Yes, I know that my WorldCon and TitanCon report as well as detailed Huog commentary has been much delayed, but then I’ve been ill, first with a cold acquired at WorldCon and then with a stomach bug acquired from a dodgy poke bowl at Amsterdam airport. However, here is the long awaited WorldCon 77 report, complete with photos.
After my problems getting to Dublin, chronicled in this post, Amsterdam Schiphol airport decided to give me a very Irish farewell, complete with a rainbow over the airfield.
In Dublin, I was staying at the Gibson Hotel, a very modern, very nice, music-themed hotel, cause it’s “Gibson” as in the legendary guitar manufacturer. The music theme of the Gibson manifested itself in the decor, both in the form of a huge Bono mural in the atrium and a vintage Volkswagen Beetle (well, not quite as vintage as the one my parents had in the 1970s – this is newer Mexico Beetle) turned flower-pot in the lobby. With so much rock paraphernalia, a few SFF fans (and it seemed to me as if most guests at the Gibson were WorldCon members, though there were a handful of very confused looking businessman types, too) certainly fit right in.
The Gibson Hotel also happened to be right next door to one of the two sites where WorldCon 77 took place, namely the Point Square, a recently completed and still largely empty shopping and entertainment complex (the only tennants were a Starbucks, a Freshii deli and an Odeon multiplex cinema), where some panels and signings as well as the entire arts and crafts portion of the con took place.
The first WorldCon related thing I did in Dublin was picking up my badge as well as my programme participant packet and the Hugo accepter packet for Galactic Journey. I also informed the nice people at registration that my Mom wouldn’t be able to attend due to being in hospital in Amsterdam and that we wanted to donate her membership, as we’d discussed beforehand. Because WorldCon 77 had closed down membership sales two weeks before the convention started, memberships were in high demand and I hope that some fan somewhere got to have great time at WorldCon with my Mom’s membership.
Regarding the “File 770 – That Wretched Hive of Scum and Villainy” there is also this somewhat blurry photo Daniel Dern took of both of us, when he gave me the button:
On Wednesday, the day before WorldCon officially started, I helped with move in and set-up at Point Square. This involved carrying boxes, assembling shelves for the staff lounge and crafting area, taping down table cloths and helping to set up the Raksura Colony Tree model. This was my first time volunteering at a WorldCon and it was a great experience. Not only do you get to help to make a great project like WorldCon happen, no, you also get to meet a lot of lovely people while volunteering. Especially if you’re new to WorldCon and don’t know anybody yet, I recommend volunteering as a way to meet people and make friends. What is more, I also got a handful of groats (which I used to buy a very pretty necklace in the dealers room) and a cool t-shirt.
Now some people complain that WorldCon 77 was split between two locations approximately 800 metres or one tram stop apart, but in my view it was the right decision to rent extra space at the Point, both to alleviate the overcrowding problem (which was bad enough already) and because it meant that Dublin had a great art and crafting space, particularly compared to Helsinki, which sqashed the art show into a dark corner of the dealers room and fan space. The only problem was that the Warehouse area, where the art show and craft displays were, had no air conditioning, because it was literally an empty warehouse where appliances were still being installed on Wednesday, while we were setting up. The Odeon, where some panels took place, theoretically had air conditioning, but practically it often wasn’t working. It also seems as if quite a few people decided not to attend panels at the Odeon, because the one panel I had at the Odeon (on international comics) was more than half empty, while panels at the CCD were always full.
I wound up spending quite a bit of time at Point Square, partly because it was right next door to where I was staying and partly because I was involved in the Raksura Colony Tree project. I also did one of the speedcrafting workshops in the crafting area and of course took a stroll through the art show, where I purchased a beautiful rocketship necklace by best fan artist Hugo finalist Spring Schoenhuth.
You can find some more of my Raksura Colony Tree photos at File 770, where they will find a bigger audience than it my little blog. You can also find plenty of photos, including some taken by the official convention photographers, at the Raksura Colony Tree blog. There also are some photos of Martha Wells, author of the Books of Raksura, which were the inspiration for the project, posing with the tree. Sadly, I was never there when Martha Wells dropped by the Raksura Colony Tree model, though I did get to meet her at the Hugo reception.
However, the main part of WorldCon 77 took place at the Convention Centre Dublin (CCD). The CCD, which opened its doors in 2010, is a spectacular building, designed by Pritzger Prize winning architect Eamon Kevin Roche.
The CCD is a very science fictional building. A very young (approx. five or six years old) fan liked it to a toppled tower and he is not wrong. The curved glass front, which you can see in the photos above, stretches along the entire front of the building and creates an open space above the lobby crisscrossed by escalators, which are the main way of getting to the five upper floors.
The view from the escalators and upper floors were amazing and provided a great look at the river Liffey and the Dublin docklands and particularly the Samuel Beckett Bridge (and how awesome is it that Dublin names its bridges after writers?), which was designed by another star architect, Santiago Calatrava.
Like many spectacular buildings, the CCD isn’t particularly practical. The curved glass front is stunning, but it also causes the interior to heat up, which can be a huge problem in August, and the air conditioning couldn’t always compensate. The escalators quickly became a bottleneck, especially when many people were leaving panels and going to the next one at the same time. They are not great for people who have issues with heights either. And the huge glass front and the escalators reduced floor space, which became a problem both when queueing for a panel and when just looking for a space to sit down for a while. Add to that that fire safety laws are very strict in Ireland, likely due to the devastating Stardust discoteque fire of 1981, which claimed the lives of 48 young people. As a result, queueing was one of the defining features of WorldCon 77, just as in Helsinki two years before.
In the past few days, there have been complaints, usually from US-based fans and professionals, about how horrible the crowd and queuing problems at WorldCon 77 were. Of course, everybody has their own view of events, but the most recent European WorldCons have been bigger than the most recent US WorldCons and I feel that queues for certain high in demand events are not unreasonable. Besides, the con com made sure that disabled folks and people with access issues had somewhere to sit down, while queueing. Besides, it seems to me as if a WorldCon exerts unusual pressure on convention facilities, because for most other events you either need the big function spaces or the smaller meeting rooms but not both at the same time. Furthermore, people at e.g. a medical congress are unlikely to queue for a talk about kidney stones, but WorldCon attendants will queue for a panel featuring a beloved author or an astronaut or other celebrities.
Also, as I’ve said at File 770, while all WorldCons have their share of issues and problems, it seems to me as if problems at European WorldCons, both actual problems (queues, not enough space to sit down) and imagined problems (“Oh my God, they expect us to use public transportation!”) receive more scrutiny than problems at US WorldCons. And the impression this gives to European fans, whether intended or not, is, “Your capital cities with beautiful convention centres built by Pritzger-Prize winning architects are not good enough for us, but e.g. a smallish US city without an international airport and with a wildfire problem (which to be fair isn’t their fault) like Spokane gets a free pass in spite of many problems.”
Queuing was not a problem at the CCD, when you actually were on a panel and the green room on the top floor of the CCD was IMO much nicer than the one in Helsinki. You could have coffee (the fancy kind from a machine), a selection of softdrinks and even alcohol, if you felt like it. There were also pastries and nibbles, though they ran out quickly.
I was on three panels and a crafting workshop at WorldCon 77 plus another panel at TitanCon in Belfast the weekend after. All my panels in Dublin as well as the workshop went well and we got some good discussion going. The TitanCon panel also went well, though we had some issues with the microphones in the panel room not working. There were also two panelists added at the last minute, which I at least didn’t learn about until in the green room fifteen minutes before the panel was due to start (and I was the moderator). In spite of this, I think we did well.
My first panel in Dublin was the international television panel where we sang the praises of arte and discussed that while Stranger Things was set in some kind of fantasy version of the 1980s, Dark showed the 1980s as at least I had experienced them. I also won over some new viewers for Raumpatrouille Orion.
My second panel was the speedcrafting workshop where I introduced several participants including a very talented young fan named Izzy to the basics of crochet. My third panel in Dublin was the SFF romance panel, which I moderated as well. This was my second time moderating a WorldCon panel and I think it went really well, but then I had great panelists in Darlene Marshall, Jeffe Kennedy and D.A. Lascelles. Several audience members later told me how much they enjoyed the panel, so I think it was a success. My final panel was the international comics panel at the Point, which sadly was half empty. A pity because I learned a lot of interesting stuff e.g. about African comics, which were not on my radar at all.
Apart from panels and crafting, I also took a stroll through the dealers’ room, which was much bigger than Helsinki’s and had a lot more stalls selling books in English – to my joy and the doom of my wallet. There were also a lot of fan tables for various upcoming WorldCon and EuroCon bids. Even the Royal Manticorean Navy had sent two representatives (and a teddy bear) to sign up new recruits (Daniel Dern got a pic of them). I suspect the poor folks didn’t have much success, considering how notoriously difficult Baen Books, publisher of the Honor Harrington series, are to find in Europe. Though the wonderful Dublin bookstore Hodges Figgis, which is not only mentioned in Ulysses by James Joyce (in the context of picking up women in bookstores – some things never change) but also had a table at WorldCon 77, does carry some Baen Books.
Marty McFly and Doc Brown dropped by as well and parked their DeLorean in the middle of the dealers’ room. But then time travellers can park wherever they want. The actual DeLorean car, though a very American brand (it took me years to realise that DeLorean was a real car manufacturer and not just something invented or Back to the Future), was built in Ireland, by the way, so this one had come home.
Of course, I also attended the two File 770 meet-ups at WorldCon 77. I forogt to take photos at the meet-ups, but you can see me in Eric Wong’s photos of the Thursday meet-up as well as in the photo below taken by Chris M. Barkley:
One aspect of the WorldCon experience I missed in Helsinki two years ago was parties. The reason was largely that I was with my Mom who prefers sit-down dinners in nice restaurants to drinks and nibbles in crowded convention centre function rooms. However, since I was on my own this time around, I decided to check out the parties and tagged along when some people from the File 770 meet-up headed to the Memphis in 2023 bid party.
Now if you’ve been following the list of upcoming WorldCon bids, you’ll probably think, “Memphis? Since when is Memphis bidding?” Well, it turns out that the Memphis bid for 2023 was announced during WorldCon 77 two days before the bid party I attended. Memphis is bidding against Nice in France and Chengdu in China.
There were four parties going on at the same time in adjacent rooms: In addition to the Memphis in 2023 party, there was the CoNZealand party, the Chicago in 2022 party and the Glasgow in 2024 party. I drifted from room to room, enjoyed various types of food and drinks, though I stuck to water, because most of the alcoholic drinks on offer involved whisky, which is so not my thing. I had a lot of fun, met a bunch of people from the Nice WorldCon bid who were checking out the competition and also ran into the assembled German SMOFdom (yes, there is such a thing) as well as Alex Weidemann, a reporter of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, which is very genre-friendly for a quality newspaper.
Alex Weidemann’s article is now online, though like much of the interesting arts and culture content of the FAZ, it is behind a paywall.
And then there was the biggest event at WorldCon 77, the Hugo ceremony. But that’s a story for another post…