The Price of Publicity: Part II — The Call between WorldCon and Dragon*Con

In another posting on being business savvy when it comes to a writing career, I wanted to talk a bit about a con-related chat that came up between Jean Orrico and myself. Jean, as you might know, is my agent for a writing workshop I teach with Lani Tupu. Lani, as many of you should know, is the uber-talented, multi-faceted actor and artist, best known for his work as Crais and the voice of pilot in (my favorite Science Fiction television series) Farscape. Usually I bump into Jean (always a pleasure) and we either talk smack to one another (much to the delight of Lani), talk shop, or she berates me for “taking too damn long on a Morevi sequel.”

Hopefully, she will still be talking to me after my blogpost concerning that.

Jean asked me recently if I was coming to Dragon*Con this year. Now, if you’ve missed the hundreds—no, wait, the thousands—no, wait, tens of thousands—of write-up’s, video, pictures, tweets, and podcasts about this particular event, let me bring you up to speed on Dragon*Con. If there were a Mardi Gras for geeks, this would be it. Held in Atlanta every Labor Day weekend, Dragon*Con is a fan-run (as in volunteer, and God bless every one of those volunteers who step up to make this happen!) convention that must be experienced at least once. It is an epic four-day weekend with media stars, podcasters, writers, artists, and costumes, costumes, costumes. Along with Jean, a few other friends and fans have asked me if I and Pip will be in attendance this year. When we say “no” people look a little disappointed, but trust us — we have very good reasons for passing on Dragon*Con.

One reason — Pip and I are headed to WorldCon 69/Renovation, held in Reno, Nevada, this year.

If you go back to my in-depth look at the cost of cons, I revealed that for one of these events roughly totaled $600-700 per con. Dragon*Con and WorldCon are different beasts all together. After you factor in the cost of travel, hotel, and any other expenses (aside from shopping), Dragon*Con and WorldCon are triple that amount.

No kidding. Triple. How? First, both events last longer than a simple weekend. Dragon*Con offers limited programming on Thursday while WorldCon kicks off programming on Wednesday night. Both events wrap up on Monday. When attending large events like this, it is a good idea, to get there the day before and leave the day after, just to beat both rushes. This puts you in a hotel for nearly a week.

Then there’s the travel. Driving to Dragon*Con (for us) would mean filling the tank at least three times, one way. Flying for both of us (WorldCon) is also going to drive up the costs. Our tickets for Reno will probably hit $500-550 each.

Between the hotel and travel, you’re already into the $1200 range for both of these events, and we haven’t covered food yet.

A few fans have put to us “With Phoenix Rising coming out, shouldn’t you two make a showing?”

Now that’s a solid argument, and Dragon*Con does attract some of the major players like Anne McCaffrey, Tracy & Laura Hickman, Margaret Weis, and Terry Brooks; but it’s not the writers people come to see. Dragon*Con is all about the Media stars. Some media guests range from cast members of Ron Moore’s Battlestar Galactica to (no kidding) Happy Days. You also get blasts from the past (Lou Ferrigno, Gil Gerrard, and Carrie Henn), geek icons (Robert Llewelyn, Ray Park, the Mythbusters Build Team) and the downright bizarre (professional wrestlers and porn stars). My bro from Aotearoa, Lani, fares far better at Dragon*Con as it is geared for who he is and what he does. Writers can do well there, too, provided they are New York Times Bestsellers.

“But it’s a networking opportunity. Tens of thousands of people attend!” Sure, there’s a lot of people that come to Dragon*Con, but writers making connections and closing deals? Hardly. Writers (the ones I know) go there to party, make no mistake!

Networking? Too insane.

Now that we’ve covered Dragon*Con’s shortcomings, let’s cast a critical eye on WorldCon, an event I’ve only attended once. This year, as a matter of fact. From an organizational point-of-view, WorldCon 68 in Australia could have been better.

A lot better.

Allright, I’ll say it—WorldCon 68 in Australia was nothing short of a train wreck.

Again, this was my first WorldCon and I didn’t have anything to compare it to, unless you count the WorldCon in Canada back in 2003 where four queries went ignored, and then two weeks before the event they invited me to attend. Of course that was along time ago and this was Melbourne, Australia. They had two years to represent the Southern Hemisphere, so surely they would bring their “A” game.

Not so much.

I dodged a bullet with some of WorldCon’s last minute changes, but Pip really had to ask “What the hell is going on?” a few times. Other authors we knew were simply giving up on the schedule and attending the panels they wanted, be it from the panelists’ perspective or the attendees. The there was a bit of a SNAFU in Child Care (which could have been avoided with a bit of communication), and the venue’s WiFi can be best describe as a clusterfuck with a side order of bullshit…

…and this was my first ever WorldCon experience.

So, why go again?

WorldCon is a con for writers, and fans pack the panels. Also in attendance are publishers and agents. Don’t get me wrong—there’s a lot of fun to be had at a WorldCon (just look at the programming), but a lot of business just happens there, too. Pip and I, as we were in town, were invited to a seminar hosted by Harper Collins Australia, concerning digital publishing. During the weekend, we had lunch with Diana Gill, our editor from Harper Voyager, where we talked frankly about Ministry business. Then came the Harper Voyager party, our chance to drink and make merry with other authors at our new publishing house. There, we got into a pleasant chat with the head editor for Harper Collins Australia/NZ. Turns out a very rough Phoenix Rising draft was on her desk; and what she read of it she really enjoyed, or so she said.

A month later, our steampunk adventure got picked up by Voyager Australia/NZ, beginning our international distribution opportunities.

Coincidence? No. I don’t think so.

WorldCon is a place where deals and networking can happen. It’s less of a party and more of an investment. Book dealers will have our works there. It is face time amongst other writers, editors, and fans. Pip and I should not get lost in the shuffle when established literary icons of the genre hold court at Dragon*Con. We get panel time, and personal time.

There is also the newness of this year’s WorldCon. As it is a different location and a different volunteer group, Pip and I are hoping this extended weekend will go smoother than our stay in Melbourne.

This may be a smart business decision, but by no means am I thrilled with it. Every time I went to Dragon*Con, I had a blast. I don’t know what was more fun: brushing shoulders with the media guests, enjoying time with other authors, touching base with friends from far-off, or simply watching geeks interact with themselves and the menagerie that is Dragon*Con. This was another tough call I (and Pip) had to make when mapping out where we wanted to go and what we could afford in 2011. While Dragon*Con can’t happen for us presently, we won’t be sitting put. We have other events (coming soon) that will give folks plenty of time and opportunity to catch up with us. For now, the spectacle and splendor that is Dragon*Con will simply have to wait.

Now, if Ministry strikes a media deal…

Well, don’t be surprised if this clockwork music box quickly changes a key or two.


  1. Just for the record, although Dragon*Con has Anne McCaffrey this year, she also goes to Worldcon some years — I was privileged to meet her at LACon IV in 2006. I don’t know which one she’s been to more often over the years.


  2. WorldCon makes much more sense, clearly.

    But let’s talk about what people, (people meaning me) really care about, you will of course be at Balticon, right? Because I expect you there Mr Morris and can’t wait to see you again.


    1. Not only are Pip and I going to be at Balticon, but Balticon will mark the finale to our “Ministry MAYhem” tour. We are planning a “Book Launch the Second” where we will serve tea and ask attendees to wear their steampunkery finest. We’re looking forward to it, so yes, Balticon is on the list.


  3. Hi, from one of your co-panelists at Aussiecon 4.

    I don’t understand why you feel you have to choose between Renovation and Dragoncon; they’re being held two different weekends this year. Now that Worldcon is returning to the States, I have much more confidence in this committee than the last few we’ve had. From what I observed of the Aussiecon committee, they procrastinated and procrastinated and apparently that’s fairly common in that region of the SF community. FWIW, the bid for that convention started in 2000, so in actuality, they had 10 years to plan that convention (presuming they were open to ideas before they won the bid). Be that as it may, I still enjoyed attending and have had more stress dealing with other concoms. At least none of those folks were outright obnoxious.

    Torcon 3 does count as a Worldcon (number 61, to be precise) and it goes down as one of the poorest organized ever. That one cast a really poor light on the Toronto SF fan community and it will probably be at least another 30 years before before they win a bid again.


    1. It’s a matter of cost. Both cons are expensive, and I need to budget time off from work as well as what money is in the Book fund I have established.

      One thing I feel compelled to respond to concerning Australia’s WorldCon: “…they procrastinated and procrastinated and apparently that’s fairly common in that region of the SF community…” is a bit of a broad brush to paint the Southern Hemisphere fan community with. In 2009, I was a guest at Conscription, New Zealand’s SF convention, held that year in Auckland. It was not only well attended, but very well organized. The staff and the fans were all delightful and passionate, as well as dedicated into making sure the con ran smoothly. They are currently making a bid for the 2020 convention, and I believe in them so much that I’m making arrangements in helping them with their Social Media outreach…and with technology as it is, it will be interesting to see what Social Media will be at that time.

      Thank you for your comment! Yeah, it really boils down to cost for me, but it’s a good choice I’ve made. Maybe next year for Dragon*Con. We will see.


  4. Finances are certainly an issue for me as well. Westercon used to be one I regularly attended, as well as any other that cropped up in the San Francisco Bay Area and an occasional regional outside of it. However, it finally came to the point where it seemed all of my holiday weekends were being spent at genre conventions. I have other interests in life. Worldcon is the one I will go out of my way for, though.

    I never included New Zealand in that Aussie trait of procrastinating. From what I hear, in Australia even the regular attendees hold off committing their membership fees until the last minute. They don’t want to put out that money until they’re absolutely sure they’re going to go. No only do they end up paying more for their membership, but holding off keeps the concom from planning how they will use the money.

    As for how well each convention committee does, it’s always going to be potluck. I’m sure New Zealand has had some that went sour too. Although I never attended Nolacon in 1988, I still hear Worldcon oldtimers tell horror stories about that one. Torcon 3 was close second and the worst I ever experienced. OTOH, despite all of the backroom politics we had ConJosé, I’m surprised some of the reviews we got were as good as they were. If Worldcon stayed in one place every year with the same people coming back to do the jobs they’re experienced at, then it would keep getting better and better. In that respect, it’s unfortunate that Worldcon travels with different committees bidding for them every year. There are a lot of people with experience working on Worldcons on the staff of Renovation. I have a feeling it will be a good one.


  5. As one of the staffers at Reno, who will also be working ChiCon, I hope you found Renovation more to your liking. Go ahead and use my email to give me some blunt feedback on what went especially wrong (or right) and we’ll blend that in to ChiCon.


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