Con Report by Araiused
SF WorldCon - I wonder, would those people who are regulars have the same goose-pimple sense of anticipation as those irregulars, especially those who go for the first time? For me at least, it was like a goal to be achieved after a series of hurdles (work, family emergencies, move to a new place). The road was fraught with anxieties; even the night before, the dreadful thought plagued me I would oversleep and miss my plane at 8:00 in the morning. Small wonder, I spent a waking sleep through Saturday night. Finally Sunday morning. After harried moments of cab driver not showing up (the bloke waited at the wrong building) and airline staff picking on carry-on luggage being too big and too heavy, I was up in the air with my carry-on luggage at my feet several books lighter. Pardon me, Messrs. Sheffield, Vinge and Wolfe, but Canadian Airlines thought it better that your books belong with the other luggage.
Finally, landing and the end of a long wait: the Hyatt Regency -- and right into the middle of what appeared to be a cyclists' convention. There were bikes even on the escalators. Another glitch: the room wasn't ready. They were just giving me a good reason to go out and explore. Ice cream taken out of the freezer and put in the hot sun must have felt the same way I did when I stepped out of the hotel and on the streets. It was not only hot but humid. I was however too busy giving my eyes a feast on this city that I've known only from reading books and watching movies. I've seen tall buildings before but not like this, where they line a river and on the other end look upon a broad expanse of the lake. Back to the hotel to cool myself off. Suite wasn't properly ready yet, but after some haggling I went into one room that was clean and watched the maids doing their stuff in the connecting room. I kept thinking for an explosive way of welcome for Gandalara. She was scheduled to arrive later that evening. In the end I took some snacks, a nap and watched X-Files. Then came a hard knock, more like a rattle on the door. FBI, a BEM? It was Gand! And she bounced right through the door and on the waiting Murphy bed. "I am here! "I am here!" Yes, we are here! And off we went to meet Jan of Cybling at the Old Ale House, where delicious rum-cokes and red-tinted drinks abound. We returned to the hotel very refreshed despite the late hour.
A whole morning spent in touring the city on the Chicago Trolley. Tickets are for $18.00 a day where you can get off and on at designated stops; $20.00 for two days. It was a blistering day to wander around the expansive complex housing the Field Museum, Shedd Acquarium and Adler Planetarium. So, we took refuge in the Planetarium and zoomed on an interactive virtual trip to Mars. We became Colonists, albeit for less than an hour, and tried to outvote the majority of chicken runners who wanted to return home and not stay on Mars. Back to the hotel to await the arrival of RasGold and TAMirabile. They arrived in one piece all right. We had Chinese buffet at Jan's place and then to the Ale House for more refreshments.
Breakfast and down the escalators to register, into the pre-chaos of the coming Con. People milling about asking questions and not getting answers. I had to fish out my badge from the Rolo-dex myself. JDipale was scheduled to arrive around noon and Gand, TAM and I sat in the lobby, surveilling the hotel entrance for anyone wearing an OWC T-shirt. Gand was the first who spotted the squids and JD got the hugs of his life. We split ways after this. While Gand, JD and Ras went down to registration again, I and TAM went to the Arts Museum to view the Akhenaton Exhibit. Today was the museum's free entrance day, except for the exhibit. Back in time for the OWC dinner where we met Zinnia and The13thdr.
Gand, JD and I off to the Navy Pier while Ras and TAM signed up for gopher duties. It was a foggy day and you couldn't even see the lighthouse from the pier, all the more reason to focus on the bazaars and - the beer. I think it was the beer that made us plunge head on back into the prebuzz of the Con at the hotel. While Gand and others went to raid the minds of Con staffers, I and JD went to raid the souvenirs kiosk. We only saw glimpses of Ras and TAM gophering. No wonder by the end of the evening, we looked at each other with bleary eyes and could only welcome the pillows on the bed.
Con Day! I spent an hour or so in the Green Room to help with hauling boxes full of NASA freebies. Imagine no knife or cutter to be had to open the boxes. Heartfelt thanks to TAM for having the foresight to bring her Swiss Army knife! Then I decided to explore the Shedd Aquarium on my own and JD had his ball game to go to in the afternoon. We didn't see each other again until the evening, that is me, Gand and TAM. We went to the Fairmont for a "Meet the Pros" party. It was a stifling event. Too few or too small rooms for too many people. I did manage to take pictures of James Van Pelt. Other pros were just overwhelmed by the fans, and the dealers carting luggages of books. We returned to the Hyatt for our scheduled horse carriage ride at 10 p.m.. This was very generously arranged by Jan, our Chicago host. Carriage Jim and his horse, Buddy, gave us a ride we will all fondly remember.
This is now serious business. We went downstairs armed with our books to be autographed. This was a hectic day. I spent some time again in the Green Room and typed for Joe Haldeman at his online chat hosted by Cybling. A quick flyby through the dealers' room. This is a black hole where your money can disappear before you can count it. Then joined Gand and JD who already sat on the floor at the very beginning of the line for the Charles Sheffield's autograph session. Mr. Sheffield glibly started the session with a promo of his own books. A real pro; I wanted to buy his BORDERLANDS OF SCIENCE directly off him but he was there only to autograph... JD was tickled pink; this was his day to remember. He met Dr. Sheffield at last, and I got pictures to prove it! Did we have lunch? We must have, for how else did we get the energy to rush off, Gand and JD to reading sessions and I to the dealers' room (where I picked a signed Bob Shaw book WREATH OF STARS) and then to stand in line at 5:30 p.m. for Lois McMaster Bujold's session. This was to autograph Gand's books and I wish I had come there earlier because the line was already thirty people long. Gand did some bouncing in front of the hotel when I showed her Bujold's famous signature and JD showed us Nancy Kress's memorable "To (JD) who got out of breath buying this book." I was too full and tired afterwards to go party crashing but JD,Gand and TAM obviously still had the spirit to go on and they went through a great Xerpian adventure.
No Green Room duties today but mostly Dealers' Room romp and autographing by Vernor Vinge. We only saw glimpses of each other. Hi, bye and later. Obviously each of us had interesting stories of our own to tell. More blackholing of money for fabulous works by Dan Simmons, Charles Delint and artbook by Ron Walotsky. This I have to thank JD for; he had a spaceship drawn by the artist on the back cover and I was so enticed by the illustrations that I had to get that book! No spaceship drawing but I had at least a signed artbook. Back to room to unload. Brief encounter with Ras; hi, bye and later. Went to see a slide show of the Galileo spacecraft. Then to meet with the rest of the group to go to the Hugos, 1 1/2 hours well in advance before the ceremonies began. The reason? The ballroom at the Fairmont only has the capacity to house about 1,300 warm bodies and the total that day at Chicon was 5,000 plus. Options were to watch the Hugos on hotel TV in the comfort of your bedroom or, like us, sit on the floor and wait (grumblingly) for the excitement to begin and experience it all firsthand. Ben Bova summed it all very nicely. "Hi, are we having fun yet?" Yes, Mr. Bova, we sure did. More party crashing for the others while I hopped down the stairwells to the Internet Lounge and through the ether, contact the O*W*C. I then went party crashing on my own and swiped a Samurai action figure from the Japanese party room for JD to display on his monitor.
A day for me of more science sessions, "Settling Cold Worlds" (Charles Sheffield) and "Shoot for the Moon" (Ben Bova and Gregory Benford), interspersed with trips to the Dealer's Room. Caught glimpses there of Harry Turtledove and Gene Wolfe. My final autograph session was with Gene Wolfe . Then as the afternoon drew to an end, a quick hike to the Fairmont to meet the others for the Masquerade. A replay of the long wait and line-up gripe of the previous night. Gand and TAM threw in the towel and went back to hotel to watch the Masquerade antics on TV, while JD and I held on to the bitter end. Bitter end of the line-up, that is. The Masquerade was loads of fun except for the moo-ing and the cow-ing. Afterwards JD and I met Gand and TAM at the Charlotte party for a hot meal on their excellent barbecue. We were famished. Then down the stairwells. Hi, bye and later to Ras at the Minneapolis party. The rest of the evening blurred...
Last day, a day of mixed feelings, still energetic on the one hand, sad on the other. You could feel that in the atmosphere. People starting to leave. Asimov and Analog giving away September issues. People running down stairs chasing desperately after last things to do. People collecting leftover freebies and snacks in the Green Room. After the closing ceremonies, we met Jan for a last dinner together at the Hot Rock cafe. We had such good fun and now it was all over.
How can I properly put my experience into words? To my mind, it was a large gathering of folks dedicated to the SF genre. Even for the regulars, each Con must be a new experience. There is always an abundance of new faces in the teeming ambience of thousands. Envision a planetary system where the Sun is the hub of the Con, and the planets are the authors and the fans all the little moons and asteroids. We may collide and jostle with each other. Like comets we may swerve into each other's way and split off in bangs of mini-novae. In Gand's afterword "Well, we didn't kill each other." We might have if we had kept fused to one another, because we had our own course to follow, our taste to satisfy, our interest to fulfill, our aspirations to meet. In the end, we kept to our own orbits, formed our own binaries and followed our own shining stars. This is a Con that will be long remembered.
OWC Helio (Araiused)