Alas, Westercon!

July 6th, 2006

Well, Westercon has come and gone and a good time was had by all who actually showed up. What am I saying here? Politely that Conzilla, Westercon 59 in San Diego, was a “relaxicon.” More on the money that it was underattended relative to other Westercons past due to a number of factors, the main ones being that Comicon is coming up in a couple weeks in the same city, and at the end of next month, WorldCon will be in Anaheim (even if it is titled LAConIV).

Why do I mention this? Because twenty years ago, I attended Westercon 39 in the same city, a twenty-year-old bright-eyed aspiring pro, and I carved watermelon boats for the SFWA suite instead of going to the masquerade because I wanted to stay, talk with editors, agents and other authors, make connections and whatnot, and watermelon-boat-carving was the price of admission for non-members from the party hostess.

Twenty years later, there was no SFWA suite, nor even a SFWA business meeting. No publishers’ parties, not even the Scientologists. The toastmaster, Kevin J. Anderson, and the author guest of honor, Walter Jon Williams, did host parties and gave out free copies of their novels, but book editors? Magazine editors? Agents? Closest thing was BenBella having a publisher’s table in dealer’s room, but staffed by their distributor from LA. The publisher, Glenn, will himself be in town in a couple weeks for the Comicon.

Yes, there was some anthology chatter, but you find that wherever authors are found. But when I met a new young author who’d come to the con to try to sell his first novel–and had flown in all the way from Minnesota–I wasn’t able to tell him anything more useful than go to WorldCon next month because the only thing left was bid parties. Bid parties right, left and center for the honor of hosting the next Westercon and Worldcon, and endless amounts of SMOFing. The most important news from SMOFdom came from Michael Siladi, chair of next year’s Westercon, which would have been in San Jose except that at the 11th hour, the Doubletree decided to restaff itself with greedy crackmonkeys, at least for key managerial positions, and the upshot is that Westercon 60 will now be held slightly northwards in San Mateo:

Were the panels useful and entertaining? Without expection, yes. San Diego in particular has a talent for making highly informative and innovative panel discussions. But….

Well, I remember hearing tales of the Texas Westercon that was killed because the San Diego Comicon moved to the same weekend after being bumped by the Republican National Convention and consequently everyone who had to do the Comicon simply skipped Westercon.

What am I saying here? Well, I think that the Westercon rules should be changed such that, the same as Worldcon not being able to be placed within five hundred miles of another Worldcon, you shouldn’t place a Westercon in the same radius as a Worldcon. Likewise you should not have a Westercon the same weekend as a major regional convention.

Admittedly I also just rejoined SFWA after a long hiatus, but it’s kind of sad to not have a SFWA suite, or even a SFWA meeting. Yes, I didn’t volunteer to bell that cat myself, and there wouldn’t have been much of a point anyway since there wasn’t anything that really needed getting away from. And it’s not as if this is the first Westercon to lack both SFWA suite and publisher’s parties. But still….

On the plus side, I bought a particularly cool cane to wave at people.

P.S. I hereby retract my gripe about lack of magazine editors: Marti McKenna was there, who I know from long back, but who I only had a chance to wave to in the halls as I was rushing off to panels. My bad for not catching up, but Marti just remedied this with an email announcement, the important bit below:

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Edited by Marti McKenna and Bridget McKenna, Æon Speculative Fiction is a quarterly e-magazine from Scorpius Digital Publishing. Æon publishes “speculative” stories (science fiction, fantasy, dark fantasy, magic realism, etc.) and features fiction and nonfiction by veterans, award-winners, and rising talents.

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4 Responses to “Alas, Westercon!”

  1. Katharine Kerron 07 Jul 2006 at 5:27 am

    I’ve been feeling like doing some cane-waving meself these days.

    Thanks for the report, Kevin! I feel much better about not going. Next year, however — I have no excuse not to go to the one in San Mateo.

  2. James M. Briggson 10 Jul 2006 at 2:16 pm


    Thank you for the post on Conzilla, the 59th Westercon. You have hit upon a few of the challenges we had in running the convention. With ComicCon two weeks after Conzilla, and Worldcon five weeks later (both geographically quite close) there were a lot of people who chose to bypass us. For publishers, we contacted several, but with Locus not attending there was little interest in coming with L.A.con so close behind. All I can say is “we tried.”

    I’m glad you enjoyed the programming. James Hay as usual pulled together an exceptional schedule. This despite the five cancellations (for various reasons) that happened after the program guide wen’t to press.

  3. Sherwood Smithon 10 Jul 2006 at 2:31 pm

    James Hay is a phenomenal program wizard–i sure wish I could have afforded to go down there for the con.

  4. Kevin Andrew Murphyon 14 Jul 2006 at 6:07 pm


    You’re welcome. I forgot to add that the hotel space was also very good with the rarity of excellent food right there at con. Too bad there weren’t more people there to enjoy it, but as you mentioned, the scheduling overlaps.

    Jim Hay really did a great job with the programming, with one item I should have mentioned being the Hogwarts Academy children’s track, which had kids going to a whole host of different panels to collect their stamps towards graduation from Hogwarts. I did the “History of Magic” the first day, which was what the storytelling time was titled, but I decided to make it do double duty and told one of the Baba Yaga stories, then followed that with Circe.

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