3 for me? There were actually quite a few, starting off with Valerie’s artwork: quite a bit of her work sold, which is awesome. Nothing went to auction, but big deal: her work SOLD, and that means the world to her, so I am very happy for her. Another highlight was dressing up in our formal Steampunk outfits to attend the Hugo Awards (another blog topic, naturally, especially the fan categories – again), and hanging out with John Hertz, who was splendidly arrayed in white-tie tuxedo, after the ceremony. The Steampunk Ball Sunday night – post Hugo Awards – was fun, too, although ill-attended; the music was fantastic – great band! – but only three dozen people were there, at the most, and very little dancing occurred. Bummer. But we did hang with fun people and had great conversations with them. Monday night we had dinner and a long conversation with Marc Schirmeister, a fan artist from California. Another big highlight was meeting both Fan Fund delegates: Bill Wright from Australia (the Down Under Fan Fund recipient) and Jim Mowatt (the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund recipient). Both gentlemen were a delight and enjoyed their trips to North America; their reports will be forth-coming Real Soon Now.
However, I believe the best part of it all was being there with my wife. LoneStarCon 3 was her first WorldCon, and I’m very glad she finally had the chance to experience one. She met new friends, re-met friends (you know who you are), and had fun, which is the main thing. It means a lot to me that she had artistic success, and we enjoyed our leisurely strolls down the Riverwalk from the Rivercenter Hotel and Convention Center back to our hotel each night. We even took pictures of the kitty cats we saw at night in the historic La Villita district sandwiched between our hotel and the Convention Center.
To wrap this up, LoneStarCon 3 was good, but very different from my last WorldCon — 35 years ago. That’s not too many. More on that in Askew and Askance.
Which reminds me, I’d better start working on those fanzines, shouldn’t I?