By Chris M. Barkley: After a brutal and taxing trans-Atlantic transit on Monday, my partner Juli and I were able to obtain our membership badges fairly easily Tuesday morning.
Yesterday was mainly spent getting used to our surroundings and the weather; the city could have been any busy port city in New England in tone save for the local traffic patterns were the opposite from what we Americans were used to and the skies were for the most part slightly chilly, overcast with partial, misty showers throughout the day.
At 10:20 a.m., Juli and I walked to the Convention Centre which was located less than a kilometer away from the gated apartment complex we were renting for the week.
My first panel was at 11 a.m. in a moderately sized room on the second floor of the Centre, “Crime and Punishment in the Age of Superheroes.” Since it was early in the morning on the first day, my expectations were quite low. I met my fellow panelists, UK fan Rachel Coleman and US novelist Dan Moren in the Green Room situated at the top floor of the building. In our initial greetings they reminded me that I was the moderator of the panel, which I had conveniently forgotten and was a momentary source of amusement. Our fourth member, the Hugo-nominated French author Aliette de Bodard was missing but we weren’t particularly worried that she might not show.
Imagine our surprise when we walked into our room and saw that it was nearly standing room only crowd! As we settled in, Ms. de Bodard came hustling in out of breath but quite able and willing to dive into our subject.
What followed was a lively session in which we discussed the degree superheroes might be legally liable for their activities, the rendition of super villains, how any super-powered person might be tried and imprisoned and what sort of punishment would be appropriate and what would be considered “cruel and unusual punishment”.
One of the more entertaining bits of discussion was comparing the relative degree of danger a person the psychological profile like Tony Stark or Bruce Wayne would be versus some like Peter Parker, who, at least at this point in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is relatively altruistic.
As always with the panels I moderate, half the time was spent with the panel and the remaining time we took comments and questions from the audience.
We could have easily gone on for another hour. At the end of our time, the audience gave us a healthy round of applause and we were quite pleased with their participation.
My next panel, “Sports in Science Fiction and Fantasy” was scheduled for 2 p.m. We decided to cruise through the Dealer’s Room, which was rather smaller in comparison to the previous Worldcons I have attended but I was quite happy with the number of vendors and their wares.
Another early shopper was the well-known media mogul/mega best-selling author George R.R. Martin (pictured below), who was only slightly disguised (eschewing his usual fishing cap in favor of a Game of Thrones baseball cap) and enjoying himself immensely. He also took a moment to take me to task for proposing yet another Hugo Award category (In this case, the Best Translated Novel, which might be discussed at the Main Business Meeting if it is passed on from the Preliminary Business Meeting on Friday.)
“It’s getting to be too much,” Martin said. “I hope it doesn’t get to be like the Emmy Awards.”
“What do you mean,” I asked.
“Well, some of the awards are not going to be televised and are going to be given out before the show. I don’t want that to happen to the Hugos.”
I assured GRRM that I did not want that to happen either and that I personally did not have any plans to introduce any other changes at the moment. We then parted, he with a somewhat relieved look on his face. Have a Happy Worldcon, George…
I had to make a courtesy visit to the Press Office, where Daniel Dern presented me with a spare File 770 “Scum and Villainy” button and met the Area Head, the gracious and amiable Diana Ben-Aron, who presented me with a Press ribbon.
UK fan Neil Williamson was the moderator of “Sports in Science Fiction and Fantasy” along with novelist Fonda Lee, prolific writer Rick Wilber (author of many baseball and sports related short stories. I described myself as a lifelong baseball fan whose home is also that of the first professional baseball team, the Cincinnati Reds, celebrating this year the 150th Anniversary of the first team.
With that, I pulled out my black ESPN cap and offered a Euro to the first person who could tell me what the letter “E” stood for. A number of US fans in the audience were flummoxed by the challenge but a quick-thinking male European fan remembered that it stood for Entertainment Sports Programming Network. Hilarity ensued when I fumbled around and was unable to FIND the coin in my change purse. Anxious to move on, Neil produced a coin and paid off the winner. (Juli gave me a coin to reimburse Neil and I found the coin later and paid her back…)
Fonda Lee and Rick Wilber gave some excellent examples through their own works of how the portrayal of sports in fiction gave some insight into the societies they were writing about. Neil and I mostly mused on how the sports we love might change in the future. Again, the audience seemed to have had a good time and gave us all a round of applause.
From there we checked off the obligatory “American food experience in a foreign country” of the travel list with a lunch at Eddie Rocket’s, a disturbingly familiar place that served burgers, fries and milkshakes. (Picture)
The restaurant was adjacent to the Odeon Theater at The Point our next programming destination, where artist John Picacio was giving a slideshow overview of his works. The venue was rather unique because it took place in a mid-sized movie theater in the complex.
Mr. Picacio regaled the almost full house with stories of how he became artist, techniques and style tips for beginning artists and some fascinating stories of how George R.R. Martin roped him into doing the 2012 Game of Thrones calendar and how the images from this source were highly-referenced by the producers and casting directors in choosing actors for their roles.
The highlight of the day was the Opening Ceremonies which also presented the1944 Retro Hugo Awards. After some festive banter by our hosts Ellen Klages and Dave Rudden, we were treated to a short comi-tragic play and the introduction of the Guests of Honor, who also served as Hugo presenters.
Hilarity ensued through the evening as each successive presenter struggled to open the award envelopes, which were triple sealed by masking AND duct tape.
Well, not all of the presenters; Author Guest of Honor Diane Duane was undaunted because she was the only one who was carrying a knife, because, as she explained, “Knives ALWAYS work.” She declined to share the knife with any of the other presenters.
After that it was off to the parties, which were being held on the third level of the Centre. As crowded and festive as this gathering was, I can only wonder what Edie Stern, Joe Siclari and former Worldcon Chair Michael Walsh were intensely discussing near the escalators away from all the revelry…