One of my many hobbies is traveling. My recent travels brought me to the windy city of Chicago.
Dear Mr/ Madam Toastmaster, Fellow Toastmasters and welcomed Guests, the reason for traveling to this city was to attend the 80th World Science Fiction Convention also known as Worldcon.
Worldcon is an annual international gathering of Science fiction and fantasy fans, it was first held in New York in 1939 with roughly 200 attendees. It is the longest running Science fiction convention in the world. Over the span of 80 years some of the guests of honors have included Ursula Le Guin, Issac Asimov & Terry Pratchett to name but a few.
You don’t just buy a ticket to Worldcon, you buy a membership to attend or support a Worldcon. The membership gives you voting rights in the Hugo Awards and also to select the City that will host the convention in two years.
The Hugo Awards are nominations for Science Fiction & Fantasy books and a long list of other categories that you can vote in when you are a member. There is normally a Hugo voters packet that is sent out to members, the voters packet can contain books, artwork or samples from the Authors who are nominated.
In 2014 the Hugo Voters Packet I received had the full set of the Wheel of Time books by Robert Jordan as the whole series was nominated. Unfortunately it was not successful in winning the award that year but I got to keep the books. Another big part of worldcon is hosting a Hugo Awards Ceremony which is a fancy event for all involved and is streamed on youtube. The winners collect a rocket shaped award which is designed locally each year.
Worldcon visits a new city around the globe each year and is organized by a different group of dedicated volunteers who participate in a bidding process to bring Worldcon to their city. This year’s Worldcon was in Chicago, the name of the convention was called Chicon 8 as it was their 8th time to host Worldcon.
On my first day at Chicon 8, I headed to the Registration Desk to pick up my badge. All members get a badge which makes it easy to remember people’s names. I volunteered at this year’s convention. I found my way to the Operations office to introduce myself and find my schedule and what exactly I will be doing. This role involved strolling around the convention with a high -vis jacket on and a radio to help out members especially with directions as the hotel was a bit of a maze. I like volunteering with the conventions as it’s a lot of fun and a good way of meeting new people.
Worldcon is run by fans for fans, it is solely run by volunteers from all over the world. I was part of the group that brought Worldcon to Dublin in 2019. It was held in the convention Center in Dublin city. It was a big deal for the group as it was the very first time it was held in Ireland. One of the Guests of Honor was Nobel Prize Winner & Astrophysicist Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell.
I got to meet Irish Writer John Connolly at the convention, I’m a big fan and had a bit of a starstruck moment. He was very nice about it and gave me some postcards for his new book.
It is a tradition to pick up Ribbons from fan tables, some people get very competitive on their ribbon collection to see who can make the longest trail, as you can see from my badges I only like a small amount. But they are colorful, funny and they help to keep your badge from turning around. I love traveling to other countries for conventions for all of these reasons and more. It is a great way to visit a country, do some sightseeing and meet lots of Authors that I admire. I always come back with good memories and a long list of book recommendations.
I have attended Worldcon in London in 2014, Helsinki in 2017 but when the pandemic hit it scuppered my plans to Travel to New Zealand in 2020. Thankfully the organizers pulled together and held the very first Virtual Worldcon called Conzealand. In December 2021 the Washington DC Worldcon had their first hybrid convention, where a member could attend virtually or in person.
Going forward all the committees that are in the bidding process have started adding virtual items to their program to allow members to join from their own home. This is a new change for the science fiction community and will bring more fans together. It is very exciting and I’m looking forward to seeing what the group for Worldcon in Glasgow 2024 do for their hybrid programme.
There is so much more to a worldcon than the small amount that I have touched on , I would encourage anyone to consider attending one in the future, maybe in Glasgow 2024 or even Dublin in 2029. If you would like to learn more about Worldcon please see me at the break and we can chat some more.