Worldcon 76: My Experience, Part 1
Though Worldcon started Thursday afternoon, with a handful of sessions kicking off at 2pm, the real first day was on Friday. From 10am to 7pm my calendar was a sea of green and orange, with sessions booked back-to-back. For almost every hourly slot I assigned multiple sessions simply because there were too many that I wanted to attend - but just not enough duplicates of myself to make it happen.
Would I attend "The Danger of Near-Earth Asteroids" or "Making Your Prose Come Alive?" Must I choose between "The Victorian & Edwardian Tech Tree" and "Kaffeeklatsch: Ctein?"
I've been to many conferences over the years, but Worldcon was the first conference where I genuinely felt like there were too many quality sessions lined up, at least by subject matter. It wasn't long before I found myself wishing that the day began at least two hours earlier - to have sessions start at 8am instead of 10am. I'm an early-bird, especially for conferences, so I woke up around 6:30am every day regardless of what I did the previous night (many parties went down). Having an extra two slots for sessions to occur would've been brilliant, if not make it more likely that my brain would explode from all the collected information sooner.
This brings me to one of two gripes that I just want to get off my chest now, if only so subsequent posts aren't peppered with them.
Not Enough Seats for Most Sessions
I'm not sure how many people actually attended (over 5400 folks were expected to show up), but just about every single session was beyond filled to capacity. I understand that some sessions were always going to be more popular than others - and the organizers took that into account when assigning rooms. However, it's one thing when out of nine sessions two or three of them are standing room-only. In the case of Worldcon 76 sessions, almost every single session before 6pm had people sitting on the floors - in some cases wrapping around the wall that was behind the panelists - folks standing at the back, and even people crowding around the entrance to the session room.
Instances of this really came to a head on Saturday when you basically had to leave each session at least fifteen minutes early just to get a seat at your next session - something I rarely did because again, these sessions were mostly amazing. You don't just cut out of a quality session with healthy banter and dialogue between the panelists and audience to nab a seat!
Another factor that definitely played into this was the fact that Worldcon 76 allowed people to sign up the day of, as opposed to locking the conference to just those that registered in the weeks and months prior. That attendance wildcard almost certainly played a role in the lack of seating that everyone experienced. Would I want to block casual fans of the SFF genres from attending if they walked by the conference center and realized what was happening? Absolutely not! However, this should've been taken into account when selecting a venue for hosting.
No Swag Bag?!
Have I been spoiled by the likes of the extravagant Dreamforce conference and the far smaller (much smaller than Worldcon) San Francisco Writers Conference? I expected a free bag with the Worldcon logo on it as part of my registration package. If you pay for a conference, you should get a bag. Even if it's a cheap thing that falls apart the moment you decide to use it for something practical, like grocery shopping, I want it!
I was crestfallen when I realized that, after picking up my badge and books, that was all I would receive. Oh, they had a table with various souvenirs and two different types of branded bags - a messenger bag and a backpack. I looked at them, followed by the pricetag. I didn't consider them to be expensive, but my principles regarding conferences and swag bags being connected just couldn't be swayed.
After complaining about this very first-world problem to my friends, some of which were new friends at Worldcon, I came up with a slogan which encapsulated my thoughts on the matter:
"Where's my GODDAMN Swag Bag?! #worldcon76"
From that point on, I tried hard to greatly lower my expectations.
Anyway, those are my key gripes concerning Worldcon. Overall, I really enjoyed my first Worldcon. The next few posts will explore the reasons why!