For a slideshow of Friday's masquerade, go to westword.com/slideshow.
Among science fiction fans, it seems the World Science Fiction Convention is the premier event. In my various conversations last week, whenever I mentioned that I’d been going to cons for years, the response was invariably, “Oh, how many WorldCons have you been to?” To which I sheepishly had to answer, “This is my first.”
Now that I’ve been to one, I can see why. For one thing, the focus of the WorldCon is much sharper. Sure, there were the kind of mass media sci-fi trappings (action figures, Spock ears, light sabers) you see at every con, but far fewer than I’d expected. Here the first, last and only really important thing was the literature of science fiction. And while every con I’ve ever been to has boasted its share of authors, none had the kind of line-up that this one did. Besides seeing dozens of authors whose names and work I recognized as part of the various panels I attended, there were many, many more newer writers I didn’t recognize, but almost everyone else seemed to know.
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And the authors were everywhere, not just in panels, readings and signings. I almost literally bumped into famed alternate history writer Harry Turtledove while browsing books in the dealers room, and a few seconds later, in the same spot, there was con Guest of Honor Lois McMaster Bujold chatting with the dealer. I took a piss three stalls down from Walter Jon Williams. Everywhere I looked, there was a writer responsible for the works I used to immerse myself in when I was younger and less prone to immerse myself in booze and/or drugs. It was kind of cool, in a really uncool way.
The panels themselves – where a group of writers, fans or whoever get together and discuss some issue, trend or idea related to science fiction – ranged from moderately interesting to fascinating. The most interesting was a think tank of science fiction writers called Sigma, who advise the Department of Homeland Security and other government agencies on terrorism, technology and related topics (aliens weren’t mentioned, but I want to believe the issue has come up). I also saw a truly impressive masquerade (kind of a costume contest with performance art elements), spent way too much money on books (including an autographed copy of the newest Michael Swanwick collection!) and generally got my geek on.
The experience has rekindled an interest that, although it’s never exactly flagged, has definitely been forsaken in the pursuit of other things in recent years. I’ll never be able to dedicate the time or energy to it that I did as a geeky junior high kid, when my days consisted of school and plowing through sci-fi novels, but I see a lot more genre books in my future. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a lengthy reading list to get through. -- Cory Caciato