World Fantasy Con 2020 Report

By Cat Eldridge: I spent four days at the virtual World Fantasy Convention having a really enjoyable time. From my viewpoint, it worked damn near perfect, being homebound because of the multiple knee surgeries, so having lots of time to do digital experiences like this. And it was a spectacular experience! 

The Con experience was built around CrowdCompass, an app and website based portal that allowed them to have the participant access everything from one place from the readings to the art shows and the virtual book bag. All of the actual programming was hosted in Zoom and available from within the WFC based CrowdCompass app. 

(Side-note. The Con had a live tech desk during Con hours that handled any problems quite well. Not sure any of them slept, but I applaud them for their skilled work.) 

There were five hundred and fifty-seven attendees, says the Chair, from all over the world, an advantage she admitted of the virtual set-up. It was also more diverse than the usual Con had been, being younger and more representative of the global culture she thought because it was virtual than the usual WFC which has tended to be older and mostly white. 

I attended three to five events each day Thursday through Sunday. This meant I encountered a lot of authors that I’d never met before including Charlaine Harris, Madeleine Robins, Greg Bear, C.J. Cherryh, Sharon Shinn, Walter Jon Williams and Marie Brennan. 

Subjects covered were fascinating (alternate history, swordplay, noir fantasy, music in fantasy, and genre fiction in video to name but a few) but it really was the people here that made it. One and all, they appeared to be having a blast being part of this and expressed their delight repeatedly at being at the Con.

David Cherry art used as Souvenir Book cover.

A panel I found absolutely fascinating had C.J. Cherryh, L.E.Modesitt Jr., Anne Groell, Greg Bear, Joe Haldeman and one author I didn’t recognize, Dave Doering, on it. It was called “Fantasy or Not, That Doesn’t Work!” And dealt with the problems of keeping a story logically consistent. 

There were, of course, readings. I delightedly got to hear Joe Haldeman, Walter Jon Williams and S. M. Stirling along with Karen J. Fowler and Sharon Shinn read mostly from their latest work. I must stop and stress that the Zoom-based quality of these readings, like everything else, was excellent with nary a hitch. And, of course, it was fascinating to see the authors in their native habitats! I did ask Walter Jon Williams about the third Metropolitan novel and he said there’s a good chance that it will happen. Yea! 

Note: Recordings of the panel discussions will be only available through CrowdCompass to WFC members (only). 

The digital book bag worked perfectly adding dozens of works to my digital to be read (or at least sampled) list. The printed program guide arrived several days before the event and looks very nice though I’ve just skimmed it so far. 

The Award Ceremony was low key, a pleasant contrast from the Hugos, being hosted by Gordon Van Gelder and Ellen Datlow at her apartment. They simply announced the nominees, then the winner and when possible, had the winner say a few words. Very nice. It was budgeted in the program for two hours and came in I think under that. The recording of the award ceremony is publicly available.

Update 11/06/2020: Corrected statements about availability of recorded program items.

16 thoughts on “World Fantasy Con 2020 Report

  1. This meant I encountered a lot of authors that I’d never met before including Charlaine Harris, Madeleine Robins, Greg Egan, C.J. Cherryh, Sharon Shinn, Walter Jon Williams and Marie Brennan.

    I suspect it’s not Greg Egan but rather Greg Bear. Egan doesn’t do cons or the like. And try getting a book of his signed.

  2. Michael J. Walsh says I suspect it’s not Greg Egan but rather Greg Bear. Egan doesn’t do cons or the like. And try getting a book of his signed.

    My bad. I was going by my admittedly faulty memory and should’ve looked at the Program. I’ve asked OGH to fix it. Thanks fir the catch.

  3. As a panelist I thought things ran really smoothly. I also enjoyed the ability to hang out in Zoom breakout rooms. There did need to be some tweaking…my reading was in the last block done through Crowd Compass, and after that block all readings were in Zoom breakout rooms. That worked well.

    Nonetheless, for someone like me who hadn’t been able to participate in WFC before due to work schedules and, well, life, it worked out quite well. I also wreaked my own subversive effect on the con…was part of a scintillating discussion about Horses in Fantasy during Wednesday pre-con activities, and…heh heh heh…heard commentary about “a horse is not a motorcycle” popping up pretty regularly on other panels and got name-checked on that on Twitter. Heh.

    Even if I didn’t get the chance to do some of what my original plans were for the con, I was quite happy with this version. Crowd Compass is very easy to navigate and being able to chat with other attendees on Zoom chat worked out pretty smoothly as well.

  4. True. Don’t tell anyone, but not even other regular contributors read all the stuff!

  5. Martin Wooster: Isn’t David Doering a regular contributor to File 770?

    He appears on the scroll item contributor list with some frequency, but he’s only posted maybe 17 comments here in the last 8 years, so I can see why someone wouldn’t recognize him as a “regular”.

  6. Thanks for the review, Cat! I am glad you liked the “Fantasy or Not, That Doesn’t Work!” panel. I served as the “Emergency Holographic Moderator” to such a great lineup it made for a fast, fun hour.

  7. Dave Doering says Thanks for the review, Cat! I am glad you liked the “Fantasy or Not, That Doesn’t Work!” panel. I served as the “Emergency Holographic Moderator” to such a great lineup it made for a fast, fun hour.

    I do apologise for not recognising you from here. I was thinking in terms of writers and your name wasn’t ringing any bells. You did a great job!

  8. I think it worked out very well. The panels were good and so we’re the readings (especially after they moved to the Zoom rooms). The Help Desk team was indeed very helpful, it was like they had been doing it this way for years.
    Highlights were:
    A guided tour of David Cherry’s art filled house and workroom.
    Walter Jon Williams reading from the new Quillifer.
    Jane Fancher reading from Alliance Rising, with the news that they are working on the second with the promise of a third.
    A great experience in a year that I didn’t think I would go to a con.

  9. BGrandrath says I think it worked out very well. The panels were good and so we’re the readings (especially after they moved to the Zoom rooms). The Help Desk team was indeed very helpful, it was like they had been doing it this way for years.

    Ginny told me that they actually volunteered relatively recently which made what they did even more remarkable. Oh I should note that they, like all Con staff, actually paid pad for a membership — at the reduced rate of fifty dollars but they did contribute financially as well time wise.

    Now listening to: Ian McDonald’s River of Gods

  10. cat: much of the Con material will be up for the general public to see

    thanks for your thoughtful review. I wasn’t able to participate (primarily due to the cost $125). It would be great to see some of the material from the con, but I can’t actually see any panels or recordings puclicly linked from the website and schedule.

    is there a secret gateway I missed?

  11. Molecular asks thanks for your thoughtful review. I wasn’t able to participate (primarily due to the cost $125). It would be great to see some of the material from the con, but I can’t actually see any panels or recordings puclicly linked from the website and schedule.

    is there a secret gateway I missed?

    I was told that they were going up but not when. I’ll ask when and how they can be accessed.

  12. Mike and Cat, thanks for the update! There were some very interesting panels, was hoping to see them after the fact.

  13. Regarding those recordings… If you attended and missed a panel, there’s a pretty good chance that it’s now up for your viewing as I just checked and pretty much all of them are up there. Just go to the WFC schedule and click on that session. It’ll be at the top of the page. Even the general sessions in which you can meet the folks who made the Con possible are there.

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