I'm writing this a few days before leaving to attend WorldCon. I arrive in San Jose Wednesday night; starting Thursday, I'll be in the midst of the massive swirl of panels, author readings, signings, costumes, gaming, filking, mass insanity, and just plain fun that's a world science fiction convention. If you've never been to a WorldCon, it's pretty tough to imagine what it's actually like. And if you're a professional in the field -- an author, an editor, a publisher -- then it gets even more complicated; every year there seems to be more stuff I'm supposed to do. I thought I'd give you a little tour of my upcoming WorldCon -- in the process, though it may seem overwhelming and exhausting, I hope you can also see a little of how fun, diverse, and wonderfully interesting the speculative fiction world can be.
It all starts on Thursday, with registration, saying hello to old friends as they show up, and taking a look around to see what's up. Thursday evening I'm on a panel for Broad Universe, an organization we started not long ago to help promote the writing of women in spec fic. There are a lot of volunteer organizations in the field -- you can sign up and join all sorts of groups that are organized around various interests. If you're interested in learning how to run a WorldCon, for example, you might start by signing up to volunteer as a gopher at the convention; conventions are always looking for volunteers. This is also a terrific way to meet people if you're new to conventions -- they can be isolating and alienating if you're attending by yourself. For your first convention, I really recommend you take a friend, or that you volunteer your time and make some friends. It's kind of fun working the registration desk, oddly enough.
A lot of the convention is readings, of course -- WorldCon is stuffed to the gills with authors doing readings. Lots of my friends are doing individual readings, and I hear that the SFF.net suite is sponsoring additional readings. I have to admit, I have a bit of a tough time sitting through most readings myself; I get itchy being quiet for so long. But if you like the idea of hearing your favorite author read your favorite scene out loud . . . well, this might be the perfect place for you. Thursday night, I'm doing a joint reading with several other people -- one of them is the editor who first bought a story from me, Cecilia Tan. (It's always lovely re-encountering people who have given you money before . . . you never know -- they might want to give you money again.)
Friday morning, I'm planning on attending my first SFWA business meeting -- SFWA is the professional organization of spec fic writers, and I'm very curious to see what sort of things they discuss when they meet at a WorldCon. Joining SFWA is something of a holy grail for young spec fic authors -- you need three professional sales to qualify for membership; once you're a member, you get access to their member directory, you get to vote for the Nebula Awards, and I'm sure you get some other things that I'm less aware of. Editors can join as affiliate members -- that's what I am right now. I'm not strongly interested in joining as a full member myself, but since so many of our authors care about it, I need to care about it too. So it'll be interesting to see what they have to say.
Then some hours off, where I'll probably attend panels; I'm a panel-junkie, and tend to spend most conventions mostly in panels -- if I'm not on the panel, I'm usually sitting up front and raising my hand a lot. I have plenty of opinions. Some people might say too many. In the late afternoon and evening, more panels (on how to flirt and on SF erotica), and maybe a dinner with some friends, if time can be squeezed out. There's so much going on at a WorldCon that it can be hard to find time to just socialize -- and yet, it seems a shame not to, since often you see people at WorldCon that you haven't seen since last year's WorldCon.
Saturday, I have several meetings with various editors and publishers, to talk about anthology projects. If you're trying to make a living as a working writer, it's generally a good idea to keep in touch with what's happening with anthologies -- and if you're a working editor, then you're probably going to spend some time trying to convince publishers to let you edit anthologies for them. (Yes, a Strange Horizons anthology will be under discussion. Stay tuned.)
Then in the afternoon, the Strange Horizons tea party from 3:00-5:00 -- if you're coming to WorldCon, please stop by and have some tea and cookies! We'll be celebrating our second anniversary -- we launched the magazine at WorldCon 2000, and we're just so pleased that it's going so well, two years later. Sadly, I'll have to duck out partway through to go sit on another panel, this one on racial and ethnic minorities in spec fic (at least it's a subject that really interests me). Susan Groppi, one of our fiction editors, will take over hosting the party -- lots of our other editors will also be in attendance. In the evening, I'm on a panel about Clarion and its workshop style. Many writers attend workshops, and a good workshop can really shape a writer's writing (and career). I have some strong opinions about Clarion (a six-week writing workshop that I attended in 1997), and about that particular workshop style, so I'm looking forward to that discussion.
Sunday (tired yet?) I have an early morning reading; I'm not really expecting anyone to come at that hour, but if they do, I'll read whatever they like. Morning panels and readings are generally pretty empty at conventions -- if you don't mind getting up early, it's a great chance to get some one-on-one time with your favorite writers. Sometime after that I'll stop by the Hugo hall and familiarize myself with the space -- get prepared to give a speech, just in case we manage to win (fingers crossed) (toes crossed, too). At 2:30, there's a panel about online magazines. And then in the evening, the Hugo reception and then the award ceremony. I've got butterflies in my stomach just thinking about it. Oof!
That isn't everything. Of course, during the days, I'll be visiting the dealer's room and the art show. Buying books I won't have time to read until next year. Bidding on art I've fallen in love with and can't really afford. Checking back compulsively to see if anyone bids on my art. Maybe stopping in the movie room and watching part of a film. Maybe taking a few hours to play some Magic or Mafia or some other game. Snagging snacks from the Con Suite and the Green Room when I don't have time to eat properly. During the evenings, partying with famous people. Trying not to drink too much. Falling asleep with my head on the bar.
WorldCon can be an endurance test, and even an experienced convention-goer may have trouble pacing herself. By the end of it, I'll probably have caught a cold, and I'll swear myself perfectly happy to never attend a panel again. Or so I'll claim -- until it's time to go to World Fantasy in November. . . .
Mary Anne Mohanraj is Editor-in-Chief of Strange Horizons.
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