Worldcon 2019 in Dublin
Waking at the crack of dawn got us into Dublin city centre by nine-thirty am on Wednesday August 14th. Too early to check into our AirBnB but a fine time for a hearty breakfast at The Bakehouse, right by the Ha’penny Bridge, and a wander through Temple Bar with a quick stop at Forbidden Planet and a look in at Gamers World. At eleven we collected the keys and dragged our suitcases up three flights of stairs. It was bracing, and even less fun at the tipsy end a long con day, but otherwise the place was fine – roughly a half hour walk to the Convention Centre Dublin, or a fifteen minute tram ride on the LUAS red line.
It was too early to get much done convention-wise, so we unpacked, had a lovely ninety minute nap, popped over to Tesco for coffee, milk, and emergency snacks, and finally headed over to the CCD to get out badges. We had the first of many donuts along the way, ridiculously rich confections from Rolling Donut, which basically substituted for lunch. We got our badges, and John also got snazzy Hugo Finalist (and guest) ribbons. The CCD foyer has benches along the sides which were a perfect vantage point to sit a minute and let the world come to you. Which we did, and the world did, in the form of multiple Bay Area folks including Chris Garcia and Vanessa Applegate, and the inimitable Chuck Serface.
Before we knew it it was 6:00 p.m., time for the Martin Hoare Memorial Pub Crawl. The first stop was a nearby pub called the Brew Dock, conveniently located and offering members a 10% discount. It was wall to wall fen when we got there. Despite the crowding we got to chat to Tobes for a bit, and Nelly Petrov, and at 19:15 we raised a glass to Martin’s memory. After a couple of drinks there we met up with Christopher J. Garcia and Vanessa Applegate and popped over to Temple Bar for an Indian meal at Sitar, followed by one last pint at the first not too tacky looking bar we could find on the way back. Then John and I got a relatively sensible early bed, a feat that would not be repeated.
Thursday as the first day of the con proper. We had a comparatively healthy breakfast at Panem, with spinach and everything! John ran off to do a panel while I walked the extra fifteen minutes to Warehouse One in Point Square, home of the Art Show. When I got there I was a little taken aback, the Odeon building was pretty much entirely, and there was almost no signage so itt was difficult to figure out if you were even in the right place. I was pretty bummed about it at the time, but on subsequent visits it became obvious that there was a fair amount of traffic after all. Nowhere close to the crowds at the CCD but there were folks going to panels and queues to register for various bits of programming, so it wasn’t quite the wasteland I had feared. Still, this year had no Artist GOH (three Featured Artists, to be fair), no art show booklet, no docent tours, and even now there isn’t a list of participating artists on the website. The art show staff were fantastic and ran one of the smoothest art shows I’ve participated in, they had good equipment and lighting, and the art on display was wonderful – but as a segment of overall programming it felt second tier this year.
After I finished hanging my fans, John joined me for a walk through of the excellent art on display this year. I bid on a Sara Felix piece but didn’t win, and we gazed wistfully at many other beautiful things. I should have taken notes at the time, since I can’t remember the names to go with many of the wonderful pieces I saw, hopefully once the convention posts the list of artists on their website I will be able to find them again. A few of the stand outs included two beautiful hand painted shawls, Didier Cottier’s cyberpunk mixed media pieces, the aforementioned Sara Felix, and Sana Takeda‘s prints.
Besides the art show and print shop, Warehouse One was also housed several cool displays and craft items. There were half a dozen large scale lego constructions, including a massive Star Wars one by James Shields, a Community Drawing Wall, and a wall of art by Irish artist, including some Steve Dillon comic pages and Ian Clark’s wonderful Dublin 2019 artworks. There was programming in the Odean movie theatre screen rooms, and next door at the Gibson hotel, and some of it looked quite good. But ultimately when deciding what to see I factored in the walk there and back, and unless there were two items one after another there just didn’t seem worth it – by the end I attended no programming at Point Square excepting the art show and artist reception. In retrospect the 7-day LUAS transit pass would have been a good idea, but we didn’t see that option in time.
Opening ceremonies was in the main CCD auditorium, and therefore a wristband event which we didn’t have the time/energy to queue for. Instead I popped into town, nominally to look for shoes for Hugo night. I did regret that a bit when we learned that Alice Lawson received a well deserved Big Heart award, while Bradford Lyau taking the Sam Moskowitz Archive Award, but I had a nice time wandering Temple Bar and beyond; vintage clothing, boutiques, murals and street art, and eventually resting my feet with a cheese toastie. When I got back John was stuck in the Mark Protection Committee meeting, poor thing, so I had a wander around the CCD to see what was what. I found the Fan Lounge, which was frankly less an lounge and more a handful of tables, and eventually ended up in the social heart of the con; Martin’s Bar. I found part of Team Journey Planet there, and had a nice chat with Vanessa about art and iPads until my next panel attempt. Martin’s was also where the flyer and freebie table was located as well, which I understand but probably should have been duplicated in the Dealer’s area where the fan tables where since I suspect a lot of the membership never thought to go to the bar.
Line management at this juncture was a bit chaotic, panels quickly filling up and no obvious queueing order, things were a bit shouty and stressful. Happily, the convention took note and by the next day there was a system in place, including volunteers supporting the CCD staff, people with clipboards of the programme grid for the day proactively directing folks, and taped out sections on the floor marking the queue for each room. There was also a Line Management Cyborg deployed to the Liffey Level, who quite rightly received a Hero of the Con award. The newsletter did a pretty good job with updates, tips, and relevant information.
For dinner we met up with Tobes and headed to Temple Bar to for a tasty burger at Bunsen, bookended with pints at Porterhouse and Underdog respectively. Then it was back to the CCD to check out the parties. The party floor was in the Wicklow floor panel rooms, and were somewhere between your traditional Worldcon party held in a hotel room and the London model of shared convention space. Separate rooms helped them feel distinct, but the rules of the venue meant limited drinks available and no decor permitted on the walls. Mostly they managed pretty well within these constraints, and it had the general vibe of a party floor to me. The Japan party was full most of the evening, and we investigated China and Nice, but spent most of the night in the DC in 2021 bid party room, which had red ale and stout and good conversation.
Friday we had breakfast at Dollards, a deli/restraurant/late night pizza joint which in retrospect may have been the best thing we found on our visit. Both of us went to the ten am (whhhyyy?) panel Apollo at 50, which had astronaut Jeanette Epps, Mary Robinette Kowal, Geoffrey A. Landis, and David Stephenson and was pretty good. At noon I went to 2019 in Film which veered almost immediately into a general discussion of dystopia, so I cut my losses. For lunch I went over to the Broadway New York Eatery, which should have been terrible based on the name/theme but was a pretty solid Italian American style diner experience, and quite reasonable to boot. Meatball sandwhich. I joined John for the last bit of a panel about tie in novels, which seemed enjoyable.
The artist reception was on at 17:30 in Warehouse Two, beside the art show. I guess it was sensible not to be around the art (though galleries manage) but I missed being able to wander the show and chat with folks about it while sipping wine. Still we had a nice chat with Meg Frank, Jo, wine and popcorn, fancy nuts. Ran into Sean and Tempest, whom we only saw for a brief second over the course of the weekend, Worldcons are funny that way. For dinner we joined Anna, Hogg, Emily, and Andrew for a meal at a place called Captain America’s. It’s an odd place, the decor is about 10% Captain America and 90% music memorabilia, the highlight of the latter being a plaque outside declaring that Chris De Burgh played piano there after leaving college. Friday’s parties were DC, Nice, Japan, and China, along with a private party at the end of the hall a book launch, I think. DC had more beer, and China had sweets and shiny panda pins, Japan was was packed and we didn’t actually make it inside.
Saturday’s first panel was at 11am, still too early, but doable. Titled Artemis: Apollo’s Big Sister, it started pretty general but got interesting in the second half as things got more specific about the plan to get humans back on the moon in 2024, and use that to go on to Mars. There was a lot of overlap with the previous day’s Apollo panel. Afterwards John went off to his panels and I found myself accidentally adjacent to some Journey Planet plotting, which I barely escaped with my wits intact. I queued for Masquerade wristbands, then found John for a quick lunch at BNYE before the Fan Funds Auction, which I was late to. It did well this year, with some nice bits of fannish ephemera going for tidy sums. I got outbid on some Star Wars swag for John, but snagged him a Lucasfilm baseball cap.
The Masquerade started on time and ran smoothly, with Ric Bretschneider serving as MC. The overall quality of the entries was very good. Some standouts in no particular order; Captain Marvel and Skrulls had a skit had very good costumes and a solid skit with a funny ending, likewise Raven and Reaper gals, two sketches that used light effects were at almost at opposite ends of the spectrum, the charming Twinkle Twinkle and the dramatic Best in Show winner, From the Dark – a stunning glow in the dark kelpie – though that last one almost gave us a collective heart attack when it came close to walking right off the edge of the stage.
We watched Mary Robinette Kowal absolutely smash Powerpoint Karaoke while the judges deliberated, and Chris Garcia do a more than passable job himself. But the party floor called to us, so we left before the judges returned. The parties were New Zealand, Memphis, Chicago, and Glasgow – all of which were jumpin’, but I spent most of my time in the Scalzi Dance Across the Decades, which was simultaneously too hot, to packed, and in far too small a room, and damned near perfect. Eventually they kicked us out, so I found John and we got some pizza at Dollard’s on the way back to the flat.
Sunday we got up late and took it nice and easy, starting with a full Irish at Panem, it was tasty but strangely came with friend banana. I had a wander through the Exhibits area and creator’s alley, the former had a cool Brazilian art display, and introduced me to the term AmazoFuturism display which was pretty awesome. An art credit had been added to the wonderful Cartoon Saloon Brian Boru banners, I had been baffled by the lack of credit the day before. I ran into Rina Weisman at the Tachyon table and it was nice to catch up a bit. Finally at 2pm John and I went up to the panel entitled The Golden Age of Animated SF, which was nominally about the fact that we are in such an age but spent the first twenty minutes on such topics as “what is animation” and “what is genre, does it even exist” so I ducked back out.
The big event of the evening was the Hugo ceremony, and of course John was nominated as part of Team Journey Planet, so I headed back to the flat a bit early so I’d have plenty of time to get changed. Of course John had the key to the AirBnB so that was no use to anyone, I sat and had coffee until he arrived and we both got into out evening duds.
The reception was fun, with an open bar and very nice snacks, It was also just nice as a party, getting to chat with folks I might not have managed to run into over the weekend. TJP and associated guests had a table to ourselves basically, I suspect it’s actually a pretty good way to experience the event. Chris and Vanessa, Chuck, Alissa and Andrew, and Alissa’s dad – who was fun to chat with, we chatted and snacked and admired the outfits – I have to say in the past decade or so fandom has really upped it’s red carpet game. Jeanette Ng had a peacock fascinator whose tail could open and close, the multi-talended Sara Felix looked stunning in an amazing space age dress she painted herself, Vanessa had made a beautiful headress which I lusted after in my heart, etc. Of the people I didn’t know I especially remember a fantastic zipper dress and a fantastic metal crown. It was all fabulous and extra, and Garcia even wore a jacket!
The ceremony itself was good, not too long, though not quite Picacio-on-rails. Afua Richardson was a charming and heartfelt presence, she had several costume changes, each more stunning than the one before – I loved the silver outfit especially. Turns out she can also sing beautifully on top of everything else. Michael Scott was an affable but professional presence, smooth but equally charming in his own way. The speeches ranged from heartfelt, to impassioned, to light and funny, and I agreed with the voters in most categories. Except maybe Fanzine, but I’m biased there.
We left the auditorium and boarded a bus in front of the CCD to head over to the Guinness Storehouse for the Hugo Losers party. We were among the first to arrive and were greeted with trays of something called a Black Velvet, which was prosecco and stout in a champagne flute. Then we were treated to an energetic drummer, followed by Irish dancing, and then Irish music for the rest of the evening. Which was fine, if not quite my cup of tea. Some folks enjoyed it immensely, and at least one grumbled continuously. The food was very good though, with a couple of hearty stews, a hot dog and carnitas roll stand among other threats.
I chatted with some folks I had missed earlier, the place filled out but was far from packed so it was surprising to hear people queuing outside had not been let in due to the venue being at capacity. Someone pointed out that in previous years we were on the ground floor so the fire marshal rules were probably different. There was a speech by GRRM, which fun but a bit dismissive of the problem, I wonder if the habit of hosting something close to the convention centre – where people have the option of just popping next door to the next party or evening event made it less obvious how inconvenient the situation actually was. We headed out early, and by then there was no one waiting outside, and took a taxi to get pizza with Dave O’Neill, Dollard’s betrayed us by being closed, so we went to the place across the street, which was more New York style. As we were chatting and eating our slices we froze in our seats when a bouncer walked up to Dave and asked “Where are you from?”. Dave launched into an explanation of his relative Irish/British/American-ness, but turns out the guy just had some dollar bills he figured would be more useful to an American.
And then it was Monday, the last day of the convention. We joined Anna, Hogg, Emily, and Andrew for a delicious and cheap breakfast at Loving Spoon. It was also pretty massive so the walk back did us good, the gang got more donuts on the way back but I was pretty replete. John and I headed to a The Good Place panel, it consisted mostly of everyone being happy that the show exists, which was perfect. John’s was on a Star Wars pane afterwards which was a fun and lighthearted way to end the con. We skipped closing ceremonies and wandered the dealers one last time, where I ran into Nicholas Jackson for a bit, and then Tom Becker who I had managed to miss all week!
For our last dinner in Dublin we met up with Tobes, Dave Oneill and his brother at the Brew Dock, which turned out to have very good food, and then all that was left was the Dead Dog. I got to chat with Bay Area folks, a few of whom I hadn’t really had a chance to see over the weekend, which was good. Then I suddenly realized that in my excitement at having sold all my art I forgot that there were some unsold TAFF pieces to pick up! After a bit of running around that got resolved and I ended up with some groats to boot, so I had a beer anda fun chat with someone who was at their first convention and trying to get a handle on fandom as a concept. I started fading a bit and was advised to fix it with another beer, but turns out a gin and tonic was exactly what I needed! We attempted to convince Liz into running a Thai Wordlcon, she refused our £20 but muttered about having to build a local convention fandom first, which isn’t a no so you heard it first here folks. Eventually it was midnight so we said our last round of goodbyes, got lesser pizza on the way home and collapsed in an exhausted but happy heap.