• Announcement:

    We are currently experiencing email issues. Please bear with us while we attempt to fix this. You can try to contact us via social media in the meantime.

Five Things I Wish I Knew Before I Attended My First Worldcon

As we edge ever-closer to Worldcon taking over Glasgow in August, Matthew Palmer gives us a few tips on how to approach the big event if you’re a first-timer.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez 🇨🇦 on Unsplash

Since I first became aware of it in the early 2000s (probably from GRRM’s blog) I had wanted to attend Worldcon. A convention focused on scifi, fantasy and horror fiction that roamed the globe like some kind of Genre Fiction Olympics seemed like a fantastic idea.

I didn’t get my ducks in a row until Dublin 2019, and it was only the second convention I’d ever attended. Now that I’ve a few more under my belt, I understand that the Worldcon experience is very different from other conventions.

With that in mind, I thought that it might be useful to reflect on my own Dublin 2019 experience and what advice I would give to first time Worldcon attendees.

Don’t try to do everything

Worldcon is big, and there is a lot to do. It may sound like a statement of the obvious, but Worldcon exists on a scale that is several steps above the standard convention experience. The Dublin 2019 programme had at least nine panels in each slot alongside workshops, entertainment, signings and Kaffeeklatches (chances for fans of an author or guest to gather and chat with them). It’s impossible to do something in every session. I found that I ended up doing something in every other session, taking a break in between so that I could get where I needed to be for the next item I wanted to attend. That gave me time to travel across the convention centre to queue and be in time up for the more in demand panels. It was also gave me time to eat and decompress when I needed to.

Make a plan, but be flexible

Take time when you arrive to go over the schedule and make a plan. Some of the panels in Dublin were 10-15 mins walk away from the main convention centre. There may also be events that need to be pre-booked or registered for at the convention (like the Kaffeeklatches). I attended a screening of Forbidden Planet hosted by GRRM at IFI and the Hugo Award ceremony, and shaped my days around these events. Particularly in-demand events like signings from popular authors sometimes had very long queues. GRRM signings were allotted 80 minutes in the programme, but people started lining up for it at least an hour beforehand. You may decide, as I did, that your time is better spent elsewhere. Also, the Thursday and Friday were quieter than the weekend, where there was a substantial bump in attendance, so be prepared for that!

Engage with the Hugos

Sometimes it seems like we only ever hear about the Hugos when they are embroiled in controversy, so it’s easy to be cynical about them. To my mind the voting packet is a major benefit to attending the convention. It’s a fantastic opportunity to discover new writers, even if you don’t vote or attend the ceremony. If I hadn’t be introduced to Naomi Novik’s writing in the 2019 packet, I probably wouldn’t have started writing. I found the Hugo Ceremony the highlight of my weekend, and it was great celebration of everything the genre has to offer. The Hugo vote can also be a great conversation starter, which brings me to…

Don’t be shy

You are going to spend a lot of time in queues at the convention. It’s inevitable—but you can make the best of it. You never know who you’re going to be standing next to, and some of my fondest memories of 2019 are the conversations that I had waiting for a panel or event. I managed to be drawn into topics such as literary authors who write genre fiction under pen names, the difficulty of research into Norse Mythology due to the lack of primary texts, and a debate about the assumed genders of aliens in Star Wars. So, try to reach out to others throughout the convention; you never know what you’ll end up learning about.

Gallery images by Lawrence Crayton, Muhammad Faiz Zulkeflee, Bryan Turner on Unsplash 

Finally: Be Kind

It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, I’m afraid. With a convention as large as Worldcon, it would a miracle if everything went to plan. Panel attendees might not arrive, events may be cancelled, or things may not work out the way you would like. When I saw that happening, it was the volunteers and convention centre staff that received the brunt of dissatisfaction. Those volunteers are also attendees who are giving up their time to help organise the convention. The venue staff are probably overwhelmed by the size and scale of the event. I hope at Glasgow 2024 as many of us as possible can treat them with the kindness and respect they’ve earned through their hard work.

Dublin 2019 was a fantastic experience, and I personally can’t wait to see what Glasgow 2024 has to offer. The above advice is only my personal opinion, and I’d love to hear other people’s convention hints and tips on the BFS Discord. I think there are probably as many ways to enjoy the convention as there are attendees. I hope everyone who attends gets the most out of it and comes away with fantastic memories as well as hosts of new stories to read and tell.  

Learn more about Worldcon Glasgow 2024—and grab your ticket!—here.

Image from the Glasgow 2024 Instagram.

Meet the guest poster

Image for Matthew Palmer

Matthew Palmer is a University Administrator living in the Northwest. He has had a lifelong interest in fantasy, myth and the strange. He has written film and TV reviews for the BFS website. When he isn’t wrangling his children he spends his time hammering his first novel into what he hopes is publishable shape. He can be found lurking on BlueSky at @matthewspalmer.bsky.social.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

8 + 12 =