In 1996 I went to the first world con I had been to in 16 years. I into Mike Ward at a party. We resumed a conversation that we had had at the last world con I went to. I had a good time so I went to this years world con in San Antonio. I ran into Mike Ward at a party and resumed the conversation that we were having in Los Angeles. World cons are like that.
For those of my readers who might not be familiar with SF world cons suffice it to say that it is the premier event of the SF community. It is held over labor day weekend, running from Thursday through Monday. It is held in a different city each year, the city being chosen by an elaborately absurd and baroque bidding process. Several thousand dedicated SF fans, writers, artists, and editors attend. A world con features an elaborate costume competition, an awards ceremony, an SF art show, hucksters selling SF related stuff, and on the order of a hundred different panels discussing all sorts of weirdness. It also features large numbers of parties (much more civilized than Police get-togethers but more than a little weird.)
Friends don't let friends go to world cons.
Scratch that. It should read:
Friends don't let friends work on world cons.
World cons are amateur efforts. Hundreds of dedicated fans work to put these things together and run them. It's all unpaid work. Fans compete vigorously for the right to put on a world con. Fans are crazy.
If these bright and dedicated people would put the same effort into something truly worthwhile such as world peace the world might be a better place. However it would definitely be on the ragged edge of chaos.
Lone Star Con II was not the best run convention I have ever attended. Nor the second. Nor the third. However it wasn't a soul shaking disaster; there have been some of those. The committee had its little faults. The maps of convention center showed where everything was; they neglected to show how to get from place in the center to another. A minor fault - it only took a day or so to figure out the somewhat strange topology of the convention center.
The topology of the convention center is a minor matter; the topology of San Antonio snuffles up to the edge of outright weirdness. Down town San Antonio is dominated by the River Walk which is sort of a cross between a mall and a theme park. The San Antonio river meanders though the city; large stretches of it are lined with side walks, restaurants, cafes, and clubs. It's all very pretty in the best of mall world decor - lots of greenery and all of the facade of civilized living.
There is more to the river walk area than just the river walk itself. The hotels and the convention center and the giant mall are all connected with walk ways. They meander. The streets supposedly follow old cattle trails - I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if they did. What makes it interesting (and confusing at first) is that the topology of the streets and the topology of the walk ways have little connection with each other.
I have mixed feelings about things like this. In its way the river walk complex is very good - far better than other yuppified tourist traps. It is, however, a yuppified tourist trap and shopping complex. In the old west stores would have false fronts, suggesting that they were larger than they were. What we have here is the fake false front - imitation ersatz as it were. It is not real - it is not the livable city.
San Antonio also boasts the Alamo. The Alamo is real, at least it is as real as a preserved historical building can be. One of the things one forgets is that the mission was a walled complex; the famous church was only part of the whole. Part but not all of the complex is preserved. Another thing is that the Alamo is in the middle of down town San Antonio. An amusing side note is that the height of buildings in the vicinity is restricted so that they won't cast shadows on the Alamo.
What did I do at the convention? I ambled around, talked to people, saw some people I wanted to see, renewing 20 and 30 year old friendships. I bought some books. I attended a few program events. I went to parties. Monday I did the tourist bit; I toured the Alamo and rode on the river boats.
I checked out the art show in the hopes of finding a piece or two that was worth purchasing and was disappointed. In my opinion SF fans mostly have ghastly taste in art. The big pieces are mostly artwork that was done as book covers. They are good pieces for their intended purpose, technically well done; they are also garish, overly busy, and godawful. In the midst of all of the cutesy, the dragons and elves and warriors and wolves, one can sometimes find a nice piece. I found one; however the asking price was $2500 which was a lot more than I was willing to pay.
People get older. Your friends of 25 years ago are in their 50's and 60's. Some are dead. Some are gray. But mostly it's surprising how little they've changed. Attending world cons after a decade and a half is like opening a door into the past and seeing the past still there.
Let's do the time warp again.
This page was last updated September 4, 1997.