Convention Review

Noreascon 4: the 2004 Worldcon

2nd - 6th September, 2004, saw the 62nd Worldcon in Boston.
Further to the Concat' Worldcon news coverage, here Pete Tyers provides a personal report.


Having managed to get an affordable flight to Boston, Massachusetts, I made the late decision to attend Noreascon 4 the 62nd World SF Convention. But by the time I'd sorted things out, there were only a few days to go and all the con hotels were full and, quite frankly, Noreascon did not seem to care about late-comers. A few helpful pointers on alternatives would have been nice, but they did not even offer a phone number for Tourist Information.   However, the Lonely Planet guide came to my rescue, pointing me to a B&B agency, and I ended up with a top-floor apartment only 5 minutes walk from the Hynes Convention Centre - and half of that was the 60 steep, narrow stairs down to the street!

The Hynes provided a large but relatively compact site for the main convention, spreading it over three floors, and with convenient staircases (once you'd figured out where they were lurking), escalators, and lifts.   The Sheraton hotel provided the con suite, some programme items, and most of the parties; it not only backed on to the Hynes but was linked straight through to it (you did not even know you had changed buildings). Between them, they coped well with about 5,300 fans.   The other main hotel was the Marriott; although 10 minutes walk away, this was through the indoor shopping mall of the Prudential Centre and included crossing the road over to Copley Place by means of a glass-enclosed bridge. A whole convention, hotels, restaurants, and shopping - without once having to go outside!

The professional Guests of Honour were Terry Pratchett and William Tenn, and the fans were Jack Speer and Peter Weston. It was very pleasing to see just how much they made themselves available to the fans - in fact, you almost had to find an area without Terry in it or a party without Peter!

The Convention Guide was a 112-page A4 production, stuffed full (!!) of facts and details but a challenge to get through and carry round. It listed 54 pages of programme items and desperately needed a brief "Read Me" and a grid - some people got there a day early just to read it! Despite all on offer, or perhaps because I was totally confused by the plethora of items, I found myself mostly enjoying the company of old and new friends, usually in the Dealers Room or the ConCourse (fan area), where especial note must be made of the "Mended Drum" (the very pleasant fan bar set up for the purpose) and C.M.O.T. Dibbler's Bistro ("cheap" con food - adequate but nothing to write home about). Both were good spots to hang around and meet up with people.

In fact, I only got to a few of the main programme items, including the Opening Ceremony, complete with a pipe and drum band (American Revolutionary, not Scottish for once), Peter Weston's excellent illustrated talk on how to make a Hugo rocket (easy when you have your own foundry), and the Masquerade (courtesy of the projected TV link in the "Mended Drum" - beer with a view!).   The costumes were many and of a generally high standard, and the child dressed as the Death of Rats was amazing - just how did (s)he get skeletal rat feet to scuttle along like that?

For the Masquerade interval we were enthralled by Charles Ross' truly exceptional "One Man Star Wars Show"; in one hour he acted the entire trilogy (episodes IV to VI), played all the characters, sang all the music, did all the sound effects, was all the spacecraft, performed all the battles and explosions, and even threw in a few original one-liners. We were all exhausted by the end - goodness knows how he felt! There was lots of talk of nominating the show for this year's Best Dramatic Production Hugo, but sadly he'd already been doing it for a couple of years. From his brief rendition of Gollum, his "One Man Lord of the Rings" (again the whole story in one hour) should be just as incredible. If you ever get the chance - GO AND SEE HIM !!! (Check out for a brief clip.)

Apart from the "big items", there were all the usual small events; kaffeklatches (fans drink coffee with their favourite authors), Literary Beers (fans drink beer with their favourite authors), signing sessions (fans share ball-point pens with their favourite authors), and special interest groups (fans get together and talk about whatever they find especially interesting), to mention a few. There were a number of interviews, both small and large, with one of the most amusing being Peter Weston and Terry Pratchett interviewing each other.

Thursday night saw "The First Night" - a cornucopia of small events put on in the main corridor by fan groups from all over (un?)known world. It was reminiscent of a village fete; there was a tombola (from the Brits, of course), there were card games (with lessons on how to loose your money), there were acrobats, there was magic (or was it just very good technology?), there was dancing, there was ... well, I am not sure what it was. I even saw Death watching belly dancers perform to the Buffy theme whilst he played air guitar on his scythe (only in fandom ...).

The ConCourse provided the setting for "Terry on trial", a mock court full of dreadful puns and bad acting - with added Pratchett. He posed for photos of him holding a paint brush, leaning against Death, and titled in his own words "A brush with Death" - guilty without a doubt!   The ConCourse was also the venue for a number of exhibits, including NASA and the Hubble Telescope, Hugos through the ages (Peter Weston was spotted keenly studying it and taking photos), and the Discworld. It also offered several fannish sales desks (our own Interaction - the 2005 Worldcon in Glasgow - included).

There were many parties, but the joint Nippon and Columbus 2007 bid party was particularly excellent, with the Japanese being wonderfully polite and introducing a smidgen of their culture (including tea, snacks, and beer) and the Columbus folks being very friendly.   The Japanese, by the way, won the bid and will be hosting the 2007 Worldcon in Yokohama (so start saving now!). Toronto's Very Dead Dog Party also had its moments (many of them featuring large bowls of ice cream and lashings of real maple syrup).   I also got to help at the Hugo runner-ups party, which was a chance to mix with the rich(?) and famous; I'm told that the food disappeared under an attack of gannets, and I was certainly rushed dispensing beers and the like from a bathful of ice (memo - next time book a suite whose bathroom has TWO large baths!).

Incidentally, the business meeting ratifierd the previous year's decision to reduce site selection to 2 years rather than 3, which means that there will be no site selection taking place at Interaction, Glasgow, 2005.   Meanwhile, amongst the advice on offer to congoers from the "Triplanetary Gazette" (the news sheet) was (i) "The 5-2-1 rule: every day you should try to get at least 5 hours sleep, 2 meals, and 1 shower", and (ii) "Remember to eat something from each of the 5 basic junk food groups: grease, sweet, boiled and baked starch, fried starch, and fermented starch".

The Dealers Room provided much (!) opportunity to spend money. There was good craftwork; jewellery (some "fantasy", some "straight"), excellent pieces of bronze work from Honeck Sculpture, wood carvings, etc., etc., and I am indebted to Isher Artifacts for taking many of my dollars in exchange for yet more of their wonderful ray-guns. There was a lot of "clothing" other than just T-shirts (of which I seemed to get far too many), including wearable starscapes (ties, waistcoats, and so on) from Stelnecki and many "items" made of tight-fitting leather!

The Art Show was most impressive - it was HUGE and I only (sob) got to see part of it. A nice idea was the docent tours - you got shown round by a knowledgeable person who tells you "all about everything". Hopefully Interaction will do likewise (hint, hint).

And for those wanting to go further afield and get in a bit of epic fantasy, there was the "Lord Of The Rings" exhibition at the Museum of Science - your chance to wield Anduril (well, a replica - and very, very carefully). Lots and lots of props, laid out museum-style, and most informative. Opinions were divided, but the consensus was that it was not to be missed.

Like many others, I took the chance to play tourist.   The Duck Tour started just outside the centre and was especially popular; it seems that us fans just loved climbing into World War II Ducks and being driven through the city and into the Charleston River. I also tried the view from the Skywalk - the whole 50th floor of the Prudential Centre is given over to a full 360 degrees of picture windows; and one floor above that is the Skybar - a wonderful view and amazing cocktails. Nearby was the Christian Science Plaza, with a huge pond and fountains for the kids (not) to play in on a hot day (like the plaza at Con Jose), and round the corner was the Mary Baker Eddy Museum, which includes the Mapparium, a huge glass globe through which you walk (an interesting experience, especially as it shows the world as it was politically in 1935).

And suddenly that was it! I was back at the airport and flying on to San Francisco ... but that is another story.

Pete Tyers

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