Convention Review

Chicon 8

The Worldcon's Polish programme track

Worldcons tend to have little coverage of non-Anglophone SF.
Yet Chicon 8, the 2022 Worldcon, featured a Polish track,
its organiser, Marcin “Alqua” Klak, reports


The 2022 SF Worldcon, Chicon 8, took place in Chicago, Illinois, USA, 1st – 5th September. By the end of the convention, there were about 6,500 total memberships all types: 3,574 warm bodies registered, about 500 of them walk-ins. Around a thousand had logged into the Airmeet site for virtual programme by mid-Monday's closing.

Somewhere in 2020, I was asked to become an Area Head for Polish SFF Programme area on the convention's organising staff. I didn’t have a lot of free time. I tend to take way too many responsibilities. Still this was an opportunity I couldn’t miss. The area was not supposed to be big – just a few programme items. I expected it wouldn’t be too difficult to make it. In a way I was right – it was way easier than any of the principal programme themes such as literature or fandom. Yet it was not effortless. I had to think about potentially interesting programme items. Once I did I had to find speakers who could cover those topics.

To put it into context, the Worldcon programme consisted of over twenty programme areas over five days within which were a number of programme themes (such as 'science') and of which the Polish programme track was one.

The Polish track at the physical convention consisted of:
- The Witcher—From Book to Multimedia Adventure
- Slavic Mythology: A Potential New Field of Inspiration for Writing

To large extent in-person Polish programme track was remote. Very few of the people attending were interested in speaking about those topics. We had a few fans joining from Poland and elsewhere who managed to cover most of the panels. Yet there were some items taking place in person. I was attending only online so I don’t know how those items actually taking place at the physical convention went: I hope they were interesting. On the virtual front we had five panels.

The virtual Polish SF/F track for the on-line convention consisted of:
- Polish Social Science-Fiction Against Totalitarianism
- A Glance at Polish Fandom
- Translating Speculative Fiction to and from Polish
- Not Only Lem and Sapkowski
- Living in the Polish World of Translated Fiction

I participated in four of those as moderator and listened to the remaining one. Personally I liked them, but it is not me to judge how well they went. Still I saw people paying attention to them. I learned some interesting stuff and enjoyed my time. I hope that those who came were satisfied.

Of those who participated in online panels were Piotr W. Cholewa, Michal Cholewa, and Magdalena ‘Serathe’ Grajcar.

Piotr Cholewa

Piotr W. Cholewa is well known Polish fan and translator. He is best known for the translations of books by Terry Pratchett but he also translated works by Roger Zelazny, Jim Butcher, and Ursula K. Le Guin among many others. Michal Cholewa is a fan and writer. He won the Janusz A. Zajdel award for his novel Forta. English speaking fans could read his short story “Science in the service” in the seventh issue of the fanzine “Smokopolitan”.

Magdalena “Serathe” Grajcar

Magdalena “Serathe” Grajcar is an active fan from Poland and also a translator – she translated the works of Marissa Meyer. As a fan she was member of the board of Ślaski Klub Fantastyki (Silesian SFF club). Now she is busy conquering Finland.

As per my knowledge, it was the first time that Worldcon had a Polish SFF programme track. Only seven items may not be a lot but I think it is a great thing. Of course, there were some programme items related to Polish SFF on other Worldcons. Yet here, for the first time, it was a separate area. I am grateful to Chicon 8 that they decided to make it and invited me to help. As Chicago has a sizeable Polish minority it was a good place to organise such a track. I don’t think that every Worldcon should have a Polish SFF track. I believe however that making a showcase of some non-Anglophone culture every year may be an interesting idea for the future.


Airmeet – Virtual venue
Chicon 8 decided to take a different approach than many of other cons. Instead of using a combination of Discord and Zoom as part of the virtual aspect, it used one platform – Airmeet. The decision was controversial to some fans: I had a bit of mixed feelings myself.

On the plus side – having everything in one place is definitely a big advantage. Airmeet allows for both voice and text chat. The cool thing is that panellists have their own easy to use chat that is separate from main one with the audience. Another good side is that on the hosting end it is a bit easier than Zoom. I am not sure how it looks on the administration end though. The great thing about Airmeet is that the recording of any programme item was available to members within a few minutes after it finished. A great feature!

Yet it is not a perfect solution. Many people complained about accessibility issue of the tool. I am not a specialist here so I do not know the details – I just heard people pointing this out. Another issue is related to online virtual Fan Tables. When staffing tables one was not able to listen to panels. So if there was only one person on duty and no visitors one had to find something else to do. Airmeet also seemed to be also less stable than Zoom. Usually it worked fine but during the closing ceremony it froze for me some five times or more.


Glasgow 2024
Chicon 8 was where the site selection for Worldcon in 2024 took place. Glasgow in 2024 was the only bid and it became a seated convention. Nonetheless, it was exciting! The outcome was announced during World SF Society (WSFS – under whose auspices the Worldcon is run) Business Meeting that took place on site and was not streamed. But in the evening I was able to watch the recording. As silly as it may sound, I found it truly exciting. I am happy that Glasgow won. This means that for the next two years I will be very busy, as I am involved in its organisation. Its theme is 'A Worldcon for Our Futures'.

At Chicon 8, I expected there would be more virtual Fan Tables as part of the online dimension to the convention. Yet as far as I managed to see there were only two – ours and Conversation – the 2023 UK Eastercon. Of course, there were many more in-person Fan Tables at the physical convention but on the virtual end – only those two. Glasgow 2024 was the only convention that decided to make a virtual party. In my opinion that party went pretty well.


Virtual add-ons
I was quite happy that the convention prepared a few short films for virtual attendees. I especially liked the one showing exhibition of Worldcon Heritage Organization. It was very interesting. I am particularly glad that it featured a commentary and not only a video footage. Also the film about Discworld Exhibit was accompanied by the commentary. The tour around Exhibit hall was not as interesting but did feature one place I regret I haven’t seen in person. It was “a replica” of fannish room that was part of the fanzine lounge. Whoever made it did a terrific job!

I attended surprisingly few virtual programme items during the online convention. This was related to a few factors. First, each item lasted for an hour but was placed in 90 minutes long slot meaning there were fewer items per day. Poland is also seven hours ahead of Chicago and most of the items were in CDT time zone. Last, I spent some time at the Glasgow 2024 table and thus I didn’t have too much time for items other than the ones I was moderating.

What I can say however is that there were many items in which I was interested. Looking at my schedule and for most time slots I marked more than one item of interest. I should now use some of my free time to watch all that I have missed.

Closing remarks
What I deeply regret is that I did not physically make it to Chicago. As much as I like virtual cons I would have loved to attend Chicon 8 in person. I enjoyed my time and I am happy with what I did in terms of Polish SFF track and in terms of virtually representing Glasgow 2024. Should I ever have to decide whether to repeat the experience I would do it. Yet I would prefer, and love it more, to be physically there. I will not attend next year's Chengdu Worldcon in person so Glasgow 2024 seem to be my next occasion for an in-person Worldcon.

Marcin “Alqua” Klak


Marcin “Alqua” Klak is a fan form Poland who loves conventions and exploring fandom in different countries. He regularly blogs about conventions he visits and about other fannish matters on his blog: where a shorter, more personal, version of this article appears.  In 2018 he was a GUFF (Get Up-and-under Fan Fund) delegate to attend Continuum XIV in Melbourne, Australia.  Currently, he chairs the SFF club in his home city of Kraków.


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