Over the Labor Day weekend, I had the great opportunity to attend my first Worldcon and enjoy the hospitality of San Antonio. From the moment we snared our first cab at the airport, we found that the people of Texas are both friendly and helpful. Our cabbie Vince made sure that we knew all about the sites and history of his beloved city.
If you have never been to the River Walk, you might not know that it sits neatly tucked at the heart of the city. The River Walk is a concrete redirection of the San Antonio River that snakes beneath the streets of downtown. While you are driving the streets or walking the sidewalks up above, you may never notice this entirely separate world thirty feet below you.
The Alamo sits amidst the city just a few steps from the River Walk, and the convention center waits along the end of one arm of the concrete banks. As you might imagine, thousands and thousands of people pushed themselves along the narrow sidewalks that run between the river and the many restaurants and shops that line the River Walk. Many of those who enjoyed the weekend-long festivities and who wedged themselves onto barges for the tour were attendees of LoneStarCon 3.
Worldcon spread itself out within the convention center and nearby hotels. Events, discussions, and presentations were scheduled into all available spaces. At times the logistics seemed challenging, as mentioned by Keith West in his report, but once you learned the lay of the land you could find your way around. I confess to spending way too much time searching for a few rooms that ended up being in a completely different arm of the convention center and were separated by the river.
It was reported that the onsite attendance for LoneStarCon 3 reached around 3,500 people. There were people from all around the world in attendance, including fans from China, Japan, the UK, Russia, New Zealand, Australia, and Mexico. I would estimate that the vast majority of all attendees had been to quite a few Worldcons before, as evidenced by the extremely long displays of ribbons hanging from their nametags. The display and vendor area of the convention seemed a bit vacant. Later I determined this was due in part to the heavy attendance at the programming offered up at the convention. I found that the list of panels and readings had something for everyone.
With few exceptions, I discovered that the staff of LoneStarCon 3 did a remarkable job selecting the right-sized room for each presentation or discussion. A few topics that I thought might not have many people in attendance were held in large rooms that were filled to the back row. Others that I suspected might have a big following fit neatly in smaller conference rooms. The only event that I attended that seemed to break this well-ordered system was the reading by John Scalzi. Clearly they were turning away people by the busload that were eager to listen to his reading. To John’s great credit, he did a remarkable job remaining focused on his reading while the scrum for space at the back of the hall continued throughout the session.
There were many things that stood out as I walked the convention floor. First amongst them was the Lego rocketship that was built over the weekend. The members of the Texas Lego User Group, including Chris MacDougald and Stefan Garcia, labored all weekend to construct the craft that stood over 6 feet tall.
A stroll through the convention area would not have been complete without examining the Hugos on display. Sample trophies from two dozen conventions stood proudly for anyone to examine. I must say that the base for this year’s Hugo may have been the best. The level of detail and craftsmanship that went into its design was remarkable. Every Hugo winner went home with a prize that they could proudly push to the front of their mantel.
A full-sized replica of the Iron Throne from HBO’s Game of Thrones allowed fans to sample the weight of authority. The Dr. Who exhibit contained a remarkable collection of props from the television series, courtesy of Paul J. Salamoff.
It seemed like every time we wandered past the autograph tables there were long lines of fans waiting patiently for a few seconds and a bit of ink from their favorite authors, artists, and editors. The art auction had so many wonderful works that I found myself checking the balance on my bank account at nearly every turn.
One of the first events I attended was an opportunity to listen to author Bradley Denton and his band Bland Lemon Denton and the Lemon-Aides play on the convention stage. Their sound was tight and professional and worth the time spent enjoying their tunes.
In one of the largest lecture halls, George R. R. Martin gave those in attendance a sneak peek at the Winds of Winter by reading a Tyrion chapter. (Raise your hand if Tyrion is your favorite.) I just have to say that the jovial GRRM delivered on a chapter that had everyone salivating for even more.
Saturday brought with it more business as the World Science Fiction Society voted on the status of several Hugo awards as well as many other topics. While the results made my head spin a bit, the summary was that no changes were made to remove the fan Hugos. I applaud the dedication of all the members of the WSFS. The tireless work that they put in caretaking all things science fiction is remarkable. From hosting conventions to safeguarding the Hugos, memorabilia, and donations, the volunteers operate more precisely than many large corporations.
The program events that I attended all had a general scientific theme, but also included such topics as combat and forthcoming books. I had the great pleasure of listening to many distinguished panel members including Lois McMaster Bujold, Gregory Benford, David Brin, Joe Haldeman, Elizabeth Moon, Elizabeth Bear, Nancy Kress, Kim Stanley Robinson, Michael Swanwick, Ben Bova, George R. R. Martin, and many more. In each case, I found the topics to be both entertaining and educational. The organizers of LoneStarCon 3 did a fantastic job organizing each one.
Sunday also found more business in the morning when presentations were made by the winning bids for the 2014 NASFiC and 2015 Worldcon. Again, my lack of knowledge regarding the voting process caused me to grow light-headed, but the end results proved that the future of fandom is in good hands. Detroit will host the 2014 North American Science Fiction Convention that will be named DetCon 1, and organizers appear to have some wonderful things in store for those attending. The 2015 World Science Fiction Convention will be held in Spokane and will be called Sasquan in honor of the beloved beast known as Sasquatch. I’m sure it will be an amazing site for the gathering of fans.
Besides getting to share a few minutes with some of my favorite authors and editors, the highlight of the convention was the Hugo awards ceremony. The auditorium was packed. There were many moments throughout the ceremony that I will not forget. I was inspired by the moving acceptance speech of Neil Clarke from Clarkesworld Magazine. Pat Cadigan’s checking to make sure that she was both awake and fully clothed before she gave her long awaited words of acceptance was humbling and humorous.
The tallest award recipient went to Rory McCann when he accompanied George R. R. Martin to accept the Hugo for the “Blackwater” episode of Game of Thrones. His speech was one of the most memorable. It went something like, “Woof, woof.”
Showing the ever-present goodwill amidst the fans, both SF Signal and SF Squeecast announced that they were removing themselves from consideration for future Hugos in their respective fan categories after winning the award in back-to-back years. Both groups identified their noble actions as a tribute to other fans that continue to produce high quality material to enhance the collective experience known as science fiction.
As I returned home from my first Worldcon, I reflected on the wonderful community that exists, where a group of volunteers can maintain and organize such an elaborate event for such a long period of time. Some of the original science fiction fans like the late Frederik Pohl would be proud to see so many dedicated people continuing the tradition they helped start. Science fiction has a long future ahead. While this was my first Worldcon, I hope it will not be my last.
(Editor’s note: R. K. Troughton is busily uploading over 100 images from LoneStarCon3 – the 71st Worldcon – and we’ll be featuring a gallery of his photos here as soon as they’re ready.)