Thursday, August 31, 2000 - Chicago, Illinois The 58th World Science Fiction Convention - Chicon 2000

The first day in a hectic schedule (I am sure). I began the day with a little walk into the downtown area (well, more downtown than the hotel is already) in search of a shop that would sell me batteries for my camera (annoying when you want to use it and it does not work - like last night). After clearing that up and walking through the heat and humidity (and the dry of the hotel) I stopped just half a block from the hotel at a hot dog place that I had read about in the convention information. This place serves “Chicago-style” hot dogs (NO ketchup - 100% beef - covered with relish, onions and the like) and they were quite good (both of them - yes I AM a pig!). It was a great little local shop (no chain this) with LOTs of character (and reasonably priced to boot!).

I returned to the hotel which, by this time, had opened up the dealer's room (place where you can buy all sorts of Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror -related things such as books, videos, t-shirts, art, magazines, CDs, etc), wandering around a picking up a few things though being careful not to overdo the hard-cover books since I can only carry SO much on the air-plane back to England (I could NOT resist the new hard-covers that were half price though…only a few books…). It was a lot of fun and no doubt I will be returning.

I had a bit of trouble finding the room for my first session - the layout of the hotels is VERY odd with most convention rooms BELOW the first, street-level floor. Perhaps I should explain. The hotel is located on East Wacker, but the street at this point is actually multi- level with the highest level being the main entrance to the hotel but with two levels below which are also “street level” in that East Wacker also has levels there (odd, if you ask me, but I guess it moves the traffic…). It makes the layout of the hotel a bit confusing (so, where is the first floor?).

Session: What is a Planet?

I finally found the first session about what actually defines a planet (one that does not, nor ever has, perform nuclear fusion). It was quite interesting with Hal Clement (an older Science Fiction author - one of the “grand masters”) offering some interesting insights. Of course this topic is of current interest because of the newer discoveries of planets that are now occurring in other solar systems.

Session: What's New in Computers?

This session panel was composed of a guy from Intel (a computer chip manufacturer), a lady who was the head technology expert for a large US city, and two computer systems developers. The discussion really went around a few circles, touching on privacy on the Internet as well as the newest in computer chip technologies. All in all an interesting panel to me, being a computer professional myself (though I found some comments a bit misleading or even incorrect).

Session: Opening Ceremonies

Heading over to the main area of the hotel (the Hyatt Regency, where I am staying, is in two halves - a west and an east tower with the east being the main building and the west being across the road and joined by concourse and bridge) I attended the opening ceremonies which started VERY late (gave me a chance to read a bit). They showed a brief video about the history of the convention and of the first such convention (a WORLD Science Fiction convention) in Chicago back in the 40s, interviewing a few of the people around at the time - which was quite good. They had a strange ceremony where people had paid (in the run-up to this convention) to be able to throw pies in the faces of some members of the “bid committee”, so they did just that. They finally cut the ribbon and the convention formally got under way. Not a terribly good ceremony but quite cute.

I followed the ceremony by picking up a t-shirt for the convention (have to prove I was here) and then elected for the 2003 convention site (I voted for Toronto - the choice being between that and Cancun which was being operated by Americans). Besides, have to vote for your home country. If they win the election (which they should since they are far more organized, in my humble opinion) then because I am also a “pre- supporting” member I will get a discount on my “attending membership” fee (complicated, isn't it?).

Session: Extra-Solar Planets

This discussion continued from where the previous panel of the day left off, concentrating on planets outside of our solar system. It was interesting to hear about how they infer the existence of many of the planets due to the “wobble” of their sun (being able to tell how big and how near, in many cases) in addition to seeing if there is an eclipse as the planet passes between us and the other sun (which only works in planets that do this anyway, whose to say they do not pass on the other side?). This discussion was not panelled by any scientists, which was quite unfortunate, but interesting nonetheless.

I made a quick stop at the hotel room to dump my somewhat heavier bag (than this morning, that is). Getting up to my hotel room took a bit of time with quite a large number of people wanting to use the elevators (23 floors is a LONG way up with a crowded elevator - many of the people simply going up a few floors to take the bridge to the other half of the hotel).

Session: Media Tie-Ins

This was an interesting discussion since it focused on the preponderance, or so it seems, of media-related books in recent years (for example, the Star Wars, Star Trek, and X-Files books). The panellists were all related to either the writing or publishing of such books. In many ways they alleviated my fears about such work corrupting the truly original Science Fiction being written with “ready made” books about television and movie characters. They suggested that the books that they write/publish that are tie-ins with the media are the same quality, if not more so, than the original material they publish. They also suggested that such books have been written for quite some time (e.g. the “Man from Uncle” books). It is their wish that people buy their books so they are written well, besides, it was argued, why would any author want to sit down and write junk? I don't know if I am 100% convinced…

Session: The Martian Future

This session turned out to be simply an advertisement for the Mars Society (which aims to send a space-ship to Mars using private money) which was, in a way, disappointing. The discussion was basically a slide show that started by discussing Mars (climate, general information, history, etc) and then began suggesting ways we could send a manned expedition there (would have to stay for quite some time to make it worth while) and the practical considerations that would have to be made (one of the key considerations being keeping the astronauts in shape for the trip so they were at least capable of building a settlement when they arrived on Mars).

Session: Dune: The Mini Series

For some strange reason the people running the convention had put this in a small room capable of fitting about 30 people and 300 showed up. Evidently, this happened on a number of other sessions today (according to other people in the line). We stood around for about half an hour before they moved us into the same room as the opening ceremonies (resized to 1/4 the size). It was good to hear about this television series being shown on the “Sci Fi” channel in the US will be very true to the book by Frank Herbert. The movie created a few years ago was heavily criticised for not following the book too closely so it was good to see that the Sci Fi channel wanted to do things VERY correct and have taken great pains to ensure that it follows the book as accurately as possible (though this could also be it's downfall - what works well in print may not translate well onto the television/movie screen).

We were shown two small trailers for the series (which is composed of the first book only - there are several other books that follow) which looked OK, but it is hard to tell from about a minute and half of footage - we shall see. Don't know when I will see it in England…


Well, being a convention there were a number of parties on offer at night where you can just wander into, helping yourself to drink (yes, alcoholic though they emphasised that they were checking ID everywhere) and food, and chat to whoever is there. I ended up dropping by Toronto (trying some “moose droppings” - almonds covered in chocolate, and helping myself to some “Clearly Canadian” soft drinks - you can't get it in the UK) to show my support, then I visited the Baltimore party (they put in the Buccaneer World Science Fiction Convention in 1998, I believe) where I won a t-shirt (very strange one too - just a pirate type logo on it…) and finally, around about 7 floors below my room, I visited the Chernobyl in 2011 party (a bid to hold the convention in Chernobyl in 2011 - obviously what is known as a “fake” or “humorous” bid) where I picked up a t-shirt “Top Ten Reasons to Bring Worldcon to Chernobyl in 2011” including “Nighttime party lighting included”, “Huge heated pools”, and “Free clean suit with your registration”.

It is now 2:30 am, I am tired. I go to bed now…After checking electronic mail (sigh).

⇒ Continue to Friday, September 1, 2000 - Chicago, Illinois The 58th World Science Fiction Convention - Chicon 2000