Denvention 3 Day 1: Checking In, Eventually; Very Prelim Best of ’08

This year’s World SF Convention is being held in downtown Denver, Colorado, at the Colorado Convention Center, a reasonably spectacular facility that this week is also hosting the 2008 Joint Statistical Meeting, i.e., a conference of statisticians. I actually chatted with a couple attendees to the JSM for a while this afternoon, as I grabbed a plastic-packaged tunafish sandwich while waiting for the hour-long check-in line for Worldcon to die down. Which is to say, this year’s Worldcon did not get off to a good start. At 12 noon the lines for pre-registrants to check in and get their badges and program books was an hour long — Scott Edelman told me so, having stood in line from 11:17 to 12:17. By the time I had lunch and went back, it was down to 15 minutes or so, 15 minutes of watching one of the con volunteers walking back and forth asking people in line, what’s your name? OK, go over there– Because there were long lines for the first and third quartiles of the alphabet, and incidental lines for the second and fourth, it seemed, and no visible signage to adjust available staff for the membership demand… But no point in belaboring this; every year con volunteers reinvent a few wheels.

But let’s focus on the positive: the pocket program ‘quick reference guide’ is nicely sized and readable. The 8 1/2 by 14 daily schedule grid not so much so; it’s stapled the wrong way and has no participant info, which is half the point. The facility is nicely sized and spacious. True, it’s at the far back corner of the con center from the direction members arrive from their various convention hotels, but never mind that. Maybe when JSM departs…

Anyway, it’s spacious. The dealers’ room and art show and exhibits area, very spacious.

I dipped in and out of a few panels, but sat through just one: a 2:30 panel on “2008: The Year in SF”, with Charles Brown, Jonathan Strahan, David Hartwell, and Gary Wolfe, handing out and discussing a *very* preliminary Locus Recommended Reading List of novels, collections, and anthologies. This is the list, the final version of which will appear in the February ’09 issue of Locus Magazine. This early version allowed the panelists to talk about the many novels they’ve read in advance of us ordinary readers who have to wait until the books are actually published… CNB chose five titles to especially recommend, out of what he described as an unusually great year for novels: Greg Bear’s City at the End of Time, Ken MacLeod’s The Night Sessions, Greg Egan’s Incandescence (he admitted it took two readings to fully appreciate), Alastair Reynolds’ House of Suns (the best space opera writer currently, he said), and Karl Schroeder’s Pirate Sun.

Gary Wolfe highlighted Paul McAuley’s The Quiet War, his best in years and like Bear’s novel, a return to big-scale SF; Stephen Baxter’s two novels this year, Weaver and Flood, which he perceived as having a connection linking one series to the next; Le Guin’s Lavinia; the upcoming YA novels by Neil Gaiman and Margo Lanagan and Ysabeau Wilce; and, the elephant in the room, Neal Stephenson’s Anathem

David Hartwell and Jonathan Strahan addressed some books but also addressed short fiction. Hartwell called Michael Flynn’s upcoming The January Dancer one of the great space operas, ever, and Gene Wolfe’s upcoming An Evil Guest perhaps the best book in any of the genres this year. Strahan talked about the strength of the SF magazines, especially F&SF and Asimov’s this year, along with certain SF anthologies; stories by Ian McDonald, Ian R. MacLeod, Greg Egan, Peter S. Beagle, etc.. They talked about Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother as perhaps the best SF novel of the year, perhaps an award winner next year. And about collections and anthologies and YA titles.

This evening Denver experienced a refreshing thunderstorm and I sat in my room most of the evening catching up on e-mail, posting the World Fantasy nominations, compiling the week’s bestsellers (a day late), and writing these blog entries. More tomorrow.

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