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The Engineer

The Life and Times of Donald F. Simmons

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Took the train to Montreal with my brother for the first time, which is a fine way to travel. More legroom than the bus, the station was a 10 minute walk from our hotel, and you could get some (overpriced) snacks on the way.

We stayed at the Travelodge, which was only a short walk from the convention center. While the room was on the spartan side (slept in a single bed for maybe the first time since I was a kid, kept finding myself on the very edge of it) the WiFi was free (which was apparently not the case at the other hotels) and the free "continental" breakfast consisted of cereal, coffee, juice, cold hard boiled eggs, croissants, and bagels, which was a fine start to the day.

I liked the layout of the Palais des congres (the convention center), and not just because there was a Tim Horton's on the first level. The con was divided between Levels 200 and 500, which actually isn't a problem as they are directly connected by escalators. Levels 300 and 400 are apparently for business meetings. Level 200 was reg and a large exhibit hall with the Dealer's Room, Art Show, Autographs, and various exhibits related to Worldcon (such as David Hartwell's ties).

Dealer's Room was a little disappointing as there weren't a lot of dealers, and I recognized several from Polaris or other local cons (not much variety). I suppose a lot of the American dealers just didn't bother to cross the border, especially with the dollar so high. Art show was of quite high quality. David Hartwell's ties didn't do much for me. :-)

Level 500 was many function rooms, and one hugh Main Room (nice set-up, wish we could get it for Anime North). Only problem was the puzzling small size of the washrooms on this level. As a guy I'm not really used to lining up to go, but I had to do that several times. Odder still was on an exploration down on Level 400, I found an immense washroom several only a couple of small boardrooms. Don't know what that was about.

Panels were generally of very high quality. I ended up going to a whole batch on various aspects of Medieval European History as the people they had talking about it were just so smart and engaging. A welcome surprise was the presence of Nobel-Prize-Winning economist Paul Krugman, who was there as guest of honor Charlie Stross was his favourite author. They did an conversation together one evening which was just fascinating (I think they are going to podcast it) and Krugman on his own was great too (talking about how he wanted to be a psychohistorian after reading Asimov's Foundation and decided that an economist was the closest he could get).

Gaiman was great of course, I skipped his reading in favour of his talks and interviews. At the George R. R. Martin reading I decided against throwing orange peels at him while yelling "Where's the damn book George?" as being counter-productive (although as it was literally the last event at the con I wouldn't have missed anything when they threw me out). The book (next in the Song of Ice and Fire series) will probably be out sometime next year, only three-odd years late.

Masquerade was short, only 25 entries, but all of very high quality. I do like Julie Czernada, but she was doing "coy" all throughout her stint as Master of Ceremonies, and I don't react well to that. Hugo's were fun, with the best joke going to Lloyd and Yvonne Penney, who were presenting ... crap can't remember, one of the fan Hugo's. They had been doing the ceremony in English and French, and Lloyd started in English, and Yvonne followed up in Spanish. It was all in the presentation.

Lots of room parties in the Delta, which overwhelmed the hotel Friday night. There was a serious bottleneck at the elevators, and the hotel had to put operators in a few of them to run as express to the party floors. The Chi-Zine Press party run by kelpqueen and jack_yoniga went really well for them (which was great as I gather they had a whole bunch of problems with the con and hotel in getting it set up).

I love the at-the-con newsletter they have at Worldcons, and wish I could find people to do that at Anime North. I made sure to get all the issues. According to it the con had about 3500 warm bodies, which felt about right.

On the down side, the "pocket program", which was an 8.5 by 11 book, wasn't well laid out (the Kids programming was almost indistinguishable from the rest of the panels, which tripped me and a lot of other people up), and the number of corrections that it needed ran into several pages you had to pick up at the programming desk. A programming grid was a separate handout, and as there were problems printing it up it wasn't handed out, you had to go to the programming desk and ask for one, if they had one available. I never managed to get one. I know that several of my friends who were doing panels have some serious bones to pick the con over several issues.

Non-paneling Non-Hugo events seemed to be around as afterthoughts. The Anime and Video rooms were scarcely mentioned at all in the printed information, and schedules had to be picked up at the programming desk (which lacked what rooms they were in). Apparently after they had Gaiman introduce the film of Coraline it was an hour before they started the showing due to Blu-Ray DVD problems. The number of hall costumes I saw due all five days was in low two digits, which really surprised me.

And honestly, the answer to a lot of the questions at the feedback sessions consisted of shrugs and "Well, Worldcons are hard to run", which isn't a very acceptable answer in my book.

All in all I had fun, learned stuff, saw some people I haven't in a while, and am glad I went.

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Charles Stross / Paul Krugman talk

On Charles Stross' blog (http://www.accelerando.org), you'll find both a podcast of his talk with Paul Krugman and a transcript.

I should hope the Plokta cabal do a good newsletter! They already have several Hugos under their belts for best fanzine from past years.

One of the biggest downsides to running Worldcons (in my limited observation of them), is the problems of having mostly new teams every year. With Anime North, you have high staff retention and most people can learn their jobs thanks to continuity. It helps too using mostly the same venues.

Good to read your report. I've been reading everyone else's avidly too.

Do you have any contact info for these Plokta people? (Contact me privately if you do). Like I said, I'd love to do something like this at AN, and if they could provide a sort of "How To" guide that would be a big help in setting it up.

I've emailed them about it with your email address and mine and will pass on anything if they don't contact you directly.

Thanks, I really appreciate it!

It looks like they're still on the road, so it may be some days yet before I hear back.


owlfish - I'm not sure who you emailed, but I didn't see it!

theengineer - hiya! A word of warning (which I was scrolling down to leave when I saw this exchange) is that this was not a typical Worldcon newsletter. Particularly, it wasn't like the newsletters that US Worldcons tend to have. The Plokta Cabal is much funnier, and much more inclined to edit, so we Make Better Newsletter (ifIdosaysomyself).

That said, if you have any questions then feel free!

Edited at 2009-08-18 08:14 pm (UTC)

I've got a bunch of questions, and would rather ask them on regular email then on a replay thread here (much easier to keep track of that way). Can I email you using your LJ email?

I did not know we had a grid until someone told me it was wrong, sigh.

I know that several of my friends who were doing panels have some serious bones to pick the con over several issues.

Which bones?

The anime room had a schedule posted and ran steady all weekend.

There were video rooms at both the Delta and the Palais although the former was also used for panels.

The anime room had a schedule posted and ran steady all weekend.

I'm sure you're right, but I had problems finding the schedule, and it was still scarcely mentioned in the Program Guide.

There were video rooms at both the Delta and the Palais although the former was also used for panels.

I had absolutely no idea there was a video room at the Delta. Where was that schedule?


I only found out that videos were running in the Delta when I went to the Auroras business meeting and found that there was a movie running in the room we were supposed to be meeting in, LOL.


Newsletter did get sent the schedule, but it was so long that it would have been a big chunk of our space. We did tell the anime people that they should send it to programme ops for the Pink Sheets (although I confess to not having seen a Pink Sheet all weekend, as I was trapped in the dungeon), and put a note in a newsletter to say it was there, but I'm not sure how widely it was circulated other than that.


I love the at-the-con newsletter they have at Worldcons, and wish I could find people to do that at Anime North.

You know, that's something I might be interested in doing...


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