Here's what I wrote on the eve of departing for the Worldcon on Labor Day:
Into the valley of death rode the five hundred.... It won't be friendly terrain, since as a director of Dragon*Con I represent such heinous, nonfannish thoughts as mixing comics, SF and gaming, and maybe even hosting a band or two in the evenings....and "true-fans" don't hold with such radical thoughts. They're expecting between 4 and 5 thousand, which makes it an average Worldcon and about one-fourth to one-third the size of the last Dragon*Con, which saw 18,000+.
--And here's what I wrote upon my return:
Now that I've had a chance to recover from San Antonio and think about things, here are some personal thoughts first and then some comments on the convention itself. I had a pretty good time and would be delighted to return to San Antonio again for a con or other big event (see below for comments on the city). The weather was hot, but I packed with that in mind. (Aside: The tomorrow's-weather cards placed in your room each night by the Marriott Rivercenter had no place to write the day or date. Why bother; it was always the same, high 95, sunny or mostly sunny. :))
There were a number of people I wanted to meet and never did, mostly because I was often tied to our convention table or, at night, to our room-party. Chaz Baden and fellow railfan Kevin Standlee top this list. I orbited by the SanFran bid table a couple of times, but to no avail.
Speaking of our room party, we owe some thanks to whoever it was who kindly added two dollar signs to our party listing for Friday night, and then the monicker "PG-13" on Saturday night. On Friday night some people arrived thinking they had to pay to get in, and when we reassured them that it wasn't true, they went in happier. When a few asked why the listing had been changed, we had to explain that it was possible that Someone Didn't Like Us. "That's so petty!" Well, maybe so. As for the PG-13 rating, well...as the saying goes, "There's no such thing as 'bad' publicity." :)
Joe Straczynski's B5 panel was the single most-attended event excepting (we can hope) the Hugos and the Masque, and his autograph line, even after being cut off, was easily the longest one in the autographing area all weekend. Pretty striking, for a "literary con." :) :)
Overall I think the con was a bit "vanilla." I spoke to many people who were a bit dismayed at the lack of "bang" for the buck. As longtime fan Jay Hova put it, "you're paying for that cachet that says *World* Science Fiction Con." --Which is a fine thing, but many passersby at our table and room-party, particularly the folks who paid $50 for a one-day pass, griped at the high cost. Linda Moorcock rued the high cost since it no-doubt limited the number of her husband's fan club members (or just fans) who could afford to attend.
City and venue: The site was a bit confusing at first, but one of the nicest I've ever seen for a Worldcon, with the pleasant Riverwalk between the hotels and the R/o/l/a/n/d/ Henry Gonzalez Convention Center and its adjacent mall very handy. Everyone we met in San Antonio was pleasant and easy to talk to -- even the Hispanic servers, maids, etc. spoke excellent English. Except for a lack of redcaps and rentable baggage carts at the airport on arrival, service at the airport, restaurants, etc. was impeccable. I was extremely pleased to see that the Burger King in the Marriott Riverwalk had extended their hours from 10pm to 2am just for LonestarCon 2.
Our suite was in the Marriott Rivercenter, one of the nicest and best-run hotels I've ever had the pleasure of staying in. The hotel staff were extremely pleasant to us. A few examples: in the evening, one of the maids came by with the statutory two chocolate mints: "Would you like your bed turned down?" (By that time we had already disassembled the bed and put it up against the wall to make more room for our slide show, so the correct answer might have been "Bed? Bed? What bed?" :)) When we politely declined, the maid, seeing several folks in the suite setting up our room-party, kindly offered to get us additional chocolate mints, and handed us, oh, about 25 of them. :)
Another example: When the bulb for our slide-projector popped on Saturday, I tried to get or buy one from LonestarCon's tech department; the chap I spoke to, an older guy wearing a white military-looking shirt was extremely apologetic and helpful, but they didn't have the necessary bulb. The Fox Photo in the mall didn't have them either, nor did any of the other shops, so we tried the Marriott's Audio-visual Department as a last resort. They paged someone down for us; he promptly appeared, led us into the storeroom and sold us a bulb, allowing us to charge it on the room-tab. This enabled us to show our slides Saturday night at the party, which proved to be our biggest party night and a big draw.
The convention center itself proved adequate if not striking in appearance. It included overaggressive air-conditioning in some rooms at no extra charge -- I stood in the Mission Room doorway while watching a bit of the Hugo-winning episode of Babylon 5 in the video room, and a downright cold 15 mph breeze flowed out of the room past me. Forget crashing in the video room; aside from the convention center closing at night, you'd have frozen in place.
Convention Center closing at night: this was a mere annoyance, but others I spoke to were far more angry about it than me. I kinda expected it to close at night; LSC 2 was after all using only about half the facility, and CCs staying open late or even 24 hours are rare. (We had the Inforum CC open 24 hours for Dragon*Con, but we also had the whole facility booked.)
Con badges: name lettering was way too small, and the printed badges themselves were far too easy to duplicate. Apparently the badges hadn't been done even as close as a week before the con, so these glitches are not surprising. Bright spot: the lateness of the badging process meant that my membership transfer dated August 18th had already been processed at con-time, enabling me to avoid the very long, not-moving-at-all-'cause-someone-hasn't-gotten-here-yet Solutions line at Registration. (We joked that John Lorentz might have slept late Thursday morning.)
Preface to some of the following comments: I've known Michael Moorcock for about ten years, having met and befriended him at the first Dragon*Con, and I ran his international fan club for about five years (c. 1988-1993).
Program Book: looked nice -- indeed, the cover and binding were quite similar to ours -- but mispelling the Guest of Honor's name in huge type as "Michael Moocock" was a definite oops. When I asked Mike and Linda MooRcock if anyone had apologized for that, Linda said "No!," yet MM said "Yes." Go figure. A printed apology in the daily 'zine would have been a nice gesture, but as far as I know, none appeared. (Side note: I never saw a copy of said daily 'zine appear in the bin at the Voodoo Boards, but I know people got them because they were using the party list. Not complaining here; it was weird how I kept missing them.)
Pocket Program: Good gesture, but sadly lacking in some areas and far too confusing in some aspects. There were no panel descriptions for many items -- not that descriptions are always necessary, but some panels would have benefited. Listing the daily events by time was a good start, but then listing them wthin each time block in order of room (numeric, then alpha) was plain silly. Why not list the largest events first, then work down from there? This caused such amazing non-sequiturs as searching through the listings for, say, the two-hour Literary GoH Presentation and then finally finding it -- the SIXTEENTH listing under 4pm on Sunday.
The separate alpha listing of guests and program participants was a
great idea -- something we included in our pocket program two years
ago and again last year -- but there was no indication what TYPE of
panel was at what time, forcing a bit more "table lookup" to see what
was up. The awkward, cramped listing of time and room would have
benefited greatly from just a bit more white space and a colon, not
too much to ask in terms of space, e.g.:
FR1300CC204 could have been printed as FR 13:00 CC204
--Especially since it was easy for your eyes to convince you that FR1300 was actually Friday at 3pm. The maps worked okay; the local guide was fine. The indexing tabs on the facing pages and on the tops of the pages were also a good touch.
Scheduling and Programming: the two meetings of Michael Moorcock's fan club weren't listed anywhere. The first one was members-only, but the second was an open meeting for members and prospective members and should have been listed at the very least. There's no question in our minds that attendance was hurt by these omissions. Scheduling the convention review panel on Thursday and the neo's guide to enjoying a Worldcon on Sunday or Monday was plain silly, too.
The statutory "Sex, Drugs and Rock'n'Roll" panel, with the Lit GoH on it, was placed in a tiny room and would have drawn twice the capacity if there had been room to sit down. As it was, people lined the back and the sides and sprawled on the floor, and watched through the open doorways. One of the latter was Linda Moorcock, for whom no seat had been saved. (She was probably better off holding the front door open with her chair, as the room was quite hot and close.) Maybe the programming folks weren't into drugs or rock'n'roll and didn't think other "proper" fans would be, either.
THREE panels on baseball and none specifically for Mike Moorcock's works? Seems like if you were friends with the programming head, you were golden; if not, you were included. --Maybe. (The running gag -- with apologies to Stu Hellinger -- was that no GoH programming was included because there was trouble finding books on the shelves by Michael 'Moocock.' :))
"Parasites or Part Of Us?" Almost a neet panel idea except, from the description, it looked like it was specifically designed as a Dragon*Con bashfest (a belief later confirmed when someone dropped by our table on Sunday morning and said meaningfully "You NEED to be there.") How pleasant. Kudos to Covert Beach for giving Eddie the K. five minutes of floor time to respond. I could include a comment regarding the panel title and the necessity of being healthy and growing before something could be "parasitical" on it, but I digress. :)
All in all, I'm glad I went -- but I am VERY glad I was able to get a $95 price on a full membership.
Paul W. Cashman <email@example.com> All contents of this page and its self-owned sub-pages Copyright © Paul W. Cashman 1997. All rights reserved.