Monday, August 28, 2006

Worldcon IV

Location: Anaheim
Miles: 3996

On Saturday, Don was on two panels. He moderated "Is SF Like a Shark: Does the field need to keep moving or die?" which actually engendered a really good discussion. And he was a participant on "Advances in Computer Science," which was also fascinating, if it did stray a little off topic.

Since Denver won the 2008 Worldcon, now there was high finance to conduct. Worldcon memberships come in two types: Supporting, which gets you all the publications, the right to vote on the Hugos and site selection, and good will from the convention; and Attending, which gets you all of the above plus the right to actually attend the convention. Although exact amounts differ, Supporting memberships usually start out fairly cheap and stay at the same rate up until the time of the con. Attending memberships, OTOH, start out fairly expensive, and increase in steps as the con approaches.

For example, Supporting memberships for this Worldcon were $40. Attending memberships started at something likke $80 three years ago, and were $200 at the door. (In between, Worldcon switched from a three-year lead time to a two-year lead time.)

But there are a few wrinkles. You have to pay a voting fee in order to vote in site selection. This time around, the fee was $40. The voting fee automatically gets you a Supporting membership to the winner's Worldcon. Thomas and I both paid our voting fees, so we had supporting memberships in Denvention (the 2008 Worldcon in Denver).

Attending rates usually go up soon after the current Worldcon is over. If you want to go to Worldcon in two years, it will never be cheaper than it is on the day after Site Selection. Fans flock to pay for attending memberships.

An attending membership for Denvention is (at the moment) $130. However, since Thomas and I voted, our $40 voting fee gets credited -- so we paid $80 each to convert from Supporting to Attending. (yes, we're going to Denver. And yes, we'll very probably drive. Another trip!)

But wait, it gets more complicated (more complicated?) In the years before Site Selection, you can become a Pre-Supporter of a particular bid...and that gets you money off your attending membership. (But you have to back the right horse. People who pre-supported Chicago or Columbus this time got nothing beyond the Supporting membership to which their voting fee entitled them...if they voted.)

To make things even more baroque, there are various levels of pre-support. For example, a simple pre-supporting membership might cost $20 or $25. (Many bids also offer a "pre-opposing" membership for a few dollars more, maybe $30.) In Denver's case, you could also become a Friend of the Bid for $100. Naturally, all these different levels are subtracted from the conversion rate. In the best-case scenario, if you were a Friend of Denver and you voted in Site Selection, then you got your Attending membership automatically, without any further conversion fee.

Everybody got that?

Basically, it's a self-perpetuating system that rewards those who attend Worldcons, vote in Site Selection, and convert their memberships immediately to Attending. Which is just what Thomas and I do.

One further word about Worldcon memberships. With Attending memberships starting at $130 and quickly rising, how are fans to afford a membership, especially if they miss the on-site conversion process? For some fans, it's not that easy to come up with $130, $150, or $180 in a lump sum.

Many years ago, Don wrote to the then-current Worldcon committee and suggested that they adopt an "installment plan" option that would allow fans to lock in the current rate, but pay over time, i.e. once a month or so. Perhaps other people suggested the same idea -- in any case, that Worldcon adopted the notion, and it's since become standard. So a young fan can start paying now, lock in the $130 rate, and pay $10 a month without worrying that the rate will rise on them.

Enough of membership conversion. We spent Saturday evening doing the party circuit, starting out at the GLBT party, which was held in a room that faced Disneyland, so everyone could see the fireworks. Several locals, who have been threre often enough to know the sequence and program, were pretty scary as they narrated for us.

Today (Sunday) was the last day of the con -- always a bittersweet day, what with half the people checking out and departing, goodbyes being said, and the con slowly dissolving back into the mundane world. Don had one more panel, on Global Warming; he was worried about it because one of the panelists was a loud, famous author who is not known for his ability to get along with others. And Don was moderating, so he faced the very real possibility of having to shut the Famous Author up so others could get a word in edgewise.

Well, for whatever reason, the other two scheduled panelists did not show up -- so it was Don and Mr. Famous. Don took the better part of valor: "Hey, I'm the moderator, so I wasn't planning to say much, just ask questions to keep the discussion going, and I know that Mr. Famous doesn't even need that -- so with everyone's permission, I'm going to sit back and let this be the Mr. Famous Show." It worked well -- Mr. Famous was happy, the audience was largely happy (except a few whom, I fear, had come to see people argue with Mr. Famous...but they walked out early). Now, Don doesn't care for Mr. Famous's politics, and thinks he formed his opinions on Global Warming in 1975 and has not changed them since...but it turned out to be a very successful panel.

After that, we both skipped Closing Ceremonies (after you've seen Worldcon Closing Ceremonies a few times, there's really no need to see them again). Thomas wanted to go over to Disneyland (which is literally across the street) because they have some exclusive Star Wars figures and such, sold in the gift shop at the Star Tours ride and nowhere else. We talked to a nice (but, alas, clueless) lady at the Disney Desk in the hotel (she works for Disney): she told us that there was a special "Shopping Pass" that would allow one to enter the park for exactly one hour, for free. She also assured us that Worldcon members would get a 50% discount at Disney. So we trudged over, getting there about 5:15, and talked to the nice man at the ticket booth.

Yes, there is a free Shopping Pass -- but only until 4pm each day. And maybe Worldcon members did get some kind of discount, but tickets had to be purchased through the convention, not at the ticket window. (You'd think the nice lady at the Disney Desk would have mentioned these facts to us, but no.) Since it was ater 5 pm, though, the usual day ticket was discounted from $80 to $60.

Thomas didn't want to spend that much just to run in and buy some toys, but Don insisted. No point in coming this far and then not getting things. Besides, if he bought the same stuff on eBay, he would easily pay more than $60 extra. So out came the Visa card, and Thomas went into Disneyland.

Sequel: he did get some of the stuff he wanted, but the figures he'd particularly set out to find were not available...either not in stock, or not yet released, no one in the gift shop seemed to know.

Thomas also observed that just about everything in Disneyland is now an advertisement for something or other: AT&T, Pepsi, etc. Probably parts of the far-flung Disney corporate empire.

We remember Disneyland as being a fun place, with lots of helpful people around, people who could actually give correct information and find out the answers to questons (hell, in most cases they would anticipate the questions). A place where, sure, you knew you were under the watchful eye of the Mouse, and Disney products were everywhere...but otherwise, it was noncommercial. A place where a ride that was under construction would be concealed (Thomas took pictures today of one such ride showing bare girders and construction equipment), and where the magic was always in force.

Sigh. How far the mighty have fallen....

Enough fo that. Here are some pictures.

(above) This helpful sign was outside the men's room in the Convention Center.

(above) For years, we have maintained that the only proper way to experience Worldcon is with a time machine, looping back several times to catch all the stuff you missed. Here's Thomas at the wheel of Doc Brown's DeLorean from the Back to the Future movies.

(above) This is Sirius, the Con Suite mascot.

(above) Pirates!

Parties on the last night of Worldcon are called Dead Dog Parties: the con is officially over, so having a party is supposed to be like beating a dead dog. This year, with Pluto having just lost its status as a planet, the "Dead Dog" name is particularly apt. (Pluto was Mickey Mouse's dog, you see.) Thomas went off to find Dead Dog parties, and Don went off to find filksingers.

Filk...oh, it's just too much to explain! The name comes from an early typo: instead of "folk music" someone typed "filk music," and the world has never been the same. [Similarly, at the San Antonio Worldcon, the Handicapped Services contract referred to "renatal mobie" instead of "rental mobile" -- ever since then, those scooters for the disabled have been called "mobies."] Filkers are science fiction & fantasy folksingers. An entire subculture revolves around filk, there are filk conventions, and hundreds of filk albums are available on tape and CD (we bought a good half-dozen just at this con). During Worldcon, there is always at least one room where the filkers gather in a big circle, and everyone takes a turn. The process is called Pick, Pass, or Play: when it's your turn, you can Pick someone else to sing, you can Pass to the next person, or you can Play (and/or sing) yourself. (You can also sit outside the circle and just listen, which is what Don usually does.)

Lots of filk is awful, lots of it is very clever, and a surprising percentage is excellent.

Let's see, tomorrow we'll be checking out, loading up Eurovan, and on the way out I-5 and then onto I-40 for the trip home. With any luck, we'll be home the day before Labor Day.



Renfield said...

What a great convention report. Shame about Disney, but the parties sound like they were great.

Seeing as how Mr. Famous will be in town next year, maybe we can confirm a couple other panelists so you can moderate his panel properly. But where will we find a steel cage?

Ann H. said...

Just got done reading your wonderful travel log. It is so much fun living vicariously. Love the pics to go along with the narration.

NOTE: If anyone reading this has not yet read the rest of the blog entries and has not eaten recently, stop now. Go and eat. I made this error and by the time I was done reading about all the yummy bits, I could have devoured a house and had serious thoughts about jumping in my car and heading west. Fortunately I didn't have any gas in the car. Just in "pull my finger" Ric.

Thanks for the postcard. How appropriate it had my favorite on it - buffalo (buffies to their close friends). I know, I know. They are bison. In fact I just received my shipment of buffalo fur and dried buffalo bladder from a Kansas ranch on Friday.

Ok here is some bison trivia that ties into the trip. Within the last couple of years, the National Park Service removed the "manly parts" from the male bison on their logo. One day they just sent to us "updated" logos to work with.

And in homage to Deborah Sears, "why did they remove the "manly parts" from that poor buffalo?" Dunno. My NPS client hadn't even noticed. For those of you that have seen the inside front cover of the white Ikea catalogue, maybe they took it from the buffie and gave it to the dog. Hm-m. Those Swedes can't be trusted.

Looking forward to your next installment.


betsy said...

I love the Sirius report you gave (ha ha). The photos were again great. I hope you will maybe compose a whole gallery for us to see when you get home.

The explanation of how Worldcon registration works makes me nervous. I guess if you do it long enough you get to know, and the installment plan was probably a big help. It seems easier to give up a little money a month then one big chunk at a time (see my credit card bills).

Am I wrong or was there no food in this one? or maybe you are counting the party food. Or maybe my memory is bad, but I didn't walk away as hungry as I usually do after reading your blogs. :)

Meerkat Meade said...

Okay, I'll try to include some more food in the next entry.

And Renfield...are we talking about the same Mr. Famous? This one invented personal computers, was the very frist person in the world to drive an SUV, is singlehandedly responsible for all good science fiction in the universe, brought about the fall of the Soviet Union, and very probably tells God what to do.

Hmmm...that doesn't narrow it down as much as I thought it would.

Are you talking about the Mr. Famous whose alter ego is Wade Curtis? The one who likes to smash into Earth with big things?

I was prepared to whip out my PDA and say, "I will give us exactly ten minutes to discuss the reality and causes of global warming, but when this very loud alarm goes off, we will stop that and go on to the panel topic."

If I were to moderate Mr. Famous again, I would almost certainly bring my desktop teacher's bell: "Ding! Your time is up! Next panelist, please."