LoneStarCon 3: WorldCon from a First Timer’s Point of View
LoneStarCon 3, or the 71st Annual World Science Fiction Convention (WorldCon), was held from August 29th to September 2nd, 2013. Those who know me, know I have been trying to get to a WorldCon for three years. After missing Reno and Chicago, I was finally able to go to San Antonio, Texas for this year’s WorldCon. I was excited and nervous. I have not been to any type of convention before, but I was ready to lose my con-ginity and experience a Con for all it was worth.
First let me talk about the facilities. WorldCon was held at the Henry B. Gonzales Convention Center in downtown San Antonio. There were also many events, including the masquerade and the Hugo Awards held at the Marriott Rivercenter hotel. The Rivercenter Hotel was also the hotel my family stayed at.
The convention center was very big. There were certainly enough rooms to host tons of activities going on at one time. There were three floors of activities going on at any one time, with the main Exhibit Hall being located on the ground level. The exhibit hall has very well laid out with the art show as you entered. There were several exhibits, the dealers room, as well as the different Con bidders tables. They also had the ballroom in use. The panel and reading room were always quickly turned over by the staff of the convention center getting everything ready for the next event is a short amount of time.
The Rivercenter Hotel was beautiful place to stay. The rooms were comfortable and clean. The staff was very helpful. The one time I had a problem in my room the staff was very quick to reach a resolve and took care of me to make the remaining time I stayed there comfortable. The only complaint I had was that I was not allowed to use the luggage carts. When I was ready to check out, I attempted to get a luggage cart from the lobby and I was stopped by one of the employees. They told me that an employee had to use the luggage carts and that I had to call them when I was ready. Of course, after several days at a convention I was fairly broke, and I really didn’t want to tip a bellman. I know this sounds cheap of me, but I was simply out of money. In any case, that is really a minor issue from such an phenomenal hotel.
The hotel Grand Salon and conference rooms played host to many nighttime activities at the site. There rooms were a pretty good size and the facilities were always ready and set up for the next activity.
All the facilities were located within walking distance on the magnificent River Walk. I never had to set foot on any busy downtown streets. The river walk led to everything I needed to go to, including shops and dining. It made for beautiful scenery to start and end my days at the convention. However, once the weekend really started, the river walk became a congested mess. to make matters worse they had set up these tacky displays that took up the walkway. Then people stopped to look at these booths and the whole thing became a mess. I was really surprised no one was knocked into the river. Now keep in mind none of this is anything that the LoneStarCon 3 could control as the Riverwalk is a completely separate entity from anything involved in LoneStarCon 3.
Overall the facilities for LoneStarCon 3 were excellent.
Next, let me talk about the events and exhibits.
The exhibit hall was a huge facility. They had a mock up of the Starship Enterprise bridge. It had been put in the program that there would be times we could take pictures in the Captain’s chair. I really looked forward to that. However the display never had a schedule listed, and every time I was in there (which is a lot of time) there was never anyone staffing that display.
They also had Doctor Who display with Daleks and the TARDIS. My kids loved that display and they always wanted to check it out. Taking pictures was hard, since it was a closed off display.
The other display my kids loved was the LEGO display which had a large display of the different displays. They even changed it up regularly so you found a lot of funny things that moved or changed through out. They also made a giant LEGO rocket during the convention
The art display was stunning. No photography was allowed so I wasn’t able to take pictures. But I could have easily spent several thousand dollars there. I did buy one piece that is currently being shipped to my house. I walked through the art display more times then I care to admit. It was really amazing.
They also had a great display of Hugo awards and other items from the WorldCons in the past.
Each day was supposed to have a theme in the Exhibit Hall, but every day nothing really changed. It was the same displays each day. That or the changes were so subtle I never noticed. Overall, the Exhibits were repetitive in nature and it might have been nice to see some more exhibits in there, there was certainly space for it. I would say the Exhibits were good though. I did enjoy most of them.
The dealers room was also housed in the Exhibit Hall, which I didn’t really like. But the dealers were a selection of various different types of products. I did purchase from the Angry Robot booth, Amy Adams’ booth, Pegasus Publishing, Epic Buttons, and Wire Rim books. That was really just a fraction of what was there, and what I might have liked to buy given I had a bit more money.
I would say the dealer selection was great and the quality of the products was great.
Off to the side, where in my opinion they should have put the dealers, was the Con voting and booths. Each year WorldCon members get to vote for the next Cons, in this case 2015. I voted for Spokane, for the main reason that I can drive there easily. Spokane won and I was excited to hear that. We also voted for the NASFiC, which is held when WorldCon will be over seas. WorldCon in 2014 will be held in London. So I voted we have the NASFiC in Phoenix (again because I can drive). However, Detroit won. I also bough a supporting membership for Loncon 3 (London), in the small dream that I might be able to go next year.
The press booth was also in this area. I stopped by there on my first day. I had registered as Press for Plasma Frequency because I am going to cover the Hugo Awards for our next issue. The lady was not rude but she was very harsh with me, saying that I wasn’t allowed in the press booth because it wasn’t open for the public. But when she same my membership, I guess she recognized my name from her list. She was very apologetic. Unfortunately, I had another harsh run in with someone when I got to the press area. Clearly the press staff was under a bit of stress since they seemed to be so edgy. None of it was big deal, but as a first timer and a first time press person is made me feel a bit unwelcome.
There were a lot of panels to attend. I really wish I could get to them all, but I had trouble even getting to all the ones I wanted to go to. The two social media panels were outstanding. I learned a lot and I will be significantly changing the way I handle my social media pages.
The Self Promotion, Military SF, and writing combat were some of my favorites as well. Though I wished the writing combat one talked a bit more about writing styles to use when writing combat rather than making sure you know what you are writing about.
The only panel I walked out of was Writing outside Genre. It just wasn’t covering the topic in my opinion. It seemed to be more about the panelists. My other critique would be that the first time WorldCon panel, the panel for first time World Con attendees to learn about the program, wasn’t held until Saturday. By then I had already spent two full days on at the convetion, and had missed out on a lot of things that I could have been taking advantage of. Things like the parties and the Con Suite which I knew nothing about. I could have saved a ton of money on drinks had I know I could stop by the con suite for water.
Overall though the panels were a wealth of information for me as a writer, and me as a short story publisher. They had panels on both the craft of writing and the business of writing. The program was diverse and I really wish I could have go to more, but the kids needed time with dad too.
Which leads me to the kids programing. My wife did a lot more of that with them then I did. The first day I spent a lot of time there and I really enjoyed the activities and planning that went into each activity. But on Monday when I went in the I so furious with how unorganized the Lego Doctor Who stuff was. My kids were by far the most excited for that event and it quickly turned into a mess. It just was ever lead, and the kids took over. My boys managed to get a Dalek built but couldn’t build a TARDIS because by that time the younger kids had been pushed out by the olders.
The childcare facility, Kiddiecorp, was a nice. There were not a lot of children there and my kids had a blast while I enjoyed a date night with my wife. As a member, the kids each got six free hours, though I think we only used three. I am always a bit nervous about leaving my kids with any babysitter, but the Kiddiecorp staff was great.
I only managed to attend one Film viewing. Though I watched Ray Bradbury’s Kaleidoscope staring Brett Stimely and directed by Eric Tozzi. I have a love for Ray Bradbury and Kaleidoscope is one of those stories that is difficult to imagine in a film. But this film absolutely nails it. It is fifteen minutes of genius and I really liked it. From the fragments of other films that I saw, there was a ton of talent in these films. The next time that I go, I will need to see more of the films.
I also had a chance to attend only one reading. And it came out of surprise really. I had attended a social media panel that had only two panelists. One was a last minute addition, Emma Newman. I absolutely loved what she had to say in that panel that I did two things the next day. I bought two of her books, and I went to her reading. Emma did such a great job in the reading that I wished I had attended more readings too.
Until Next Time
When it came time for me to leave on Monday, I nearly broke down in tears. I don’t mean that as some type of joke. I literally was misty eyed. There was such a mixture of emotions from that trip. I had so much fun, I learned so much, and yet I feel like I missed so much. I was so happy to have a vacation with my family, something I have not had in ten years. I was sad because I doubt I will get to London to do it again next year. I was disappointed it was over. I had wanted to quit my job and dedicate my life to science fiction. But that job is the only way I can afford to come out to conventions, publish my books, and keep Plasma Frequency going. I was worried it might be ten more years before I can afford another vacation. I also have a horrible memory. I don’t remember a lot about anything long term. The thought of forgetting this family trip was the most frightening of all. My memory issues scare me more every year, and no one seems to take it serious. But I digress. The convention was such a great time, both as a person in the industry and as a family vacation. I can only hope that I can somehow continue to attend WorldCons for many many more years.
P.S. You may have noticed I made no mention of the Masquerade Ball or the Hugo Awards. I plan to cover the Hugo Awards in depth in Plasma Frequency. And, unfortunately, I missed the Masquerade Ball.