This was my first year attending WorldCon (aka MidAmeriCon II). Since the Hugos are such an historic thing in fandom, I was super excited to attend and see what all this was about. Here are some positive things I took away from WorldCon 2016.
WorldCon is an amazing way to discover new authors: one of my major takeaways as far as new writers go is the discovery of several speculative fiction poets and literary magazines catering to speculative poetry. We all know about The Odyssey, The Faerie Queene, Paradise Lost, Beowulf, The Epic of Gilgamesh, Virgil’s The Aeneid, The Divine Comedy, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. These are ancient texts – many of them written for holy/sacred reasons. But they have also become precursers not only for our modern versions of epic fantasy but for amazing speculative poetry. Two of the poets I was most excited to learn about this last week were Rose Lemberg and Mary Soon Lee – two amazing poets and storytellers. Other authors I’m excited to read now are Robin Wayne Bailey, Alyssa Wong, Mary Doria Russell, Nnedi Okorafor, Hao Jingfang, Nick Wood, and Naomi Kritzer.
Conventions are so much more fun if you have a compatible buddy to share it with. I was very fortunate to have a roommate for my stay in Kansas City. Not only did it cut my trip costs, but I got to have a super-fun time! Lyn Godfrey and I stayed at a hotel off-site and so had a short commute to and from the conference center. Usually, I would think of that as a big inconvenience. But, this time the drive and staying off-site gave me the opportunity to get to know Lyn better. She and I were in a now defunct writers group together a while ago but never learned very much about each other. WorldCon more than made up for that as we explored Kansas City together after hours, had a blast eating delivery in our hotel room while watching Big Bang Theory on television, giggling over the silly puzzles the WorldCon committee put in the Hugo Awards brochure, and cat-fighting over the Darth Vader cosplayer who flirted with us in the hallway (he actually flirted with me, but Lyn doesn’t agree). So, my advice would be get a roommate for these things. If nothing else, it will help defray expenses. And you have the opportunity to enhance your Con experience and make deeper friendships.
WorldCon is also a great place to discover new artists. Along with new authors, I also got to find out about new artists. I went prepared to ooh and ahh over Kinuko Y. Craft, award-winning fantasy artists and one of the main reasons I became a fan of Patricia A. McKillip. And, while I DID get Craft’s signature (on a 2017 calendar and her rendition of Beauty and the Beast), my biggest find was a potter who produced the pieces pictured below. Her studio is called Mudcat Studio and she creates the most amazing stuff. I walked by her booth in the Dealer’s Room several times, afraid to stop and look, though her work caught my eye every time, because I knew it would be expensive. But, I finally did stop and found the mug and bowl below. Let me tell you, this is quality pottery: heavy, well-made, gorgeously decorated and glazed. I use the mug everyday (the picture I took of the mug does NOT do it justice. It is so much prettier in person)and the bowl now sits on my Mega Desk. I look at it often while I write and draw a lot of inspiration from it.
The thing is, she has no retail space – either physically or online. CRAZY, I know! I spent five minutes encouraging her to get on Etsy because I would definitely start collecting her pieces if they were readily available. But she said she was fearful of technology as it confused her. If you like the pieces below (and, unbelievable as it might seem there were even more beautiful things there), click on the link for the name of her studio and you will find her business phone number as well as the studio’s address. Call her, mail her and let her know that she would have business if she set up an online store. If a web genius out there is willing, maybe you could help her set up a basic, easy-to-use website with a store option.
Fandom has pretty thoroughly embraced the need for welcoming EVERYONE into its gates. I think this year’s Hugo Awards made it pretty clear that SFF fandom is ready and willing to embrace new voices and viewpoints. The sad/rabid puppies once more tried to load the Hugo ballots with their slate of authors/artists they felt upheld traditional SFF (whatever the hell that means since SFF has always been about breaking traditions and pushing known boundaries). But, when the awards were handed out, it became clear that the fandom who voted for these winners was done with that nonsense. Despite what the sad/rabid puppies think, we chose authors/artists based on the quality of their work and not some bullshit PC agenda. It was a very proud moment and I am glad I was there.
So, that’s my takeaway from my first WorldCon. I won’t be able to attend next year’s since it is in Helsinki, Finland. Although, that would be an AMAZING event. So if you have the means to get there, please go and support the Hugo Awards and the fantastic artists and authors who make our world just a little more magical.