Convention Review


Dublin 2019

An Irish Worldcon

The 77th World Science Fiction Convention
was held in Dublin, Ireland, 15th - 19th August 2019.
Sue Burke reports.

 

Future Worldcons should be held in a TARDIS.  Popular events could be put on a time loop so anyone could attend even if they conflicted with other events. More importantly, every room for panels, ceremonies, readings, or other events could be bigger on the inside than the outside so everyone would fit in.

As with some other Worldcons (for example, 2017 Helsinki), space became the big issue in Dublin.  The convention was sold out at about 5,800 people plus there were additional day memberships, so the all told attendance was a good few more than the Convention Centre Dublin (CCD) principal venue could handle.  To accommodate that, the Spencer Hotel hosted children’s programming. The Odeon Point Square, a cinema theatre and unfinished commercial space half a mile (almost a kilometre) from the CCD, hosted the art show, book launches, acoustic concerts, craft workshops, art projects, displays, autograph sessions, some panels, and the academic programme.

However, crowds at Point Square were bigger than it could handle, too.

Convention volunteers and venue staff did the best they could for crowd control and remained cheerful and efficient, but for myself and many others, it meant I attended less than I wished. I would pick an event I really wanted to go to and get in line at least a half-hour in advance. Afterwards, I would find the queue to the next favoured event but forego any programming in the intervening hour.

Despite the inconvenience, the snaking queues became good places to meet new people.

The Auditorium held only 2,000, so events there required wristbands to get in, and we had to line up in the afternoon to get them. I didn’t attend the Opening Ceremony/1944 Retro Hugos, Masquerade, or Hugo Award Ceremony. (During the Closing Ceremony, I was instead standing in line at the airport). I wanted to get a wristband for the Hugo Awards, but the queue was enormous and located outside, next to the CCD, during a cold, windy rainstorm, so I abandoned that attempt. (In fairness to the organisers, I am not sure where else the queue could have been located. All available space inside the building was in use!)

Other than that, the convention was splendid: well-organised and always on time.  Events started at 9 a.m. with accessible yoga and a “stroll with the stars” morning walk, and ended in the wee hours at Martin Hoare’s Bar – known as Martin’s, named for the volunteer who was to be Fan Bar Manager but who died a few weeks before the convention.

Guests of Honour were:  Prof. Jocelyn Bell Burnell, astronomer; Ginjer Buchanan, editor;  Mary and Bill Burns, fans;  Diane Duane, author;  Steve Jackson, game designer;  and Ian McDonald, author.  They made themselves available in interviews, panels, kaffeeklatches, and literary beers. Featured artists were Afua Richardson, Jim Fitzpatrick, Maeve Clancy, and Sana Takeda. Special guests were artist Dr. Eleanor Wheeler, scientist Dr. Norah Patten, and astronaut Dr. Jeanette Epps.

The city of Dublin made visitors welcome with a good selection of hotels and other accommodations, convenient trams and buses, museums, sightseeing, restaurants, and bars.  Like many people from overseas, I came early to tour the city and country, which was as green and beautiful as I had been told.

During the Worldcon, thousands of tempting events vied for attention.  I was drawn to panels, talks, readings, a couple of concerts, a medieval combat demonstration, a stand-up comedy show, and a dance; I wandered through the Art Show and Dealer’s area, perused displays and fan tables, attended parties, and spent a lot of time meeting friends from around the world.  I could have also attended podcast recordings, plays, films, and worships, gone on a treasure hunt, run through the park, and joined in role-playing or board games: in the game room, 460 board games were loaned for play during the convention, and Unstable Unicorns was most popular.

Convention organisers deserve praise for the volume, quality, and variety of programming, including some deftly made last-minute additions and changes due to crowds or popular demand.  We never forgot for a moment the delight of attending an Irish Worldcon and being wished a hearty fáilte (welcome) at every turn.  The convention newsletter, The Salmon of Knowledge, often included bits of local lore, such as the legendary origin of the Giant’s Causeway.  Good food and refreshments were available at reasonable prices throughout the CCD.

Like many people, I watched the Hugos in the overflow viewing area, the Second Stage, with the ceremony live-streamed on a large screen. The room had tables and a bar and a rapt audience, so it wasn’t so bad.  The ceremony, with charming and enthusiastic presenters, was marred only by a robot captioning system that we quickly learned to ignore after it turned Ada Palmer’s references to Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones to ‘bored with the rings’ and ‘cream of thrones’ during her introduction to the Campbell Award-winner.  Of course there was a word or two by the evening’s recipients that ignited controversy, but that’s a feature of the Hugos, not a bug, and it seems to have accomplished something.

For me, one of the many high moments of the convention came on Saturday evening at the Bright Club Ireland, a stand-up comedy show. Steve Cross made an excessively deep, textual reading of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy to determine the exact date that the Earth is destroyed by the Vogons. (Listen to a version of it here on the BBC. https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p05w5bkx)

John Scalzi’s Saturday night ‘Dance Across the Decades’ turned one of the CCD halls into a three-hour writhing, rhythmic celebration of fannish ecstacy. It may become legend. Its stomping, sweaty crowd no doubt broke at least three distinct safety regulations, but the CCD staff wisely turned a blind eye.

Sue Burke

Sue Burke lives in Chicago, where she is a writer and translator. Her novel Semiosis was published in 2018 and its sequel, Interference, in October 2019. More at her website: SueBurke.site.

 

Other 2019 Dublin Worldcon news elsewhere on this site includes that on our seasonal autumn 2019 news page, other Dublin coverage can be found that includes: a brief comment on the programme and our usual comprehensive listing of science programme items. Plus there is news of the 2019 World SF Society business meetings.

 


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