I first started going to Worldcons in the 1980s. The times have changed, but the World Science Fiction Convention still moves to a different city in the world each year.
This year it's MidAmericon II in Kansas City, practically in my back yard. Next year it's Worldcon 75 in Helsinki, Finland.
Wherever they're held, Worldcons are a great place to meet science fiction fans from all over the world, and network with others in our niche of fandom.
|The 1976 Hugo Award base, sculpted|
by Tim Kirk, changed the look of the
award in subsequent years.
Worldcon also is a place where innovations happen. Sometimes the innovations are accepted and continued from year to year. For example, at the first MidAmericon, held in Kansas City in1976, the base of the Hugo Award trophy was sculpted by Tim Kirk. Previous award bases had been rather traditional wooden trophy bases, but after 1976 the Hugo bases became more elaborate.
This year one of the innovations the concom is trying is a change in the parties that are held after-hours. Traditionally, these are hotel-room-centered parties, held in hotel rooms and suites by individuals, groups, or publishing companies.
They are traditionally a hotbed of networking between all the various players in sf fandom (bid parties for the right to host future Worldcons, or parties to promote other, regional conventions), and in the publishing industry (writers, editors, agents, and artists).
|Arianne "Tex" Thompson came to her|
reading expecting a much smaller crowd.
This year, however, all parties are to be held in the event space in Bartle Hall, in adjacent, tent-like lounge areas with couch-like seating and high, small-topped round tables. Traditional sf convention parties last well into the wee hours; these were closed down by the venue tonight at 11:30.
This severely limits both the number of parties that can be held (three, tonight), and the amount of networking that can be done at them (since you couldn't have heard it thunder in those exhibit-hall parties).
I have absolutely no doubt that individuals will privately host parties in their hotel rooms, although the hotels don't want them to. However, at the end of the panel schedule a totally new (to me) phenomenon cropped up: Author readings as networking opportunities.
|C. Taylor-Butler read from the second|
book in her new middle-grades series,
The Lost Tribes: Safe Harbor.
My first glimpse of this was the comparative crowd that showed up for the first of three readings I attended today. The featured author was Arianne "Tex" Thompson, who writes alternate-history fantasy with an interesting twist. Authors are conditioned to expect very few people at their readings--for some reason they aren't well attended. But so far the readings for this year's Worldcon have been much better-attended.
When I returned for the back-to-back readings by C. Taylor-Butler and Tonya Adolfson (a.k.a. Tanglwyst de Holloway), I was treated not only to more engaging fiction, but also to a spontaneous discussion--actually, a veritable symposium--on indie fiction, audiobooks, and the ways that publishers, distributors, and reviewers game the system.
|Tonya Adolfson read from two of her books|
Tonya and her husband, John W. Farmer, also made a case for better--and better-remunerated--audiobook production values and standards. Their company, Fantastic Journey Publishing, is attempting to set new standards of excellence with full-cast audio recordings of not only Tonya's books, but also those of other indie authors.
They made the case that indie authors who don't do the diligent work of learning the craft, being edited professionally, and maintaining high production values for their work are feeding the double standard that plagues indie authors who do strive for excellence. Unfortunately, I completely agree.
I remember being a graphic designer during the 1990s, when something similar was happening in that field--any fool and his/her sibling thought that because s/he owned a copy of MS Publisher, that meant graphic design was "easy." Good design isn't, of course. It never has been. Thank goodness, a certain amount of sanity on that subject has returned--but in the meantime, there was some seriously stinko design foisted upon the hapless world.
It is my fervent hope that something similar will occur with indie publishing. Back in the 1980s when I first went to Worldcons, the only game in town for writers was publishers. You found an agent, you got published, if possible, and you played according to their rules. The networking parties were essential.
Today, it's a wild new world, but the networking is as essential as ever. Where will we do it? Perhaps at each others' readings.