On the Road: 76th World Science Fiction Convention 2018

Worldcon 76 in San José, California

In the beginning of 2018 I started writing abstracts for presentations at various conferences. One Call for Papers was for the Academic Track during the 76th World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon) in San José, California. Worldcon is one of the oldest conventions in the world, starting in 1939. With such a long tradition and with the famous Hugo Awards being part of it, I was really excited to hand something in.

The topic was „Making the Future“, so of course I wanted to talk about some ideas from my PhD project. What is more „making the future“ than architecture?

Architecture is an important sign of civilization, both in the real world and the fictional ones. Especially in Science Fiction the civilizing progress is represented in modern style city architectures. Within this cities, tall tower buildings take a special position as physical symbols for technologicalabilities, power and for a futuristic setting.

But these iconographical meanings are not only part of the futuristic Science Fiction. It is also used in the Fantasy genre (often combined with an historicized architecture). Both influenced each other over decades of fictional creation. They all have in common that the reception of meanings, shapes and styles are based in the art production of the last 500 years.

Using the example of the Tower of Babel, the papers intension is to discuss the genealogy of visualized futuristic architecture over the centuries. With what intensions are (historical) motives, styles and forms adopted (creating depth and „history“, monumentalism and representation)? Is there an unconscious association and/or tradition with styles and motives (in the context of the tower motif e.g. hubris, doom and downfall, representation, towers as symbol for technology)?

The examples will range from paintings, book illustrations, fan art and covers to comics and movies from 15th to 21st century.

And to my own surprise they accepted the paper!

The Struggles of an #IndieScholar and #IndiePhD

After the excitement lowered I realized that this will be a pretty expensive trip. Sadly, the organization behind the Worldcon (it is non-profit and fan-based) could not support monetarily and as I am doing an individual PhD, there are not many funds I could apply to. But with a very positive Letter of Support from my advisor and a lot of paperwork, I got a traveling grant from the German government for international congresses in academia (thanks again DAAD!).

San José as the capital of the Silicon Valley is really not a cheap place to go, so the grant was covering only half of the costs. But it was also some sort of vacation for me (I used a lot of my vacation days of my rent-paying part time job). The cheapest hotel close to Downtown and the Convention Hall was the Hyatt. Eight nights of Hyatt were an okay location to work and relax and regain energy for the convention.

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Worldcon – So many people!

2018 attended around 5400 people at Worldcon! I was really impressed by all the masses but I was also told that this one of the smaller conventions in the US. I have no idea how a big one would look like then…

Besides the amount of people it was more interesting to see how devoted, interested and informed the participants were. The discussions inside and outside the Academic Track were interesting and inspiring and people at Worldcon really know their Sci Fi!

Presentation Anxiety

This presentation was my first one in years. Half a planet from home, not in my mothers tongue and in front of people who know stuff. Of course I was super nervous before the panel. But thanks to friends at home who auditioned my script with me and to an independent scholar I had the pleasure to meet there it went pretty well. Afterwards I had some very interesting conversations and got a lot of hints and ideas for my topic and what I could do as an independent scholar.

San José or Where the hell do I get food?

As European I am used to cities with a center where restaurants, bars, shops and supermarkets are. Well, not really in San José. Of course there were some bars and restaurants, but after 9 p.m. it was difficult to get some dinner. And after three days I finally found the only supermarket. As my mobile data was already blocked at 60 €, it was a lot of walking around. But I survived and thanks to the exchange rate, the food at the convention hall and some supermarket sandwiches my budget did not explode (totally).

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The city itself was nice, especially the Art Museum and the Tech Museum of Innovation but seemed a bit dead. Of course not when a couple of hundred Worldcon participants flooded Downtown to get some dinner. As I was there all by myself it was nice to meet people everywhere all the time.

So what’s next? Dublin!

The next Worldcon will be in Dublin, Ireland and with all my positive experiences from my first Worldcon, my first convention at all, I will definitively hand in a paper for 2019 and fly there. It is only a three hours flight, not eleven. So just around the corner!

Are you coming too? It would be pretty cool to meet people, exchange ideas and thoughts and to have a nice time at Worldon 77! Leave a comment or write an e-mail!

Homepage of the 76th World Science Fiction Convention.

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