The 68th World Science Fiction Convention or ‘Worldcon’ was held this year in Melbourne (2nd – 6th September), with Guests of Honor author Kim Stanley Robinson, award-winning Melbourne artist Shaun Tan, and dedicated fan Robin Johnson. I attended the last three days of the convention, and by-and-large had a fantastic time. There is something magical about walking around a small compound and running into your favourite authors, who are more than happy to have a chat with you in their downtime or on the way to events.
The convention was organised for panels and activities to run in hour-long segments. There were generally between 10 and 14 panels running every hour, so there was almost always something of personal interest to attend. Aussiecon was very relaxed in the management of panels, with everyone from authors, artists, enthusiasts, fans and gamers able to run their own. But as the old saying goes, quantity does not equal quality. Although I only walked out of one panel (after a hopeless display of knowledge of the subject matter), many others would have been greatly improved with some form of preparation.
There were some extremely good, challenging and thought-provoking panels and discussions. I attended each panel with Kim Stanley Robinson on it. He was a fantastic speaker, and had some very interesting and entertaining discussions about Mars (terraforming, colonisation, habitation), sustainability on earth and suburbia, poverty, world issues and evolving technology. Other panels, such as one on writing a first novel (with some successful Australian authors of all ages) were very informative and often inspiring.
Of course, some panels such as George R.R. Martin’s reading from his upcoming (and very late) A Dance With Dragons were so popular the room was filled far beyond capacity. After these overcrowded events, Aussiecon management began to change some panels’ rooms to attempt to fit everyone interested better. The problem was that often times they didn’t tell anyone (including some panelists), so there was a lot of scrambling around every hour getting to newly designated rooms.
The convention boasted a modest “dealer’s room” for businesses to sell their wares, space for scheduled hour-long round-table talks with authors, book signings and more. While the management of space left much to be desired, the services provided worked well to enhance the convention’s experience.
The closing ceremony was very underwhelming compared to other ceremonies (Kim Stanley Robinson’s Guest of Honor acceptance speech was much, much better). It was quite disappointing to see the convention go out on a ‘fizzle’ rather than a ‘bang’, but these are minor gripes indeed.
The fourth Aussiecon is an experience I will never forget. I thourougly enjoyed most of the panels and talks I attended, with the good far outweighing the bad. I will certainly be attending the next one. Make sure to buy your tickets as soon as the convention is announced, because the prices rise very quickly to arguably obscene levels.