Friday, November 03, 2023
Chengdu Worldcon: Meet the Future
This historic Worldcon has already been very well covered by others, e.g. Nicholas Whyte and Jeremy Szal. For lots of coverage of events, guests and so on, see the con’s Facebook page.
But I’ve been back over a week, and here’s my overdue account.
Last month I spent far too few days in China, at the Chengdu Worldcon, to which I was invited as an international guest. My travel, and accommodation for me and my wife, were covered by the Committee of the 2023 Chengdu World Science Fiction Convention, for which much thanks.
We had a wonderful time. The convention was a smashing success and easily the biggest, and most publicly celebrated, Worldcon ever.
We arrived at Chengdu airport in the early evening of Wednesday 18 October and quickly met volunteers at a stall near the exit, from which were immediately hurried to a minibus that took us to the Sheraton Pidu. Along the way we saw advertisements for the Chengdu Worldcon lining the highways, and the robot panda mascot at numerous intersections. We met the volunteer who was looking after us, Zoe, who was unfailingly sweet and helpful throughout. Our luggage was whisked inside and we were back on a bus for a short drive to the venue.
This combined a traditional Worldcon opening ceremony...
The other ceremonies – the Galaxy Awards, the opening of the Chengdu International Science Fiction convention, the Hugo Awards, the Hugo after-party, and the closing ceremony – were likewise spectacular: a primary school choir sang in one of these, an entire symphony orchestra took the stage in another, and so on.
Thousands upon thousands of people passed through the venue, including many primary-school classes there for the day. Lots of young people, and lots of families. They weren’t just there for the toys and for the impressive tech exhibition hall.
There were hundreds of volunteers, some minding the international guests, others helping visitors to the venue, acting as guides in exhibitions, or adding some elegance to the ceremonies.
Our good friend Fan Zhang, who looked after us so well in Beijing in 2019, now has an important post at the Fishing Fortress college of Science Fiction. He took us out to dinner with two of his staff, and had some interesting proposals for next year, which I’m seriously considering.
We had one side trip organised by the convention for guests: a visit to Chengdu’s famous panda research centre, truly unforgettable.
On our final day, Monday 23 October, Carol and I went on our own to the Wuhou Shrine, a historic site and major tourist destination set in a great park which opens to some old streets, now lined with gift shops and street food stalls.
And on Tuesday we began the long journey home. We had met old friends and made new ones, and it was a pang to leave.
We owe thanks to many people – the organisers and volunteers, especially Zoe, and a special thanks to the indefatigable Sara Chen.