Monday, August 28, 2006

Worldcon day five

Sunday, August 27, was the final day of L.A. Con IV, the World Science Fiction Convention in Los Angeles.

I started off with a meeting with Scott Danielson from SFF Audio, then did my autographing, which was well attended, and my reading, which was not (just four people -- the readings venue was hidden off in one of the hotels, instead of the convention center; I hate it when cons do that).

I read "The Eagle Has Landed" from Mike Resnick's DAW anthology I, Alien, and spoke rather passionately about the societal role of science fiction. After that, I ran into actress Karen Black outside, as I was heading from the hotel to the convention center; I remembered her remembered fondly from Capricorn One and other movies; we had a very nice chat -- she's still quite lovely.

Next up was a group photo on a mock-up of the bridge of the Enterprise from the original Star Trek, posing with wax figures of the original crew, with me, Susan Forest, Heather Osborne, and Kirstin Morrell dressed in classic Trek uniforms. Once I get a copy of the photo, I'll post it here. (As it happened, my editor walked by just after I'd put on my gold Enterprise tunic. "That's your new author photo, Rob," I was told.

Dinner was with Analog editor Stan Schmidt and his wife Joyce; very nice. After, Carolyn and I joined the Calgary contingent and headed off to watch the fireworks at Disneyland from a parking lot (Disneyland is only a short walk from the convention center). We then attended a bit of the dead-dog party, ran into Robert Charles Wilson and his wife Sharry over in the Marriott as they returned from Disneyland, and had drinks with them before calling it a day.

All in all, it was a very pleasant Worldcon. But it was small, as these things go; just 4,950 warm bodies on site, from what I heard; that's only 2/3 of what was expected.

My theory: the presence of the 110,000-person San Diego Comics Con -- which has evolved into a general pop-culture media convention with a very large science-fiction component -- just last month in nearby San Diego may have siphoned off a lot of the potential traffic for L.A. Con IV. Or, it may be that World Science Fiction Conventions are generally in decline. Next year's attendance figures in Japan won't tell us anything, because that's such an unusual location for a Worldcon (the Worldcon has only once before been in a country where English isn't the principal language), but the 2008 con in Denver will be a significant test.

Anyway, I had a great time, and did a lot of useful business. And I'm now back home after 20 days on the road, a trip that took me to Calgary for a wedding; to the Googleplex in Mountain View, California; to San Diego for Writers of the Future; and finally to L.A. for the Worldcon. I wish I could say the rest of my year won't be as hectic, but I've got trips to Banff, Denver, Montreal, and two trips to Vancouver coming up ... Still, it's a great life! :)


At August 29, 2006 3:13 AM , Blogger Larry Hodges said...

You mentioned you'd heard there were only 4950 people at the world con. Actually, according to one of the updates, there were 6345 through Friday. There was a note that the final total would be posted on the web site, but it isn't up yet. (And thanks again for introducing me to all those people at the SFWA suite!)
-Larry Hodges

At August 29, 2006 9:19 AM , Anonymous The Guy in DKNY said...

Had you made any decision about dropping by Con*Cept in Montreal? I know you said you were going to be in town close to then.

At August 29, 2006 11:12 AM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

Have faith in the Rob-man, Larry. There may have been 6345 membership numbers issued; that's not the same thing as the number of warm bodies actually on site. There are lots of pre-registered members who were either supporting members (so don't have the right to attend) or attending members who were no-shows. I got the figure I quoted from a very senior member of the concom.

At August 29, 2006 11:14 AM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

Hi, DKNY. Great to see you at Barb and Elisabeth's wedding!

Sadly, I won't be in Montreal for Con*Cept. I will actually be in Calgary the three days of Con*Cept, for an IFWA Write Off, then fly from Calgary to Montreal for three readings at public libraries there:

# Free Public Reading
Fraser-Hickson Library
(reading from Humans and Mindscan)
4855 Kensington Avenue
Montréal, Quebec
Monday, October 16, 2006, at 6:30 p.m.
(Sponsored by the Canada Council for the Arts)

# Free Public Reading
Reginald J.P. Dawson Library
1967 Graham Blvd.
Mount Royal, Quebec
Tuesday, October 17, 2006, at 2:00 p.m.

# Free Public Reading
Jewish Public Library
(reading from Frameshift)
1, carré Cummings Square
(5151 Côte Ste-Catherine)
Montréal, Quebec
Tuesday, October 17, 2006, at 6:30 p.m.
(Sponsored by the Canada Council for the Arts)

At August 29, 2006 12:47 PM , Blogger Lou_Sytsma said...

Can't wait to the picture with you in uniform! Surprised you did not get blue to wear instead of gold!;)

At August 29, 2006 7:31 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...


These aren't absolutely final numbers but the last report I saw was about 6,000 people on site with about 7,000 members.

As to where the Readings were held, it's a matter of available space and room sizes. The *smallest* function room in the convention center holds 135 people. Most readings draw far fewer people. It's bad enough to be in a room that holds 35 and only have 5 or 10 show up. But in a room that holds 135 or more... So the Readings were next door in the Hilton in rooms ranging from 35 to 125, based on our guesses for who would draw how many at what time (not always correct but pretty close from the counts we got).

I'd have prefered to have the Readings in the same building as the rest of the program but the room sizes just didn't work.

Craig Miller
(Vice Chairman and Head of Programming for L.A.con)

At August 29, 2006 8:53 PM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

Hi, Craig. No criticism implied. Your facilities were what the were -- good in some ways, not so good in others (the kaffeeklatch venue was noisy and soulless, although very well run by Alex Von Thorn and his colleagues).

But it's a fact that putting readings in an out-of-the-way place makes the "readings don't attract big crowds" thing into a self-fulfilling prophecy. I often have a packed room at cons for my readings, but the readings weren't hell-and-gone away from the rest of the con (and (I suppose having a reading at noon on Sunday, the last day of the con, didn't help either). But you did a good job, and it was a fun con. So -- thanks! :)

I'm glad to know you had more people on site than it seemed. To my eye, it looked like substantially smaller crowds than the 1996 L.A. Worldcon had in the same venue.

At August 29, 2006 8:55 PM , Blogger John Scalzi said...

Craig, it's not really a matter of the size of the rooms, but simply that they were hella hard to find, and the Hilton's bizarre architecture, which tucked level three between two escalators clearly going other places, didn't help matters.

I had a good turnout for my readings, but that's only because I made sure I gave people directions to the third floor of the Hilton.

Some prominent signage on the second floor would have been nice and probably would have helped people find the readings.

At August 29, 2006 9:14 PM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

The Scalzinator is saying sooth ... :)


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