Wing’s WorldCon Journal
Day Zero (The Day Before)
This year’s WorlCon is in Dublin, Ireland, seven time zones ahead of the part of the world I usually hang out in. I’m going.
Ahead of my trip, I took a calculated risk, hoping to beat the jet lag. In the days leading up to it, I’d wake earlier and earlier each morning, to put myself on Dublin time even before I left. As I said, it was a calculated risk, and I’m afraid somewhere, I must have forgotten to carry a two.
For my plan to work, I absolutely had to sleep on the plane (not something I can always manage) or rather than assuaging jet lag, I’d actually double it. Guess what I ended up not doing on the plane.
I arrive in Dublin at 7:30am, 36 hours since I last slept (and then only for about four hours). I can’t check in to my AirBnB until early this evening, so checked my bag at super sketchy 24hr casino. Tired as I am, I’ve got a day to kill.
Dublin’s not quite what I expected. At least downtown Dublin isn’t. Busy, is the first word that comes to mind. It’s tourist season and there are people everywhere. More precisely, there are tourists everywhere. Honestly, I hear more American (maybe Canadian?) accents than Irish. (Even from people working in shops and restaurants.)
Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t expect the quaint Irish villages you get whenever you see Ireland in TV and movies, but I’m really surprised to find it so … franchisey? Chainy? Big cities have commercial cores; I get that. Yet here, more than anywhere I’ve been to date, commercial seems to be the focus, the main face of the city’s personality. It’s as if someone’s built a mall out of an old, brickwork church.
None of this is to say I’m not enjoying myself. It’s just a little startling.
And it’s a lot at the end of a 12hr trip on VERY little sleep.
But we take the world as it comes to us, yes?
Anyway, I have some time to kill before I can so much as lie down. Happily, there’s more than enough to do here to kill it. I hit the Guinness Storehouse to take their renowned tour. And I’ll tell you, it’s surreal. I can’t really explain it. It starts out as kind of what you’d expect from any museum beer exhibit. But as you wander through, it falls deeper and deeper up its own self-aggrandizing asshole.
(NOTE: I love Guinness.)
(I mean, I LOVE Guinness.)
You climb upward through this post-modern monument to brand loyalty, rising floor to floor to floor, on a self-guided tour that gets stranger and stranger, until (and some of this might have been the sleep depravation) it feels a like gliding through an alternate universe. It recalls me to the House on the Rock in Neil Gaiman’s American Gods.
But its weirdness just may be the point. I think? In any case it’s a fun and unique experience.
I leave the Storehouse to have fantastic lamb stew at a little pub suggested to me by L, (as well as another Guinness. Did I mention I love Guinness?) then meet up with some old friends from my days in Japan.
We head to Trinity Collage to check out the Book of Kells, a 1,300 year old text and one of Dublin’s major attractions, along with the Old Library Long Room, which is also supposed to be pretty fantastic. By this point my deflated brain’s about ready to slide out of my ear so, prematurely leaving the book, though still taking a minute or five to appreciate the Long Room is, I make my goodbyes and head off to pick up my bag and find my AirBnB.
I’m asleep within four minutes of arriving.
Tomorrow is the 1st Day of WorldCon.
Day One (First Day of the Conference)
Oh boy. This is it. I don’t really know what to expect.
Turns out to be pretty much what I expected. A lot of panels and (mostly) thoughtful discussion. Everything from Writing from non-Western Cultures, to What Makes a Hero, to What do Editors Look for in Book Selection, to What the Hell is Hopepunk?
A lot is said. (A LOT.) Too much to give a full account of. But maybe I can cherry-pick the sweet spots:
1) Waking up at 3am, and unable to get back to sleep. Hmmm. This jet-lag prevention plan really didn’t go as I’d hoped.
2) I get trapped in my AirBnB for about 25 minutes because I can’t figure out the front door’s multi-point lock (even though I’d just opened it no problem, stepped outside, realized I’d forgotten something, and closed it, locking it again.)
3) The most dramatic moment of the day comes during what also turned out to be the most interesting topic, a presenter, giving a talk on borrowed and repurposed music in popular TV and movies, battles some gnarly technical difficulties—as well as ten to fifteen technicians who, trying to resolve the issue, are at best occasionally helpful and at worst actively disruptive.
4) I meet up with my friends from before, as well as some of their friends, and hand out some copies of my book. They’re all BookTubers so, hey, maybe I’ll get some coverage out of it!
4) Taking something of a break, I sit and have a beer in the hallway (which I guess is a thing?) and overhear two women talking passionately—and I mean PASSIONATELY—about which Doctor Who Doctor was the best and why. At first I think she’s talking about her doctor and how she was unsatisfied with him because of a missed diagnosis or something. I mean she’s REALLY upset. I admire her passion.
Of course a lot of other stuff happens, but as I said, those are the sweet spots
Early to bed tonight.
I know I’ll be early up.
Day 2 (Sleepless Nights…But not in the Good Way)
I don’t sleep again. Not more than 3 hours anyway. My body can tell. No amount of coffee is prepared to take on the herculean task of waking me.
Breakfast again a little after 8am. A proper Irish brekki. Black sausage and everything. Pretty good. Still sleepy though. Then to the convention hall.
How does it feel like I’ve already been at this for a week? (It’s freaking DAY TWO!)
I arrive early and just decide to walk around a bit. There’s something called “Stroll with the Stars” where groups go out at 9am every morning with a number of authors whose books are nominated for Hugos. (Or some might just be well-known in the world of SFF?) I thought I’d check it out, but decide it’s not my jam, before the group even leaves the convention centre. Maybe I’ll come back to it on one of the later days.
10am and time for my first panel. It’s about Scientific inaccuracies in Sci-Fi movies and how we should all just calm the shit down and not be so damn nit-picky. I really like the topic and picked it over some other (more-writing related) ones that sounded good. Sadly, this too proves a bad calculation. The presentation ends up being pretty boring.
C'est la vie.
I don’t know if it’s the lack of sleep, or disappointing panel, but I come out of it into a state of mild despondence. I chug another coffee, sit in a patch sunlight pouring through the big convention centre windows, and kinda just brood.
Nothing really I wanted to go to for the next two sessions.
I finally decided to reach out to That’s So Poe (my BookTuber friend). She, her husband and some of her fellow BookTubers are already in a panel on Own Voice writing. (I’d considered going to this one, but felt I’d get a fairly strong case of imposter syndrome. I fall into about the mainstreamiest demographic set in existence, after all.) I join them and catch the last half of the discussion. (And see that having people like me hear what the panelists have to say is a part of the point.)
(My friend’s YouTube Channel, That’s So Poe)
There are more panels after that. Killing Characters in your Writing. BookTubing. (I join the BookTubers on this one.) And finally, Writing Impossible Stories. This is actually at the second location (about a km from the Convention Centre), and I have to book it to get there on time.
This last panel is amazing. It’s filled with true veteran SFF writers, important names in the genre. (And I assure you the fault is mine when it turns out I don’t know who they are.) They had a lot of fascinating things to say.
I can’t regurgitate it all here, of course, but I’ll offer you two bits that I thought were really good advice (the first words said in a panel which I actually took the time to write into my notebook):
1) Don’t EVER criticize your own work. (That’s someone else’s job)
It’s Michael Swanwick who says this on the panel, which apparently was screamed to him by Jack Dann. (Again, the failure to know this name is mine.) I thought it was a wonderful bit of advice. If you’re work is good enough in your own eyes to call it finished, it’s as good as you feel you can make it and it’s CERTAINLY not your place to find faults within it.
2) Turn off your critic as you write.
I’m actually pretty good at this, but know a number of people who find it challenging. I’ve never been able to articulate it before though. But I think it’s super important. You should absolutely look for ways to improve what you’re working on, but never judge it. Because it isn’t complete yet. It’s not meant to be critiqued. So why allow a critic (even it’s you) to see it at this point?
Great advice. Seriously.
After this panel, I join the BookTubers for a steam punk radio show which sounded like it’d be a lot of fun, only I’m so exhausted at this point, I doze through it. I’m way in the back though, against the wall and on the ground. No one sees me.
Finally, we hit the art show and art show reception. Some really cool work. Big Lego scenes. Paintings. Sculptures. (Pictures of the art aren’t allowed so all I can show you is the Lego; and the one I bought). Some of the work was illustrations by Hugo nominees. I even bought a print!
I get separated from my companions and I’m pretty sure they leave. The Art Show Reception opens. There’s wine so I decide I’d better look for them there. No. Huh. I look *very* thoroughly (to the tune of three little plastic cups of red, white and bubbly).
It’s 7pm when I leave the reception. My body’s about good to collapse. I make may way back to the AirBnB and pass out with barely time to flop into bed. Tired as I am, I suspect I’ll get plenty of sleep tonight. And I do hope so.
MY panel’s tomorrow.
Day 3 (My Turn at the Table)
It’s my first day in Dublin preceded by what someone familiar with the concept might almost call a reasonable night’s sleep. Six hours, and broken into chunks at that, but something we can work with.
All restaurants seem to be closed until quite late on weekends (I guess brunch isn’t really a thing here?), so I grab a breakfast sandwich at the corner store (made to order and not so bad at all).
I arrive at the Convention Centre before 9am and they’re not letting people into the foyer yet. (I could have sworn I’d gone in yesterday; in fact, I’m I mentioned it in yesterday’s account.
So I wait.
They let us in, I join the queue to sign up for a coffee-and-conversation sessions. Like the walk-and-talk I ducked out of, they have a number of these each day. These however, are quite popular and limited in number, so you’ve got to sign up. This one is with Naomi Novik, who’s novel Spinning Silver (which recently became one of my favorite books) is nominated for a Hugo this year.
Now, for this part to make sense, it must be understood, you sign up a day ahead for these sessions. I’m signing up today; Novik’s session is scheduled for tomorrow.
So I thought, anyway.
Standing in line for about half an hour, I check the schedule and don’t see Novik’s event AT ALL tomorrow. I realize that it is in fact, not there. Her Coffee-Conversation is THE DAY AFTER.
So…I really don’t need to be in this line.
No harm done.
There’s a really interesting panel I want to check out anyway. It’s about Portal Fantasy. (think Alice in Wonderland, Over the Garden Wall, The Wizard of Oz etc.)
Hey, MY next novel is (kinda) a portal fantasy, so I’d really like to hear about this!
I find the queue for this event and jump in the line. I’m right near the front. After waiting another 20 minutes or so, I decide to look at the schedule again to see what I want to go to after. But somehow I can’t find this event either.
I scroll down, and down, and down…and I realize…
I got the wrong day again. AGAIN, I’ve jumped in line about 24 hours earlier than I needed to.
Sigh. (Wing you’re kinda dumb, huh?)
I skip this hour’s panels and grab a coffee and chocolate croissant. There’s a sword demo that’s kinda cool.
The next event is a reading from another Hugo nominee whose work I’ve enjoyed. (Martha Wells) Along with the two ladies in front of me, I find myself, curating the line as there are two events in one room in the same hour and two lines are trying to exist in the same space.
All good though.
The reading is and funny and everyone has a great time. A lot of the humour in her writing tends to flatten in my head when I read it, coming off a lot drier. Being in the room as she reads, hearing the group’s laughter at the funny parts, it’s a joy to experience.
Another panel about how streaming and show-binging have changed the way TV series are being written, and how the financial aspects affect the narrative. Really interesting. I make sure to put my hand up at the end to ask a question. Really just to get myself ready to do a bit of public speaking.
Because my panel’s only an hour away.
I down a pint and a half of beer, and pick up some souvenirs for friends before meeting my fellow panelists in the Green Room. We chat a short minute before running to our room and climbing, climbing, climbing onto that stage to sit in front of everyone.
Now for those of you not aware, this is my first ever panel and it’s not exactly my area of expertise. I wouldn’t go so far as to call myself nervous, but I’m certainly concerned I’ll come off as some kinda idjut.
Given how the panel goes, this concern seems somewhat legitimate. Not that it goes poorly. My mind was racing all the while though, as at any (and every) given moment I press myself to come up with something (anything) interesting and half-way insightful to say. I actually do all right, I think, but it feels a bit like to treading water in a storm. I feel like the dumb one at the table but afterwards, people tell me I did well. I try not to listen to the part of my brain that insists they’re being polite.
It was a lot of fun though.
The panel ends and I join the BookTubers for another reading. Honestly, it’s hard to concentrate. And I barely pay attention. The words pass me in a haze.
More panels: Are Musicals Considered Works of Fantasy? Gender in Speculative Fiction. But that’s about all I can mange today. I’m tired and hungry and ready for sleep.
I find a nice Korean restaurant, grab some great grub and head back to the AirBnB.
Night, y’all. Gotta get up to get up to line up (again) for Novik tomorrow.
Day 5 (The Hugos and…Not Much Else)
So you remember how I lined up good and early to get into the Naomi Novik thing? (A little over a day early?) Well, let’s call that reconnaissance. I’ve returned this morning, even closer to the front of the line, and am ready to go.
But it’s not to be.
The signup fills FAST. The person directly ahead of me in line is the last to get a spot. It’s pretty disappointing.
All right. So I’m not going to get to sit down and have a conversation with one of the authors I really like. I guess I can deal with that.
I knew going into the line, that taking the time to sign up would also likely cause me to miss a panel I really wanted to see (the Portal Fantasy one), but I try to get in anyway.
This too falls short.
It’s a disappointing morning. I want to brood, but talk with L on the phone instead. She manages to cheer me out of my funk some. I mean, the morning hasn’t gone as I’d hoped. Not by any measure, but I’ll make the best of it.
This is also the day of the Hugo Awards. (With same-day sign up.) There aren’t any more panels I’m interested in before it’s time to hit the Hugos queue. I relax instead, grab a coffee or three, try to read my book.
I find myself in line for the Hugos a good hour-and-a-half early (there’s no way I’m missing this one). They know it’s going to be big so they put us outside, wrapping us around the outside of the building. It’s a little cold. Slightly rainy, but not that bad. I chat with a couple people in line to pass the time.
When the queue starts going, it really starts going. I’m near the front and make it through in about three minutes. Just like that. And I have a seat waiting for me at the Hugos. So that’s pretty cool.
I do a couple panels. Satire and the Fantastic and The Importance of Kindness. Good speakers. Excellent speakers, actually. But both are such big topics, I think it’s hard for them to more than scratch the surface on what could be said.
It’s been a draining day. (Week, really.) And while there are more panels I could see myself going to, not any I REALLY want to go to. I head back to the AirBnB and lie down for an hour to rest before the Hugos.
Somewhat rejuvenated, I make my way back to the Convention Centre and arrive with plenty time before the doors open. I grab a bite and join the line to get in. (Lots of queuing today, ain’t it?)
The doors open and we file in. I have a pretty great seat. First row behind the reserved seating. I’m still tired, and there’s an hour before the ceremony. I try to read my book, but end up napping a bit. It’s exciting though. I watch the authors and artists make their way in, gather, break apart and find their seats. The ceremony begins. Some opening remarks. Welcome. Blah blah blah blah.
A heartfelt intro to the first award is undercut by a not-too-invested-in-accuracy voice transcription software. The audience laughs at the disconnect between the speaker’s earnestness and nonsensical words on the screen behind her. She turns around to see then breaks into laughter herself.
The first award winner’s speech is the highlight of the night. It’s the John W. Campbell Award for best new writer, won by Jeannette Ng. Ng makes her way onto the stage. Small in stature, demure in posture, she approaches the lectern.
And like crackling thunder, her voice booms out. “JOHN W. CAMPBELL—FOR WHOM THIS AWARD IS NAMED—WAS A FUCKING FASCIST!”
Everyone sits up in their seat. Many applaud.
In the same powerful voice, Ng goes on to say that in life, Campbell did everything in his power to ensure people who looked like her—both for not being white, and for being a woman—had no place in science-fiction—neither in, nor behind the text. She claims a victory, that such an award can be achieved by the very kind of person once jealously excluded from the genre.
“But you’ve given me a mic,” Ng continues, casting to her words across the auditorium. And she declares solidarity with the Hong Kong protesters. “You’ve given me a mic so I’m going to say what I need to say!” It’s bold. It’s triumphant. It’s a beautiful moment. An impassioned and rousing speech
Hard to follow for the next person though.
It’s pretty standard fare after that. Exciting to be here though. There are a number of touching moments. Some of the works I want to win, win. Others don’t. You know. An award show.
But there’s something else. A thread of melancholy running through the event. Through me actually. Growing as the ceremony draws on. I’m not entirely sure where it comes from. Well…from me, I suppose. I feel like I’m on the fringes of this community of artists and writers—not because I’m a total unknown (though I am), but because I don’t really connect as so many others seem to—and I don’t really know how to move my legs toward those with whom I would.
I don’t know. This feeling doesn’t ruin the night by any measure, but it’s part of what defines it.
The ceremony ends with some wonderful speeches (though none holds a candle to Ng’s) and I make my way back to the AirBnB. I’m drained and ready for bed.
I don’t know if it was a good day. Perhaps it wasn’t a bad one. And there’s no doubting it was memorable.
Day 5 (The Last Day)
It’s slow, last day of the convention. That’s the first thing I notice, stepping into the hall. The crowds have dwindled to something else, something you wouldn’t even really call a crowd anymore. A ghost of a crowd. A smattering perhaps. A presence.
I get it. Neither am I carrying the go-get-em attitude I did on that first day. I didn’t set an alarm this morning and took my time getting up. There was no urgency at breakfast to finish and get to the Convention Centre. WorldCon climaxes with the Hugos and here we are in the denouement.
It’s mid-morning and there are no panels I’m especially interested in so I grab a coffee and sit and read my book. The first panel I actually really want to go to is at 1pm, but I think it’ll be popular so I’ll hit the line at noon.
I might as well check out one of the 11am panels though. There’s one about why fantasy technology never seems to change, and that sounds interesting. I join the queue and make my way into the room.
“This is Gothic Horror Tradition in Irish Literature,” the moderator casually states as the doors close and the panel begins.
Huh. I check the schedule and, no, I’m in the right room. I then allow the schedule to *update* and find the medieval tech panel seems to have vanished and Gothic Irish Horror has indeed filled its slot. Oh well. No big loss. I listen to what the panelists have to say on the topic, but cut out at the Q&A section.
It’s now noon so I head to the queue for my next panel. I leave the line twice to grab a beer. Because, this panel is about The Good Place, and being a little drunk seems entirely appropriate.
Not much to say. People really like The Good Place, and it’s fun to talk about because it’s a pretty fantastic show. AND because it’s got some pretty strong thematic foundations.
A number of laughs and a lot of good discussion, and the panel comes to an end. The long of the short of it: If you’re not already watching The Good Place, you probably should.
The last WorldCon event on my radar is a book-swap over at the second venue. Just people giving away old books in exchange for someone else’s old books, but for me it’s a chance to find new readers. I bring the rest of the books I brought. (My books, I mean: ICARUS & APOCA LYPSE SINK SHIPS.)
I give one of each to the organizer and leave the others on the table. Get myself a copy of The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch in the process.
And finally, the last-last-LAST WorldCon event—one not actually associated with the conference—an interview by Shannon of That’s so Poe…of ME!!
Shannon’s a great interviewer and asks me some really thoughtful questions. Now, you’ve never seen me on camera (and you haven’t because I’m generally horrible on camera), you’ll know it’s not my natural habitat. Yet I performed surprisingly un-terribly! Yay!
I’ll definitely tweet a link to the interview when That’s so Poe posts it. Until then, I highly recommend subscribing to her YouTube Channel.
And that’s WorldCon. That’s the end of it. I’ve gone on to do a bit of travelling and touring. You can check out pics HERE if you’re interested.