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10 September 2007 @ 11:55 am
Brief WorldCon Notes  
I don't usually do detailed con reports and this is no exception. However, I did want to talk a little about our experiences and the WorldCon itself.

Overall, I was very satisfied with the WorldCon. We knew going in that it would be quite different, and it certainly was. Though there were areas that suffered somewhat (registration was a little slow on Thursday, for instance), these could almost all be chalked up to the fact that two separate staffs were needed - one for Japanese and one for English.

The facilities caused large problems because Japanese hotels and conference centers increase their rates exponentially for activities after the dinner hour. This meant the con simply could not afford 24-hour space at all and in fact severely restricted programming after 6 pm. In consequence, there were far fewer panels than expected, no ability to have evening or night filking (more below), a lot heavier party attendance since that was usually all that was available, and earlier bedtimes (not necessarily a bad thing).

In spite of herculean efforts by Michael L. WINOLJ, we ended up unable to have anything but an hour a day (in the morning!) programmed for filk. Sunday we extended that to two hours (from 10 am to noon) and had a good attendance and participation. The number of filkers was small enough (and I had the only non-left-handed guitar) so a Bardic Circle worked perfectly. Everyone seemed to have a good time, and we occasionally sucked in a few of the Japanese. Note that it might be a good program item for future WorldCons - one open filk of a previously stated type for an hour or 2-hour period during the day in some place easily spotted by the wandering crowds. Might be interesting if the logistics can be worked out with the larger number of available filkers who would wish to participate, and if held on Friday or Saturday it might draw more people to the evening/night activity.

In other areas, the panels were generally good - since I ended up not on any panels, I was able to attend as many as I've attended at any WorldCon. The "gisted" panels (translated ones) were an interesting challenge for the typical flow of conversation in panels - the amount of starting and stopping led some to completely script their panel, others to become more formal in style, and some to bog down completely. Overall, it made for much more cross-pollination than would have been possible without translated panels and allowed some very different perspective on certain issues.

The parties were very crowded, mostly because no other activities were going on but also because they were restricted to a single fairly compact floor of one hotel. Japanese air conditioning philosophy and the sheer attendance volume on the party floor made most party nights an ordeal. The party rooms were traditional Japanese rooms, meaning shoes had to be removed before entering. Given fandom in general and the number of people involved in specific, the air was - shall we say - unusually flavored and textured. Once one made it into the parties, they were typical of any WorldCon - the purely Japanese parties had a little different attitude but were still good old-fashioned con parties.

The main bid party Friday night was held in a large function space suite, as was the Montreal victory party on Sunday night. There was a lot more room for the single party but the attendance was also greater, so the lines for food and booze were slow and painful. Again, not really unusual but, since the function room was completely removed from the other parties, it meant that the crowding seemed more intense since everyone kind of came and stayed.

Our favorite event of the weekend was without a doubt the Japanese Traditional Food party that was held in the non-party hotel on Saturday night. We wandered up to it on a whim (since it was in our hotel) and were two of the only Westerners there. We entered and found the beds had all been moved aside. The floor was covered with tatami mats and plastic tarps, while people seated were being presented with various foods (and types of sake!) to sample. ladyat has the full list of what we tried and will likely post it - suffice it to say that the food was varied and unique, from locusts (boiled in soy sauce and actually very good) to a fermented fish that smelled like feet (which I deftly managed to avoid tasting). The sake, of course, was excellent. The Japanese hosting the party were wonderfully friendly and interested in our reactions and opinions of the food. By means of a well-thumbed Japanese/English dictionary they overcame our lack of Japanese to tell us what things were and where it came from. Ultimately, the party ended when the hotel security stepped in to let everyone know that we were making too much noise and needed to close down. A shame, since we were getting the most interaction with Japanese fans that we had gotten all weekend.

The masquerade on Sunday afternoon was quite a departure, as the Japanese formal masquerade tradition died some time ago due to a change to more cosplay (hall costume) focus. That made for a very small masquerade and a bit of confusion at times. For the most part, though, it was clear that the contestants were having a lot of fun playing with their presentations. The judging intermission performance by a Japanese sword artistic dance troupe was exquisite and fascinating.

Sunday evening there was a bay cruise called Donbura-Con (which we were told comes from the sound of the waves). We had signed up and made our way to stand in line with Joe and Gay Haldeman. Once on the boat we all had to split up, so we took a table and ended up getting some our friends from the previous night's food party to join us. After a slight departure delay due to a fan having a seizure and needing medical attention, the cruise set forth on a two hour tour (a two hour tour...). There was much eating and drinking and merriment and drinking and talking and drinking and even some singing and drinking. Our experience was enhanced by having gotten to know folks the night before. Like a dummy, I had left my camera in the room, but one of our Food Friends (no, not food ... friend) took a group picture and we hope to get a copy from them.

Monday wound down as last days of the convention are wont to do. We managed to get some pictures of the closing ceremonies and of a couple of our Food Friends before we left.

Pictures will be up on ladyat's Flickr site as soon as we get them cataloged and arranged!
Current Mood: chipperchipper
Sandra Sparkssperuoc on September 10th, 2007 05:38 pm (UTC)
All that and I am still "hiking up" Mt. Fuji with you. I fell belatedly in love with that idea when I watched Bill Murray playing golf in Lost in Translation, and Mt. Fuji just - stole the show.

I love that you two get to travel so much, but I bet you're most glad to be back home in Indiana.