Windycon 44 convention review

Windycon 44
November 10 to 12, 2017
Westin Lombard Yorktown Center Hotel, Illinois

My second Windycon wasn’t quite as magic as the first, which I attended last year. Some of the novelty of being in America has worn off, but I still had a wonderful weekend with about a thousand friends or potential friends enjoying and debating science fiction, life, the universe, and everything. The theme was “dystopia,” and people had fun with that, too.

Friday, November 10
Chicago to Lombard

Two inches of lake-effect snow had fallen in my neighborhood and the Loop as I made my way at about noon to the convention. My husband had taken the car to go to work (not very far from Lombard, ironically), so I took the “L” train to downtown and then a Union Pacific commuter train to the snow-free western suburbs, and the hotel shuttle picked up me and three other convention-goers. A car would have taken only slightly less time.

I checked in, wandered around, ate a baked potato and some pizza in the con suite, said hello to Starship Cat / Leigh Kimmel in the Dealer’s Room, and eventually attended a panel on “NASA Tech: Not Just for Astronauts Anymore,” where someone wondered how much use on Earth there is for an ion drive.

At the Opening Ceremony, author guest of honor Rudy Rucker opined that “we’re not here for any productive purpose, we’re here to mess around.”

Immediately after that, I had been assigned to moderate a panel on Neuro Linguistic Programming, about which I know bupkis, but one of the scheduled panelists was a practitioner, as was another panel member who appeared out of nowhere, so I said very little besides “welcome” and “thank you.” It turned out just fine. Later the head of programming said I got some of my (rather mystifying) assignments because I was willing to participate, even moderate, and was available at the times when a willing panelist or moderator was needed.

I popped in on a presentation about Fermilab and decided I must visit it sometime. Then I spend the rest of the evening wandering from place to place, fired a “missile pod” at the Royal Manticoran Navy fan party (i.e., I downed an alcoholic shot in an elaborate ceremony), and got to bed sometime after midnight.

Saturday, November 11
Westin Lombard Yorktown Center

After bagels and lox in the con suite, I attended a panel on “Is Science Fiction as Thrilling as It Used to Be?” where one panelist posited that science fiction seems to have a great innovation every twenty years, like New Wave in the 1960s, cyberpunk in the 80s, and New Space Opera in the 00s – so it’s about time for something new again. Regarding the best age at which to read science fiction, an audience member said, “I’m older now than I ever was before,” yet she was reading happily.

I got bored at the next panel, “Who Doth Smite Me?” about creating a fictional religion, so I wandered around and, eventually, attended a Dave McCarthy and Helen Montgomery panel about launching the bid for a 2022 Worldcon in Chicago. The hardest part, Dave said, was the bid campaign, which will cost $25,000 to $30,000.

At 1 p.m., I moderated a panel on “VillainCon Submissions: What if writers of dystopian stories are really submitting their world domination plans for peer review?” We decided instead that the fun of dystopias was telling stories about rebelling against and overcoming evil milieux, although we could not decide what the slow-motion dystopia of Twitter and Facebook is going to yield.

At 2 p.m., I moderated “Developing a Language,” and with a little effort I kept us more or less on track as we talked about the differences among actual languages and cultures, how to express that, and whether invented languages could be as complex.

I broke for lunch, and alas all the meatballs in the con suite had been eaten. Then I went to “The Apocalypse Is Now” where a medical doctor described how a really bad influenza outbreak could destroy Chicago. At “The Future of Civilization,” which included science guest of honor Holly Wilper, the panel decided that “the future is a scary place” – as I said, the con theme was dystopia.

I caught a few songs by the music guest of honor, Erica Neely, including one in which not everybody died. (She tends to sing grim songs.) After dinner, I saw her again on a panel about “Living On or Off the Grid,” that is, off social media and the internet, and we concluded that while the government has way too much data on us, corporations have immensely more and they’re acting on it, not necessarily to our benefit.

After a social hour called “Writers & Donuts,” which was exactly that, I appeared on a 9 p.m. panel about “Dystopian Recipes.” The moderator wasn’t enthusiastic for what she called “sordid” sources of protein, however, so we never discussed anything resembling Soylent Green.

I listened to a choir sing in Klingon, then prowled the halls looking for friends and parties, and retired well after midnight.

Sunday, November 12
Lombard to Chicago

After more bagels and lox, and some caffeine, I made a 10 a.m. panel on “Measures of Sentience,” then one on “Is English Dead?” which was the funniest panel of the weekend with such con, discussing concepts like the failure of “business casual” language. At noon, I went to “Tutti Frutti Literature,” about how changing social norms were affecting fiction. The title apparently refers to slang for an uncommon sexual practice, but someone on Twitter thought it was a slur against gays, and social media slow-motion destruction ensued. No one gets to make the slightest mistake anymore, and everyone gets treated as the enemy.

Then it was time to catch the shuttle bus to the train station. The weather had warmed up, so it was raining hard, not snowing. My husband (who had stayed home to do his master’s degree homework) offered to come pick me up, but I got back faster than it would have taken for him to make a round trip across greater Chicagoland.

Windycon 45 will be held November 9 to 11, 2018, again in Lombard, Illinois, with the theme “Unexpected Heroes.”