Worldcon - MidAmeriCon II - August 17-21, 2016 - Kansas City, Missouri
Review by Judy Newton
Date: 17 August 2016
Getting It Out Of The Way:
I guess everybody is aware by now of the latest brouhaha to come from a Worldcon. The panel about "The State of Short Fiction" started off with a manifesto read by Dave Truesdale, to which many in the audience and at least one of the panelists took umbrage. Mr. Truesdale's con membership was consequently revoked.
Mr. Truesdale made an audio recording, without the knowledge or consent of anyone else present. It is available here. If it has not been edited, there's nothing controversial enough (in my opinion) to provoke that level of reaction by the con-runners. Although Mr. Truesdale referred to easily-offended "snowflakes" and "pearl-clutchers" getting the vapors, the other panel members (notably Neil Clarke of Clarkesworld and Sheila Williams, editor of Asimov's) proved well up to the task of defending diversity in magazine publishing. As I was not at the panel, my impression is limited to the audio recording, and a short account in conversation with Neil Clarke. The controversy continues online.
Meanwhile, the Hugo Ceremony was remarkably angst-free. Pat Cadigan presided with many a threatening look and an actual whip, but she did not need to wield it. There were only two "No Awards", and women swept the major categories. Take that, puppies!
On a personal note, Steve Stiles won for Best Fan Artist. Fans in the Baltimore-Washington area have been cheering him for years, and it was especially nice that he was present to accept. I noticed that Hollywood once again snubbed the Hugos, with designated acceptors for both short- and long-form dramatic presentation (although it was utterly cool that both iterations of The Martian that won were accepted by astronauts!)
George threw another alt-Losers Party. Again, not invited.
But the angst was mitigated a little by the scene in the Marriott lobby on Wednesday morning. I hadn't even made my way over to the convention center yet, but noticed Mike Walsh sitting with Jonathan Strahan from Australia. I joined them to say hello, and suddenly there were Pat Cadigan and Ellen Datlow pulling up chairs. Joe and Gay Haldeman strolled by. Worldcon commences.
My overall impression of the con was one of relative parsimony, compared to past US cons. The Con Suite was a walled-off space in the vast Exhibit Hall. It was supplied most of the time with a minimal level of snacks and drinks. The Opening Ceremony took place in a too-small space in the same hall, enclosed in a huge net. Fan Lounge, Dealer's Room, Art Show, Maker's Space, etc., -- all there in one echoing, huge Hall. First Night was forgettable. The "room" parties were there, as well -- too small, cramped and haunted by the mostly-empty enormous space beyond. The 30-foot-tall inflatable astronaut, the first thing seen upon ascending the escalator, seemed to set the tone: impressive, but hollow.
The promised volcano and river of rocks were mostly puzzling impediments to traveling across the hall, although I managed to catch Michael Swanwick posing for a photo in front of the sign identifying the Swanwick River. And, in a touching tribute, a park bench was dedicated to John Madigan, a recently-deceased Baltimore-Washington area fan.
As if to balance the emptiness, the program seemed even more than usually crammed-full of items. I counted thirty-five (35) individual listings for one time slot on Saturday. Inevitably, many potential conflicts arose. Among the program items I attended that were well worth-while were: Jo Walton's and Connie Willis' Kaffeeklatsches, Stroll with the Stars to the City Market, The Paul and Storm and Sassafrass concerts; and Panels: the Joy of Cookbooks, Archaeology in SF, Life Masters (with lagniappe--a pack of writer trading cards). Downside: I had to abandon several panels taking place in cube-like, echoing rooms with inadequate sound systems.
Serendipity: dropping by the Tiptree auction, which offered an ARC by Cory Doctorow, who just happened to be in the audience and was happy to sign it for the winning bidder; wandering by the Maker's Space to find Kinuko Y. Craft chatting with the knitters (and later, after the Masquerade, in the Green Room discussing the presentation based on her art); Peige Turner (her real name!), the sign interpreter for Paul and Storm who got so "into it" that it almost became a trio.
Some other things seen around the con included the traditional Dave Kyle Says You Can't Sit Here! Chair, a man in a bird costume encountered at the con and then later in a Japanese imports store at the City Market (for a dose of cognitive dissonance), a sea captain capturing a Tardis on his cell phone, and a crew of Star Wars hall costumes with a rather well-fed Slave Leia.
Things I learned: dressing in vintage for the Retro Hugos is now a Thing. And, Kinuko Y. Craft is Awesome! Having been completely unfamiliar with her work before the con, I was blown away with her artistry (and approachability). I took home a con tee-shirt with her work on it.
Kansas City is a lot hillier than I expected. We walked to lunch at Lulu's Noodle House (food delicious and abundant), but had to Uber back. Fortunately, no such impediments lurked between the con and the City Market. Saturday, a big ol' farmers market filled three open sheds, with small stores and restaurants in the buildings surrounding them; Sunday, many farmers were replaced by flea market vendors. Both days, great fun! Also an easy walk to The Dubliner, an Irish pub in the Power and Light District, for dinner. And a chance to try Jack Stacks' barbeque meats brought in to the SFWA suite (speaking of serendipity; one of the nicer surprises of the con!).
Even the Marriott got into the act with a light show which turned the whole side of the hotel into a continuously-changing work of art. I guess it's in honor of being located in the Power and Light District. I stood and watched the whole cycle several different nights (I'm easily amused). It reminded me of the Ferris wheel outside the Nippon 2007 venue in Yokohama.
The closing ceremony, fortunately not held in the Cage of Netting, included the traditional Tucker Toast. Ken Keller stood in for Bob Tucker, and Robin Johnson, another Old Phart, was there, too.
And another Worldcon passed into memory, except for all the echoes online.