This August I went to Loncon3, my first Worldcon. I talked to some people the other day, mentioning I’ve been to London.
“London. Doing what?”
“I went to the World Science Fiction Convention.”
“Well, isn’t it nice to be allowed to be childish once in a while!”
I hate that. I’s like when I tell people I write novels, sometimes this will happen:
“What do you write?”
“Science fiction and fantasy.”
“Oh, I can’t read that, it’s too … you know….”
No, I don’t know?!
Once I met an acclaimed writer of history books, I told him my debut was a science fiction novel:
“Noooo, really, they let you do that?!”
The Loncon 3 Worldcon event was held over five days at London ExCel . Five days filled with over 1000 programme items. Seminars, panels, readings, discussions, theatre plays, masquerade, signings, workshops, concerts, art exhibition, the Hugo awards ceremony, books, books, books, authors, interviews and books … and so much more.
I listened to Nin Harris with a Phd in Postcolonial Literature talk about Vampires and Identity, and it was different vampires than the likes of Dracula.
I saw the world premiere of the play The Anubis Gates, after the book with the same name by Tim Powers. I read that book years ago — read it! — seeing the play was exciting.
I saw Hallucinating Shakespeare with Michael Anderson. I grew up in a Swedish town opposite Elsinore, it takes 20 minutes by a ferry to go there. The castle is right by the water. Growing up I saw it every day from a distance. In sunshine, in mist, in rain and in gloomy darkness. When I read Hamlet it literally took place on the opposite shore from where I was. If I can go to “anything Shakespeare”, I’ll do it. Hallucinating Shakespeare was a great show.
At the panel Scientists without Borders, a astrophysicist, a spacecraft engineer, a geophysicist, an astronomer and a cancer researcher (four of them women) talked about working in multinational teams. At the end of every panel there was room for questions from the audience. A young girl, she’d just started out in mathematics, asked the panel about being a woman in the fields of science. Are there many? No, we are few, came the answer. But don’t let that discourage you! And remember, you can have both a family and a career. “When I was doing research studies in Sweden”, one of them told us. “I got the question ‘Who’s your supervisor?’ Professor this-or-that, I answered.” “Oh, isn’t that amazing, he has five kids and still managed to make it to professor!” The message to the girl in the audience was: you don’t have to choose you can have it all, and as for kids, they have two parents who can take equal responsibility. Go for it!
Friday night was concert night. Worldcon Symphonic Orchestra with soprano Sarah Fox, members of the London Symphony, Royal Philharmonic and London Philharmonic Orchestras performed works related to science fiction and fantasy. You can listen here. If you wonder why the man is making gestures in the air, google theremin.
I also went to several readings. I listened to George RR Martin reading for almost an hour from (yet) unpublished works about Westeros. And the first Patrick Rothfuss told us was to put away our mobile phones, we were there to listen and enjoy. One piece he read from was a book review he’d written, giving us some thoughts on matters that matter. It won’t be in his voice but you can find it on goodreads here.
I went to panels where they discussed politics in books, how to handle historical facts, the problem with making a living writing sf&f, the difficulties with translations, fantasy and medieval times, whether having a pen name (or several) is a good idea or not and what makes a great book cover. I marvelled at the costumes at the masquerade. I wanted to go to How to make a Dwarf Mammoth with Tori Herridge, a paleontologist at the Natural History Museum of London, but it coincided with something else. I did listen to her on Fake Science for Fun, Profit and Disaster with Paul Cornell, J.A.Clement and Andy Sawyer. The Piltdown man, the “stitched together” platypus (which wasn’t a fake) and such stuff.
A Worldcon is many things, a lot more than mentioned here. It’s also meeting friends and making new ones. It is love, literature and commitment, and that makes it fun, inspirational and dead serious — in a good way.
Yeah, I went to the 72nd Worldcon in London, but I wasn’t alone. It was me and some 7000+ from all over the world.