Thursday - Monday (days 6 - 10)
This morning we had intended to visit Kilmainham Gaol, but we were tired and glad to take our time sleeping in preparing for our afternoon flight. The hotel had luggage scales, which we used to balance the weight in our checked luggage, ending up a tenth of a kilogram less than the 23 killogram (50.7 pound) limit in both bags.
We had breakfast in the hotel for the first time. It was another "full Irish breakfast" buffet, but much larger and with much nicer than the one in Galway. I really loved the "French mustard" and realized that I had never had mustard during previous trips to western Europe. At first I thought it was hot from horseradish, but I finally concluded that it was just the actual mustard. Yum!
Our flight with Air France was uneventful, though very cramped. The problem wasn't leg room, but the shoulders and hips, There were six seats across in a British Aerospace Avro 146-RJ85 which would seat only 5 across in the US.
Our flight landed at London City Airport, which is only about a mile from the ExCeL Center where the World Science Fiction Convention was being held. The cabbie's face fell when we gave him the address and he never spoke to us during the ride or dropping us off at the Aloft Hotel.
All of Loncon 3 took place in the enormous (1/3 mile long) ExCel Center. The attendee lodging was scattered across many hotels and other parts of the city, but we were able to get into the Aloft, the closest hotel to the convention center and on the end of the building where WorldCon took place.
Most UK science fiction conventions are a little different from the US. One of the most visible differences is that there tends not to be room parties or a hospitality suite. Instead they have a cash bar with a wide selection of beers on tap.
Loncon 3 compromised with a large space in the convention center which was called the "Fan Village." They added some character to the space by putting up tents which did double duty. They housed the tables where fan groups and the convention bids maintained promotional tables during the day and hosted their parties in the evenings. The space also had a snack stand, a long bar with beer, cider & liquor, and some activity tents. The Exhibits Hall, which also housed the "Dealers Zone" and art show, was under the same ceiling, but up one level to the west.
This year's site selection was between Kansas City and a nearly last minute bid from Beijing, China.
Kansas City's double sized tent was on the edge of the "Green," near the center of the village. The Green was used for various activities from armed combat to Quidditch to Tai Chi. Most panels were on a third level above the village, and big events like the Hugo Awards were across the way.
All food and beverages for the parties had to be purchased through the convention center's caterers, which made things expensive and the parties were running out of supplies by midnight. Kansas City primarily provided BBQ. The bid had located a Kansas City style BBQ restaurant in London and arranged those meats through the caterers. A variety of sauces from KC had been brought from the US. The meat was actually pretty good. The evening line waiting for the BBQ often stretched 1/2 way across the Green.
The competing Chinese bid for 2016 consisted of several young people who were thrilled to be at their first convention. They maintained a table part time and had basically nothing to serve at the "party" which they hosted one night. They say they will bid for future years until they win and the KC people tried to encourage them and help them understand the procedures.
Linda and I are both involved with the Kansas City WorldCon bid and Saturday evening we gathered with the other committee members as the votes were counted and plans started to be made.
Kansas City won the right to host the 2016 convention with 90% of the vote. Midamericon II will be August 17-21, 2016. We went with our friends to the nearby Fox Connaught Pub for a victory celebration.
The big events were in the evenings. Thursday evening was the Retro Hugo Awards. The World Science Fiction Convention has been taking place since 1939, but the Hugo Awards were not introduced until the 1950s and skipped a couple of years even then. If a current WorldCon is the 50th, 75th or 100th year since a year in which there was a WorldCon which did not give out the award, they may vote on and present awards that might have been given that year.
The first WorldCon was hosted in NYC in 1939, so this year's convention gave awards for the best works from 1938. The awards were preceded by the awarding of the First Fandom Awards, Big Heart Award, and a Special Committee Award.
The Retro Hugo Awards ceremonies tend to be more creative than the current year ceremonies and this one did not disappoint. The ceremony was part of a "radio" broadcast which had an orchestra and some presenters in period clothing. It opened with the orchestra accompanied by co-host, Mary Robinette Kowal singing the song "Retro Hugos," to the tune of "Anything Goes." Kowal had an effective period look, but the only words we could make out were the repeated "Retro Hugos."
The radio broadcast was sponsored by "Cold Be Gone" which was guaranteed to deal with all your con-crud needs!
The awards program was repeatedly interrupted with news reports that alien invaders (much like those who landed in New Jersey during a radio show in 1938) had landed in London and were approaching the Docklands and our convention center. It was nicely done, and concluded near the end of the ceremony when we were told that the aliens had succumbed to con-crud just outside the convention center.
My dear friend, the late Wilson Tucker, was nominated for one of the retro Hugo Awards and if he had won, I would have accepted for him.
Friday night's big event was a performance of the Worldcon Philharmonic Orchestra which had been assembled with 86 musicians from the London Symphony, Royal Philharmonic, and London Philharmonic Orchestras. The concert included music from Holst's The Planets, Dvorak's 'Song to the Moon', Stravinsky's Firebird Suite, Shimomura's Kingdom Hearts soundtrack, and John Williams' Star Wars Suite. We attended only part of if, but it was very good and I was gratified to see the auditorium was packed. The evening also had the Chesley Awards and following reception which were presented by the Association of Science Fiction & Fantasy Artists.
Saturday's night's big event was the Masquerade (costume contest) and Sunday night was the 2014 Hugo Awards Ceremony.
Our photos of all the WorldCon events are at http://www.midamericon.org/photoarchive/loncon3/