This weekend I've been to LonCon3, my second WorldCon. I went last year and had a lot of misgivings. This year erased those misgivings entirely.
What a great experience. What a great con. Let me count the ways.
Last year, I wrote about how LoneStarCon3 made me feel... uneasy. At pushing 40 I felt young there, and to be honest, I felt like I didn't entirely belong. Some of that is me and my own baggage and social anxieties, of course. I don't for a second think that there's an intentional xenophobia wherein the Powers That Be are trying to aggressively chase away the gamers and the younguns. It's just that established social groups and institutions behave in ways that over time can feel that way. The only cure is to aggressively work toward inclusivity -- or as I called it last year, a "certain mindful attention."
LonCon3 hit that target for inclusivity, and they hit it hard. I felt welcome at LonCon, even when I was at a loose end and alone. I had any number of lovely conversations with people I didn't know, outside of any context where they'd have any reason whatsoever to care who I might be, and I never for a second felt edgy or defensive about whether I belonged there.
This might just be me, but it wasn't as lonely around the edges.
There was a fantastic gaming track. There were people across a tremendously wide age spread. People of all body types and abilities. People from a pretty broad variety of interests and fandoms. It was still pretty white, and I'd like to see that shift more, but I could tell the con had worked very hard to invite people in.
Respect. Mad respect. Progress has been made. I hope future cons work that hard.
No Room Parties ZOMG
My #1 favorite innovation of LonCon3? The fan village. Traditionally, in the evenings, a convention retreats to the hotel. Publishers, cities bidding to host a future Worldcon, and various other interest groups book hotel rooms and suites specifically to host parties. So the night life at an SF/F con happens in hotel rooms.
Last year, I made a list of how to make newcomers feel more welcome at a con, and #3 was getting parties out of the hotel rooms. In retrospect I'd change that to #1.
At LonCon 3, they took over a huge exhibition space in the convention center and scattered a bunch of tents, tables, and seating areas across it to create a number of open but contiguous social spaces. It was open and welcoming. There was never a sense that you might be intruding on something that maybe kinda you hadn't really been invited to. It was less crowded, and less hot, and less awkward.
And best of all, if a creeper was bothering you, it was super easy to make an escape without climbing over a bed, or making a scene trying to push your way through a packed ear-to-elbow room or hallway. (This did not happen to me, but I do look for my escape routes, because doesn't everyone?)
Having seen the fan village concept, I think it's a great idea. The BEST idea. If we had a vote, mine would go toward "always do a central fan village, and abolish room parties for big cons for all time."
Room parties served a great purpose a long time ago -- when your con is for a hundred or so people who more or less know each other already, it's a great way to save money while still creating designated con-specific semiprivate festive spaces. They were a great innovation for the time, and solved a lot of problems fairly elegantly. But they don't scale very well to environments with many thousands of people who don't know each other and may have strongly differing views on what the social contract says is acceptable behavior.
Seriously, conrunners, pay attention to this. That fan village was a million times more inclusive and safer than a room party could ever be. If it's not in the budget, find a way to make it work.
And by way of addendum, it's people. WorldCon is made of people.
Special shout-outs to Naomi Alderman, Adrian Hon, Mur Lafferty, Zalia Chimera, Justin Landon, and Chris aka Cerulean Selachian, who all went above and beyond at various points to make me feel incredibly welcome and taken care of, in some cases far more than I actually merit.
I'd also like to name-check all of the frankly spectacular people I met, but such a listing would be prone to failure, amount to obnoxious humblebragging, and would probably only interest me anyhow.
Mostly, though, memory is human and fallible, and I don't want to hurt someone by leaving them out.
I met very, very many people. Authors and bloggers I admire, Twitter friends, co-panelists, people who have played my games, friends of friends, colleagues, total strangers. I gave hugs to a lot of them, and would've hugged more in retrospect. There were people I missed entirely and regarding whom I now feel a wistful regret. There is never enough time for all the wonderful people. Even at a bad con, most of the people are wonderful.
LonCon3, I love you. Let's hang out again sometime.