Images and text by Jim Rushing
WorldCon, or the World Science Fiction Convention, is far more than its name implies. Encompassing science fiction, fantasy, horror, and all forms of genre fiction, WorldCon is a gathering where writers, fans, and industry professionals meet and mingle. There are panels covering topics as wide-ranging as introductory Dungeons and Dragons to Astronaut Training led by an actual astronaut. It’s a place to see the latest publications and those who created them. There’s art, music, dance, and so much more. It’s also the home of the Hugo Awards, one of the most prestigious awards in science fiction and fantasy literature.
WorldCon is a global event. Last year, it was held in San Diego, California. Next year, it travels to Wellington, New Zealand. This year’s WorldCon took place in Dublin and I was lucky enough to attend my very first convention. Go big or go home, right? Here’s why I think every genre fiction fan should attend at least once.
One of the major draws of every WorldCon is the Vendor’s Hall. Wading through the sea of tables in the expansive room, I realized just how much there is on offer. I spent at least an hour each day browsing. It really is a genre fiction candy store, with major and minor publishers there with mountains of books, comics, and graphic novels. There are artists selling original artwork and merchants with every collectable under the sun. Do you need a book about botan or some new leather steampunk goggles, or maybe just a signed copy of Game of Thrones? It’s all here.
As a reader or writer, if you’re feeling burnt out in your current genre, the Vendor’s Hall is an incredible resource for new inspiration. There’s no better place to scout for book-cover trends or publisher preferences.
WorldCon, as with other conventions, hosts a mind-boggling number of panel discussions led by leaders in their fields. The program ran from 9:00 to 23:00 every day, for five straight days. I managed to average about three per day even though I had planned on five or six. The single most disappointing thing about WorldCon is that you can’t do it all.
Many of the panels I attended had invaluable information and insights for new and seasoned writers alike. One such tidbit came from a panel on publishing contracts and the importance of having a contract with clauses stating that the publisher will use ‘best endeavors’ when solving a problem, which means that they will work diligently to come to a resolution. If the contract says ‘reasonable endeavors’, don’t expect much.
Another piece of wisdom came from author Adrian Tchaikovsky, from the panel ‘Invented Mythology in Science Fiction’. He brought up the point that so many myths in genre fiction come across as instruction manuals for protagonists on their journey toward victory. Real mythology is fuzzy and inaccurate, and adding such details to our invented mythologies will make them feel more real—I’ll definitely be taking that to heart. As a writer, I had no choice but to walk away from WorldCon more invigorated and more informed.
Above all, the best part of WorldCon was the people. From fellow authors to agents and fans, everyone I met was kind and inviting. There were plenty of famous faces, including George R.R Martin, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Joe Hill. If you’re an autograph hound or just want a friendly meet and greet, WorldCon is the place. While I get just as starstruck as the next person, the personal connections I made mattered most. I walked away not only with new contacts, but with new friends—people I’ll be excited to see again at my next WorldCon, or hopefully even sooner.
One tip: My first day was a bit lonely because I was attending by myself and the mass of people was a bit intimidating. The next morning, I attended a small group meeting with an industry professional, called a ‘KaffeeKlatch’. This was a fantastic way to break the ice with both the pro and those around me. Once the conversations began, I spent the rest of the time running into the same people and connecting to those they had met in the meantime.
At its core, WorldCon is a meeting ground for like minds. Despite our differences, we were all passionate about genre fiction, a great place to start a discussion or even a friendship.
WorldCon 2020: 29 July-2 August 2020 in Wellington, New Zealand
WorldCon 2021: Washington, D.C., U.S. (dates TBD)