The World Science Fiction Convention is the major event of the year for the genre. But Worldcons always reflect their time. The concerns of last year or the year before are superseded by the new. The major development at Worldcon 76 in San Jose was, alas, entirely typical of this year 2018. A disaffected author decided to draw attention by creating an Incident. Resorting to the favorite tactic of victimhood, he insisted the convention was discriminating against him. He called for a demonstration on Saturday in front of the convention hall.
This forced everyone to swing into action. He threatened to storm the SFWA suite, so SFWA hired a security guard. Access to the suite was drum-tight. The con committee geared up a buddy system, complete with signage and color-coded tee shirts, so that anyone who felt threatened could call upon escorts hither and yon. The San Jose police forces turned out.
These days you have to do this. To not respond — to just ignore the entire thing — is no longer a possibility. But with luck it all fizzles out, and this time thank Heaven it did. The troublemaker was denied access; the riot out front involved mainly half a dozen people yelling at each other, and the police were bored. Only a handful of troublemakers showed up (they posted an invitation on Facebook that garnered only 17 acceptances) and the main instigator didn’t even bother to attend. We con goers never had to call upon escorts and thanked the local cops as we passed back and forth to lunch. I have been to tons more energetic protests! Here’s a photo in the San Jose local news’ report of the protest.
Furthermore, the community came together in a dazzling way. He claimed Hispanics were being discriminated against; the programming people doubled down on ethnic programming. The major players in the genre funded grants so that Hispanic writers who couldn’t afford it could attend. This encouraged other groups to also pass the hat, so that similar scholarships were set up for LGBT writers and fans. Translators were on hand for speakers not fluent in English. It was almost Utopian. And I will just draw your attention to the winners of the Hugo Award this year. Science fiction is a genre obsessed with the future (that’s why the award is shaped like a rocket ship). We proved we are all Futurians this year.
The convention was also very well attended, another healthy sign. Day visitors were not deterred and con goers from overseas were able to pass through customs. The number of standing-room only panels annoyed the fire marshal. The registration lines were immense. The dealers room seemed to be enjoying a roaring trade and the art show was enormous. In spite of everything we had a lovely Worldcon and a good time was had by very nearly all. The photo at the top of this post is of all the available BVCers regaling ourselves at a pho restaurant, and here is another one of us at a wine bar. Even the weather cooperated, so that we had blue skies and no smoke from the California fires.
Nor did I see any of the rumored dissing of older writers. I am not young, but various SMOF organizers urged me to attend Norwescon, the Dickens Fair, Boskone, the New Zealand Worldcon in 2020. (This last will only happen if I’m a Hugo finalist, so you know what to do when my time travel trilogy EDGE TO CENTER comes out in 2019….) From the professional point of view this is the purpose of Worldcon — to make new connections and find new opportunities. I seem to have passed over a career event horizon, and am now old enough to exchange quips with Robert Silverberg or urged to visit San Diego by David Brin, or talk about Kids These Days with William F. Wu. I have no idea how this happened, but it’s fun!