This convention review was prepared for SF2 Concatenation, a British seasonal review of science fact and science fiction.
Windycon 47, the 47th Chicago-region convention held 12th-14th November 2021, Westin Lombard Yorktown Center, Chicago.
In some ways, Windycon 47 unfolded normally, with panels, music, theater, gaming, an anime track, art show, dealer’s room, and even the season’s first snowfall, right on time. It happened in the usual place, the Westin Lombard Yorktown Center. But the 47th annual Windycon should have taken place in 2020. Instead, due to Covid-19, a pared-down Zoom event 13-15 November 2020, called Breezycon, offered a taste of the “family” feeling of the convention’s long history.
This year, everyone had to present proof of vaccination or a negative test at registration and wear masks except in designated areas, such as when eating. Panels and activities were trimmed back to allow more space in meeting rooms for social distancing. Many events were hybrid, both in-person and online, and no paper souvenir program book was handed out; instead, it was available as a PDF download. Usually 1,100 people attend, but this year only 748 were registered, some attending on-line. The con suite offered limited, pre-packaged food.
That was good enough. Convention chair Evan Reeves led the opening ceremony into wild applause with the words, “Windycon is back, baby!” Guests spoke of its “sacred tradition” and how “the energy is palpable” because old and new friends were finally getting back together. The scope of events were reflected in the long list of guests of honor: Carlos Hernandez, author; Ray VanTilburg, artist; Elizabeth Koprucki, science/maker; Kenneth Hite, gaming; C.S.E. Cooney, poetry; Alex “Galactic Elephant” De Michael, cosplay; Seanan McGuire, music; and Ada Palmer, toastmaster, who attended virtually for health reasons.
The theme, “Urban Fantastic,” was explored with panels on the history of urban fantasy, a look at global urban fantasy, developments in modern urban fantasy, and tangential references in many other events.
As usual, the convention had a charity, Shih Tzu Rescue, Adoption, & Education Safehouse, a local volunteer organization assisting small dogs. Its members brought a pair of charming furry ambassadors to meet convention-goers.
Guests of honor were kept busy. Seanan McGuire offered some social media advice at a panel about becoming a professional writer: “The single best thing a writer can get is a cute pet.” At a panel on teaching science fiction and fantasy, Carlos Hernandez bemoaned a long-time rejection of fantasy literature in academics: “There is no greater fantasy than third-person omniscient” since it confers fantastic, god-like powers on the narrator. Ada Palmer, a historian whose next series of novels will deal with Vikings, explained that there are only five sources of information about pre-Christian Viking religious beliefs and “they’re all terrible sources.” Special guest writer Eric Flint said he goes to conventions “to interact with people I didn’t invent.”
Throughout the convention, one meeting room was devoted to music and concerts, and Seanan McGuire managed to belt out songs while fully masked, proving it can be done. Another room featured readings by authors. A quiet hotel suite hosted memorials for fans and writers who had died: Phyllis Eisensten, Sue Edmunds, Jim Rittenhouse, Lois Ray, and Mike Resnik. A crafts workshop taught con-goers to make LED art and jewelry. The DuPage Amateur Radio Club ran a 100-watt Windycon Special Event Station, W9W.
Panels addressed topics as varied as Storytelling and Game Design, Logistics of Space Opera, Climate Change is Optional, and the Infernal Salon Poetry Workshop. One panel focused on Chicon 8, the 80th World Science Fiction Convention, which will be held in Chicago 1-5 September 2022. Helen Montgomery, the chair of Chicon 8, said it will be “five days of awesome. We’ll have all the things.” Instead of Retro-Hugos, it will have a 1946 project to give members an idea of what publishing and fandom was like in the year after the end of WWII.
The evening entertainment included a staged reading of the play by Rory Leahy, “Thorak the Inadequate,” based on the works of Robert E. Howard and HP Lovecraft; and a “Keeping It Burly” SFF-themed burlesque show, as well as short film and anime presentations.
This may sound busy, but compared to pre-Covid Windycons, it was not. One fan almost considered the event a relaxacon. Convention volunteers were busy, though, and spent a lot of time solving technical problems for hybrid events. Recorded panels were uploaded to the YouTube Windycon channel.
Most different of all, there were no real parties. Usually two floors of the hotel feature organized parties that compete for awards, but this year, the convention committee announced that due to the ongoing pandemic, Windycon would not be sponsoring any party activities. Bar Fleet held its dance on-line. Still, a couple of groups hosted “chilled-out evening socializing,” and the convention’s Logistics staff found a way to provide three kinds of craft beer on tap for free in the con suite.
In the end, Windycon felt successful. At the closing ceremonies, Evan Reeves declared, “We did it!” Attendance was phenomenal, he said, all things considered, and the energy impressed newcomers. Windycon 48 will be held 11-13 November 2022 at the same site with the theme “Shattering the Glass Ceiling.”