Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Chicon7 Con Report

Chicon7 was the World Science Fiction Convention for 2012 held the old traditional time of Labor Day weekend.

Here is a picture of my badge:

The cap is for the N3F, the National Fantasy Fan Federation, the first fan organization I ever joined.  It was founded by the founder of SFWA (Science Fiction And Fantasy Writers of America), damon knight.  that's correct - he always wrote his name with small letters, not capitals.  I'm now a Life Member of SFWA, too but don't have a cap. 

Note, I didn't collect a whole strip of ribbons as many people do (volunteer workers get ribbons, and various parties and causes hand out ribbons).   Here is Anne Pinzow's badge with a short-strip of ribbons - neat ones though.  Note the black one and the yellow one.

At each Worldcon, winners of sites for future conventions are announced. 

You can find the current worldcon's website by checking http://worldcon.org -- the only con website I seem to remember easily. 

2013 will be in San Antonio, TX; 2014 in London.

When Worldcon is not in North America, another convention is held called NASFIC - North American Science Fiction Convention. 

http://nasfic.org/ is the website listing links to the current NasFic when there is one -- though it often takes a while for that site to be updated. 

You can buy memberships online using credit cards and sometimes paypal at the convention's own website.  Travel, Hotel, and local eateries, handicap access, and convention program and volunteer (nobody gets paid to run these Events) opportunities are gradually filled in on the website, along with pdf copies of the progress reports from the committee. 

In 2014 NasFic will be in Tempe, Arizona, a suburb of Phoenix reached via the main Phoenix airport PHX, Sky Harbor. 

This will be run by the organization that runs Leprecon and boy do they put on a great convention!
I plan to make it to this NasFic, and my writing partner, Jean Lorrah, is looking to make it to London. 

Worldcon is longer than most SF cons - 5 days instead of 3 or 4.  It has its own traditional internal calendar -- Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday "of Worldcon" -- whatever the calendar dates, those are the designations of "when" something happens.  There are also traditional time-slots for certain Events -- such as the Masquerade where costumes are presented on stage, and The Hugos, where a number of writing awards voted by members of Worldcon are announced and given out.

So, I arrived at Chicon7 late on Wednesday, rooming with my writing partner Jean Lorrah and with Anne Pinzow who is a professional journalist and was second in charge of the Press Room for Chicon7. 

I was on an adventure from the start of this trip as I had upgraded to a smartphone and was delighted with the various tools I now had available to deal with travel details and communicate with the people I needed to meet.

I knew it would be a great convention immediately when the bunch of us swarmed down to Con Registration and found a line waiting to get credentials.  PEOPLE is a real good sign for a con.

The Program Participant line was empty, though, and the fellow sitting there mournfully revealed that the "packets" for Program Participants hadn't arrived.  "Packets" are envelopes with your final official program items, a sticker for the back of your badge containing said program items, a program participant ribbon, instructions for panel moderators, general instructions about the Green Room, Program Operations Room, sometimes these days phone numbers and other data.  Conventions that hold successful "meet-n-greet" events for pros and fans usually include free drink tickets for the pros.  ChiCon7 didn't, and I think it's Chicago's "corkage" and union fees that jacked the price up beyond what a convention can afford.  They did hold a meet-n-greet at a nearby planetarium, but very few pros turned up.  It was at dinner time, and there was no real food served.

But as we milled about disappointed we couldn't get our program participant packets, someone called "Jacqueline!" from the L-Z section of the general Registration line, and suddenly the bunch of us were being handed our badges, lanyards to wear the badges, and a bag with pocket program, general program book, and we were off and running.

We now had hotel maps, our tentative program mail-outs from before the con had room names, so we went and hunted up the various places we'd need to be then found food and tucked in for the night.

We hit the ground running Thursday morning, but I don't remember what we did, just that I was already getting hoarse from talking constantly by the afternoon.  I think Jean Lorrah did a panel -- I recall the substance of the discussion but not exactly when it was.  Jean was brilliant.  I only had to remind her to mention the Star Trek novels she had done for Pocket appropos of the topic of collaborating.  TV Spinoff is "collaborating" because you must work within parameters set by others.

Then in the afternoon, Jean and I sat at the SFWA table in the dealer's room where I took this picture for the fellow sitting beside us who pointed and wished he had a picture.
A Helium Balloon in the Dealer's RoomDealer's Room

The convention provided a wi-fi connection via the Hyatt Regency's own system for "functions" -- and it was not sufficient and not available in many locations.  The Hyatt is two tall towers set over 3 deep underground layers of huge flex-spaces where trade shows are held.  And there's underground access to tunnels lined with shops and eateries, though some restaurants and grocery stores I recall from past years are gone.  Those lower areas had very spotty coverage.  The lobby and ground level areas had fine 3G coverage, but the wi-fi was slow -- so I was delighted my new smartphone gave me email, texts, voice phone, flight updates, weather, everything I needed to whiz through the immense convention area.

I was able to take that photo of the helium balloon above and just email it (using 3G) to the fellow who wanted it, and later to post it directly to Facebook for the Sime~Gen Group folks to get a laugh out of.

Also in scoping out the lay of the land, I realized I'd never remember all the businesses in the underground to tell my roommates about, so I photographed the list and the map which were posted on the wall by the entrance.

   That is a list of businesses which I was able to enlarge on my phone to the point where people I showed the phone screen to could read the words clearly.

Is a map of this huge area.

Mostly, I walked and talked on Thursday.  Jean had a reading at 4PM which I missed, and she read the opening of a new Sime~Gen novel she's working on.  I got to read it later -- it's going to be good! 

Friday was even busier.  Jean had a 10:30 panel, and I arrived at the noon panel I was moderating on time.  The topic was how we haven't gotten the flying cars and personal jet-packs Science Fiction promised us, but instead we got Cell Phones -- smartphones and the internet.  We had a nice spectrum of opinion on the panel, including the point of view that we have indeed gotten jet packs and flying cars, but they haven't been commercialized (yet). 

Right in the middle of the second round of comments from the panelists about how cell phones are changing the way we behave and accomplish things -- with people in the audience already putting their hands up with questions and comments -- my cell phone rang.  I'd forgotten to turn it off.  The room chuckled. 

I grabbed it, saw it was Anne Pinzow who was working the press room (a reveal my old phone would not have performed), answered with, "Not now I'm moderating a panel. Bye." and hung up. 

I shrugged a "Q.E.D." shrug at the audience.  The room burst out laughing. 

It was a precious moment, but I was thinking, "Press Room Calling Me????"   Jean and I had put our names on the list of authors available for media interviews, but Anne being professional wasn't about to promote us over anyone else.  We already had one web radio interview lined up for Sunday morning - more on that later.  An interview would reach more people than were in that overstuffed, standing room only, crowded room.  But there was no time to think about that.

Anne called Jean Lorrah - who was in the audience and went out to answer.

I continued with the panel topic, which was intimately related to my big news of the convention -- that we had a Game Producer interested in producing a Sime~Gen based RPG for handhelds such as cell phones and pads.

To get news about that Game, you can sign up for an infrequent newsletter at

Or join the Sime~Gen Group on Facebook.

Or follow the newsletter blog:

It was an excellent panel and I handed out quite a few flyers afterward.

Then I was off to the convention's general autographing area where I was supposed to be from 3-4:30. 

Jean caught up with me and said Anne had a web-radio interview lined up for us at 4PM.  I cut out of the autographing a bit early, and we were a bit late getting all the way up to the Press Room, but got there as the media fellow was going from impatient to disappointed.

We set up in the Press Office because the Interview Room was occupied, and then we found out the topic was the legal aspects of being a writer in this day and age.  We got off to a slow start, but after a couple of questions Jean and I got into our duo-act and talked his ear off about Star Trek fanzines, the changes in the copyright laws, the relationship between Star Trek and Sime~Gen which also has a huge amount of fan fiction written by fans, and much about what a new writer in this new era has to know about contracts and law.

I haven't heard from him, so I don't know if that interview has aired.  I do know he has a lot of material to air since his partner on this webcast was at Dragoncon while he was covering Worldcon. 

I did use my cell phone again, though.  Anne had his card, so instead of writing down and losing his contact information, I photographed his card.  I was able to finger-spread the image big enough to read the print on the card.  I think I'm in love with my smartphone! 

After that, we were pooped, but couldn't fold up for the night yet because at 8PM there was the Sime~Gen Party.

One of the fans known as Kaires arranged the party and did a terrific job of publicizing it.  It went way past the stated mid-night, and the room roared.  Kaires and some of the others greeted people and gave them information about Sime~Gen's most recent (4 novels) publications and the Facebook Group

But I was busy introducing our newest acquaintance, the Game Developer, to various people I thought should be on the development team.  The connections worked, and these guys all hit it off splendidly with each other while observing the fans of the older novels discovering the brand new, never before published, novels -- or asking for more.

And of course many of them know each other and used to party to rendezvous before heading out to more parties.

Because the party ran so late, we got off to a slow start Saturday, and I spent the entire day in the Green Room talking with the Game Developer and the folks I'd introduced him to -- not about the plans for the Sime~Gen Game so much as just about all the science fiction loves we have in common (besides Star Trek that's a whole lot of stuff!)

Sunday started with the web radio interview with PWRTalk which also has video. 

I had arranged for the Game Developer, and the reader of the audiobook HOUSE OF ZEOR, Michael Spence, to join in this interview, and it worked out perfectly as we bounced the conversational ball around.  

I did another panel at 3PM and at 4:30 I had a "Reading" scheduled.  I have listened to many authors read their own work -- mostly with very mixed results unless the author has acting training.  I don't -- and I have a very bad voice, and just don't read aloud well.  So I dragooned Michael Spence into reading the first chapter of House of Zeor which he had recorded.  I was surprised how many people showed up -- for the most part author readings don't draw crowds (again unless the author is known to have stage training) -- and at first they were disappointed I wasn't going to give them another new Sime~Gen novel. 

However, by the time Michael got a couple paragraphs into HOUSE OF ZEOR, they were captivated.  Only a couple had heard the recorded audible.com version.  When Michael reads this book, it's a totally different book than you've read dozens of times to yourself! 

Currently, Michael is working on recording Marion Zimmer Bradley's first novel, SWORD OF ALDONES for audible.com and I can hardly wait for that.  He's done another Bradley title I love BRASS DRAGON too.  Readers of this blog know how I rave about Marion Zimmer Bradley, my writing mentor. 

On audible.com you can listen to samples of the titles before you buy.

After that final reading, we went to find something to eat then back to the room to pack and get ready to pull out the following morning. 

It was a busy convention, but all the while I was thinking that we were putting together the group that will work on the Sime~Gen Game at the same Event (a Chicago Worldcon) where Star Trek made it's debut.  How can you beat that?

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

1 comment:

  1. Cool badges! I'm thrilled that Jean is working on a new SG novel.