How to Survive a World SF Con

Rowena Cory Daniells is the author of Solaris Books' King Rolen's Kin fantasy series, which began with The King's Bastard, then The Uncrowned King, and the final book in the trilogy, The Usurper, has just been released.
On the 2nd to the 6th of September this year Rowena attended the World SF Con, and agreed to write us this Con report...

In early September the 68th World SF Con was held in Melbourne, Australia. Guests of Honour were Hugo Award Winning Kim Stanley Robinson, Award Winning Australian Artist Shaun Tan and long time fan Robin Johnson, who I used to know when he had red hair. Also present were lots of wonderful writers and dedicated fans, most of whom had travelled from across Australia and overseas to attend the Con.

Every time I found myself in a lift or in a queue with a stranger I would ask where they had come from and you would be surprised how many people were attending a Con for the first time, let alone a World Con.

Since this Con was in Australia and not the US or the UK the attendance was around 2,500, not large by World Con standards, but huge for a Con in Australia. For anyone thinking of attending a World Con for the first time here are my survival tips:

1. Get a hotel near-by so that you can sneak away when it all gets too much for you. There is no shame in hiding out in your hotel room to curl up in bed with a book. If you’re anything like me you’re used to being alone for many hours each day while you write. Having to be sociable for several days in a row is a real challenge, especially when you keep running into people you only see every 10 years (the last World Con in Australia was 1999) and you can’t remember their names.

2. How to handle the dilemma of the person whose face you recognise, but name you can’t remember. I find it’s best to be up front about this. Apologise for having a mind like a sieve and ask where you know them from. Chance are, they are standing there trying to remember your name. I ran into Melinda Snodgrass in the green room and we both felt we’d met before. Was it the Canada World Con? Was it the Glasgow World Con? Was it the 1999 Australian World Con? No? We finally remembered that we’d been introduced at breakfast!

3. Camera. Don’t be like me and pack a camera, then forget to take it out of your hotel room.

4. Internet addiction. I thought I could go cold turkey for the length of the Con. This was a mistake. I found myself hanging over my friends’ shoulders as they checked their Facebook. Sad, I know.

5. The Green Room. This is a room for panellists where they can meet up, have a coffee and a sandwich and prepare for panels. It took me 3 days to find the green room and then half an hour to work out how to use the coffee machine, which did everything but tap dance. All I wanted was hot water to make a hot chocolate. Even the person manning (womaning?) the green room had trouble figuring it out.

6. Wear comfortable shoes. These Cons get held at huge convention centres often over several levels. At the Glasgow World Con there were different sections down long tunnels and I seem to remember setting off to go to a panel and never reaching it, but I did wander into another panel that turned out to be really interesting.

7. Following on from that, be flexible. It’s the panels you see by accident and people you meet by chance who enrich your Con experience.

8. Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t get to all the panels you want to see. There seems to be a rule, that if there are three panels you really want to see on a certain day, those three will all be on at the same time. In fact they will probably be on at the same as you have to be on a panel!

9. So go each day prepared to miss panels. If possible co-opt friends to go to the panels you’re going to miss and ask them (very nicely) to take notes. Offer to do the same for them. (This is where blogs are wonderful. People write up their impression of panels and, if you have organised access to the internet, you can catch up. This way your Con experience becomes multi-layered with other people’s observations).

10. The dealers’ room. I love the dealers’ room, but it took me three days to get to the end of the first aisle because I kept running into people I knew, having a chat, then having to dash off to go see a panel.

11. Eating. You will have to eat and you will certainly run into friends (old and new) who also have to eat. Before the Con starts go on a tour around the near-by streets to find the best coffee shops and restaurants with the most reasonable prices. This will make you extremely popular since there is a rule at Cons that goes like this - the length of time it takes to decide where to eat is directly proportional to the number of people who are trying to make up their minds. If you can suggest a cheap place that makes good food near-by you’ll save everyone from endless discussion.

12. Books. I have a weakness for books, maybe you do, too. I buy far too many. This time I was lucky enough to have a pair of boots and a pair of shoes break while I was at World Con. This necessitated buying a new pair of boots to wear (at a discount, very nice thank you). The throwing out of the old shoes and boots meant more room in my suitcase for books. It is also possible to post books back to yourself if you exceed your baggage weight limit.

This is my World Con Survival Guide and I’m sure other people have different suggestions so do your homework and be prepared.

What are your best memories from Cons?

-Rowena Cory Daniells

Nightmare Ball Participants Photographed by Cat Sparks

Peter Watts has a close encounter with Cthulu photographed by Cat Sparks



John J. said...

"Wear comfortable shoes."

Cannot agree enough. That time I wore my glittery red kitten heels to the Montreal World Con I was in so much pain!

David Moore said...

Throwing a much-loved icon of the comics industry out of my chalet, 'coz: it was past 2am; he was hammered and passed out; he had just poured a quarter of a bottle of my vodka into a glass (immediately prior to passing out); and frankly my room-mate and I both wanted to get some sleep.

Some random bloke who'd turned up to the con without arranging accommodation for himself came to the rescue and fireman's-carried the poor bugger back to his room (Al and I were frankly going to just chuck the drunken sot out into the February night). So we gave him a sofa to sleep on in repayment.

Good times.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

John J,

I think I have a pair of red glittery kitten heels just like yours!

Rowena Cory Daniells said...


I won't ask which much loved icon.

And I have sworn never to repeat the stories I hear!