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Back home again!

I’m back from a truly wonderful summer break – time with dear friends, time in foreign countries, time out in nature, lots of coffee and geekdom and things. And knitting!

So – let me start at the beginning, and tell you a bit about WorldCon – the reason our holidays this year were a city trip to Helsinki.

WorldCon is, apart from the place where the Hugo Awards are being awarded, a really huge convention with lots and lots of programming around science-fiction and fantasy. There’s also an art exhibition (where you can also buy artworks if you feel so inclined) and a dealer’s hall, where you can buy stuff. Books, obviously, but also jewellery, trinkets, clothes, artwork, toys, and usually various other things more or less connected to SFF. As WorldCon is in different places, there are usually more or less regional vendors there.


My WorldCon badge – you get the badge with your name on it, which is your passport into the Con – and then you can get ribbons to stick underneath. I actually managed to get more of them at LonCon, in spite of having much less time to walk around!

Since the last WorldCon I had been to was London in 2014 and I had a stall there, this was my first proper WorldCon as in “getting to enjoy all the programming”. There was a little issue with that on the first two days, though, as the rooms were too small for many of the panels, and people queued up in huge lines outside of the rooms to be turned away when the room was full. This, understandably, led to quite a bit of frustration – but on Friday morning, the WorldCon team had relocated the panels to bigger rooms, and after that, I had no more problems to get into the panels I wanted to get into, even though the queues sometimes seemed insanely long.

Queueing sort of transformed into something like an art form, though – and certainly into something that felt like a characteristic feature of the event. Signs told you where to start queueing, and in some cases (and for some rooms) there were “end of queue for Room XXX” signs passed on to the last person in line, so that everyone would know which line it was. There was about 15 minutes time between panels, usually long enough to transition from the room you were in to the end of the line for the room you wanted to go to; then you’d stand (or sit) in line for a while before the doors were opened and people could go inside the room. The panels all starting on the full hour meant that there was a lot of people in the corridors at transit times, which was making the con feel very crowded at those times – it had the advantage, though, as someone rightly pointed out to me that there was no half-time overlap between things you’d want to see.

The programme items I went to were mostly really nice and entertaining, or at the least… interesting. I left two or three, overall, because they were so much not my cup of tea – and I soon found that one of the key things to enjoying WorldCon programming is not to have too much, or too precise, of an expectation. You see a title and a blurb in the programme, and it’s either a presentation (usually by a single person) or a panel (which is more or less a podium discussion with a moderator) or a concert or show, or some activity thing where you can participate. You never know exactly what you will get, though, especially when it’s a panel and the topic is wide, or vaguely defined. The panelists might end up talking about a side aspect for half an hour (and thus almost all the panel time), so if you have been wanting to hear about another side aspect, you’re out of luck. Going in there with an open mind, though, happy to hear about any aspect of the topic and curious where the panelists will go with it? That made it really enjoyable in almost all instances.

Panel moderators, by the way, can really make a panel outstanding and awesome – or help it tank and deviate off-track. We figured this out pretty soon as well, and that helped me decide in a few cases which of the parallel programme items to pick (hint: those with the moderator that was an interesting person, or that I had seen in a previous panel, and both proved to be very good ideas).

One of the big programme items of WorldCon, of course, was the Hugo Award Ceremony – which we went to. I remembered the one from London as being rather long, but still entertaining and interesting – but in Helsinki, the Hugo itself was extended (a new category “Best Series”), and in addition, there were several add-on awards: a Finnish one and a Japanese one. This, together with the many different presenters that were introduced and in some cases had a bit of an interview as well, meant that the ceremony took a very, very, VERY long time, way too long for my taste. There also wasn’t any show insert or similar thing to break things up a little once the ceremony really go going, apart from the thank-you speeches of some of the winners (thank you, Ursula Vernon, for your whale story!), and I am quite convinced that while a funny thank-you speech is a good thing and will always be appreciated, it is not the task of the Hugo winners to provide entertainment in an otherwise very long and relatively dull awarding ceremony. So next time, I’ll spend the Hugo Ceremony time somewhere else and will check the livestream.

Altogether, though, the WorldCon was really, really enjoyable for me. It was half-similar and half-different from my experience in London, but I’ll definitely consider going to another one in the future. Maybe Dublin in 2019? Maybe even with a market stall for the Dealer’s Hall? Who knows…

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