Saturday, September 15, 2012

Chicon 7 -- The World Science Fiction Convention

In April, I wrote about my experience attending the RT convention as a fan, where I felt like cattle being shuffled from one line to the next.  Over Labor Day, I attended Chicon 7, the World Science Fiction Convention.  This is the convention at which the Hugo Award ceremonies are held.  They’re the highest honors in science fiction, given to the best in literature, drama and fandom (i.e., fan-fic, fanzines, etc.).  There were over five thousand people there, and yes—in some instances there were lines—for food, guest of honor panels and autographs, and of course the masquerade (which anyone could enter) and the Hugos.  However, no one had to stand in line to get a number to stand in line for an autograph.

Some of the ribbons I ordered
I was on staff for this convention.  I did clerical work for the Executive Committee before the convention which got my registration cut in half.  In fact, I put in enough hours even before the con that I learned at the con, my registration will be refunded.  I also earned a lanyard and a water bottle.  At sci-fi conventions, people wear ribbons that attach to their name badges to identify their jobs and then there are ribbons they can pick up along the way at parties and such.  In addition to the administrative work I did for the Executive Committee, I was also the Ribbon Wrangler.  It was my job to order the official convention ribbons for the Executive Committee, Division Heads, Area Heads, Staff, Hugo Award Nominees, Past Hugo Award Winners, Guests of Honor, Program Participants, Speaker Liaisons, etc.  There was a “field trip” to the Adler Planetarium here in Chicago so we ordered a couple thousand ribbons that said, “My God, It’s Full of Stars,” and one of our guests of honor was Sy Liebergott, the Apollo Program EECOM.  He was the man who told the astronauts on Apollo 13 to “Stir the cryo tanks.”  Those tanks blew up and it took a lot of savvy and hard work to bring them home safely.  Sy was played in the movie by Clint Howard, Ron Howard’s brother.  We ordered a couple thousand ribbons for him that said, “Failure is not an option.”  I had him sign mine, and I got to schmooz with him a bit.

Me with Sy Liebergott, Apollo EECOM
I figured I’d get there the day before the con, hand out my ribbons, and be free to enjoy the con.  It wasn’t that simple.  Since each staff member got a lanyard and a water bottle, they decided each staff member should come in and get his/her ribbon and gifts individually and that I needed to check their name off on a master list.  Needless to say, there were glitches.  I had to ask people who were not on the list to get their department heads to give them a note or come in with them to verify they really were staff.  In some instances their names were supposed to be on the list but somehow were omitted.  In some instances they were people who were drafted at the con.  One young man put in a few hours slicing vegetables in the staff/participants lounge and they were calling him “staff” so he thought that qualified him.  At that point, I didn’t know you needed to put in twenty-five hours to qualify for a staff ribbon, and I had difficulty explaining why a few hours cutting veggies didn’t earn him a ribbon and a water bottle.

Lt. Cmdr. Timothy Bailey (RMN)*, Astronaut Story Musgrave, & Me.

I ended up sitting in the office Wednesday (pre-con), Thursday, and Friday.  I did get to the Planetarium Thursday night, but I missed a few panels I had planned to attend.  Ah, well—I really did earn that refund.  On the other hand, when I went down to the Exhibits Room, half the people I met in the office were people whose photos were on the wall as having made major contributions to fandom by organizing major conventions, publishing sci-fi magazines, or editing fanzines over the years.  I also met some of the Hugo nominees and they combined the staff lounge with the green room so I still got to eat and relax with the authors and panelists.  I met Gene Wolfe, passed Alan Dean Foster, and said hi to both Mike Resnick and Eric Flint, both of whom I’ve met at other cons.  I stood in line (not too long) to get Dr. Story Musgrave’s autograph.  He was one of the builders of the Hubble telescope and he was also one of the first people to go up and repair it.  He replaced one of the mirrors on it.  He was on an episode of NOVA on PBS, advising the second team that went up to work on it.

The Adler Planetarium
Even though my job bled farther into the convention than I expected it to, I really enjoyed being in the middle of everything.  Yes, I would do it again if I had the chance.  I greatly prefer being part of the con than being shuffled around like so much cattle, not that I ever felt that way when I was out and about enjoying the con as just another fan.  Oh, and the green room wasn’t the only place that had food.  The con suite was kept stocked with cold cuts, salad fixings, fruit, and munchies pretty much 24/hours/day.  They even had vegetarian and gluten-free choices.  Maybe I would have had a much different experience at the RT if I had paid the $500 to attend the full con, but I’m not so sure.  Would they have fed me as well?  Somehow, I doubt it.  And I noticed that even the people who paid $500 had to stand in line to get a number to stand in line that day.  They just got to stand in line first.

I’m not saying I’ll never attend another romance convention.  I’m saving up for Lori Foster’s next Spring.  I understand it’s smaller, but there are still great opportunities for networking, and it sounds as though it will be more like a sci-fi con and less like a cattle call.  I’ll let you know.  ;-D

*RMN—The Royal Manticoran Navy, based on the Honor Harrington series by David Weber.  (No relation.)  Honor is a starship captain at the beginning of the series.  She eventually becomes an Admiral in two navies and a member of royalty on two planets.  Her fan club is organized as the military in the books.  I’m a member, and Tim is the Commanding Officer of HMS Galahad, a destroyer.  I am the ship’s Chief Bosun’s Mate, but we have too many members for a destroyer and will soon be splitting the chapter.  When that happens, I will be promoted to Lt. Cmdr. so that I can take command of the Gallahad. Friday night at the con, we had dinner with the man who will be my executive officer once Tim's new ship is commissioned and the Galahad passes to me.  Membership is free.  All you have to do is read the books and go to the website.  If you live in the northern suburbs of Chicago, you might even end up aboard Gallahad!

"Into Peril We Ride" the HMS Gallahad Crest

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