Worldcon was a blast, and by ‘blast’ I mean it was exactly like I was fired out of a cannon and sped past thousands of people to crash noisily on the other side. Five days of incredibly hectic panels, meetings, and of course socialising!
I finally arrived after a somewhat nightmarish Journey of Doom(TM) consisting of something like 45 straight hours of travel horror including:
- runway closures for high winds
- horrible hair-pulling and constant-reclining fellow passengers
- a very unhappy baby (poor thing, only expressing what we were all feeling)
- a woman who thought ‘loose fruit in an open woolies bag is a totally cool thing to just pop in the overhead compartment’
- missed connections
- a line we stood in for 2 and a half hours developing shared PTSD with the other stranded travelers
- the worst coffee I’d ever had*
- a reroute through London
- missing our entire day (aka at LEAST 3 hot chocolates at O’Connaills and sausage at the English market) in Cork
- a rerouted bus arriving at midnight, in the pouring rain, not right near our hotel as planned but several kilometres away because of roadworks, and
- our luggage getting lost (3 travellers, 2 different flights, bags went to 3 different locations, none of which were Dublin or Cork)
at which point I was melodramatically declaring I would never be able to face flying to Europe ever again. But we made it, and we bought some spare underpants when the shops finally opened (I always forget how much Europe shuts down on Sundays) and we stayed in a castle and drank good beer and found a dog to pat and et good food, and soon I had stopped sulking. So: on to Worldcon we went!
* At that point. We would find worse coffee a few days later. Oh, if only you knew, innocent Sam, how much worse coffee could be.
I was on four panels, moderating two. The first was on liking problematic things, with Leo Adams, AT Greenblatt and Sarah Gulde moderating. We covered a lot of interesting material about the differences between problematic themes within a work itself, and work that is made by or involves creators or other participants who have exhibited problematic behaviour outside the work, and discussed how we manage the inherent conflict of enjoying something while recognising its flaws. We also talked about how to handle it when other people point out issues with your work or work that you love, or on the other hand, how you can go about bringing up issues with work to people you care about. This panel had a good audience engaged and interested in learning to do better around these issues. It was definitely about offering strategies rather than answers.
My second panel was one I moderated, on the rise of Hopepunk as a subgenre. This was a fantastic, lively panel featuring Lettie Prell, Jo Walton and the creator of the term ‘hopepunk’, Alex Rowland, and we talked about what hopepunk means, how the term gets misinterpreted and why, and what are some great examples out there right now. As someone who is definitely influenced by the state of the world right now in what I want to see in my fiction, this was a topic I was really interested in and had a lot of fun moderating to a very packed room despite the late hour!
The next day I had Using SFF as a Sandbox for Political Ideas, with Nicholas Whyte, Eyal Kless and Taiyo Fujii. Taiyo had some very interesting points about how he was exploring digital currency and universal basic income in his work, Eyal felt very much that his nationality as an Israeli strongly shaped how his writing was seen. We all agreed that it’s impossible to separate politics from fiction as large and small choices we make in creating worlds, whether in SF or fantasy, are themselves political choices, and that politics is not limited to how institutions and societies are formally structured but also extends to how different people are treated and valued and contribute to the society.
And finally I moderated ‘Send in the Crones’ which was about older women in SFF, with Lauren Roy, Ali Baker, Julie C. Day and Anna Stephens. Our panel talked a bit about why women over the ‘last fuckable day’ tend to disappear in our fiction (just as they mysteriously often disappear in other media) and what advantages writing older women can bring, as well as talking about our favourite awesome older ladies in SFF. This was an incredibly fun packed panel and a special shout out to Anna who stepped in at literally the last minute (alright, she was foolish enough to be having dinner with us and when Devin Madson had to pull out due to having lost her voice, Anna got roped in) and was intelligent and hilarious on the fly. Really enjoyed this one.
I also did a signing which was mostly populated by friends of mine keeping me company so as to not feel bad about my lack of real line (sitting between Victoria Schwab and Marie Brennan, it was inevitable!), but did have some lovely actual readers too, and I really appreciated them coming.
Things I got to watch
I didn’t get to attend that many panels partly because of other commitments but mostly because it was bloody hard to get into anything! There were enormous numbers of people lining up for basically every panel and if you weren’t there and in the line at *least* 30 minutes before the panel started you likely weren’t making it. Longer for panels with big names.
I did get to watch the live recording of the Serpentcast (the Hugo nominated ‘Be the Serpent’, hosted by the excellent Freya Marske, Alex Rowland and Jennifer ‘Macey’ Mace), and thoroughly enjoyed the phenomenon of all three Serpents in a single location, and also to see Kate Elliott’s reading (which was from her genderbent Alexander the Great novel, coming out next July with Tor).
But mostly the rest of my time was spent doing less official things…
So many things, but off the top of my head:
- I got to hang out with people from both my US and UK publishers – had fun drinks with some of the Tor crowd which started out with two of us and ended up with about 10, including editors Lindsay, Melissa and Will, and authors Jenn Lyons, Kassie Larkwood and Everina Maxwell, and dinner with the lovely Simon Taylor from Transworld.
- I got to meet and hang out with my agent, the fabulous Julie Crisp, in person, as well as have lunch with those of us from Team Crispy who made it to Worldcon – my pal Devin Madson and the lovely Den Patrick.
- In the realm of getting to hang out with really famous people, I somehow ended up having lunch with Kate Elliott and Victoria Schwab (!!!) and drinks with Joe Abercrombie and Joe Hill (highlights included swapping dog pictures with Victoria and Kate, and watching hilariously gruesome public service announcements with Joe H), wondering the entire time how I managed to get there and waiting for someone to realise and kick me out.
- We managed a catch-up breakfast with the Robin’s Kitchen Table crowd – friends from around the world who met through the old Robin Hobb fan group on SFF.net – was so lovely to see Sini, Steve and Guido, and exchange stroopwaffels and Tim Tams and strange peppery licqorice! 🙂
- I met some industry greats like Gollancz editor Gillian Redfearn, esteemed reviewer Liz Bourke, and excellent blogger pals from across the world like Timy Takács, Adam ‘Swiff’ Weller, TS Chan & Yasser Ahmed.
- Exchanged Irn Bru for Tim Tams with my Scottish pals Emma and Dave, continuing our tradition of meeting in glamourous locations and trying to kill each other with diabetes.
- I got to hang in person with online author friends including the above as well as Laura Lam, Cameron Johnson, Kareem Mahfouz, Ben Galley, Anna Smith Spark, Dyrk Ashton, RJ Barker, Tasha Suri, Melissa Caruso & Anna Stephens, all of whom were just as fab in person as they are online (some of them even more so!). I did not manage to meet and befriend SA Chakraborty (foiled!) but did find Fonda Lee finally on the very last day, who is as cool and lovely as you’d expect, and managed to at least find the gorgeous Fran Wilde and say hi in person, which I didn’t manage last Worldcon despite all attempts.
- I caught a train with Adrian Tchiakovsky and talked about statutory interpretation, as it turns out we are both lawyer nerds
- HUGOs! I watched the stream with friends and drinks from the bar rather than actually getting into the ceremony, but it was amazing seeing so many talented people getting recognition. Special shoutout to the brilliant Jeanette Ng, who was not only a winner but an amazing instrument of change, and also to my friend, the wonderful and talented Mia (Likhain), for winning for her amazing art.
- I also found out after the Hugos were announced and they released the numbers etc that I actually made the once-the-Campbell-now-the-Astounding longlist for best new writer. Considering the company that puts me in, I was extremely humbled and delighted to have been nominated by enough attendees to make that list, so thank you so much to those who did.
Though I couldn’t bring my husband and kids this time (next year!) I was very lucky to have my awesome sister Meg (or Gemma, as she may have been introduced to you if we met in Dublin) and honourary little sister Jacinta in tow the whole time, and we squeezed in a few days of holiday before and after the con, including getting to go up to NI and stay with cousins on their farm. Meg and Cin kept me sane, let me drag them around everywhere, kept cups of tea in hand and made sure I didn’t miss any panels – thanks girls! #TeamGoblin
I didn’t see anywhere *near* enough of the people I wanted to see, or spend as much time with friends as I wanted to (I got fleeting hellos at best with a bunch of people I would like to have had time to have a proper meal with!) but that’s all the more reason to do it all again next year in NZ, eh?