The 1993 World Science fiction convention was held in San Francisco over 5 days in early september ... and I was there (yay!). The thing is, how do I even begin to describe what its like being in the midst of 8000 hard core fen. The numbers could be a bit overwhelming at times. Of course with that many people in attendance, you can understand that a high degree of organisation was required. So when the queue for registration stretched down the block and half a block around the corner, you can see why people started to call it ConFiasco. This was not entirely fair as most things ran smoothly except the big events - registration, opening ceremony and masquerade. In these cases, the organisers just did not have the planning in place to cope with all the people - at least the queues were a great place to meet people.
So what do you do at a worldcon? Well quite a lot really. The first thing I did was dive into the dealers room. I nearly didn't surface. There were well over 200 dealer tables in that room and they sold all sorts of great stuff - new books, secondhand books, rare books, all sorts of zines, badges, jewellery, costumes, T-shirts, weapons, props, scripts, video tapes, audio tapes, CD's - I think you probably get the idea. The trick is to keep a really tight grip on your credit card. The temptation to overspend is tremendous.
Next try some of the program items. So much to choose from. Even the filkers have a separate track - well away from everyone else naturally. I went to a lot of hard science panels - there were speakers and panellists actually involved in leading edge technology. And some not so leading edge technology - one person had actually worked on a portable nuclear device ("the backpack nuke"). Gregory Benford ran that panel - pity his work isn't more popular here, he is a very good speaker and would make a great convention guest. The science track had some other good stuff - latest pictures from the Hubble, details of the DC-X single stage to orbit prototype and the latest about other ground to orbit technology.
I tried to get to other stuff as well. The humour panel featured Terry Pratchet and Connie Willis - very very funny. A question for the reader - why is multi award winner (and crowd favourite) Willis not well known here. You cannot get her work anywhere here - in fact even in California (where she lives) her work is hard to find. Then there was the panel with Rudy "the rude boy" Rucker where he claimed to have invented cyberpunk. You can make a case for this, but the fact that he claimed it makes me doubt it. As a point of interest, the cyberpunk crowd were there in force - John Shirley and Pat Cadigan would make a good slapstick comedy act. Going back to the previous point, Shirley probably has a much better claim to have invented the sub-genre.
The big events I attended were the opening ceremony and the masquerade. Waiting at 1400th position in a queue for an hour kind of takes the gloss off things though - anyway I left the masquerade at the half time break. Thereby missing most of the winning costumes and Grant Preston (from Auckland) doing a reprise of his Bjorn Borg bit.
And what did I leave it for - well the most important part of the Con - the parties. Some of the bid parties were very impressive - very lavish. Basically the bid parties are trying to bribe people into voting for their con, or signing up for it. An expensive business - the aussies are already laying out money (in the form of food) for the 1999 convention and the actual vote will not be held until L.A. in 1996. A word of warning to anybody who attends a convention with Tim Jones - when he says that we should climb the stairs looking for parties rather than wait in the queue for the elevators (!) - beware, he means it. We climbed all the way to the 32nd floor of the Parc 55 hotel. All this to find that the writers party on the 4th floor was the best - well it had the best (read biggest) chocolate bar anyway.
Other highlights include a very impressive art show - much too expensive to bid on anything in the auction though. Then there were various authors and famous fans to rub shoulders with. Harlan Ellison was there smiling at people! David Gerrold showed that no matter how hard he tries (and he does try hard), he will never be as totally repellent as Jerry Pournelle. Pat Murphy proved that you cannot judge an author by their work.
Enough name dropping. If you want to know more, ask me. I'll be glad to tell you more than you are probably prepared to listen to. For myself, I'm already planning how to get to Scotland in '95.