Worldcon: Day 4 (Part 2)—The Hugo Awards

Sunday evening was the main event—the Hugo Awards presentation.  Before that, being human beings of a hungry sort, we decided to seek out food.

This proved to be more problematic that we could have imagined.  We first decided to go back to Le Steak Frites, but found them to be booked full until 8:30 or later, which was no good, since the awards started at 8:00, and, well, we didn’t want to wait that long.  It seemed to be full of Con people, and perhaps there were officials being dumped there, and such.  So we went back to the convention center to try a restaurant there, only to find that was full.  We had had trouble finding a place that was open near the convention center the evening before, so we decided to go back to our hotel and try the restaurant there.

Food was only being served at the bar, and was not especially cheap or appetizing.  So we set out again, thinking maybe of the nearby Dairy Queen, before ending up at Eggspectation, where I had a satisfactory panini sandwich.  After all that questing, we were running a little later than expected, but still arrived at about 7:55 PM, where we had to sit toward the back of the massive Main Tent, as it was quite full.

The Hugo Awards ceremony was generally well-run.  There were a few tech mis-cues, and a few times we had to wait slightly long before somebody came out or got to the stage, or whatnot.  None of the speeches were unnecessarily long, and so the evening went by quickly and pleasantly.

The results can be found here, at the official Hugo Awards site.  It was nice to see Neil Gaiman win for The Graveyard Book at the Worldcon where he was Guest of Honour.  David Hartwell also won Best Long-Form Editor, and he was Editor Guest of Honour, and also damned entertaining.  I enjoyed all of the winners, and felt a little bad for the “losers”, many of whom were my first choice, but it was a fun and exciting evening overall.

After the awards ceremony, we did one more panel, from 10 to 11 PM, called “Young Turks”.  It featured a few writers who were basically emerging as forces to be reckoned with, and because the audience was small enough, it became a sort of cooperative Q&A whereby they talked about why they wrote, how they got to the point they were each at, techniques and tools they had found helpful for their writing, and the like.  For a panel so late, and day 4, after the Hugos, it was a pleasant surprise to have such an engaged and active set of panelists, and such a fun and interesting panel.  Kudos to them for pulling it off.

At that point, we called it a day.

Worldcon: Day 4

The fourth day of Worldcon was also a big one, and quite full.

We started at 9 AM once again, with a panel on “How Not to be a Jerk Online”.  I went to this because John Scalzi—whose blog and work I am a fan of—was one of the panelists, and I suspected it was a topic he would hold forth entertainingly about.  I was right, although the other panelists (whose names I will call forth in a later update) also had excellent and amusing contributions.

The next panel I wanted to see was “Deities and Demigods”, because I wanted to snag panelist Paddy Forde to sign a book I had, but alas, it was cancelled.  That did leave me free to join my girlfriend at another panel I was interested in, on “English-Canadian Small-Press SF Publishers”, which was an illuminating and honest look at the business and economics of small press publishing in Canada, with the attendant advantages and disadvantages.  Kind of interesting and depressing.

Next was another panel on “The Singularity: O RLY”, which was pretty entertaining, although with my own reading in the area and the panels I’ve been to this weekend, I may be singularitied out.  I did get a signature from Peter Watts after, though, and had an entertaining conversation with him about genetic algorithms as they might be applied to FPGAs that was punctuated him him being mind-boggled when he noticed my {Terror} t-shirt form Dr. McNinja.

Then it was lunchtime, followed by spending too much money in the Dealer’s Room, where my girlfriend bid on a print in the art show, and I bought a Con t-shirt, another book, and ended up subscribing to OnSpec.

The next panel we saw was “Which Histories Get Alternates?”, wherein the panelists discussed why so many alternate histories focussed on the same events (eg. American Civil War, WWII, etc.), and partly concluded that it was needed because the audience had to have strong familiarity with the events in question to understand how it is alternate.  A list of other types of alternates was also volunteered by the audience.

Then it was on to “Economics of Star Traders”, which discussed whether it could ever be worthwhile to have trade between planets, first in a relativistic universe, then opening it up to FTL-capable universes.  Some interesting ideas bandied about.

We were pretty exhausted by panels, so we wandered around a bit, outside, before heading back so I could get some books signed by Robert Charles Wilson.  Then it was in search of dinner, about which I will complain in the next post.

Worldcon: Day 3 Recap (Part 2)

After a quick lunch, my girlfriend had hoped to take in the panel on “Montreal Local History”, but it was apparently cancelled.  I headed to “Building Realistic Worlds”, but it was so full that there wasn’t even space to stand at the back of the room, so I went to my other option, “How Are We Getting on Towards the Singularity Then?”.  This was also quite full, but I could still find room.    It was a decent panel, exploring the different ways we are approaching the Singularity (or not).

The next panel we both went to was “Online Magazines Represented HERE: A Good Market”, in which several people who work in various capacities at online fiction magazines discussed the advantages and disadvantages of the format.  Advantages were mostly in the negligible cost of distribution and international reach, but the downsides were the lack of a business model and combatting obscurity—how does your magazine get found among everything else online?  The panelists were all good and played off each other well.

Then there was a panel on “How to Pitch Your Novel… and how not to”, which was good at offering practical advice from publishing professionals on how you can get someone to look at your novel.  Thankfully, I had encountered most of the information before, so it seems like my research into publishing in the field has been successful.

Next up was a panel titled “Aunts in Spaceships”, which my girlfriend was interested in seeing.  She was hoping it would more be about why aren’t there more characters with extended families (or families at all) in SF literature, but it was concentrated more on older women characters, and became something a chance for the panelists and audiences to list examples of such characters.  Given that it was a 90-minute panel, and wasn’t quite what we were looking for, we ducked out a bit early and visited the dealer’s room again.

At 6:30, there was a short event, featuring author Karl Schroeder and his Tor editor David G. Hartwell talking about the process of working together, and how their relationship and working approach has changed over the course of working on 7 novels together.  It was really interesting, and actually felt like it ended too soon.

Then we went looking for dinner, but found a large number of places were closed, so we ended up going to an Italian place that was fine, but a bit slow because they were overwhelmed with other Con-goers.  As a result, we were late getting back, and missed the first hour of the Masquerade costume show.  We saw a few minutes of it, but I was interested in another event, “Gaiman Reads Doctorow”.

As an experiment, Cory Doctorow is releasing his next short story collection as a self-published Creative Commons title, and using it to explore a number of different ideas a business models, including a free audiobook read by friends (in this case, Neil Gaiman, star of the Worldcon), print-on-demand, and high-cost hand-made limited editions.  Gaiman read quite well, as he is wont to do, and then they both fielded questions after the recording was done.  Gaiman and Doctorow were both gracious, funny, and passionate speakers, and I felt the event was well worth missing the Masquerade.

The last event of the night was a fireworks display that we could watch from the top floor terrace of the convention centre.  The fireworks were not part of the Worldcon (it was for the Festival of Fire, I think, being a South African entry), but it was a nice way to end a very long day.

Worldcon: Day 3 Recap

Day 3 of Worldcon was a very panel-heavy day for us.

We started with “Writing for the Non-Adult”, which had a nice mix of panelists that played off each other well, and talked about the difficulties of writing for children and young adults, both in terms of craft and the market.  This included elements such as boys being unwilling to read books that look like they’re for girls, and the gap where many boys stop reading at all.  Overall, it was a nice discussion.

From there, my girlfriend went to the “Archetypes Without Stereotypes” panel directly, while I ducked down to the signing area to get a book signed by Cory Doctorow.  When I mentioned I had studied cryptography in grad school, he showed me his wedding ring—it was an Enigma cipher custom-designed by Bruce Schneier and made by Schneier’s daughter.  Very cool.  He had a fairly sizable line (though smaller than Robert Silverberg), so I didn’t get back to the panel till it was about half done.  I view this as exceedingly unfortunate, as the part of it that I saw was brilliant.

The five panelists (Patrick Rothfuss, Brandon Sanderson, Ben Jeapes, Nalo Hopkinson, and Doselle Young) worked together perfectly.  They were cracking each other up, getting big laughs from the crowd, hitting all the big points, going back and forth with smooth banter, no one was stealing the limelight… they just worked with each other and the audience really well.  I think this may have been the best panel I have ever seen, even though other panels have had subjects of more focussed interest to me.  Kudos to the panelists.

From there, we moseyed over to “What Makes a Good Story?”, but since it was quite full, we tried “Abby Normal: Comedy and SF”, which was also full, but we didn’t want to run to yet another place that may or may not be quite full, so we stayed.  It was a fun panel, talking about different kinds of humour, though it mostly focussed on film and TV rather than written SF.  Halfway through, I ducked out for 10 minutes to get a book signed by James Alan Gardner, who is a very nice guy.

That took care of the morning.  More to come later today.

Worldcon: Day 2 Recap (Part 2)

When last we left our heroes, they were heading back to the Con for the Neil Gaiman signing, tickets to which they had acquired earlier that day.  Arriving at 3:30 PM (for the 4:00 signing), there was already a massive line of ticketholders ahead of us.   So, we had a half hour wait before the doors opened, and then a much longer wait inside.  We were (maybe) the halfway point in the line, and it took us more than an hour to get to the front.  Thankfully, we had each other for company, and we were standing next to some friendly people, one from Australia and one from London, Canada who contributes to Bureau 42.

Anyway, the signing was supposed to be an hour, and it took us that just to get to the front of the line.  There was a videographer filming the event, and when he saw that I had put the note on my book for Gaiman to make it out to “House”, he asked why, giving me the chance to explain on camera that since a friend dared me to ask Bruce Campbell to sign the book to “House”, as nearly all my friends call me, I’ve had every book made out to me as such.

So, my girlfriend was ahead of me, and I took pictures of her and Gaiman while he was signing.  When it was my turn, I handed the camera off to her, and she returned the favour.  Neil was quite gracious and friendly, signing 2 items per person, for the apparently 200 people who were given tickets.  Naturally, he didn’t have time to stop and chat too much, or pose for pictures (though he didn’t mind you taking them), but he still made pleasant smalltalk, cracked a few jokes, and made it a worthwhile experience.  So it was good times.

We finished there at 5:15 PM, and so were a bit late for the panel on “What Fans Don’t Understand About Publishing 2”, which had a focus on distribution and marketing.  It had Beth Meacham (a Tor editor), Eleanor Wood (an agent), Leah Bobet (writer/publisher/bookseller), and a guy who’s name I didn’t catch and can’t deduce from the program.  It was an interesting look at the insides of how publishing works, and was quite illuminating on some subjects (such as why publishers don’t typically offer e-versions of their own catalog, so as to not compete with the bookstores that are their clients).

Then we had pizza for dinner.  It went  alittle long, but was a nice break, and we were back in time for a panel on “Mad Social Scientists”, starting with the premise of how we only see evil physical scientists trying to destroy the world, and how can social science be used that way.  It had a nice mix of people (writers and humanities people, including a social psychologist), so we got to see things from a lot of different angles, and perhaps see that the social scientists already rule the world.

Next was a panel on “Advice for New Writers: The Secrets of Getting Published”.  It was supposed to be a session of what-not-to-do advice, to add a bit of humour to a dry subject.  Unfortunately, a number of the scheduled panelists were unable to make it, and so it was left to the remaining two—Jenny Rappaport and Walter Jon Williams—to go it alone.  They did an admirable job, keeping it going in that vein for a while before opening it up to a more direct Q&A session.

Finally, after that, we went to the already-in-progress screening of Coraline with Gaiman.  Since we arrived an hour after it started, I expected it to be further along, but it was still quite close to the beginning, so I rather suspect Gaiman did his thing before the screening, rather than after (since, well, he didn’t seem to be there after).  I do enjoy Coraline though, so this was hardly a tragedy.

So endeth Day 2 of Worldcon.   I’ll blog Day 3 in the morning.