It's not every year that the world's most prestigious literary science fiction convention comes to town, so Worldcon was definitely not an event to miss. Then I found out there was a gaming area, so I knew I had to try and participate. Then they announced they were having a Star Wars Day, and I definitely wanted to be involved in some capacity. I went in for pretty much the full Worldcon experience, buying a membership early on and getting in on the Hugo award voting process.
Worldcons are hosted by local convention organizers, with conventions specifically geared for the big event. In this case, MidAmeriCon II provided the organizational efforts. MidAmeriCon I was held in 1976 for Worldcon. Among the many events, it had a preview of the upcoming Star Wars movie, with Charles Lippencott, Gary Kurtz, and Mark Hamill appearing with still photos and a Q&A session. it was one of only a few such sessions at conventions across the country, and I believe they said it was the only one with all three of these individuals. More on that in a moment.
So, compared to the mega-event of Gen Con and the large but not overpowering Kansas City Comic Con the two weekends before, MidAmeriCon II attendance seemed light and spread out. the announced membership total was about 4,500 attendees, plus some number of volunteers I would imagine. It also takes place over the course of five days, it was surprising how the extra day really made the convention seem a whole lot longer than the earlier ones. That's not to say that the place felt empty, as a many panels were filled to capacity, and the hallways surrounding the panel rooms were always busy. If anything, some of the more popular panels should have moved into some of the bigger rooms.
The exhibition hall was a very different experience from other conventions. Only about a third of it had dealers, which was a mix of authors, a few publishers, some booksellers, a rather high proportion of T-shirt vendors, a few artists, and one podcasting hosting company. There was an art show that, quite frankly, had more variety than a lot of conventions I've seen lately. There were a few other displays for NASA, a science museum, Heinlein, and the guests of honor. Heinlein gets special mention in Kansas City, since he once lived here and essentially grew up in the region. A fair amount of the hall was dedicated to groups vying for the next available Worldcon in 2018, for which the voting occurred at the show. The gaming area was in the exhibition hall, and was a sizable area in a prime location in about the middle of the hall. There was a 24-hour gaming area in one of the hotels, but somehow I never made it over to check it out. The largest area was dedicated to the con suite. While a typical installation in sci-fi conventions, it's not something I normally see. In this case, there were drinks, limited stacks, places to sit and visit, and a perimeter of small party "rooms" that could be used a rented out by various groups to host one of the many parties the convention is known for.
I usually ran one game per day, though I did double up with a demo on Saturday. I ran one full game each of the three Star Wars RPG game lines, into very short demos of the brand-new Star Wars The Force Awakens RPG Beginner Game. I ran my D&D Adventurers League adventure on Sunday. There were also a massive board game library (by KantCon) and a variety of other RPG's (mostly by the RPGKC). The Fantasy Flight Demo Crew showed off a variety of FFG sci-fi games like X-wing, Armada, Netrunner, etc. The Artemis flight simulator was available as well.
Surprisingly, every single Star Wars player I had was new to the game. I had one player attend two sessions, and another that had read the beginner game rules before. I even had one set of parents play in a demo after their son had played an earlier game. The fun thing about this was that the game is still drawing new players, some of which had heard about the system and wanted to try it out. Another thought is that since I was running the game at a convention where gaming was not the focus, it actually presented a better opportunity to introduce the game to a wider audience.
Running the short Force Awakens demos also showed a couple of notable things I can use next time. One, I can run it in an hour and introduce all the main concepts and get through the first encounter, but it ends up with me plowing through at a breakneck pace. It was a great deal of fun, and the encounter had a lot of action even though it was relatively straightforward. An hour and a half demo is probably a little bit better.
My other main event was participating in the Star Wars Tie In Panel with Kevin J. Anderson (novels and comics), Rebecca Moesta (Jedi books), William Dietz (Dark Forces novels) and Steve Saffel (previously of Del Rey). It was a lot of fun. It turned out I was the only one of the group currently working with Star Wars. most of the discussion was about the novels, but I did manage to talk about the game's influence on the EU and brought a few examples along of how the different tie-in products work together.
The panel was part of Star Wars Day. Unfortunately, the day itself was dramatically undermined by the sudden removal of the main guests (Lippencott, Kurtz, and Alan Dean Foster), their events, and exhibition from the schedule. An early cryptic acknowledgment was posted on the con website that some unforeseen circumstances had prevented Lippencott's appearance. It seemed like the others were going to be there right up until they all vanished and the entire Star Wars Day page changed. Unrelated Star Wars events, like the panel I was on, remained. A friend of mine alerted me that something was going on in the Marriott and wondered if I was attending. It was completely confusing until I figured out that apparently all the individuals were actually in town and hosting their event separately for an additional fee. Apparently there is some sort of conflict between them and the convention. There was other discussion on Facebook or elsewhere, but I didn't track it down. I heard a couple of rumors, but I don't know of anyone who attended.
However, they did run a recording of the original MidAmeriCon Star Wars Q&A at the video archive area. It was a lot of fun to hear the questions and answers with the benefit of knowing what happened when the movie arrived. Mark Hamill was really young and having a good time. Also fascinating were the comments made by some of the audience after the video was over, as many of them had attended the Q&A, or had missed it at the time.
Of course, I attended the Hugo Awards. Nominations were controversial once again this year. I didn't nominate anything, but I probably should've made a better effort to do so. I did vote. The show itself was far more entertaining than I expected. There was a pretty good mix of joking around and seriousness involved. I also knew a couple of the nominees, which made it more interesting in a couple of categories. The voting more or less turned into a resounding rejection of nominations pushed by the so-called "puppies" groups slates. Neil Gaiman's acceptance speech, given by someone else on his behalf, was the most direct (and first overt) response during the show itself. The ceremony was streamed, so I imagine it will eventually be available online at the Hugo site. SciFi4Me was also recording some of the con.
All in all, it was a good time. I met a number of people I had hoped to meet, and a fair number I didn't expect to see at all. In one of those can-only-happen-at-a-con moments, Mark Zicree ended up sitting next to me at the Hugos. I backed his Space Command kickstarter years ago (which is still in production).
There was also an unexpected encounter with a gazebo.....