Thursday, September 13, 2012

Sidewise Awards and Chicon 7 recap

So if you aren't following AH Weekly Update on Facebook or Twitter, you missed the announcement of the this year's Sidewise Awards winners:
  • Short Form: “Paradise is a Walled Garden” by Lisa Goldstein (in Asimov's Science Fiction, August 2011).
  • Long Form: Wake Up and Dream by Ian R. MacLeod. Ian was kind enough so send a review copy, which will be reviewed by Kieran Colfer.
I was actually there when the Sidewise Awards were presented, which are presented every year at Worldcon. This year they were in my hometown and after applying (and receiving) a press pass I set out to attend my first ever science fiction convention.

So how did it go? Well first off the Sidewise Awards were a lot of fun. It was an amazing experience to be in the same room with so many authors and fans of the genre. It was also great getting to meet Dale Cozort and Steven H Silver, two people who I have only talked with through email, in person. I also discovered the definition of alternate history is still a debatable topic. Sidewise Judge Jim Rittenhouse is a strict constructionalist on the matter compared to my more all-encompassing definition I use with AH Weekly Update. Trying to define alternate history, among other subjects, was probably the best part of the awards ceremony.

This open discussion, however, did lead to a incredibly awkward moment. Someone in the audience brought up what he does not like about Harry Turtledove's writing...while sitting only six seats to left from the master of alternate history himself. To Turtledove's credit he did not react negatively, instead allowing other people in the audience to come to his defense. The guy, however, failed to realize how close he was sitting to the person he was criticizing, despite thinly veiled hints from people debating him (they even went as far as to address Turtledove and yet the guy still failed to get the hint). It wasn't until Silver, who was moderating the ceremony, requested everyone move on to another topic that the guy noticed who was sitting in his row.

Awkward? Yes. Embarrassing? For that guy. Funny? For me, oh yes.

So what about the rest of Chicon 7? Well I did not get to see the Hugo Awards, in fact I was only there on Thursday and Friday evening due to real life issues. I did get to attend several interesting panels. Fans of the 1632 series were having their own mini-con within the larger convention, with several 1632 themed panels. I attended one on "Weird Tech", which the panelists (many of them authors writing in the universe) compared to steampunk technology...except it actually worked. I also attended a panel about researching alternate histories, however due to a scheduling snafu, I had to stand the entire time in a hallway listening to a panel of authors mutter, so I did not get a lot out of that discussion.

I attended a few non-AH panels, just because they interested me and hey I have a life outside the genre, right? I learned about slower-than-light interstellar economies, how best to write a book review and the future of electronic publishing. Eric Flint actually managed that last panel and also dominated the conversation. He had a lot of poignant things to say about the industry, ranging from how Amazon rips off authors, how difficult it is to make it as a self-published author and DRMs. If you ever get a chance to hear Flint talk about the subject, I highly recommend it.

I also sat in for a reading by one of my favorite author John G. Hemry. He is best know for his Lost Fleet series, where he writes under the pen name Jack Campbell. Thinking he was going to read from an upcoming  book in that series, he actually surprised me by reading a short story set during War of the Worlds in India. A humorous tale about a sergeant in India who is set off to fight a tripod because his commander does not want to miss a ball. It got me thinking again about how silly the Martian weapons really are.

So what were my feelings of Chicon 7, my first ever SF convention, overall? Well I did not get enough time to sample more of the convention, the hotel was difficult to navigate and in many place I lost cell reception, which annoyed me since I wanted to Tweet live during the Sidewise Awards. Some audience members were rude, interrupting panelists and the fact that most panelists calmly told them to wait until the end for questions and comments made me think it was a common occurrence. Being somewhat of an introvert and this being my first time, I felt lost about what to do and what was the social etiquette. Consider this scenario: I spot an author I know if is perusing some books. Do I go up and strike up a conversation? Ask for an autograph or picture? Perhaps I should have done more research.

Still even with those issues, I had fun overall. Do I recommend that you should go? Sure, but to prevent yourself from being overwhelmed, try to find someone you know who has been to a convention before. It will make it a lot easier on you. Next time I plan to be more professional, but I will still try to catch a few event just for the fun of it.

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Matt Mitrovich is the founder and editor of Alternate History Weekly Update, a volunteer editor for Alt Hist and a contributor to Just Below the Law. His fiction can be found at Echelon PressJake's Monthly and his own writing blog. When not writing he works as an attorney and enjoys life with his beautiful wife Alana.

1 comment:

  1. Great that you had a good time there, Matt. And regarding Turtledove: no matter what one may think about the quality of his writing no real fan of AH can deny the immense influence his contributions have had on AH becoming a regularly published genre.

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