CONtrast

In August, I had the good fortune to attend two conventions back to back. First, the 5th annual When Words Collide in Calgary, then the 73rd World Science Fiction Convention, Sasquan, in Spokane.

WWC is a genre-focused festival embracing SF, Fantasy, YA, Mystery, Horror and Romance. Writers, editors and publishers from North America participate in numerous panels, pitch sessions, launches, readings, signings, parties and general comaraderie. The limit of 500 registrants keeps the convention personal. The organizers' reputation and hard work, attendees' commitment to their craft and Calgary's friendliness ensure top guests. Check out the list here: http://www.whenwordscollide.org/

WWC also schedules pre and post-con workshops offering in-depth writing and business sessions.

The modest size allows WWC to fit in one hotel; the smallish dealers room and con-suite ensures you'll see everyone at least once over the weekend and it's an easy venue to make new friends and contacts.

I've had the privilege to participate in 3 book launches this year and last, adding to the satisfaction of membership. WWC is a cozy-con, a relaxing experience or an exhilarating, exhausting one. It's the attendee's choice.

WorldCon is a much different beast, though no less passionately attended, just by thousands rather than hundreds of fans, readers, gamers, costumers, cosplayers, plus all of the above. WorldCon focuses on speculative fiction and my first SF con of this magnitude staggered the mind.

The organizational army produces 5 days of panels and workshops across a dozen or more hourly venues from 10:00 am until the wee hours. This is not a convention for sleeping. The four main sponsored hotels connected the patrons to the Spokane Convention Center via 20 minute bus intervals.

Guests attend WorldCons from all over the globe. I attended one panel with one of Japan's rising star authors, Taiyo Fujii. Though English was not his first language, Taiyo ingratiated himself easily to the crowd with his humour, humility and enthusiasm. Sasquan's headliner guests join in the marathon with pleasure. They're always 'on' and seem to enjoy themselves.

The contrast between the two conventions for me was significant. One's a night or two at the bar with close friends, the other a test of endurance. The similarities are greater though. The feeling of community exists no matter what the scale (Sasquan was a really big scale). Immersion is the key to satisfaction and I learned I should stay at the venues for the full experience (we have a summer place 30 miles outside Spokane and I chose to commute—limits the late night involvement). The professionals are there to help us burgeoning pros and to demonstrate the responsibility which accompanies success.

The dealers' room is massive. I got the feeling with chatting to the vendors, they are present as much to meet new friends and speak with old ones as to sell their wares (the bigger publishers being the exception).

Also on display: a huge artist gallery, a really cool photography exhibit featuring B/W head shots of well-known writers, artists, editors and fans. A historical walk through memorabilia from every WorldCon beginning in 1939 was a glorious way to spend a half hour or so, absorbing the legacy of the genre and its fandom.

Add continuous auctions, opening speeches and the ultimate announcement and celebration of the Hugo Awards (not to ignore this year's controversy but better explained elsewhere) and one cannot forget WorldCon is the giant.

Fortunately, there are conventions to choose from nearly every weekend across North America: small, medium or large. With the enthusiasm of the guests and participant, none disappoint.

Hope to see you at WWC in 2016!

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