Worldcon is the longest running science fiction convention in the world. Focused mostly on books and the publishing industry, it’s a celebration of all things science fiction, with fans coming from all over the world to gather and discuss everything connected to sci-fi, fantasy and all points in between. This year, Worldcon came to Dublin, for the first time in its 80-year history. The result was, as you might expect, an epic party.
The Convention Centre Dublin (CCD) was filled to the brim with attendees, with roughly 6000 people attending. With well over a thousand odd programme items available over the five days, it’s quite the thing for STARBURST to try to evaluate. The range of items were very diverse, from panels, talks, musical performances, dances, stage plays to full on awards ceremonies and orchestral pieces. What makes this all the more impressive is that it is entirely volunteer ran and not for profit.
Like every large event, there were some teething issues. The queuing system on the Thursday was fairly messy at the start, though it became a well-oiled machine by the end of the event. Lots of panels and talks means that lots of people are flowing through one area at key times, meaning that it was impossible to guarantee you’d get to one panel or another. Every panel we attended was busy, though there was always something to pop into and enjoy, even if it wasn’t the top item on your list. There were also some accessibility issues, and these were managed by both volunteers and the facility staff as efficiently as they could. The event was always listening and improving, and filled with smiling fans doing fannish things.
Five days filled with cool stuff means that it’s pretty much impossible to not find something memorable and fun to do, and the organisers did make it unlikely that anyone would be bored. One of the lines of programming included a series of fringe-style theatrical performances. Each one was produced with passion and joy and though the quality was variable they were always fun. The dances and discos were well organised and worth braving the heat for. Even if you didn’t go to one of the many items, you could hang out at the bar where inspiration and beer were both readily available. The bar had been renamed Martin’s, in honour of Martin Hoare, a beloved member of the community (and lifelong fan) who had recently passed away.
Items of note included the Fannish Inquistion on Friday. Officially called the Future Worldcon Q&As, it’s a way for members to interrogate future Worldcon bids. These days groups from across the world compete to host the event. There was a paucity of information from Spokane, USA and the bid for China in 2023 also seemed to lack solid answers. Running a bid is one of the toughest gigs in fandom, so we can understand why the room was filled with nervous energy. Other noteworthy panels included the ‘That was Unexpected’ improv panel show and a rather charming panel on childhood fiction that turned into an examinationof what inspires people to become writers.
The Guests of Honour were especially charming and accessible. Ian McDonald’s perspective on science fiction writing and Ireland were unique and inspiring. Dame Susan Jocelyn Bell Burnell’s talks on her work and the future science were eye-opening and Steve Jackson’s take on the games industry was invaluable. All of the guests were brilliant.
The Hugo Awards Ceremony is always a highlight of any Worldcon, and Ireland brought its own charm to the proceedings. Michael Scott and Afua Richardson were the hosts, with Afua providing her musical talents at various points, accompanied by the Irish Video Game Orchestra. Terra Ignota author Ada Palmer’s introduction to the awards that weren’t Hugos came with a powerful call to arms. This was magnified further when Jeanette Ng received the John W. Campbell Award. In her acceptance speech, she heavily criticised Campbell. Dell, the award’s sponsors, have since renamed the award to the Astounding Award.
Dublin 2019 was an amazing event, and proof that when Worldcon tours the world, it changes lives and inspires people to great creative work. Next year, it goes to New Zealand for the first time. See you there.