Con Review: Renovation/Worldcon

renovationby Rob Balder


Renovation, The 69th World Science Fiction Convention
August 17–21, 2011
Reno, Nevada 

My first Worldcon. May I never miss another.

I don’t know what I can say to do it justice. I was brought in as a last minute replacement musical guest, and got to perform for about a thousand appreciative people at Doctor Demento’s live show. That was only one highlight of the week. There were others that were just as good.

You go to Worldcon because the top minds and talents and personalities of the SF and Fantasy fields will be there, and they certainly are. I made more contacts and had a better time at this con than any I can recall, and it was all about the other guests.

Not that there was anything at all wrong with the programming, which was some of the most thoughtful and interesting I’ve ever seen. The fans there were also among the friendliest and most articulate I’ve ever met. The party scene was full of loud Klingons and happy people smooshed against bars and buffet tables. And the city of Reno was weird and wonderful and it charmed the hell out of me. I didn’t want it to end, but there is always next year in Chicago.

Impression: Magic. Made me feel better about fandom and what I do than any con in years.


Con Review: Noreascon 4

Noreascon4by Catherine E. Twohill


Noreascon 4: The 62nd
World Science Fiction Convention
September 2-6, 2004
Boston, Massachusetts

Labor Day weekend in Beantown! The Unions are on overtime! Dock Workers unite! Oh, wait… that would matter if we actually were Dock Workers. While some of those who attended Boston’s Noreascon 4—the 62nd World Science Fiction Convention—may have been members of a collective bargaining unit, collectively, that’s not why roughly 6,000 bodies filled the Hynes Convention Center. Why? How about a chance to chat with Terry Pratchett (GOH)? Hand a pen to William Tenn (GOH)? Peer at Jack Speer (Fan GOH)? Or simply celebrate, as science fiction Fandom does annually, that which makes the community unique.

The Noreascon 4 team, comprised of Massachusetts Convention Fandom, Inc.-ers, have much to be proud of. They were organized, efficient, smart and, above all, helpful. We arrived on Thursday, September 2nd and wound our way to the Hynes loading dock to off-load our stuff (we had a Dealer’s Table). Even though we were officially late (the gleefully over-paid dockworkers were gleeful), Elaine Brennan met us with a smile and set the tone for the remainder of our Noreascon experience. The folks in Press Relations went above and beyond the call of duty to ensure we had our credentials and then we were off to the Marriott to complete the check-in routine. A top-notch experience all the way around. Mind you, this detail is provided as a stark contrast to our experience just twelve months prior in Toronto. While I shan’t bore you with the horrific T.O. details, suffice it to say, we may bury our zines for safe-keeping if we smell a Customs Agent within fifty miles.

Anyway, back to the good stuff. There’s almost too much—it’s difficult to focus! The weekend was kicked off by a First Night event (mirroring Boston’s famed New Year’s Eve celebration) at which teams of people devised games and audience participation festivities. Clever and just plain fun. The Convention’s programming was rock-solid—but when has it not been for a Worldcon? (oh, wait… Toronto…) The Art Show was one of the best we’ve seen with an excellent variety of styles and media. The Masquerade was enjoyable with Susan de Guardiola doing an excellent job of MC-ing, however, (and here’s where the T.O. event gets its only nod) none of the entries were of the caliber of last year’s award-winning Amber series-clad group. With Boston’s reputation for abundant creativity, that was a slight disappointment.

And, finally, to our favorite event—the Hugo Awards. Let’s face it—it’s the Oscars for the geek-literati. Neil Gaiman was tapped to host and didn’t disappoint. With his wry wit and quick delivery, he kept the event moving along and the audience “in” on the joke. In the end, Lois McMaster Bujold grabbed the top honor (Best Novel) for Paladin of Souls. The event’s illustrious host won his own gleaming phallus… I mean rocket… for Best Short Story, “A Study in Emerald.” Our friend and contributor, Frank Wu, was nominated for Fan Artist and was up against some pretty tough competition. Wu prevailed and took home his first Hugo. The after-Hugo Award parties with a first-time winner—not to mention an all-around bon vivant—are an experience everyone should have. The stories we could tell… Speaking of the after-Hugo Award parties, we must acknowledge SFWA for hosting a lovely, ethereal (dare we say celestial?) event. White floating balloons tied to white Mardi Gras masks, alabaster-draped furniture and literary projections on the walls created such a fantastic atmosphere. We almost forgot that the event is traditionally called “The Losers Party”. Not a loser in the room, to be sure.

2005’s WorldCon is off to Glasgow, Scotland (eek… Customs Agents!) from August 4th – 8th. For more info:


Con Review: Torcon 3

TorCon by Catherine E. Twohill & Michael D. Pederson


Torcon 3
August 28 – September 1, 2003
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Toronto, eh? It was the 61st annual World Science Fiction Convention—Torcon 3—and all we can say is “Toronto, eh?” Well, in deference to our friends up north, that’s all they could say, as well. To be honest, the sense of “world” was missing from this year’s Worldcon. So much of the convention schedule was filled with sessions on Canada—Canadian history, Canadian anime, Canadian costuming—that we went looking for some Canadian Club hoping everyone would just move on.

The location was excellent though (Toronto’s Convention Center) and close to hotels, restaurants, and general touristy things like the CN Tower. The accommodations were lovely; we stayed at the beautiful Royal York Hotel, and we found several fantastic restaurants within a block or two of the hotel and Convention Center.

Operationally, the convention could have been tighter. The pocket program wouldn’t have fit in a pool table pocket and, unfortunately, the printers printed an outdated file, rendering the entire book pretty much useless. Updated schedules were available every morning (if you were quick enough to get them before they ran out) but, sadly, these too turned out to be wrong a good percentage of the time. Pre-con information books were well-labored over yet were either never received or sent very late. We wished that the last update—which arrived the day we got on the plane—had arrived a week earlier; it contained important information about clearing customs. Without that info we spent eight hours on the phone with Canadian customs and had to literally bribe local shippers to get our ’zines into the city. In the end we had to chalk it up as a lesson learned.


GoHs Mike Glyer, George R.R. Martin, and Spider Robinson at the Opening Ceremonies.

Content-wise Torcon 3 was strong and with GoHs George R.R. Martin (Pro) and Mike Glyer (Fan) and Toastmaster Spider Robinson, the general sessions were entertaining and purposeful. Unfortunately, Frank Kelly Freas (Artist GoH) was ill and unable to attend. However, even death didn’t stop Robert Bloch (GoHst of Honour) from making an “appearance.” Be sure to visit the con’s website to get the complete rundown on Hugo Award and Masquerade winners ( but in brief: Robert Sawyer took home a well-deserved Best Novel Hugo for Hominids and an amazing Trumps of Amber presentation won Best in Class Masters Division and Best in Show at the Masquerade.

Despite the confusing program updates we still found several great panels to attend… There were some good panels on small press publishing, an unusual Photoshop panel (most people on the panel preferred to talk about how they could do special effects without Photoshop), and a LOT of Doctor Who programming that kept us busy. We also attended a few readings and lectures by Spider Robinson, Cory Doctorow, and Nalo Hopkinson. There was a great Children’s Programming track as well (pipe cleaner dragons, yay!). We wanted to go to a few of the KaffeeKlatches but the sign-up lists filled up WAY to quickly. And, unfortunately, none of the video programs that we attended had the necessary projectors—that really hurt the Chuck Jones tribute that we had been looking forward to.

Don’t get the impression that the convention was a total bust though. SF fans LOVE to complain and Torcon really came through for us. We spent half the con laughing and bonding with total strangers over the mounting problems each day. Therein lies the beauty of a Worldcon… There are no true strangers at a Worldcon, just strange people you haven’t met yet.

Next year’s Worldcon, Noreascon 4, will be held in Boston, September 2-6. For you early planners, check out Terry Pratchett and William Tenn are the scheduled Pro GoHs. See you there!


Torcon’s Best in Show Masquerade winners, The Trumps of Amber.

And here are some more of our photos from Torcon…


Con Review: ConJosé 2002

ConJoseProgramBookby Catherine E. Twohill


ConJosé 2002
The 60th World Science Fiction Convention
August 29 – Sept. 2, 2002
San José, California

A gathering of giants; a warren of writers; a phantasm of fans… Oh, how to describe this year’s Worldcon? I’ll cheat and use them all… The 60th World Science Fiction Convention, held in multiple venues around the city of San José, represented a weekend full of events, concurrent sessions, an immense dealer’s room and, a personal favorite, an appearance by Patrick Stewart. The Captain flew in to share previews of both X2 and Star Trek: Nemesis. Those who believe Mr. Stewart to be charming, eloquent and handsome were not disappointed.

Layout 1Okay, back to the Con… ConJosé as it were.

ConJose1The mayor of San José proclaimed August 29th through September 4th National Science Fiction Week for San José and Silicon Valley—a nice touch that brought a level of importance to an already important event. ConJosé’s Guest of Honor roster included Vernor Vinge (Writer GOH), David Cherry (Artist GOH), and John and Bjo Trimble (Fan GOH).

The key event of each year’s Worldcon is the presentation of the Hugo awards. Members of the World Science Fiction Society nominate and vote for those writers and artists they hold in highest esteem for their work over the previous year. See this article’s sidebar for the 2002 winners. Voters who are also ’zine readers, take note that Nth Degree is not listed as a winner in the Fanzine category nor were we nominated. We’re new. We’ll be patient. In addition to the Hugo awards, the location of the 2005 World SF Convention was voted on. The result: Glasgow, Scotland, August 4-8, 2005.


David Brin taking questions before reading from his new novel, Kiln People.

While ConJosé had the requisite number of Klingons and winged fairies, the real draw of the weekend was the chance to rub elbows with writers whose names line your personal bookshelves. Among the scribes: Silverberg, Barnes, Card, Brin, Benford, Bear, Clement, Niven, and Turtledove (excuse me, Mr. Turtledove, would you like a copy of Nth Degree?).

One of the most popular sessions was entitled “1,000 Ideas in One Hour” led by Orson Scott Card. Like a writer’s workshop on speed, Mr. Card led the attendees through the process of developing a plot line. It was a packed, attentive, and participatory audience. Exactly what you’d expect from a literate crowd.

Next year’s WorldCon is off to Toronto, Canada. It will be held August 28th – September 1st, 2003 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Guests will include George R.R. Martin, Frank Kelly Freas, Robert Bloch, and Spider Robinson. For more information, visit their website at


Orson Scott Card leading a packed workshop at ConJose.



Our travel schedule forced us to leave the convention early, but here are some more photos we took while we were there…