First time to a World Science Fiction Convention? What you can expect:
An introduction by Stu Segal and Laurie Mann.
The World Science Fiction Convention is an international gathering of the Science Fiction and Fantasy communities. Worldcon attracts members each year from North and South America, Africa, Europe, Australia and Asia ... and in the last decade the convention has been held on 4 continents.
Authors, artists, editors, publishers, gamers, vendors, musicians and fans all attend. Everyone who attends joins (except for the Guests of Honor and a few special speakers, everyone you see, regardless that they are a first timer or a million selling author, has paid for the privilege of attending). In recent years our attending members have included Ray Bradbury, Neil Gaiman, George R. R. Martin, Connie Willis, and our special speakers have included George Takei, Patrick Stewart and Paul Krugman ... and way too many more to mention.
The convention is organized and run by fans, volunteers all. The organizing/operating committee changes each year with the location of the convention, though many members volunteer their time year after year, regardless of location. And, yes, all volunteers buy their memberships too.
When you show up at a Worldcon for the first time, it's much like walking into a giant buffet, an enormous room filled with table after table of delicacies. And when you start to walk the room you see some things you recognize, and like, but you see lots and lots of things that are unfamiliar - some look good and smell good, others don't. So you decide there's two choices - one is to be overwhelmed and go back to your room, and the other is to dig in. So you start to fill your plate with things you know, and like - and then around the edges you start to place a lot of other delicacies that you hadn't tried before. Eventually you head back for more, more of your old favorites, and more of some of your delicious new discoveries.
You can see exhibits, vendors, the Hugo Awards ceremony, the Art Show and auction, the Masquerade, hall costumes and several hundred panels and presentations (concurrent sessions). Just before the convention, a complete schedule of all activities will be posted on the website so you can start planning each day of your convention (you can print the schedule at home or save it electronically, and when you get to the Con there will be a bound Souvenir Book and a Pocket Program for you). Read on for more details.
The Hugo Awards, and the Awards Ceremony
First of all, a World Science Fiction convention (Worldcon) is organized under the charter of the World Science Fiction Society, so by getting a membership for the Convention you become a member of the WSFS for that year. And that gives you a very special benefit, the privilege of participating in the nominating and voting process for the Hugo Awards.
Yes, you as a member of the Worldcon, get to nominate those works you think are worthy for Hugo Awards. Even if you don't nominate, you get to vote on those that are nominated to determine the winner (much like the members of the Academy vote for the Oscars). Don't think you'll know what to vote for? Not to worry, we at Renovation will prepare an electronic "Hugo Voter's Packet", containing electronic copies of many of the nominated works. (This depends on the goodwill of authors and publishers, but in recent years voters have received extracts or complete versions of almost all the nominated fiction - including the novels!). And of course you'll be able to easily find the nominated films at your local DVD store or Netflix.
For many folks, one of the highlights of a Worldcon is the Hugo Awards ceremony. Much like the Oscars, except that if you've participated in the process, and read or seen the nominees, and voted, you will most likely have personal favorites you're rooting for. (And unlike the Oscars, you will have been one of the few who actually helped select the winners). It adds a whole new, rewarding, element that makes the ceremony something very special.
Programming (Concurrent Sessions)
There are concurrent sessions that run in 60 and/or 90 minute timeslots, generally starting around 10 each morning, and going until late each night. Some of the sessions are panels, some are workshops, some are demonstrations and some are presentations. Most of these sessions will be in the Convention Center, though workshops and some evening panels will be at the Peppermill.
The range of subjects covered is as broad as the fields of science fiction and fantasy - actually broader. While you will find sessions covering books, movies, TV shows, costuming, writing, publishing, etc., you will also find sessions covering science, astronomy, and the arts. Over the 5 days, there will be several hundred program items and, if you're like most folks, you will find so many of them to be interesting that you'll struggle over which to attend.
You'll also have the opportunity to get up close to your favorite personalities. Kaffeeklatsches give you and a small group of fans the opportunity to spend an hour in conversation with the author, actor, artist, etc. Stroll With The Stars invites all members to a pleasant morning walk with a group of "Stars", who you can meet and converse with. (For Kaffeeklatsches you need to sign up in advance ahead, for the Strolls you just show up). And, of course, there are autograph sessions.
You can keep up to date on the program at our Program pages.
Every Worldcon features such major events which act as focal points for the convention. For Renovation, these will start on Wednesday, August 17, with the Opening Ceremony, the official start of the convention. This will be followed on Wednesday evening by Music night, with live performances from all kinds of musicians, including our special guests, Tricky Pixie.
Thursday evening will feature many special presentations for Art Night, a celebration of science fiction and fantasy art. The Chesley Awards Ceremony, honoring the best art of the year, will also take place on Thursday.
Friday and Saturday nights feature the highlights of the convention - the Masquerade (covered in detail under the costume section below) and the Hugo Awards Ceremony. These events will draw around 2,000 attendees to the Peppermill Tuscany Ballroom. (Look out for an announcement in the coming months as to which event will take place on which night).
Finally, the convention will wind up with Closing Ceremonies on Sunday afternoon, and the official handover to the host city and committee for the 2012 Worldcon.
At each Worldcon there are both perpetual traveling exhibits, which appear each year, and one time special exhibits.
Each year you will find a historical exhibit from the World Science Fiction Society which includes things like the actual Hugo Award trophies from as far back as the fifties. You will also find the Fan Gallery, which exhibits photos and brief bios of well known fans.
Special exhibits are very wide ranging in terms of subject matter, and may have a connection to the location of the convention. (Hmmm, maybe in Nevada they'll take us out in the desert, put us in bunkers, give us sunglasses, and do an A-bomb test for us?) Renovation's Special Exhibits have not yet been announced, but you can bet they'll be very special.
There is always music at Worldcon. Sometimes there are professional performances, and there are always fan performances.
"Filk" is the folk music of SF and fantasy, and each Worldcon includes a robust Filk Track of performances and workshops. You are welcome to observe and enjoy; if you want to participate, bring your instrument.
There are usually some theatrical performances at a Worldcon. Sometimes it is live re-creations of old radio shows, sometimes brand new stage plays. Always something, always entertaining.
Film & Video
There are always screenings at a Worldcon. Usually you will find screenings of the Hugo nominees, and lots of other interesting films, but at Renovation there will also be a special focus on fan and independent films: Renovation is excited to host the Renovation Independent/Fan Film Festival which will showcase film shorts, features and trailers, specializing in the science fiction, fantasy, horror and comic genres. We are currently hard at work assembling the best and the strangest films to showcase at our festival. The Renovation Independent/Fan Film motto is "A showcase for film makers to share their works and for people to experience".
The nightlife at a Worldcon is, well, very alive. The Atlantis will be Renovation's party hotel. Each night of the convention there will be room parties - some hosted by publishers, some by cities bidding for future Worldcons, some by fans or groups of fans. The great majority of room parties are open to all members. At the room parties you'll find snacks and refreshments, and lots of good conversation. You may find someone making ice cream with liquid nitrogen. You may find someone else playing a theremin. You may find belly dancers.
Filthy Pierre's Official Party List is posted each afternoon near the Voodoo Message Boards (just ask, you'll find the Message Boards), so you'll know what parties you want to check out each night.
There are two aspects to costumes, Hall Costumes and the Masquerade.
Hall Costumes are just what they sound like, members wearing costumes around the convention. While Worldcon isn't really a costume party, you will occasionally find members in costume. You'll also find members in pieces of costumes, a Dr. Who scarf, a propeller beanie, etc. While it is by no means expected that you wear a costume, you won't be out of place if you do.
The Masquerade is a judged costuming competition. It is divided into categories based on the costuming skill levels of the participants, and judged by a panel of costuming experts. The Masquerade will be held in the Tuscany Ballroom in the Peppermill on either Friday or Saturday night. If you're from the East, expect to see costumes done with the same skill as you would see on Broadway, or at the Mummers; if you're from the West, be thinking Hollywood or Las Vegas.
Somehow with access to everything in the world on the internet, I seem to always find great stuff in the Dealers' Room. You'll find lots of books, videos, anime, toys clothing, jewelry, chachkas, art and who knows what else. If you looking to increase your collection, or looking for that unique gift to bring your loved one who you left at home, you'll find it in the Dealers' Room. You'll also get to make great personal connections with dealers from out of your area.
Well Science Fiction and Fantasy are art, right? But you'll find real art in the Art Show. The artists whose work you've seen on the covers of your favorite books and movie posters. Most contemporary, some from past decades. Some big well known names, some new fresh promising ones.
The Art Show will be open for several days. Most work in the show is for sale via auction. Throughout the show, a "silent auction" is operated (when you sign up for your bidder number, someone will explain how it works); anything not sold at the silent auction goes to a live auction on Sunday afternoon. In addition to the auction, low-cost reprints of certain displayed pieces are available for sale in the adjacent "print shop".
Guests of Honor
Each Worldcon selects a small number of Guests of Honor. Each Guest of Honor (GoH) is chosen for their lifetime commitment and contribution to the field. Effectively, this is the Hall of Fame for the science fiction and fantasy field - and it is filled with major names, from Asimov to Clarke and Bradbury to le Guin. Renovation has chosen to add four new names to this list - Ellen Asher, Charles N. Brown, Tim Powers and Boris Vallejo. For more info on the GoHs, see our Guest page.
In addition to the GoH's, there are all the participants on all the panels, the Masquerade, the performances, etc. Who are these people? Where are they from? Do they get in for free?
A Worldcon program requires a lot of participants - generally about four hundred. You'll find short Bios of all our participants on our Website as their appearances are confirmed. All are experts in some field or fields - some are professional authors, editors, publishers and artists, some are scientists, some are educators, some are astronomers, some are philosophers ... and some are just regular folk who have developed or acquired expertise in some specific area. And, yes, of course there'll be gull durned rocket scientists!
Again, no one slides, everyone pays. The program participants are paying members too. (Actually, many of the program participants, in addition to maintaining their hectic schedule of appearances during the convention, are volunteers who actually help operate the convention.)
There are a lot of people at a Worldcon. Within the boundaries of good manners, everyone from the member standing next to you, to the GoHs, is approachable, and friendly. (Hey, they wouldn't be here otherwise, would they?). While many languages are spoken, English seems to be the common language. Go to the panels, talk to the other members. Go to the hall parties. You will make friends - you'll find other members who share your interests, and you'll find others who have different, but fascinating, interests. You'll find a large percentage of the members are "repeats", and travel to the Worldcon, so each year they make more friends - but it always starts with their first convention, and the willingness to extend the hand of friendship to others.
First Time at a Worldcon?
At every Worldcon there's a program item called something like "So: This Is Your First Convention? Here's What to Expect". The session is usually hosted by Rusty Hevelin and/or Gay Haldeman. Rusty has attending Worldcons since the very first one in 1939; Gay has been going to science fiction conventions for nearly 50 years. They know the ins and outs of Worldcon, and they both know how to have a good time - their session is worthwhile for any first-timer, or anyone with questions.
What to do before you leave home
- Buy your membership, sooner not later. Memberships are on sale now.
- Tell all your friends you're going.
- Make your travel reservations.
- Make your hotel reservations once hotel reservations open up in early January 2011. Do it early so you get a room where you want. Make sure to specify whether you want your room in the party hotel (Atlantis) or the non-party hotel (Peppermill).
- Check our website and our Facebook page often.
- Check the website and print out the Program a few weeks ahead. Review it (this could take hours) and circle the items you like.
- Review the convention maps ahead of time so you know the lay of the land.
- When you pack, include both sunblock and a water bottle (It is Reno in summer).
What to do when you arrive
Assuming you already got your membership through the internet, go to Registration, where they will have your Badge and packet of materials. Then go to the Voodoo Message Board and circle your name, so anyone else who may be looking for you knows you have arrived.
If you downloaded and printed the program ahead of time, great. If not, find a place to sit down (ask where the Fan Lounge is), review the program and decide what's important to see next. Don't forget to go to the "So: This Is Your First Convention" session on Wednesday.
Most important, just like the big buffet try and sample those unknown delicacies. And remember, this is 5 days and nights of fun, fun, fun - so pace yourself, get some sleep, take showers, eat your meals and have a great time!