WorldCon 2021

This past weekend, despite external stressors, with the help and support of my family, I hit WorldCon 2021, otherwise known as DisCon III in Washington DC.

WorldCon is the home of the prestigious Hugo Awards — selected by supporting members, not a board of elites — and the convention is held in a different city every year, traditionally in August. In 2020, it was hosted in New Zealand, but held virtually. This year, between the Delta spike and the original host hotel closing, we had the first December WorldCon in its 76 years.

I live less than an hour outside Washington DC and was honored to have my panelist application approved. I moderated a panel on putting fandom volunteer work on your resume and helped fill a gap on a panel about avoiding Twitter dumpster fires. (As a qualifier for that second one, I’m pretty sure I’ve got the worst followers-to-engagement ratio that doesn’t include bots of anyone on Twitter. I hit 10k followers two weeks ago, but I’m pretty sure only 10-20 people ever see or interact with me.)

Thursday, December 16th

My convention started off with a wrong turn. Who names the street BEFORE the hotel with the same name, and doesn’t have a convenient turnaround spot? 15 minutes later, I found my way in the exit of valet parking and got myself sorted.

I checked in, settled my bags, then picked up my badge and program. The first thing I do at a convention is to sort out where the rooms are. The hotel was odd with half-levels and meandering paths. There were chair lifts for the event spaces, but they were not easy to find, and I heard of a panelist who had to drop from a panel because they scheduled in an inaccessible room. As the hotel wasn’t a traditional convention hall, the spaces were odd — the function rooms seemed either too large or too small for most events. And the dealers were set up in a converted parking garage with a sloped floor, a low ceiling, and lighting that made me think cyberpunk.

I found, as I scanned the program, that a decent percentage of the panels I wanted to attend were either available only virtually or both in-person and virtual — and any panel that was virtual in whole or part was going to be posted for members for 30 days (counting from when the video got online). That meant my usual frantic panel hopping was toned down tremendously.

All-in-all, I hit 6 panels — including my 2, 1 workshop (that actually was a presentation), 1 concert, and 3 readings, including 2 that I participated in. I plan to hit more once they’re posted.

As I wandered the convention, the first person I really knew in the halls was my own dad. After a quick loop around the Dealers’ Hall, it was time to prep for my first panel — and my first time moderating in person. Nerves were high. Additionally, I was waiting for news from a loved one – where the deadline kept changing.

The panel went smoothly, although I think I need to work on being more lively and less scripted.

After my panel, I got a replacement room key, having locked mine in my room in under 4 hours, a new personal record, snagged a cereal bar, then checked out the Art Show. While there, I ran into a friend I’d staffed Balticon 55 with, who said he was going to the Open Mic. I figured a conference of writers was the right time to read my poem: A Peek Into The Mind of a Querying Writer. I was a smidge late, but there was still an open slot on the sheet. There were award-winning poets and amazing writers. I was intimidated, but, I did get a few chuckles.

Next up was Finding the Authorial Voice, an excellent panel (notes in the new year).

Dinner was quietly in my room, (because Covid). Although, when I opened up the curtains to get some light, I found my room had a tiny balcony and a half-decent view of the sunset.

Finally, I did some room-party hopping. SFF cons have a tradition of having clubs and other cons running room parties — usually snacks and drinks and hanging out. Depending on the crowd for how exciting. There was a board outside of the Dealers’ Hall telling the room numbers and times for each of the parties.

While leaving one of the parties, I had a brief chat with the organizer of the Broad Universe readings for Friday night. Broad Universe is a writers’ support network for women of all kinds who write sff. They also host tables and group readings at conventions. I joined a few years ago, and actually got a mentorship through their trial mentorship program. So, we got to chatting, I mentioned I was a member, and she invited me to take the reading slot for another member who had to drop.

“But I’m not published.”

“Doesn’t matter”

And all of a sudden, I was scheduled for another event. I asked the length of reading, thinking I might share a fairy tale I polished last year, but the timeslot was too short. She headed out and left me thinking.

Outside the window, I spotted firepits and headed outside to socialize a bit more safely. The weather was a lovely 60-something (16 degrees for you celsius people)! I even shared some cookies and fudge with friends. And then, bedtime, way too late.

Friday, December 17th

I woke up and scanned the schedule, and found the panel I’d intended to hit was virtual-only. Thus, I dressed and did a circuit of the con, then it was time for “Creating New Mythology From Hidden Histories“, another fantastic panel I’ll be talking about in the new year. While there, I ended up sitting next to (in Covid terms) one of the people who beta read the manuscript I’m actively querying. He asked me about it and remembered enough to give me some kind words and good advice. It was definitely the pick-me-up I needed. Did you know that rubbing elbows with the sff elite does not make you immune to rejection letters?

Meanwhile, I was getting expected but stressful updates from a loved one, and tracked down a couple of good hugs. Seanan McGuire’s Concert was a lovely distraction. My second panel was at 5pm: Bad Kidneys and Other NFTs — all about avoiding Twitter dumpster fires. I was literally 2/3rds into the panel when I got the “all good” text update, and was able to flip my phone over for good. I think the panel was a lively conversation, and I don’t think I vocally talked over any of the Far More Prestigious Panelists, but it did inspire me for improving my moderation technique.

I walked over to get dinner at the Lebanese Taverna, got a tweet message inviting me to join some writers I’d chatted with briefly for dinner while I was walking back, food in hand. A little too late. Besides, I needed time to panic over what to read at the Broad Universe reading. Since the time slot was too short for a full story, I decided I’d read the opening of the manuscript I’m currently querying. As I did a practice read in my room, I started to hate everything about it. I decided all of the world-building description was slowing the pace too much, and of course, that’s why I had been getting form rejection after form rejection.

I knew it was foolish.

I reached out to several friends and asked them to reassure me and they talked me down, just in time to make it to the reading. The other authors were all published (or soon to be) and many were award winners. Such amazing story snippets were shared, and they were all sweet and supportive of my piece.

That evening, I did some more party hopping, including the firepits, and standing in the hallway outside the Winnipeg Bid-Party (Bid parties are hosted by cons proposing to host future WorldCons) while they called out raffle numbers. Neither I, nor the 2 random strangers from the firepit who’d asked me to check on their raffle tickets, won. I let them know the bad news, then wandered and chatted with old friends, and met new ones.

Saturday, December 18th

My mornings were progressively getting slower, and I waffled on hitting the Pitching Workshop, because I was nearly 10 minutes late. But, there was a seat left — in what turned out to be a presentation. (As I don’t reshare presentations or workshops that belong to a single individual, these notes will not be going up, unfortunately.) I had a lot of questions for the presenter, that I might should have skipped, because he didn’t make it through his slides, and it had a lot of 101 information for queriers who probably were in the room. Sorry!

On the way out of the panel, I ran into the new writer friend who’d invited me to dinner the night before and met-in-person a panelist I’d worked with virtually the year before.

Next up was Short Fiction: Expanded, which talked about all the ways you can grow a short story, and I hit ’em with a question on rights lawyering. (Notes to come). I bumped into my new friends in the Dealers’ Hall where we got to chatting, then finding a bench in the hallway — talking all about em-dashes, the myth of the two-page synopsis, and debating which city had the better hockey team. (Obviously, Caps are better than the Penguins, I mean. Come on!). When we split up for our next activities, I made it to the “When Does Evil Become Irredeemable” panel with 10 minutes to spare. Too bad it was in one of the smaller rooms, and the doors were already closed. (If you made it in, please share your notes with me! I think that was one of the non-streamed panels.)

After that, I hit From Grimm to Disney and Back Again, another panel for the notes, followed by my dad’s reading. Then, I met up with my new friends and their friends for dinner — one of whom I already knew virtually from my Facebook PitchWarrior support groups! After passing the sushi place twice because we were lost in conversation, we found out it was carry-out only. But… it was only two doors down from the delicious Lebanese Taverna. I was just going to hang out and get my food to go, but the weather was reasonable and the others decided to eat outside. So, I actually ate with people, instead of solo, in my room, for the only time that weekend!

When we made it back to the hotel, the delayed Hugos were getting ready to start. Apparently, there had NOT been a fire, but there had been smoke and the hotel insisted it wasn’t them and made the WorldCon staff check out every inch of their equipment before they could begin.

We headed to a live-viewing room (because I prefer making comments to sitting formally), and the others decided a game of Munchkin was the ticket. I snagged my laptop so we could live stream — after getting a FOURTH room key… While they played, I did social media stuff, and, we all took a break to watch and let our hearts break for the Hugo-casted memorial. I live-tweeted/Facebook-posted the awards as they were awarded to the Baltimore Science Fiction Society accounts that I run social media for. It was good to have company for that. Not sure if I should live-tweet in the future, or simply do a single post with all the winners. Food for thought.

Note: Chengdu, China won the bid for WorldCon 2023, beating out Winnipeg. From what I understand, there was some kerfuffle about memberships — China blocked their main bank from allowing people to pay for memberships, so people would essentially use the Chinese version of Venmo to give a friend with a credit card that worked in the States money — so, there were some worry about people buying so many memberships. While China itself might be problematic for many reasons, Chinese fandom is not, and I look forward to seeing what is available virtually.

Then, I hung out with other friends, party hopped, and shut down the CapClave party.

Sunday, December 19

I went to get dressed and realized, despite having extra pants, socks, and everything else, I was a shirt short. So, I did what any rational con-goer would do on the final day of a con, I put my pajama top on, a fancy jacket, and decided it was a look. Because of holiday plans, I skipped the last day of the con, so I could have the longest amount of time possible before visiting family, without defeating my goal for attending the con — meeting people face-to-face.

All done, I got my car back, loaded everything up, and drove home before lunch.

Catticus was very happy to snuggle me. This was the longest I’d ever been away! I thought about tuning in for some of the virtual portion of the con… but then, a nap-attack struck.

But! I was out of bed before 4pm, because I live-stream nearly every Sunday from 4:30-6:30pm. Instead of writing sprints, though, one of my regular co-hosts, Sako Tumi, who’s been a friend for years before we spotted each other in the Authortube community, came over to my house, while my other regular cohost, steampunk author Doc Coleman joined virtually, and we had a mellow, low-key holiday party.

Monday, December 20th

The con was done and it was time for dayjob once more. I woke and thought I was well-rested, but when I went to rub my eye, I somehow scratched it! Yeah, without Catticus’s help. After checking with friends and leaving a message with my primary care physician, I called my optometrist from um, a move ago, and they had an opening. Kids — eyes aren’t something to take risks with.

Verdict? I had flannel sheet lint in my eye, and had managed to scratch the inside of my eyelid — right by the crease — which is why blinking hurt. Fortunately, my delicate lasered eyes were unscratched and I didn’t even need antibiotics.

Once home, I got swabbed my nose, enjoyed my Covid-negative result, and grabbed lunch before returning to dayjob.

With the first of my post-con Covid tests done, it was time to look forward to the next event in my life. I finished the evening with cheesy Christmas rom-coms.


Have you ever hit a con? What about a WorldCon?

If you were there, say ‘hi’! If you weren’t, you can say ‘hi’, too.

3 Comments

  1. Several things: writers, if you’re writing sf or fantasy, and haven’t been to a con, you really, really need to. Talk to people, and listen, and you’ll hear what readers, and authors, and agents, and editors are looking for. They’re not that expensive – certainly, a lot less expensive than the commercial cons or seminars.

    If you’re a reader, you’ll discover a ton of people just like you, and who will understand what you’re talking about.

    And after you’ve been to a few cons, you’ll have discovered that authors and such are not seven feet tall with voices like thunder (ok, maybe the late Sprague de Camp), and are people who will talk to you.

    And the best way to meet people is to volunteer. These cons are all volunteer – no one gets paid.

    And you might find new friends that stay with you over the years.

    Liked by 1 person

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