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The Engineer

The Life and Times of Donald F. Simmons

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Worldcon - Part I

Finally got around to posting about Worldcon. Overall, I enjoyed it a lot. Programming was generally good, got some neat stuff in the Dealer's Room, and had fun at the room parties.

Things got off to a bit of a rocky start on Thursday when I picked up my badge, as I was told that the pocket program had some problems, and everyone should use the daily program schedule you could pick up each morning. Plus the souvenir book wasn't ready yet and probably wouldn't be till Sunday. Since I had an article in it about Anime North, and this would be bad in general to everyone who had an ad in it, this didn't look very well organized.

However, all the panels I was interested in happened in the time and place the original schedule said they would (although some people I know didn't have the same luck), and the souvenir book was available the next day, so aside from that I can't say I saw any organizational problem which don't happen at any Worldcon. I hear things may have been chaotic behind the scenes, but that happens at Anime North as well.

On the first couple of days I spent some shifts at the Friends of the Merril Collection table, promoting the group and selling our merchandise. The fan tables, Art Room, and Dealer's Room were all on the same level of the convention center, separated by curtain walls. We'd just gotten our new banner (thanks to the Printing House for the rush job), and we didn't make out too badly over the course of the con. We'd gotten enough volunteers to man the table for the whole con, and we sold several new memberships, and a box each of the t-shirts and mugs. As the table didn't cost us anything, we made out well. Unfortunately, we were in a low-traffic area, behind the Worldcon history displays. I would have re-arranged the set-up on the display floor so that everyone would have had to go pass the fan tables to reach the Dealer's Room, but that's just me.

The Dealer's Room was smaller than I hoped, as very few American dealers bothered to come up (combination of border-crossing problems and lingering SARS worries from what I hear) but there were a lot of book dealers there, which you don't often see in Dealer's Rooms anymore I'm sorry to say. I went for quality over quantity this year, with a hardcover collection of Hal Clement short stories, the fantastic Spaceship Handbook, fictional, factual, and fantastic spacecraft designs of the 20th century, and an anime DVD box set of the first 26 episode of City Hunter, a fun action comedy series.

The activities at the Worldcon were divided between the Convention Center and the Royal York (Fairmont) hotel, with most of the evening and late night activities at the Royal York, along with all the room parties. Opening Ceremonies took place at a standing reception, which was a little unusual, but they kept things moving at a brisk pace. Spider Robinson was the Toastmaster, and while I've never liked his books or stories (they're a little too "folksy" for my tastes) he's a wonderful speaker and Master of Ceremonies. George R. R. Martin was the author Guest of Honor, and I'm a huge fan of the fantasy sequence he's currently writing, The Song of Ice and Fire. Book 4 is over a year late now, so I was looking forward to hearing him do some readings from it. Frank Kelly Freas, the great artist, unfortunately broke his hip a few weeks before the con and of course couldn't make it, but he was well represented in the Art Room, and everyone was asked to write something his a guest book set out that would be sent to him at the end of the con. And Robert Bloch, the Guest of Honor at the last Toronto Worldcon in 73 made an appearance as the GHost of Honor (they had someone playing him).

Best panel on the first day was Robots Learn to Shoot: The Use of Robots in a Military Role. They had three engineers working in the field discussing current drones in use by the US military, and what's currently coming off the drawing boards. Donald Rumsfeld is really into techo-war, and he has a lot of things on his wish-list that are being worked on.