Sunday, 2 September 2012

Day 4: In which Worldcon gets old

We had intended today to be a Con Day. After breakfast, we had a wander round the art show, which was nice. The obsession this year seems to be dragons and cats (combined, I mean), of which we both thoroughly approved. There were purchases made, and we both bemoaned the fact that we couldn't buy some of the gorgeous space artwork, because a) they're massive and we already have two suitcases each, and b) they're (justifiably) extremely expensive, and we're going to be very poor indeed after this trip.

I had a panel at 11am, on "The Wonders of Space" as part of the kids' programme. From doing lots of outreach in schools I thought I had a reasonable understanding of what 5-10 year-olds know about science, but it turns out I completely - as in order-of-magnitude - underestimated the effect of their being fandom kids. I'm not exaggerating when I say that small children were coming out with A-Level physics. Terrifying and awesome.

The kids really are getting the best programme at this con. Immediately before my item, they were making mutant animals from cannibalised soft toys. This one's name is Stuffy (the head is Eeyore):

After the panel I investigated the con suite, but for some reason there was no tea (herbal doesn't count), which as a Brit is a true tragedy. I normally bring my own tea when travelling to act as an emergency Lipton-repellant, and I'm severely regretting the oversight this time. Fair warning, this blog may well turn into a withdrawal diary before long.

This afternoon, we went to a panel on science fiction and fantasy in musicals, which seemed like it would be awesome, since SF&F and musical theatre are my two favourite things. In fact, it was one of the worst con panels I've ever been to. The panellists were only interested in discussing obscure, regional productions that most of the audience wouldn't have known (and by "discussing" I really mean "listing" with a passing comment at best). Anything commercially successful was dismissed in a depressingly elitist way - including several instances of ridiculing and even being downright vindictive about musicals the panellists admitted to never even having seen! Considering they talked for over an hour about predominantly fantasy-based musicals (there aren't that many SF), LotR wasn't mentioned at all (none of the panel even seemed to be aware of its existence, perhaps because it never played in the US, although it did originate just over the lake in Canada), Disney was dismissed outright, and Wicked was written off as irrelevant because "its audience is teenage girls." 

Stuff like this happens at every convention, and there is a limit to what concoms can do about it: at the end of the day, panellists are volunteering their time and you have to make use of amateur enthusiasts or the programme would be half the size, but it's still annoying when it does happen.

Balancing out that tedium, there was a really good panel on manned space stations, which was a joint thing with DragonCon conducted by video conference. The panellists were both knowledgeable and engaging, and that makes all the difference. And since we both have a few friends who are at DragonCon this weekend, it was nice to see a small bit of that con.

This afternoon, I went for a walk and stumbled across Grant Park:

And a short distance away I came across this giant red pterodactyl drinking from the pavement:

No idea why it's there. Perhaps it doesn't know there's a tasty lake a few blocks away? Or perhaps it just likes pavement: I'm not judging.

It was starting to rain so I headed back to the hotel bar to wait for Fi, which in hindsight was a Bad Move. My tolerance for misogyny in fandom has been wearing thin since SMOFcon, and this evening it snapped. As a result, we're blowing off the con tomorrow to do all the remaining touristy stuff in Chicago, and then we've brought our car rental forward so that we can hit the road a day early on Monday. Can't wait!


  1. Oh no! I'm sorry to hear that! I really wanted to make it to Worldcon, but I couldn't scrape together the funding this year (which I realize sounds like a copout considering you made it to Chicago from England and I couldn't even make it from two states over, but it was true, nevertheless). But I'm happy you're having a nice trek along Route 66! I'm bummed that Worldcon wasn't as good as it should be, but should you ever find yourself in or near Pittsburgh on your travels, do look me up! I would be happy to show you around, and I promise a somewhat better time than smelly hipsters poo-poohing legit musical theatre. ^_^!

  2. Haven't heard any good reports of the con Yet which is a shame. On the other hand loving your blog and looking forward to the next stage. Great pterodactyl btw !

  3. I think I would have enjoyed your panel on the Wonders of Space, though it sounds like the kids would have been far more knowledgeable than me! :) It's great that they've got so many things on for the kids - I can imagine a con that size, there must be a lot of them there.

    I saw you tweeting your frustrations about the SF & F Musicals panel - it's a real shame they didn't do more research into the subject before hosting it, and having such a narrow view of the genre, too. I'm with you in not understanding why musicals that appeal to a teenage audience are somehow not legitimate, and I can totally understand your frustration at panelists' attitudes.

    The panel on manned space stations also sounds interesting and what a brilliant idea to hook up with another con! I know someone at DragonCon who's been posting loads of photos daily on his Facebook page and it looks a lot of fun. I did wonder why two such big cons clashed on their dates - I'd imagine there are people at both who found it hard to choose one over the other.

    It's a shame you're leaving early, but I suppose if you're not enjoying it and your panel obligations have now been met, it makes sense. I'm looking forward to reading your blog on the road.

    Before you leave Chicago, I found some information on British Import Shops in the mid-west and this article on where to get British food in Chicago. I was thinking that you might be able to get your teabags there...