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Worldcon 76: San Jose 2018

What did we get up to at Worldcon 76? BEHOLD THIS MOST EXCELLENT REPORT

We went to Worldcon and had a great time!

So we flew out to Worldcon on the Thursday morning of the convention. Our flight was supposed to leave Gatwick at 10:20, but we eventually landed in Oakland airport at around 3 or 4pm because our flight was delayed. Because we were doing a masquerade thing with Mette and Bryan, Mette picked us up from the airport and drove us back to hers, where we tried on our [redacted] and discussed our costumes for the Masquerade (still very hush-hush, at this stage), while saying hi to Bryan. Bryan was quite a way off from having his costume finished but was working eagerly on it, and Mette had basically sewn hers entirely, and had finished it on schedule. España had bought me trousers for my costume in the UK, but I needed to borrow Bryan’s boots and belt buckle, and I needed a tan T-shirt (as España had forgotten one that we’d planned to bring) and a snap-fit belt.

We eventually made it to Worldcon 76 just before registration closed, and made it to our badges and checked into our hotel, collecting a JP and a Warren on our way through the process. We headed to a nearby eatery called Café Stritch to grab a burger and some soda — the service was pretty awful but the food was alright. We ate before heading back over to the convention centre. The first job was to go through the routine for the masquerade to hit the parties. I left España to freshen up in the hotel while I headed over to the parties, which were honestly pretty anaemic on the first night — I think I went to a Japanese party of some description as well as heading to a party that was serving a lot of different types of rum (I don’t remember who ran it, but it was good!). Then España headed to the dance and I socialised some more before we rendezvoused in order to hit the hay.

On the Friday we went to get breakfast at a likely-looking local place called Peanuts, which turned out to do excellent and very cheap omelettes, before we headed back to the convention. One of the first orders of business upon returning to the convention (after purchasing a belt) was to meet up with Bryan and Mette and Warren in order to do the tech rehearsal of our masquerade entry, [redacted]. I think this was also the day that Nessa very kindly gave me a tan T-shirt she’d been able to procure, which was super useful and meant I didn’t have to go searching for that. At 3pm we went to do Loteria with John Picacio presenting, and that was super good fun, and at 6pm I went to a panel called ‘Not Hugo-nominated novels you should read’, which I was looking forward to but which was much more stream-of-consciousness than I expected (which is probably mostly on me) and also featured two excellent and interesting women accompanied by two dull and boring men (which is probably mostly on the patriarchy).

The art show reception was at 7pm, and España and I went to that, meeting a friend of hers in the process and getting to see some of the art that we hadn’t had a chance to see yet and discussing it with various people who were bumbling around. I know we went to the art show earlier in the day than the reception, but I cannot remember for the life of me when we did that. The art show wasn’t as good as the art show at Loncon 3 (this appears to be a theme), but was pretty funky. I saw a couple of bits that tempted me, but I didn’t feel the need to bid on anything in the end. I also feel pretty sure that at some point on the Friday I ate a donut, and fortunately there is photographic evidence of that occurring, so I’m not just going mad.

We went to get food at the relatively nearby Uproar Brewing Company — the service was pretty awful but the food was good. The beer was also very good, so that was a huge plus. We went with Tobes, Dave O’Neill, Chris and Nessa, JP, Richard Stephenson, and bumped into Warren Buff and Chris Hensley while we were there. This was mostly fabulous, and afterwards we headed over to the parties. Leigh Ann took us to Lance’s party and we had a drink and said hi before we went to the Belter party, bumping into Gwendolyn and Kris on the way over. We settled on the Belter party for pretty much the rest of the night and talked with many excellent people, including but not limited to Tobes; Dave O’Neill; Mette (in her Captain Scarlet cosplay); Jade and Erik; Bill Howard; Leigh Ann and Leo; Kris and Gwendolyn; Jenn Johansson and Nichole Giles and other Utah spice girls that I met in Reno and haven’t seen in ages; and others (some of those may have been at parties before the Belter, but all of them blur together in my mind…).

We headed to Peanuts again on the Saturday, which was Masquerade day. España and I went to Peanuts again for breakfast, and it was much busier owing to it being the weekend and all. We went around the dealers’ room after getting back to the convention centre, which was super fun — I bumped into Jeannette Ng and her partner Dom, and I think I met Jade Falcon, and generally had a pretty good time just meandering, looking at stuff and bumping into people! I missed Dave O’Neill’s birthday drinks in favour of having lunch with Bryan and Mette in one of the hotel’s bars and then heading up to their hotel room to start to get ready in Mette and Bryan’s room, but they let me escape briefly to go to the start of the panel featuring Mur Lafferty, Lou Anders, Jennifer Haddle, and Alexander Freed (who wasn’t listed on the programme but turned up anyway!). It was really cool to listen to stories of the publishing — I should have taken notes, but as it is I just let the awesome wash over me. One part I do remember was being surprised that Mur didn’t get to see Solo before submitting the novelisation she wrote, having to go to the cinema instead shortly before the deadline (which was just after the film got its theatrical release). The discussion of the difficulty of working out how lines would be delivered, and whether potentially funny lines would be delivered comedically or straight, was something I’d never really thought about, and I guess speaks a lot to the impact that a director can have on a script they’re shooting.

An Aqualish wearing a bright orange jacket and beige T-shirt.
Me portraying Ponda Baba, the Aqualish. Head by Mette Hedin.

The next order of the day was the masquerade, at which we were going on as ‘A Wretched Hive of Scum and Villainy’. I was Ponda Baba, España was a Modal Node (the cantina band), Bryan was two Jawas standing atop one another, and Mette was Greedo. Mette had been making the heads for a long time before we arrived in the USA and they were so fantastic in the photos, but even more so in real life — it was so eerie to see people wearing their silicone! España had made my jacket, and I had procured everything else from shops (as described above). España had also made her own jacket, and was wearing that with grey trousers and black boots. Bryan did (semi-miraculously) get his costume finished before the deadline, and it looked really good, so that was actually excellent.

I headed up to Bryan and Mette’s room and then back down to the green room to wait to go on. This was pretty interesting, as I’ve never done a masquerade before. The first thing we did was get judged by the workmanship judges, who judged the sewing of Mette and Bryan’s costumes and the heads and hands that Mette had made. Next was having photographs taken in the costumes (all taken by Olav Rokne, like the featured image at the top of this report) — the visibility in my head was fairly poor, as was the ability to hear, so there was a lot of shouting and being repositioned manually at this stage of the day. It’s not so much the eyes that are the problem — although they do limit your peripheral vision and feel a little like you’re wearing sunglasses, they’re not that bad — but it’s the fogging up that occurs once you’ve been sweating and breathing within the mask. Bryan and Mette had fit little fans to the insides of some of the masks, so the air flow wasn’t too bad once you had the head on, but the fogging up was still a huge issue.

Once the judging and the photo call was over, we ate some of the finger food, watched the stream of the masquerade coming from the main hall via the handily placed screens in the green room, and waited for our turn. It wasn’t long in coming, and we eventually got onto stage to a huge reaction — it was great! I’m hoping there’ll eventually be a video of the masquerade so I can watch the bits I missed and see our performance from the perspective of the audience. We waited backstage for what felt like aeons to get to the prize giving, and we won prizes based on Mette’s masks in both presentation and workmanship — so España and I have two rosettes each on our bookshelves as I write this.

We went back to Bryan and Mette’s hotel room to have a glass or two of wine before heading down to the parties. I don’t recall exactly what route we took through the party floors, but I do remember that we ended up back in the Belter party again, and that was super fun.

Peanuts was shut on Sunday morning so we ended up going to Peggy Sue’s diner, close to the convention centre, with JP. It was pretty good but it wasn’t as good as the breakfasts at Peanuts, and so we didn’t return to that place again. We did go to the fan fund auction briefly on the Sunday and spent some time there before realising we probably weren’t going to buy anything, and leaving again — American fan fund auctions seem to have a very different demographic and theory to British (European?) ones, and I’ve never been as enamoured. We were going to spend time in our Masquerade costumes to pose near the Han Solo in carbonite on the convention floor, and also to show people the costumes in closer detail. We got lots of attention and people took many photographs, and then the requisite photographs with Han in carbonite, and then eventually wandered back upstairs to shower, get changed, and get ready for the Hugo Awards. I queued to sign up for the Kaffeeklatsch with Mur Lafferty at this stage and most of the people in the queue were also doing that, so I was glad I got there pretty early!

We got dinner with Jean and Erik at a local Mexican restaurant, Mezcal, being very careful not to get crap on our clothes as a part of this process. It was delicious, and it was super great to hang out with Jean and Erik, both of whom are very excellent people! We saved them seats at the Hugo ceremony itself, which we also attended with Warren Frey. I was generally very happy with the winners — I enjoyed Six Wakes much more than the conclusion to the Broken Earth trilogy, which I thought was by far the weakest of the three novels, so I was a little sad that that didn’t win, and I was also a bit sad that Escape Pod didn’t win in the semiprozine category.

The aftermath of the Hugo Awards was the Hugo Losers Party, which we had managed to get an invitation to (thanks to Alissa and James). The party was located in a place about five minutes from the convention itself, and it was really good — there were many bars dotted about (as opposed to Helsinki, which while a great bar, had only one bar) and also giant dancing robots which were pretty damn cool. Jenn, Nichole and others from their gang were in attendance, as was Tobes, and Alissa, and Warren and Erika and Steven, and probably many people I am forgetting. Warren introduced me to Dan Moren, who I’ve been hearing on podcasts forever, so that was super neat and we nerded out about Taskmaster, I got to chat with Jeannette Ng and Dom for a little bit and that was really nice, and I also got to see Fia properly for the first time in the trip and chatted with her a lot, which was really lovely. All in all, this was probably my favourite night of the convention!

The Monday morning we were a little the worse for wear, and we got our shit together and headed to Peanuts for breakfast (for the third time) with JP. I switched things up by not having an omelette (as I had for the first two days), but getting a hamburger patty and hash browns instead. I did not regret my choice!

Getting back to the convention centre, España and I checked out of the hotel and left our bags with the concierge before I went to meet Jeannette and Dom to chat and have coffee (much needed!). It was lovely to properly sit and chat and we had gotten onto the subject of the different approaches of Marvel and Lucasfilm to taking the best parts of their pre-existing canons (comics for Marvel and the old Expanded Universe for Lucasfilm) and putting them into new stories in the future.

But, I reluctantly tore myself away to go to Mur Lafferty’s kaffeeklatsch, which was really, really interesting. She spoke about the Solo novelisation she’d worked on and shared anecdotes and experiences both from that, and also from the short stories she’s written in the Star Wars universe. She spoke about her name, and Six Wakes, and the Shambling Guide series, and many, many other things. It was really interesting and I was glad I went, as it was my first Kaffeeklatsch — I’ve always been a little worried that they would feel strange/creepy, but it actually felt more like a very quiet Q&A session with dedicated fans who had really interesting questions, and that was nice. I’d definitely do another one!

A group of happy sleepy people slightly blurry as a selfie. We are outside.
A group of us going to get dinner on the last night of the convention.

After that I hung out with Jason Schachat and Melissa Lopez and JP for a while, but Jason and Melissa eventually headed back to LA (us wishing them well on their upcoming nuptials!) before sleepily wandering over and hanging with Sarah Goldberg and Warren Frey and España and Bryan and Mette and meeting Juan Sanmiguel and Nancy Alegria and (possibly) others. I can’t remember everyone who was there, but I did walk a bit with Crystal and talked with her, and we eventually all decamped to a local Mexican place called Chacho’s, which I enjoyed greatly. I think the people present were me, España, Warren, Mette, Bryan, Nancy, Juan and Sarah but I don’t recall who else was present (maybe that’s the full list, although it seems unlikely).

On the Monday night we were helping at the Past Chairs’ Party, in exchange for crashing in the suite after the party concluded. Alissa and Chuck Serface were also helping out, and James Bacon and Kevin Roche and Dave McCarty and Kevin Standlee and various other luminaries of the situation were there, and once we’d stopped guarding the door things went super well. We cheerfully took advantage of the lovely Game of Thrones beers (which I checked into on Untappd) and also the giant tub of M&M’s before we crashed for the night and went to sleep.

The next morning, we went swimming in the hotel’s outdoor pool, so naturally the weather decided not to be warm/sunny/forget-me-not blue for the first time that week. We still got some good swimming in though, because we’re pro (and España did note that I currently have way, way more stamina than her — clearly going to the gym almost every day is having benefits!). After that, we took Alissa to Peanuts for our fourth and last visit before heading over to 1 Infinite Loop and Apple Park to take photos, get T-shirts and nerd the hell out. That was super fun, and I’m glad we did it. We eventually waved goodbye to Alissa from the Fairmont as she headed to the airport before we went up to the city to rendezvous with España’s brother and sister, at which point our trip transitioned from convention report to holiday.

At this stage, I will leave the story here. Look up the rest of the holiday on my Dreamwidth if you’d like to find out what else we got up to, but for now, I’m going to go outside and enjoy the good weather!