A Report on the 70th World Con: Part 1

I flew from Washington Dulles Airport to O’Hare International Airport to attend the 70th World Science Fiction Convention, or World Con as it’s usually called. This was the first World Con I’d been able to attend since Denver in 2008, so I was really looking forward to the event.

Getting into Town

It was pretty easy to make my way into town, I simply took the subway to downtown Chicago, to the area they call “the Loop.”

I’d never been to Chicago before, so the subway was a great way to go. Much of the track was elevated and went straight though the city, so it was a great exposure to some of the old buildings and architecture that’s prevalent in the city.

Once I got off the subway, it was an easy walk to the Hyatt Regency where the convention was being held. As soon as I entered the hotel lobby, I knew I was in the right place. It’s hard to mistake the kind of crowd that attends a World Con. I’m part of that crowd, and we definitely move to different drummer than a lot of other folks out there.

Opening Ceremony

I got my room situation settled, dropped off my suitcase and laptops, and went looking for registration. This was simple, painless, and just a few minutes later I was settled in the back of the Main Auditorium for the Opening Ceremony, hosted by John Scalzi.

This event was run like a late-night talk show, with Scalzi interviewing guests on-stage, including Erle Korshack, who co-chaired the original Chicon in 1940 (the first time the World Con was held in Chicago — this was the fourth time it was being held in Chicago), Guest of Honor Mike Resnick, Kathy Morrill (sister of Artist Guest of Honor Rowena Morrill, who was absent due to health issues), Artist Agent Guest of Honor Jane Frank, Fan Guest of Honor Peggy Rae Pavlat and former NASA flight controller Sy Liebergot. Oh, and let’s not forget Deb Kosiba, the designer of this year’s base for the Hugo Award.

I’d never seen the Opening Ceremony food a World Con before, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. I also liked the early reveal of the 2012 Hugo Base, and the presentation Deb Kosiba gave about the influences on the design. Well done.

Storytelling Time

After the Opening Ceremony, I attended a few sessions. My first choice was, I think, directly influenced by experience with Toastmasters and my efforts to improve my public speaking abilities. I’ve become interested in storytelling. Not interpretive reading, but outright storytelling. So I attended a very entertaining session called “Storytelling the Old-Fashioned Way,” featuring M. Todd Gallowglass, Marie Bilodeau, Deirdre Murphy, Michael R. Underwood and B. A. Chepaitis.

Each panelist started out by telling a short story, which ranged from your basic short joke to an elaborate fairy tale that required audience participation. They talked about what worked and what didn’t work when they told stories, as well as some specific stories about when things went wrong. All in all, it was good fun.

Self-Publishing or Not?

Next, I attended a panel called “To Indie or Not to Indie,” which was about the pros and cons of self-publication. Panelists included Mike Shepherd Moscoe (an established writer and the moderator), J. Kathleen Cheney, Hugh Howey, Matt Forbeck and Bill Housley. An interesting discussion ensued, with the moderator, the most established writer, coming the closest to defending the status quo in publishing.

Of the Indie-published, Hugh Howey appeared to be the most successful, with an Amazon bestseller, and a story, “Wool,” that had been optioned by noted film director Ridley Scott. The general conclusion seemed to be that it was a great time to be a writer, because you had so many publishing options.

By the time the session ended, it was about 7:30 PM and I was starving. Hugh Howey announced that he was meeting a bunch of his fans at an Irish restaurant, the Emerald Loop. Any of us who were interested in talking further were welcome to come along.

Hanging Out at the Emerald Loop

I, and a bunch of other folks, followed Hugh Howey to the Emerald Loop, hanging out at the bar until the rest of the folks arrived, and then taking over the back room. I met some of Hugh’s fans, who told me emphatically that his best book was “Wool Omnibus,” which collected all five wool stories into one complete volume.

I had an excellent Fish & Chips dinner, some great conversation with Hugh and the other folks who were there. When I went to pay for my share of the evening, Hugh told me he’d already paid for everything.

I said, “You do realize, I’m like the only person here who hasn’t read any of your books?”

He just laughed and remarked about what a great time we’d all had. Heck, I’d even had my picture taken with him, and I wasn’t yet even sure whether I was going to like his books (although I’d already resolved to buy his “Wool Omnibus” that everyone had been talking about.

What a great first day at the World Con.

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