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Volume 28, Number 1, Fall, 2009

Anticipation: 2009 Worldcon report

By Fred Curtis Moulton

Montreal is a great city with many fantastic places to visit and wonderful places to eat and drink ranging from family diners to wonderful restaurants and bars. The predominant language is French, however most people speak English and it usually not difficult to figure out the signs in French with a bit of thought. The people of Montreal are very hospitable. The city is clean and bustling.

Old Montreal is a fun place to walk and see the sights, ranging from old and interesting buildings to fountains and modern sculpture in the small parks in Central Montreal. The original walls of Montreal have been the subject of serious archaeological work over the years and these walls can be seen in the lower level of the Pointe-á-Callière, the Montreal Museum of Archeology and History. The museum is built on pillars instead of a traditional foundation so that the stone walls which have been excavated are protected and can be seen by visitors. Anyone interested in history or archeology will enjoy a visit and there are docent tours in both English and French. The Museum also had a special exhibit on Pirates, Privateers and Freebooters which was attempted to hold the attention of both the young and the old which is difficult to do with such a broad topic. The displays ranged from the stories of pirates in the Caribbean to the difficulties of life on a ship. There are many other sites to visit in Montreal and the surrounding area. The Biodome is a very worthwhile visit and is easily accessible via the Metro.

The Worldcon ran from August 6th through 10th, 2009. The main Worldcon facility for programming was the Palais des congrès de Montréal which everyone shortened to just Palais. The Palais is a large structure long with multiple floors and walking the length of the facility to get from event to event meant that walking time was a consideration. I found the exercise beneficial and a good way to stretch the legs after a panel. The first floor has shops and restaurants. The second floor was used for Worldcon registration, information desk, Voodoo Board, the Dealers Room, the Art Show and other exhibits. Site Selection was also on the second floor in the exhibits area and the voting results were that Reno will host the 2011 Worldcon and Raleigh will host the 2010 NASFiC since Worldcon will be in Melbourne in 2010. The fifth floor of the Palais had a large room which worked well for the Opening, Closing, Hugos and Masquerade. The fifth floor also had most of the panel rooms.

Since this Worldcon did not occur over Labor Day it was easier for families with children to attend since many schools are starting in mid-August. There were specific tracks and programs for children and teens and the reports I heard were that they were successful.

The filking and party hotel was the Delta Centre-Ville which was about 500 to 600 meters from the Palais depending on the route you took. Central Montreal has underground walkways which connect many of the buildings and Metro (Subway) stops and shops and food courts like an underground city with many services. The Delta was connected to the Palais via this underground walkway which was convenient if there was a rain shower. Walking underground from the Delta to the Palais also had the benefit that you did not have to wait at traffic lights. There were other hotels closer to the Palais however in general the typical distance from most hotels to the Palais was no worse that other recent Worldcons. The Holiday Inn was diagonally across the street from the Palais and also adjacent to the small but vibrant Chinatown. The Montreal Chinatown covers just a few blocks but its restaurants and bakeries were good and well used by the Worldcon attendees.

Overall the Worldcon was a success. There were a few minor glitches related to panel schedules. The range of Panel topics and the persons on the panels meant that there was almost always something which would interest you. This Worldcon had some unusual program items such as Nobel prize economist Paul Krugman. Whether one agrees with Krugman or not he did attract crowds and was not the usual Worldcon panelist. Paul Krugman and Charles Stross had a well-attended discussion which is now available online. The most commonly heard complaint was that the scheduling and rescheduling of panels had some problems and was not always well communicated and thus disrupted schedules.

The Dealers Room did not have as many book dealers as Worldcon have had historically. One commonly held perception was that the Dealers Room and the Art Show suffered from people not wanting to deal with border issues; of course other factors such as the economy might have been in play. The Masquerade was enjoyable and went off with out any major problems. The Hugos were enjoyable and felt properly paced. Results for the Masquerade and Hugos are available numerous places online.

Julie Czerneda was the Master of Ceremonies and did a wonderful job. There were French speakers to assist with much of the translation of the larger events. The Guests of Honor were well received and seemed to be enjoying themselves. Of course there was a demand for the Neil Gaiman autograph session so I am told there were tickets issued.

The Prometheus Awards event was relatively well attended with about 25 people. This is not a bad turnout considering that there were over 15 other events scheduled for that same time slot. This was a common thread through the entire con; lots of programming with usually 15 or more simultaneous events. Panels started at 9:00AM and continued into the evening with the last panels scheduled to end at midnight. Plus most of the parties started at 9:00PM. So getting about 25 people was a good turnout.

Pat Reynolds, archivist of the Tolkien Society was present to accept the HOF award for LoTR and Cory Doctorow was present to accept the Best Novel award won by Little Brother. Following the remarks from Pat and Cory there was a question and answer session.

The morning of the last day of the con, Pat Reynolds, several LFS members, and their friends met for coffee at Van Hottee in the Palais and had a wonderful discussion on a wide range of SF related topics ranging from the discussion of the social science at SF cons to the history of SF. Some others who had wanted to join us were prevented due to some last minute panel rescheduling.

There were a variety of parties each night of the con on the 5th and 28th floor of the Delta. Some parties such as the Fanzine Lounge ran well into the wee hours. The Delta appears to have had an internal communications glitch with some of its night managers regarding parties and elevators resulting in some problems for some of the parties particularly Saturday night. Often fans resorted to using the stairs since using the stairs was often faster than waiting for an elevator. The Delta just needs a bit of better staff training and improved procedures in order to be ready for an event like Worldcon.

In summary Montreal was wonderful and the 67th Worldcon was fantastic.

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