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My first Worldcon

Denvention 3 (August 6-10) was my first World Science Fiction Convention.

Overall impressions:
1)       Wow.
2)       Likely somewhere around 4500 attendees, including hundreds of writers, dozens of agents & editors, perhaps all of the publishers.
3)       Far too much to see and do. More than 25 concurrent sessions six times a day, plus evening sessions scheduled to start as late as 11:30, PLUS PARTIES.
4)       For a typical time slot, I had to choose among 6 sessions I’d really like, of which 2 were very important to my writing career.
5)       I focused on sessions involving agent and editor panels, largely sitting up front so that they might recognize my face and name tag the next time we meet (or when I submit to them).
6)       Signing up for kaffeeklatches (coffee with an editor or writer) starts at 9:00 each day, and the popular ones sell out quickly. Only 8 (plus 2 alternates) per hour per celebrity. Tried to sign up with Stanley Schmidt, but he was full. I decided to get up early for the next day. I found out that even 8:40 was too late to get your first choices: I wanted to sign up for coffee with Ellen Datlow, but by the time I got in line at 8:40 am there were 40 people in front of me. Her slot filled first. I did get coffee with Larry Niven; he sold out second.
7)       To fully experience a Worldcon, you must:
a.       be better at remembering names and faces than I’ve ever been,
b.      be young enough to not recognize the passage of time (and not require sleep),
c.       consume much larger quantities of caffeine than my cardiologist approves of, and
d.      know some insiders to gain introductions and access to private parties and functions. Sadly, I lacked these things. You can walk up to people and introduce yourself, but you must know what they look like! Most of the agents and some of the editors were not on any panels.

Most daytime functions were at the Colorado Convention Center (and the dealer room was some distance away from the meeting rooms). Some events (and most evening ones) were held at the Hyatt or the Sheraton. There were 7 official Denvention hotels, but most had no events. I stayed at the Grand Hyatt, about 3 blocks away, with perhaps 150 other attendees.

I almost took Sandra’s advice about hanging out at the bar of the party hotel. Well, I did mean to, but I assumed that the Hyatt, adjacent to the CCC, was the party hotel. I hung out the Hyatt’s lobby bar a bit, including eating most lunches. Friday PM I discovered that the Sheraton (3 blocks away) was the official party hotel. No wonder I couldn’t find the party floor at the Hyatt!

They did not publish the schedule until a week before the con, other than the major events. My first wrong assumption was that the con started with the opening ceremony at 5:30 pm Wednesday. WRONG! It started at 11:30 AM that morning, so I missed the first 1.5 sessions, including one on how to write a good query letter.

I attended these notable sessions (plus several less so):
1)       What happened to novels under 300 pages?
2)       What makes a writer?
3)       Small Press Publishing (4 small press editors). My overall impression: only as a last resort.
4)       Short Fiction: On it’s way out or a way to break into the market? This panel included editors Ellen Datlow (Omni) and Sheila Williams (Asimov’s).
5)       The Agent Behind The Curtain. Agents Eleanor Wood, Joshua Bilmes, Kristin Nelson, Lucienne Diver, Michael Kabongo. I met and talked to all of them.
6)       What Makes SF Work: Characters, Society, or Technology? Larry Niven was one of the panelists.
7)       Choosing an eBook format. I picked this one as a chance to meet panelist Patrick Nielsen Hayden (TOR)
8)       Breaking into SF: The Big Guns panelists included Ellen Datlow (OMNI, SciFiction, numerous anthologies), James Frenkel (TOR), Patrick Nielsen Hayden (TOR), Sheila Williams (Asimov’s), Stanley Schmidt (ANALOG), and Toni Weisskopf (BAEN). I talked to all of them. Ellen Datlow arrived 15 minutes early, recognized me (from the previous day) and sat with me in the front row and chatted for 5 minutes until the other panelists arrived. Thanks, Ellen, I enjoyed it.
9)       SF Magazine Publication & Market Share panelists Bradford Lyau, Charles Brown (LOCUS), Scott Edelman (SciFiction), Sheila Williams (ASIMOV’S), Stanley Schmidt (ANALOG)
10)   Are Writer’s Workshops Right For You? Past attendees of several workshops were there.
11)   Sideways Awards. Helped Sheila Williams (ASIMOV’s) find the room: it was hidden in the Sheraton. Nominee Jo Walton recognized me from my blog posts on TOR.com. I talked to a few winners and nominees,
12)   What SF Editors are Looking For. David Summers (anthologies, Tales of the Talisman), Ginjer Buchanon (ACE), Standley Schmidt (ANALOG). Met and talked to Ginjer.
13)   Would You Care For A Little SF In That? Blurring the Genre Lines. Agent Lucienne Diver, Russell Davis (SFWA President), and several writers. Heard some very interesting stories.
14)   Editing and Being Edited.  Deanna Hoak, Eleanor Wood, Jo Walton.
15)   Hugo Awards Ceremony (just in case that I need to know what to do, someday!)

In addition to coffee with Larry Niven, I did a kaffeeklatsch with Jeff Carlson, a winner last year in the Writers of the Future Contest (Frozen Sky), and who wants to market his novels (Plague Year and Plague War) as techno-thrillers instead of as science fiction. Jeff figures he gets 3 times the sales volume when his books are closer to Steve Berry’s in the bookstore. I also met Liz Gorinsky (TOR), Lou Anders (PYR), Jim Minz (BAEN), David Rozinsky (Flying Pen Press), Sheila Gilbert (DAW), and Diana Gill (EOS).
I renewed my acquaintances with Larry Niven, John Scalzi (and his wife), Deanna Hoak, and several non-notables I’ve met at other conventions such as OASIS. I handed out dozens of my business cards, and was surprised that few of the agents and editors had cards to pass out. ALL of the agents and editors did NOT want to hear pitches during the Worldcon, but they did want to meet and talk to people like me.
I have a dozen pages of notes I took, plus lots of literature I picked up.

Overall, a very worthwhile convention.


Sep. 6th, 2008 12:00 pm (UTC)
That sounds like so much fun! One of these days I'd love to go to a convention. To lose myself for a few days sounds like heaven. I bet you learned quite a bit, and those seminars sounded so interesting.