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Conventions, WorldCon and the BWB: A Primer, Of Sorts

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It occurred to me the other day that there hasn't been a WorldCon outside of North America in the three years since the Game of Thrones TV show debuted. And GRRM will be a Guest of Honor at many smaller conventions over the next couple of years. As such, there are probably a lot of fans who are not familiar with the World Science Fiction Convention in particular, SF conventions in general, nor with and the Brotherhood Without Banners and our protocols for dealing with conventions, hotels and convention space.

The World Science Fiction Convention, aka WorldCon, is a long-running annual convention centered around genre fiction. It is primarily a literary convention -- that means that most of the focus is on written works, most of the panelists are authors, and much of the dealers' room is filled with book sellers. That said, each WorldCon usually has dedicated tracks for media (TV&movies), gaming, filking (that is, folk singing with an SF/F bent), and costuming. It also features group activities such as "Walk with the Stars," dances, a Masquerade, combat demos, crafting, small discussion groups with authors, signing sessions and a bunch of things I am probably forgetting. There's also the Hugo Awards ceremony. And parties. Lots of parties.

Unlike the big media conventions (think SDCC), WorldCon and most smaller literary SF/F conventions are fan-run. They are not for profit. And, at least in the case of WorldCon, the convention moves around to a new city everywhere to be as inclusive as possible to those fans who might not be able to afford a cross-country or intercontinental trip every year. In recent years, WorldCon has been held in Melbourne, Montreal, Chicago and, in 2014, it will be in London.

Each convention has a specific convention committee (con com), which is broken down into different departments and staffed by volunteers who have specific duties and goals to make WorldCon a success. Departments include: Hospitality, Programming, Accessibility, Member Services, Facilities, Operations, Housing, etc. Each of those departments is headed up by a seasoned convention runner, who then has a support staff of volunteers (many of whom are interested in learning the ropes of convention running). The con com is our liaison to all hotels, convention space and WorldCon-associated activity.

It is through these committees that all things pertaining to the convention and official fan events happen. We do not talk to hotels ourselves. We do not talk to the convention center ourselves. And that's for the best, all around. Please: DO NOT EVER CONTACT THE HOTEL OR CONVENTION SPACE ASKING ABOUT EVENTS, OR ATTEMPTING TO PLAN EVENTS.

So, how does this whole thing come together? I, the current Baroness of the BWB, and the group of BWB who've proven to be reliable and gifted at con-running, do much of that preparatory work. I won't name them all, but those individuals include Fenryng (my Master of Coin), Regina, Mormont (European Castellan), Stubby (Wrangler of Wombats) and Ser Mel T. For example, when the BWB wishes to rent a suite for a party, we have to contact the right person with the con com and specifically request that.

Once the core BWB team lays the groundwork, we call upon volunteers to help us pull everything together. That mostly happens at the convention, when we send one group out to shop for groceries while another group sets up the party. And so forth. So believe me, when the time comes, I'll be looking for volunteers.

What is the Brotherhood Without Banners?

We are a George RR Martin fan group.

What do you do at conventions?

We go to panels. We sit on panels. We volunteer to help run conventions, site-selection voting, and at the Hugos ceremony. We throw parties. We hang out in the bar. We hang out with each other. Some of us cosplay. Some of us are into combat demos. Some of us just really dig books.

Where will GRRM be making appearances?


I'll be updating this document as need be.

Edited by Xray the Enforcer
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  • 2 weeks later...

While the Worldcon was in Australia in 2010, it was Melbourne, not Sydney. It was the fourth Aussie Worldcon, and all four were in Melbourne.

Another thing that we do at cons is VOLUNTEER to help run them. This past Worldcon, I was on panels, but I also helped staff the site seletion voting (for the Helsinki bid) and helped prepare for the Hugo Ceremony.

Conventions are always in need of volunteers, and you may earn a tee shirt, access to the "gopher hole" or "staff den" (where there is usually more substantial food than in the con suite), or even a free membership to this year's or next year's con if you work enough hours.

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It can't be a Con primer thread without the number rules that we try and keep in place.

I forget what they are, exactly, but I think I remember the following formula:


Translated: Try and get at least 17 minutes of sleep per night, keep a Blood-Alcohol level of 1.0% or below, take 3 handfuls of snacks from Con Suite/parties, and shower at least once a day. (Twice if you shake hands with The Tickler)

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how many showers do I need to take if I accidently end up hugging the Tickler?

edit On a serrious note X-Ray if you need someone local to do something before the London Convention then please ask. I also have a car although I don't like driving in London I will if necessary.

Edited by Pebbles
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One little note.

If you come to a convention and want to hang out with the BwB, speak up. There will probably be a thread here to let you know if there will be a BwB presence at any given con. Post in the thread and let others know to be on the lookout. At WorldCon, there will probably be a meet and greet early in the Con to let con noobs know who we are. At smaller cons, this might not be the case.

Once at the con, if you miss the meet and greet or there isn't one, look for folks in GoT or ASoIaF garb (like T-Shirts that say "Winter is Coming") or ask around. If GRRM is at the con, turn up at a reading or panel and there will probably be BwBers there. That is how laoise and I first hooked up with the BwB at a con. If GRRM is not there, many panels will still have GoT or ASoIaF as a topic.

We are generally approachable people and are happy to see new fans and faces.

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Actually, we decided at Lonestarcon that we are like ants. We leave pheromone trails so other BWBers can find us.

This explains why, if you wander into a large common area of a convention (like the dealers room) and stop to talk to another BWBer, others will suddenly start appearing. This requires no planning, the gathering happens because of the pheromone trails. The longer you stand there, the larger the group gets, until a certain critical mass is eventually reached. Critical mass, in this scenario, is the point when the colony gets big enough that it decides to migrate to the hotel bar and take over.

But on a serious note, Stubby raises an excellent point for the new people. Please let us know you are there so we can meet you! It might not happen often, but it is always sad to learn, after a convention, that there was a new person who didn't find the group.

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