Sunday, August 23, 2015

Getting Conned South of the Border - Worldcon Day 4

What a day! So many developments, starting with...

...the sky! The air wasn't dangerous today!

We were up fairly late this morning, but when we did eventually leave the hotel, we were pleasantly surprised to see that we could actually see — the sky was blue. To be sure, there was still a little haze in the air; we could taste it and smell it, but it wasn't like a block of concrete being rammed down my throat into my chest like the death cloud last night. I felt like King Roland at the end of Spaceballs waking up and proclaiming: "I can breathe. Air! AAAAAAIIIIIRRRRRRRR!!!" Except I didn't have his highly funkified robes.

By the time we'd crossed the bridge to the convention centre, it was 11, and we decided to see the state of the line that was probably forming-up for the 2 o'clock George RR Martin signing. Unlike last year's debacle, this year Martin's team had laid-out their ground rules early, so everyone knew there was going to be a cap on the number of people who were going to be able to get autographs 400), so it was a given that some would probably start queueing-up even before the line officially started at 11:30. When we made a pass of the area, there were about 70 people already patiently waiting. We could have easily joined the line and spent the next three hours hanging around. But after some thought, I decided it wasn't worth while. Would it be nice to get his signature on a couple of books (one each was the rule)? Yes. Was it worth hanging around in the same place for three hours for a non-personalized scribble when I could be going to several other panels and signings, and, you know, having lunch (most importantly, having lunch from somewhere other than the convention centre's tuck shops with their extortion-level pricing)? No. So we left the line and went on to other things.

Other things for me turned out to be browsing in the dealers' room for a while. Nothing really grabbed me, so no buys today (although my wife acquired a very pretty hair pin while engaged in her own adventures). So I ducked out for lunch.

Coming back around 1:30, I checked-in with the Martin line: still quite large, but nowhere near as big as I'd expected. In fact, I talked with the con volunteer in charge of running the line, and he said if I queued-up, I'd be #170. Pretty good for a late walk-in, but I still had other things I wanted to do instead of waiting around for 30 minutes or more for the signing to start, and then more time for the line to move. So I left.

...And got in line for an autograph from Brandon Sanderson (I'd hauled my copy of A Memory of Light down from Vancouver to get it signed). The con organizers probably should have put Sanderson's signing in a dedicated room, rather than the usual open signing area in the hall housing the dealers' room, because the line got very big very fast. While we were all waiting, a couple of guys came around with a video camera recording messages from con attendees to send to the con's astronaut guest of honour, Dr. Kjell Lindgren, up on the ISS. For my part, I thanked him for advancing the cause of science, and wished him a safe voyage home. The other thing that came up in line was a really annoying incident where a couple of guys came up to me and the others around me, asked us what the line was for, and then casually slipped in — jumping the queue — behind me, and no-one called them on it. It wasn't for me to start any shit because their butt-in didn't affect me directly, but it was still out of line (bad pun intended). Worse, one of them, a young guy, started complaining about some videogame panel he'd just been to, and how he didn't like the panelists talking about the need for diversity and inclusivity in gaming, especially around the involvement of women. He claimed (to his buddy and co-queue-jumper, who otherwise seemed okay) that he worked in a videogame store, and never saw any women come in, so girls obviously don't play videogames and they shouldn't be included. This pissed me off because I know plenty of women who play videogames, and they should be encouraged to participate, and with all the bullshit that's gone on over the past year or two, this is an issue that absolutely needs to be discussed by a panel at Worldcon. Maybe this punk never sees any girls come into his store, because they're deliberately avoiding him. Maybe there are other stories with better selection and more knowledgable and helpful staff who aren't total jackasses. Luckily the line started moving again, and the guy in front of me (who was a good guy) started chatting, so I didn't have to listen to any more of the punk's crap. And the line did proceed at a good pace. Sanderson seems like a nice guy, and took time to chat with everybody, answering questions and doing personalized messages.

By the time I was done, my wife had finished with a panel she was attending, and we decided to try our luck again with Martin. Today, Lady Luck paid off. When we got to Martin's big signing room, there were still plenty of spots left before the cap (somebody later told me only 300 or so had bothered to come), so we got in and lined-up. Because he was only initialling, the line moved very quickly and we were out in less than 10 minutes. Perfect timing too, because it was coming up on 3 (a time deadline on top of the number cap), and they more-or-less closed the door behind us.

From there, it was on to another signing for me: Robert Silverberg, and that was another long line. However, as Silverberg was only signing his name (no personalized messages, and no chit-chat with the fans — though he did show some mild, non-verbal curiosity when I handed him my old Norton Book of Science Fiction to be signed, taking a few seconds to examine the name on the spine), the line moved fairly quickly, and I was out in about half an hour. Luckily there were no jackasses in this line, just good people and some entertaining conversation.

At that point, I was officially free! I'd obtained all of the autographs I'd come to get for myself, as well as a couple for my friend Sarah who wasn't able to make it. It wouldn't be long before I could dump my backpack full of books back at the hotel room and not have to carry any more. My back was practically weeping in relief.

While in line for Silverberg, I heard some good news: Helsinki had won the 2017 Worldcon! Apparently they'd announced it last night, not too long after my wife and I had left for dinner befoer the Masquerade. One of the guys in line said he'd talked to a few people, and apparently Helsinki had won by a landslide. DC had reportedly come in second, but it was a distant second. As I've said before, the Fins have campained really hard and shown a lot of heart, so they deserve this. Unless I fall into an unexpected jackpot, I won't be going, but I'm glad they won the Worldcon bid.

When that was done, I went to the Demigods and Chosen Ones panel. I can't say I agreed with everything said by the panel, but I would agree writing different kinds of stories with different approaches to heroism and protagonists is a good thing.

When that was over, my wife came in and convinced me to stick around for the panel discussion about Peter Capaldi's Doctor Who. Unfortunately, that discussion wasn't terribly interesting to either of us, so we agreed to slip out for an early supper at a fried chicken/bbq/soul food joint a few blocks away (and Chick-N-Mo was a good choice, by the way).

Then it was back to the hotel to dump our bags and change before heading back to the convention centre theatre for the Hugo Awards ceremony. The highlights for me were the Dalek guest presenter, Silverberg's Hari Krishna benediction, and 5 of the Hugo categories getting No Award as the voters told the puppies in no uncertain terms that their agenda wasn't going to be tolerated. Now, of course, the question is what's going to happen moving forward? Will the Hugos go back to normal, or are they broken, as some fear, and, if so, what do we do about it? Not too long ago, Kelly Robson wrote an article wherein she came up with an interesting solution: maybe it's time to hire a professional mediator to help sort this mess out. I'm not sure how workable that would be, but I don't have a better solution myself, so I'd back the idea if things get worse. Let's hope they don't.

Now for the last, slow, wrap-up day of Worldcon before the long trip home. Stay tuned for tomorrow's update.

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