Loncon 3 – The 72nd World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon)
To be perfectly honest I had no idea what to expect when going to Loncon 3. Until recently I hadn’t heard of it but the more I looked into it, the more interested I became.
To understand what Loncon 3 is you actually need to look back a good long while. Now I’m going to let that set in a little because it took me a few moments, this isn’t just a Film convention or an Anime convention but focuses on Science Fiction for the world. Now this may seem a little grand but in all honesty it was a refreshing change.
Loncon 3 was held in London’s Excel centre which is known to many convention goers as the home of both London Super Comic Con and MCM Expo. Now the latter of this has unfortunately become a victim of its own popularity and has become very busy in recent years leading to overcrowding and over heating, both of which are unpleasant and can affect a person’s enjoyment of an event. Somehow Loncon 3 didn’t suffer the same problems. Granted I was there on the opening day which was a Thursday and may have been a little quiet but the organisation was fantastic. All the volunteers were clearly marked with coloured hazard jackets depending on their role and were all very knowledgeable on where every thing was located. One thing I was especially impressed by was the accessibility team. Conventions are attended by all people and there is no reason why someone with any form of disability should be restricted in what they experience at these events. As you entered Loncon 3 very openly placed was a team of volunteers set up purely to help people enjoy the events. Whether it was hiring a scooter for the day to help them get around or advice on how to get to different areas, they were amazing. They were also set up for people who may not like large crowds, and were offering ear plugs to block some of the noise for those who were sound sensitive and even giving out stickers for those who didn’t want to be in pictures (the idea being if a photographer saw one of these badges in shot they would avoid taking the picture). I’ve never seen this at events and was truly impressed. Well done Loncon 3!
With a multinational crowd in attendance Loncon 3 is predicted to be one of the largest conventions to date with over 10200 memberships sold (figures correct at time of writing) from over 64 different countries, some people have travelled from as far as Japan to attend but it was obviously a close knit and friendly community. People were happy to chat in the line whilst waiting for passes and many times whilst walking around the halls people would run up to others with a shout out, “Hey its me! Its so good to finally meet you!” which is always nice to hear.
The convention halls themselves were both impressive and interestingly spaced out. Neither hall could be referred too as the “main” hall as they were equally important as each other. On one side you had the “fan hall” which was full of fan groups and spaces as well as different society each petitioning their city to hold the subsequent World science fiction convention. Its an open vote and any member can post their ballot on where the convention should head next. The fan spaces inside the hall were allowing timed slots for different activities including anything from art classes to lessons on how to build Lego but for me the most interesting was the gaming zone. This was a space dedicated to RPG and board games and was permanently filled with people playing. I was flabbergasted at the variation of games being played and of course there was a stall on hand selling them all. The really interesting part was that the games distributors, a company called Esdevium Games, were on hand not only giving demonstrations of the games but lending copies out so people could have a go themselves. I could have spent hours in this area but we only had one day and a lot more Convention to see.
The second area in the convention hall could probably be best described as the stall area being filled with people selling every thing from second hand classic science fiction novels to vibrating tribbles and three armed two headed teddy bears (more on them later). What was very interested was mixed in with all the trade stands were sections dedicated to actual scientific endeavour and projects emulating what would happen if science fiction became science fact. One stand was dedicated to a large scale model of a multi-story car park in Peckham but ran with the idea of what it might look like in 100 years after an apocalyptic event. The amount of detail and imagination that went into it was truly breathtaking.
I would like to make mention of a group I spent a lot of time chatting to. ZZ9 Plural Z Alpha is a Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy fan group who were in attendance. They were selling their own Hitchhikers branded merchandise and what really drew my attention was their “Beeblebears”, Teddy-bears made in the image of Zaphod Beeblebrox, all with two heads, three arms and three eyes. They creeped me out more than anything I know…
At Worldcon one of the big events and highlight of the convention is the giving of the Hugo Award which is voted for by the members of the World Science Fiction Society who run the whole event. Previous winners include Frank Herbert with “Dune” (1966), Robert.A.Heinlein with “Starship troopers” (1960) and more recently both J.K Rowling and George R.R Martin have won for their titular pieces. This years award was presented to Ann Leckie for her novel “Ancillary Justice” (available from Orbit UK publishing). The award ceremony made up the highlight of the Sunday night entertainment.
Loncon 3 was a surprisingly good convention for me. It was a pity I was only able to attend the opening day as the line up of talks and activities over the following few days looked amazing. My only sadness is that this event doesn’t happen every year! Next year the World Science Fiction Convention is going to be held in Spokane, Washington in the USA. I wish them all the best of luck and hope they continue the passion and friendly atmosphere that was enjoyed at Loncon 3.
All photos © Chris Hohenkerk