SMOFs be SMOFfing
Today would usually be an accountability post day but since Worldcon and getting ready for Worldcon took whole chunk of my time this month, pretty much nothing has happened on my goals. Instead I am going to regale you all with my Worldcon adventure.
After I got my Clarion rejections I realized that I couldn’t afford to go to Worldcon. I found out early on that there is no cheap and easy way to get to Spokane from Helsinki. I could get to Seattle on a direct flight no problem but then the problem became getting from Seattle to Spokane which, I quickly found out, wasn’t nearly as easy as getting from New York to Washington D.C. I abandoned my plan as economically unfeasible and left it at that. Then my extraordinary friend Crystal Huff came to visit Helsinki in the very early days of July and everything changed.
“The Helsinki bid has these grants to help get Finns to Worldcon,” she said.
“Come with us,” she said.
“All you have to do is to commit to work on the bid,” she said.
“I can do that,” I said.
We got to Spokane and all I could think about was getting a shower, some dinner and bed. But what actually happened next was the unpacking of All The Things. I’ve never seen so much candy in one place except for the time we took a class trip to the Fazer chocolate factory. Unpacking was followed by registration to the con after which I was free to scavenge for food while actual SMOFs Hanna and Charlotte went off grocery shopping and to make food for the parties the following nights. Apparently they went on until 1 AM whereas I was falling asleep at the dinner table around 8 PM even though I was supremely uncomfortable due to a rookie roller derby injury a week before. SMOFs Crystal and Kate hooked me up with some painkillers out of some unknown stashes before sending me off to sleep.
The first day of the actual con began with Crystal and me waking up very late (as in just past 9 AM) and heading to some unknown place that we were assured had magical waffles (this turned out to indeed be true). After breakfast we turned up at the convention center to find that everything had been basically set up already. Before we made it in and way before the con actually started. The the con opened. Cue talking to loads and loads of people about just how amazing and wonderful Helsinki is. By the time the Dealer’s room closed at six, I had talked to more people than I can ever remember, completely forgotten to eat anything, not to mention that I was absolutely ready to turn in for the night. Out for some dinner and then working the room party till past last call (which at least in Washington state is apparently at 1:30 which seems early to me).
On my second day I actually managed a panel. Writing diverse characters, moderated by Kameron Hurley. I saw it and it was good. That was also the first day I got to play at being a real writer. After chopping up more cheese than can be imagined by anyone and filleting a fish (for the first time in my life I might add) I headed off for the Viable Paradise party. At some point before that I had met one of my classmates, the excellent Ryan O’Reilly, which made the whole thing slightly more real. Meeting staff and other former students made it more real again. It’s almost as if I am actually going to Viable Paradise. Nutso.
Friday brought with it a second panel and more table time, all the way until the site selection vote counting team walked off with the votes. That was some procession, let me tell you. Maybe 30 people walking in unison, almost like in the army, except everyone is a different shape and recognizably geeky. Since it was the only night there were no Helsinki parties, I went off to do the writer thing at a hotel bar and wound up having dinner with Tempest Bradford. Knowing that there were Helsinki people in the vote counting, I watched my phone like a hawk in case of any news. At some point during the evening/night I looked around me and I was sitting in a group with the aforementioned Tempest, Aliette deBodard, Kameron Hurley, Charles Stross, Charlie Jane Anders and Mur Lafferty and I just realized that I had somehow ended up hanging out with very possibly the coolest people in the entire con. And I’m not ashamed to admit that it was a slightly surreal moment, to say the least. And that was before the news came that Helsinki had won the 2017 Worldcon.
Saturday went by in a haze of sleep deprivation and All The People congratulating us for winning. And I do mean All The People. The Hugos happened and finally, on Saturday night was the last party and it was PACKED. At some point there was a queue for people to get out of the party because it was just so packed. All I remember of Sunday is packing up all the leftover stuff at the table to take away, having dinner and then collapsing onto a couch with writers.
While all of it was fun and amazing in all kinds of ways I have to say that I am not cut out to be a SMOF. Through all the con I was happiest when I was just hanging out, doing the writer thing. Having lunch and talking art with Tempest Bradford and Alberto Yanez, talking Kalevala and folklore and our mutual love of Seanan McGuire with Michael R. Underwood and partying with other amazing Viable Paradise students.
I’m not actually saying that I’ll never again complain about any failings – according to me – in a con but over this past Worldcon I’ve come to have a new found respect for SMOFs. Con-running takes the kind of dedication that I don’t think I could ever muster for two days in a row, let alone the years it takes to arrange an event as big as Worldcon. There’s politics which would soon bring about the stabby mode of Nina but more than that, it’s loads and loads of effort for something that, if you’re doing it right, is entirely invisible to the people enjoying the fruits of your labor. Then if something is just a tiny bit wrong, or even if it’s right but somebody simply disagrees with you you will inevitably have people screaming at you. And these people are perpetually putting on events for something they love, events which they inevitably hardly even get to or remember to enjoy for all the work they’re doing. If you’re talking to someone who completely missed out on all the programming in a con, you’re probably talking to a SMOF. And from what I can tell, they all seem to enjoy it. The whole thing is entirely mind boggling to me. But SMOFs exist. They are out there. And they need your love too.
So here’s a huge thank you to all the people who helped put on Sasquan. Hail to the people already working to put on MidAmericon and Worldcon 75. And all the countless other cons the people whose ability to give to the world around them seems to be entirely disproportional to the amount that is actually good for them. I thus declare next week “Hug a SMOF” week.