WorldCon was held in Kansas City this year under the name MidAmericon 2 (WorldCon, if you don’t know, rotates to a different city every year and the con committee of the winning city names their convention for its site, so this was the second WorldCon to be held in Kansas City, forty years after the first). Most of it, the vast majority, was good, and I’m going to talk about the city, the panels, the people, and the Hugos in that context.
Downtown Kansas City retains a lot of the feel of the 1920s, the last great heyday of the city. The architecture and naming of a lot of buildings and businesses there call back to that era. Just a couple blocks from the convention center is the Power and Light district, a new development of restaurants and bars aimed at keeping people downtown after five. It includes a great restaurant called BRGR, which I highly recommend if you’re in the area and like burgers, macaroni and cheese, and/or sweet potato tots. They also make a pretty good Arnold Palmer. There’s a new streetcar, too, which will take you from the City Market through the Power and Light district down to Union Station and back for free. So we never lacked for places to go or eat when not at the convention.
The panels were by and large good, at least the ones I went to. There was one about representation of non-binary sexualities and gender identification that was crowded despite being at 9 pm on Thursday; there was a Nifty Narrative Tricks one that was informative and entertaining; there was a Fursuit demonstration that was excellent, if poorly attended.
(This last was the only panel with furry content as far as I can tell; we had to create our own furry writing panel on Saturday. It was just about as well attended.)
The best part of any WorldCon for me is always the people. I got to see many of my friends there, too many to mention, but you all know who you are. I got to hang out with Watts Martin and Chandra Alkani and it was fun to experience WorldCon with them. There’s the friends you see at cons and then the friends you’re with at cons, and I enjoy the cons a lot better when I have someone to be with.
So all that was good, and we went to the Hugo awards together, getting there a little late. It was a fun ceremony and as last year, the voters celebrated diversity. It was especially nice to see a friend of mine, Naomi Kritzer, win one for her short story, “Cat Pictures Please,” and to see Uncanny Magazine, who solicited that furry fandom essay from me back in December, win for Best Semiprozine. N.K. Jemisin also won for the excellent novel, “The Fifth Season,” which was pretty cool.
There weren’t a lot of diverse panels, and this convention felt very old. LonCon 3, and to a certain extent Sasquan, felt as though they were drawing in a younger crowd. But the aging of SF fandom has been a noted problem for years now, and MidAmericon 2 did little to help with it.
And it was an older fan who heard us writing down the impromptu furry writing panel, and at the word “furry,” cautioned us about people coming who might get “overexcited” or “over involved” or something like that. “If you know what I mean,” he added. We looked back at him and said we didn’t know what he meant, and he said, “Oh, I just heard the word ‘furry,’ you know…” I think it occurred to him at that point that we were probably furries, and that we weren’t down with the whole implication that any furry gathering has out-of-control people who don’t know how to behave in public. He started backpedaling, “Oh, I know it’s just the media…some of my friends are into…I mean…” And we walked away. It was a minor thing but it left a bad taste in our mouths.
Everyone else during the con was excellent toward furries. There were at least three fursuits walking around and whenever I was near one I heard only positive things.
And now, the future. The bid for the 2018 WorldCon went to San Jose by vote of the 2016 WorldCon members, so WorldCon will be back here in the Bay! The San Jose bid people came to Further Confusion twice to gather support for their bid, and are friends with several furries, so we have a chance to see furry better represented at a WorldCon this year. The way to do that? Volunteer. If you live in the Bay Area and would like to help put this WorldCon together, they would love to have your help. If you don’t have convention planning skills or time, then as the con approaches, you can volunteer for less time-intensive work.
We’ve seen this happen before on a smaller scale. In Minneapolis, several furries got involved in the North Country Gaylaxians and have managed to get a good amount of furry content into the local Gaylaxicon. We can get more furry programming on the docket here and show off the best of our culture to the WorldCon. The San Jose crew reached out to the furry fandom; let’s reach back and help.