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  • Can Traditional SF Communities Survive Multimedia Conventions

I left this topic to handle a bunch of issues.

Events were held at the Marriott RiverView, the Marriott RiverCenter, and of course, the convention center.  The two Marriotts were right next door to each other and it was two days before I realized that they were two different buildings and not two nicknames for the same building.  Apparently, one used to be a Fairmont hotel.  The Hugos and the Masquerade was in the RiverCenter.  The Kaffekatsch were in the RiverView (these were a chance to sit with a author and just have coffee and talk.)  My hotel was across the street from the Convention Center.  I thought that was close until I had to walk and walk to get to the proper entrance was on the opposite side of my hotel.

I got to registration only to find that “someone had already picked up your badge”.  I was sent to the Solutions desk (a good idea).  They had the badge saying that I lost it on the bus last night.  Well, no, I said.  I just got in town a few hours ago.   A mystery.  The convention center seemed to be under renovation or improvement.  Most panel were in the B building.  The B building actually was two separate building separated by the San Antonio river.  By the 4th day, I finally realized that I could not get to the second B building (rooms 6 - 8) by going downstairs at the rear of the building--which was closest to the bridge over the river.  The escalator going down was under maintenance.  The elevator only went up and not down (despite having a down button).  Thus a long walk back to the front of the building, go outside and either down an elevator in another part of building or down the steps.  Then walk the length of the building until you get to the bridge.  There were buttons on the glass doors so that people in wheelchairs could open the doors.  The buttons did not all work and the door opening would crash into the person operating the button.  We were spread out quite a lot and I am certain that the Latino conference was bemused by all of these strangers walking through their allotted rooms in order to get to another set of rooms which unreachable on the other side.

All of this to mention the panel listed about.  I wrote notes because much of what was said apply to many gathering.  The “issue” is that Dragoncon is held the same weekend as Worldcon and now pulls many more people.  According to Google, the attendance of ComicCon was 130,000 in 2010.  The attendance of Dragoncon was 52,000.  The attendance of Worldcon was around 4,000.  Where does Worldcon go from here?

Kevin Roche said that his two major suggestions are (a) Worldcon should stop moving from city to city.  (b) Worldcon should be Worldcon in name -- not Lonestar (the 71st Worldcon in subtitles).

Oh -- personally, I don’t have a problem with the second.  However, I would hate to see Worldcon nailed to one city, since Worldcon gives me a chance to treat the convention as a vacation also.  Also, since most of the writers are in New York and L.A., one of those cities would be chosen.  Both expensive cities for a convention.

Another suggestion, is that Worldcon should advertise.  I don’t know if they advertised in the city, but I listened to a conversation in Macy’s where someone related the experience of telling a book buyer that her favorite author was just across the street at a convention.  I agree--they just advertise outside the fan community.

One happy innovation at conventions was the creation of event/display lounges.  At an earlier Worldcon, the hotel did not want people lounging in the hotel lobby so the convention created an lounge area at the convention.  Circular tables so that people would talk to each other.  Micro-progamming events: like the mechanical bull ride that I did on Thursday and the live Angry Birds game that others did on Saturday.  There was a stage where events occurred without announcement.  Displays like convention bids, videos, costumes, prior Hugo award designs.  This area was open even after the dealers room closed.   Kevin Roche believes that the speciality of Worldcon is conversation.  People go to Comiccon to get stuff, he thinks.  People at Worldcon like to sit around and talk.

I would say that there were not enough places to sit around and talk at this convention.  There were not enough chairs and sofas in the halls of the convention center.  People did sit in the hotel lobbies and talk.

He thought that having gaming being in the convention center was a good idea.  He disliked seeing it in a dark room that was a mystery to other convention attendees.

Suggestions: a twenty-three year old in the back objected to that.  He thought that the gaming area felt thrown together.  No one was running the area; making suggestions, helping people.  He made some suggestions that people in his age group would want to see.  Several people came up to him later and asked to talk to him further.  I don’t know a thing about gaming, but I can say that there were no intro panels for people like me.   There were intro panels for costuming and I did attend one of those.

Someone suggested that there needs to be a maker space that adults felt comfortable in.  The kids area created games, costumes, etc and some adults mentioned that they would have liked to be able to do that.

What do I think?

As I said, I have no problem with Worldcon merely becoming “Worldcon”.  It is different every year and some years are better than others because it is fan-run.  Each year, a different corporation runs the con, a corporation that exists only due the time needed to make the bid and disperse final funds at the end.   Comic-con is not at all attractive to me because it is (a) media oriented, and (b) not fan-run.  I don’t know anything about Dragoncon other than the legal issues going on as they try to oust a board member.  If you look at various web sites, you would get the impression that they are more interested in movies, TV, and comics than literary works.  People in the audience said no --Dragoncon now includes a literary track also.  So, I don’t know.  It seems too large to be much fun.  After all, there were panels during this week that I wanted to attend but could not.  Worldcon is nice in that I get a concentration on books but I can dip into other areas and find out why people find them so fascinating.  (Another reason that gaming needed an intro panel.)  2014 is a year where the North American worldcon (NASFIC) will be a  different time than Dragoncon.  It would be possible to check both out.
How international is Dragoncon?  That is one great thing about Worldcon.  At few other cons can I sit down with someone from Canada, Finland, Dubai, Mexico.


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