As usual, I doubt I'll manage a full blow-by-blow con report. But here are some notes.
The low point of the con for me was probably the frustrating "future of short stories and magazines" panel on Friday morning, about twelve hours after I arrived in Boston. I asked very belatedly if I could be on the panel, but (for a variety of reasons, some of them entirely my fault) was told "absolutely not." So I sat in the audience.
After the usual discussion of how to improve the circulation of the print prozines, there was a fair bit of trashing online publication—by which the panelists apparently meant people posting their own stories on their own websites. There were several comments that suggested (at least to me, though I should note that I'm oversensitive to such things) that no online publication pays at all, that the best an online publication can aspire to is to be a training ground for novice writers who want to graduate to the print prozines, and that online publications are short-lived by nature. I can more or less understand SH being below the panelists' radar (and in some sense we are a training ground, in that we like to publish new authors and we hope that our authors will go on to publish in higher-profile places too), but I was baffled at the fact that not one of them mentioned SCI FICTION at all. The magazine pays three times as much as any other sf magazine (and the audience were mostly writers, so presumably that's something they would want to know), it's been running for four and a half years now with no sign of faltering, it has published Nebula-winning stories, it's edited by a Hugo-winning editor with a long and distinguished career, and its stories appear with increasing frequency in the Year's Bests; why is it not worth mentioning in a panel about the future of short sf?
I eventually started raising my hand to get called on; by the time Dr. Schmidt called on me, I was so annoyed by the ongoing dissing of online stuff that my voice was actually shaking, which I suspect didn't help in my attempt to make them think of us as professional. But several audience members did come up to me afterward and thank me for my comments. I'm dropping a note to next year's programming committee to ask them if they would consider putting someone associated with online magazines on that panel next year.
I suspect that what was really going on was that the print prozine editors think of the term magazine as referring specifically to print magazines that turn a profit; from that point of view, questions about the future of magazines will inevitably focus on discussions of how to improve circulation for those magazines. So probably to be really effective, my comments would've had to start by re-examining the definition of magazine and questioning the notion that magazines must turn a profit. The statement that online magazines are "not self-sustaining" (as one of the panelists put it) is kind of true, in the sense that they don't directly bring in enough money from sales and advertising to fund the publication; but the phrase strongly implies that they can't last long, and I think that's an idea that needs to be laid to rest.
I meant to try to talk with a couple of the print editors about this stuff later in the con, but didn't get around to doing so.
Anyway, enough about that. The high points of the con for me were things like hanging out with cool friends (especially when we managed to hang out in quiet environments; I don't hear so well in noisy places, and I speak quietly, so going to dinner at a loud restaurant is often an exercise in frustration for me and sometimes for the people I'm with), meeting a bunch of our authors in person (as I noted earlier, at least 34 of our fiction authors were at the con (and I saw and at least said hello to almost all of them), along with several contributors in other departments and half a dozen staff members), seeing people I know and like win various awards, attending roundsinging late Saturday night (thanks again, Jim!), and having a leisurely lunch with Juliet U. on Monday. Also, it was immensely gratifying to have people I didn't know come up to me and tell me that they really like reading the magazine.
Overall, the con seemed to me to be pretty well-run. Names on badges were as visible as they needed to be, for once (yay!), though if it were up to me I'd still make the names a little bigger. The people staffing the con office were gracious and friendly and went out of their way to help solve problems in creative ways (rather than just saying no, which they'd have been perfectly justified in doing), despite being under what must have been tremendous pressure. The programming person I talked to was rather more negative and rigid than the situation really called for (I got the impression she suspected I was a terrorist out to destroy WorldCon), but I imagine that she too was under a lot of pressure—if nothing else, the logistics involved in managing that enormous number of program items would be enough to drive most people mad. I do think it was a little draconian to require panel moderators to ask for permission before adding people to panels; on the other hand, I can see that that rule could help take pressure off the moderators by giving them an excuse if they didn't want to add some random person who asked to be added.
I once again failed to sign up as a volunteer, though I'd intended to. Maybe next time.
As has been true a lot recently, I attended very few panels. Went to a bit of one that Ben and Cory were on, and a bit of one about GLBT stuff; I wish I'd stayed longer at the latter, 'cause I later learned that the discussion of whether various works counted as sufficiently queer was actually in the service of deciding what works qualified for the Spectrum award, and if I'd stuck around I would've heard the actual award presented.
I went out of my way to attend readings this time. The ones I attended weren't all excellent, but they were all enjoyable. Reminder to self yet again: attend more readings. You like 'em. (Also, note to self: write up your thoughts about how to read aloud well soon, so it'll be before you inevitably attend a con reading where the author isn't very good at it, so that nobody will think you're talking about them.)
I was pleased to meet various people I'd encountered only electronically, such as Matt (Mumpsimus) Cheney and Andrew (andyhat) Hatchell. I was disappointed to still not meet various people I've been wanting to meet, such as Jonathan Strahan and, um, I know there was someone else in particular but I'm blanking.
I did very little actual hiding in my room, and not much actual sleeping, but I did spend too much of the weekend sitting with a group being too dazed to hold up my end of a conversation. I didn't make it to any of the pro parties, for various reasons, nor to the SFWA suite at all. I once again failed to attend any filking, though I was pleased that it took place in a less remote part of the con than I've seen elsewhere lately. I spent a couple hours now and then sitting at the Speculative Literature Foundation table in the fan-tables corridor. Entirely missed various programming items I wanted to attend, such as Vandana's "Imaginative Fiction: A Third World Perspective" talk. Picked up a few books in the dealers' room, including So Long Been Dreaming. Saw about 15 or 20 minutes of the Masquerade/costume contest, but didn't see the halftime show, Charles Ross's One-Man Star Wars Trilogy, which got enthusiastic reviews from attendees the next day. Attended only the second half of the Hugo awards ceremony. Met a bunch of people whose names I recognized from submissions. Tried to balance hanging out with Swarthmore friends and hanging out with writer/editor friends. Watched about half of the Retro Hugos ceremony. Decided to take a serendipitous approach to the con—if a new opportunity came up that was at least as appealing as what I'd been planning to do, I went and did it, and that worked pretty well.
All in all, not a bad con. Don't know if I'll make it to Glasgow next year, but LA in 2006 definitely.