I’m back from WorldCon 2022 — otherwise known as ChiCon8. It was 6 days of travel, convention panels, seeing people who are already friends and making new ones.
WorldCon is an annual celebration of science fiction and fantasy, wherein, its membership votes for the Hugo Award Winners each year. This was its 80th anniversary and its 8th return to Chicago. It’s a traveling convention, with bids put in years before by potential host cities. 2023 will be in Chengdu, China, and Glasgow, Scotland won the bid for 2024.
This was my seventh WorldCon and third as a panelist.
I usually skip the name drops, but I know people like the shoutouts, so, I’ll be doing my best to namedrop anyone I had more than a 2-minute conversation with, but it’s hard. I remember all the conversations and faces, but I mismatched a few names. Thanks to all the many amazing people who kindly let me geek out about this whole writing and content creation and social media thing!
I started off my long weekend by making a big mistake — the convention starts on Thursday, not Friday! I flew out of DC after 10pm on Thursday and reached the Windy City around midnight. I thought about taking public transit, except I was a woman, traveling alone, in an unfamiliar city, at night, with luggage. Without one or two of those modifiers, I might have chanced it, but instead, I splurged on an Uber — still cheaper than a day of parking.
In fact, by the time I found the terminal for the ride-share pickup, the price had dropped from $65 to $50 dollars. For a half-hour ride, it was a bit high, but worth the splurge to be done traveling.
I checked in, unpacked my luggage, (because that’s the sort of traveler I am), and popped my head into a few room parties. Glasgow was throwing a bid party, and a few other rooms were hopping.
Alas, I didn’t spot anyone I knew, so I made a quick circuit, and headed to bed.
Friday morning, I showered, then headed out to get my badge before the first panel I wanted to hit. After the night before, I was happy to spot Andy Popovic on my way into reg, my PitchWars support group friend Mindi Welton-Mitchell, and chatted with Brandon Ketchum, John Thompson, and John’s brother Jim. Then, ran off and was only a few minutes late to ‘The Writing Workshop Workshop‘ — discussion. They shared the pros and cons of different workshop experiences, for both short story writers and novelists, plus the benefit of connection building.
Next up was Publishing as Collaboration which was a little more on professionalism than collaboration than I’d expected, but a solid panel. I chatted with Joshua Norstein, who was at his first con! He let me blabber his ear off (or maybe he was questioning me?) through a circuit of the dealer’s room, (partially to wave at Ian Strock), lunch at SmashBurger, and a turn through the Art Show.
We both hit We’re Number 2, So We Try Harder: Backups, Sidekicks, & Henchfolk, which started off ‘lancer’ focused, but spread out toward the end.
After that, there were so many great options, but I hit Sustainable Series Strategies because Seanan McGuire and Mary Robinette Kowal!, then set up in my room for my first panel, the virtual Livestreaming for Beginners. Airmeet refused to cooperate with one of our panelist’s cameras but the panel went well. I tagged back up with Brandon, John, and Jim for dinner at Sweetwater Tavern. Unlike the Virginia one, no Ozzie rolls, but the food was fine.
Then! I party room-hopped. Shout out to Aaron Roth who was more determined to hit all the parties and scout the food and drinks than necessarily chat with people, but I chatted with so many awesome people. Brandon, John, and his brother Jim, again. Carrie Callahan, Mica Scotti Kole, Michael, Alma, and more! We ended up partying some in the closet of Joel’s Weekly Whiskey Zoom Party cause it was a spacious walk-in with 2 padded benches, a door, and you could hold a conversation without screaming. The Royal Manticore Navy party was a little yell-y, but lovely themed and well run. Eventually, I tried to hit BarCon (the habit of writers, agents, and publishers to hang out at the bar instead of attending stuff at a convention), but the bar was closed. *sad trombone noises*
I woke bright and ‘early’ at 9:30am cause my #authorTube friend, Sarah Scharnweber was driving nearly 2 hours into the city just for coffee so we could meet in person! She got there 15 minutes early, so I flung myself through the shower and headed down. After getting a little turned around about which door she was at, we tagged up and got her some coffee. It was so great to meet her in person! She was exactly like she is on the stream, and it wasn’t awkward like I’d feared. 10/10 would hang out with Sarah in person again.
I abandoned her after a bit to go check out Fairy Tales and Folklore in Urban Fantasy which was solid enough I didn’t regret cutting the visit short (well, that and not making Sarah pay for MORE parking, it was pricey enough for 2 hours). I ate my breakfast bar while chatting with Reesa Graham and Betsy, then hit Let Me Tell You About The Very Alien: They Are Different From You and Me, (which was the longest titled panel I think I’ve ever hit), followed by Decolonizing SFF.
I tagged up with my other panelists in the Green Room, then we made our way through the maze to the room for Mental Health and Conrunning. The audience was small, but the conversation was important and the panelists passionate.
After all that, I needed a nap. Instead, I stared at facebook reels and tried to wind down, unsuccessfully. I made it back out in time for Science Fiction and Reproductive Freedom, a topic you might know I’m a little passionate about.
I snagged a quick meal from the lobby Starbucks, then scarfed it down while setting up for my second virtual panel: Legal Considerations for Podcasters. I wasn’t the most helpful panelist, but hopefully, there was some value in me saying, “I’ve been told X, so I do Y, is that right?”, followed by our legal specialist giving 5-10 minutes on why I was mostly right.
Then more party hopping! First, I hit BarCon first and met Kat Kourbeti in person! She introduced me to the talented Brandon O’Brien. I aimed for more conversation this time and jumped groups a few times. Shout outs to: Jen Albert and Dominik Parisien, Abra Staffin-Wiebe, Kathy, Ben C. Kinney, Luke CJ Smith, Andrea Hinkle, Kurt Pankau, and Fringe.
We managed to hit John Scalzi’s dance party in time for the last 15 minutes, (which, to be honest, is about how much dance I had left in me at quarter to 1 in the morning).
I made it to bed before 3.
I managed to squeak in a shower before slipping in a little late to the Broad Universe Rapid Fire Readings! I’m a member of Broad Universe, an open group that supports women in SFF. I even got a mentorship through a trial program they had a few years ago. Randee Dawn, was the host and had just launched her first novel the night before.
I went to check on art I’d bid on, but it was gone from the art show — clearly taken to the auction I’d missed. I sighed a deep sigh and headed off to be a panelist again for Starting Your Own Podcast. So many award winners and standouts in the field, and me — who half the time is shouting into the void (thank you so much for reading!). I feel my contributions were helpful, though, and I did my best not to dominate the conversation.
I tagged up with Aaron, John, Jim, Brandon, Olivia, and Jianing for a fetch-and-eat lunch from the local convenience store, before getting turned around twice and making it to Reaching Past Riordan, talking about modern-day mythology kids in stories. Next up was Black Speculative Poetry, where I will be looking up reference names for months.
Finally, time for the last panel I was on. I darted back to my hotel room, grabbed 4 books wrapped in brown paper, then headed to the green room to find my other panelists… who’d said they’d be meeting us in the panel room because of scheduling *facepalm*. I made it with time to spare and wasn’t the last one. Judging a Book By Page 119. It was a fun panel, with each of us panelists taking a turn reading a page and letting the audience thumb-up, thumb-sideways, or thumb-down a story. By picking a page this far in, we’re past the overly polished opening, and around the start of the second act of a 3-act structure novel.
I would NEVER want to be in the room when a selection from my book was read. The “why do you say no” critiques could be brutal, but it was a fun panel and I think I showed off my voice acting chops enough that no one would question if I could actually be a voice actress — even if my story selections had more male voices than female. I read from Jennifer Fallon’s Wolfblade (Game of Thrones for people who don’t want to be depressed) and The Perils of Prague by Doc Coleman. There’s nothing like your reading getting a room full of people chuckling — at the funny parts. And Loki in the audience had great feedback: “didn’t like because it wasn’t about me”, “liked because it was about complicated family relationships”, etc…
Next, I met up with the usual crew for dinner, plus Steve Fellows, twins Dan and Dave?, Carrie, and ??. I did my best to live-tweet the Hugo’s from Twitter for my local SFF club while chat-shouting in the noisy bar for a couple hours with Steve about social media and club promotion ideas. Then, off to wander. I did a quick circuit of the bar, then wandered, and ended up mostly chilling in the causeway with Ars Arcanum’s Luke and Steve Atteberry, Kurt, Taylor Schmidt, Tiffany Schmidt, and more!
I got up, showered, packed up, and checked out. I dropped my bags off at the bellhop (just before they had to start piling things in the corded-off section of the breezeway.
At 11:30am, I hit the final panel I’d get to in person, Inverted Tropes, which was a lovely conversation, with a lot of audience members’ “questions” actually trying to be additions to the conversation… and not all of them hitting the mark. The panelists handled it with aplomb, though.
I ran into my friend Sass and he said that Accessibility needed help driving chairs back to the dock, so I swung by the Accessibility desk, then realized I’d never driven one! Instead, I volunteered to go re-tape accessibility parking in the panel room for Closing Ceremonies and put in maybe 45 minutes of volunteering for the con, playing with tape.
I did my final swing through the Dealers’ room to say goodbye to people, then chilled in the lobby for a while, pretty much peopled out. I got to say goodbye to a bunch of people, though, and grabbed lunch with Ellen, my dad’s partner, in the bar before he made it back with his van. Yes, I flew out from DC, then was driving back with my dad.
We had some luggage from Capclave and some club members to take with us, but once that was loaded, we were off. Dad drove like frogger to the “L” to try and get his walking stick back, where he’d left it while fetching the van from cheaper parking — but no luck. It wasn’t far ’til Indiana, and once we got there, I dozed and switched out CDs as we made our way across Indiana.
I tried to get us to a diner for dinner, but it ended up with us backtracking — only to find the 24/7 place closed early. So, we continued on another 45 or so to an Olive Garden. Dad’s hands started seizing up, and we were getting worried, but at dinner, he drank a lot of tea. Surprise, surprise, not being dehydrated helped.
We wanted to hit Columbus, but called it a night in Richmond, Indiana, not even half an hour from the border to Ohio. Dad managed to twinge his already cranky back as he went to get us the room. I gave him some Advil and Ellen hooked up her tens unit, and by morning, he was moving much better.
After IHOP for brunch, we hit the road and instantly hit Ohio. I dozed for a bit, then Dad and I regularly traded off, with the rain waiting for my turn, but his van was pretty easy to drive. For a quick sandwich, I led us to a Wawa — that was under construction, but the other gas station had a Little Caesars, a something, and a Tim Horton’s! I’d heard so much about the legendary Canadian donut place, but had never seen one in the wild. I didn’t even know they were south of the border! So, of course, I had to try them. I got a turkey bacon club — and an assorted box of Timbits (donut holes). They were actually Really good. Would eat again.
Dad wasn’t the only one who’d left a walking stick, so as our path took us out of Ohio into West Virginia, then Pennsylvania, then West Virginia, then Maryland, we called ahead and Redbud did indeed still have her cane! Then, we headed back to West Virginia, and into Virginia to finally get me home again.
I unloaded the car and saw Dad and Ellen off to go get some Pho for dinner before they headed home to rest. Catticus was VERY happy to see me and barely left my side. I managed to unpack my luggage, then finally, sleep.
All in all, I managed to meet tons of amazing people, attend 12 great panels, speak on 5 panels, with some terrific people, and travel through 6 states (8 if you count all the times the road wiggled through West Virginia.)
Have you ever been to a convention? Did you enjoy it?
Were you at WorldCon 2022? Say ‘hi!’