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Membership rate through the convention.
Young Adult (17-21)US$$100
The 70th World Science Fiction Convention
August 30-September 3, 2012   Hyatt Regency   Chicago

Your First Worldcon

First time to a World Science Fiction Convention?
What you can expect.

An introduction by Stu Segal

The World Science Fiction Convention is an international gathering of the Science Fiction and Fantasy communities. Worldcon attracts members each year from North and South America, Africa, Europe, Australia, and Asia . . . and in the last decade the convention has been held on four continents.

Authors, artists, editors, publishers, gamers, vendors, musicians, and fans all attend. Everyone who attends joins (this means no paid guests, everyone you see, regardless whether they are a first timer or a million-selling author, has paid for the privilege of attending). In recent years our attending members have included Ray Bradbury, Neil Gaiman, George RR Martin, Connie Willis . . . and way too many more to mention.

The convention is organized and run by fans, volunteers all. The organizing/operating committee changes each year with the location of the convention, though many members volunteer their time year after year, regardless of location. And yes, all the volunteers buy their memberships, too.

When you show up at a Worldcon for the first time, it's much like walking into a giant buffet, an enormous room filled with table after table of delicacies. And when you start to walk the room you see some things you recognize, and like, but you see lots and lots of things that are unfamiliar – some look good and smell good, others don't. So you decide there's two choices – one is to be overwhelmed and go back to your room, and the other is to dig in. So you start to fill your plate with things you know and like – and then around the edges you start to place a lot of other delicacies that you hadn't tried before. Eventually you head back for more, more of your old favorites, and more of some of your delicious new discoveries.

You will see exhibits, vendors, the Hugo Awards ceremony, the Art Show and Auction, the Masquerade, hall costumes, and hundreds of program items (concurrent sessions). Just before the convention, a complete program will be posted on the web site so you can start planning each day of your convention (you can print the schedule at home, and when you get to the Con there will be bound programs and a Pocket Program for you). Read on for more details.

The Hugo Awards, and the Awards Ceremony

First of all, a World Science Fiction convention (Worldcon) is organized under the charter of the World Science Fiction Society, so by getting a membership for the Convention you become a member of the WSFS for that year. And that gives you a very special benefit, the privilege of participating in the nominating and voting process for the Hugo Awards.

Yes, as a member of the Worldcon, you get to nominate those works you think are worthy for Hugo Awards. Even if you don't nominate, you get to vote on those who are nominated to determine the winner (much like the members of the Academy vote for the Oscars). Don't think you'll know what to vote for? Not to worry, we at Chicon 7 will prepare a "Hugo Voter's Packet," containing e-books of the top five novels, novellas, novelettes, short stories, related works, new authors, etc., and you'll be able to easily find the nominated films at your local DVD store or Netflix.

For some folks, one of the highlights of a Worldcon is the Hugo Awards ceremony. Much like the Oscars, except that if you've participated in the process, and read or seen the nominees, and voted, you will most likely have personal favorites you're rooting for. (And unlike the Oscars, you will have been one of the few who actually helped select the winners). It adds a whole new, rewarding element that makes the ceremony something very special.

Programming (Concurrent Sessions)

There are concurrent sessions that run in 60 and/or 90 minute time slots, starting at around 10 a.m. each morning, and going until late each night. Some of the sessions are panels, some are workshops, some are demonstrations, and some are presentations.

The range of subjects covered is as broad as the fields of science fiction and fantasy - actually broader. While you will find sessions covering books, movies, TV shows, costuming, writing, publishing, etc., you will also find sessions covering science, astronomy, and the arts. Over the five days, there will be hundreds of program items, and if you're like most folks, you will find so many of them to be interesting that you'll struggle over which to attend.

You'll also have the opportunity to get up close to your favorite personalities. Kaffeeklatsches give you and a small group of fans the opportunity to spend an hour in conversation with the author, actor, artist, etc. Stroll With The Stars invites all members to a pleasant morning walk with a group of "Stars," whom you can meet and converse with. (For Kaffeeklatsches you need to sign up in advance; for the Strolls you just show up). And, of course, there are autograph sessions.

For more info, you can check out our Program FAQs and our other program pages.

Special Events

There are some "Special Events." There are opening and closing ceremonies, which can be very entertaining.

The Hugo Awards Ceremony is on Sunday night, and there are also other Awards Ceremonies during the convention (the Chesley's, et al).

On Saturday night is the "Masquerade" – this is covered in detail under the costumes section below.


At each Worldcon there are perpetual traveling exhibits, which appear each year, and one-time special exhibits.

Each year you will find a historical exhibit from the World Science Fiction Society which includes things like the actual Hugo Award trophies from as far back as the fifties. You will also find the Fan Project, which exhibits photos and brief bios of well known fans.

"Special Exhibits" are very wide-ranging in terms of subject matter, and may have a connection to the location of the convention.


There is always music at Worldcon. Sometimes there are professional performances, and there are always fan performances.

"Filk" is the folk music of SF and fantasy, and each Worldcon includes a robust Filk track of performances and workshops. You are welcome to listen and enjoy; if you want to participate, bring your instrument.


There are usually some theatrical performances at a Worldcon. Sometimes it is live re-creations of old radio shows, sometimes brand new stage plays. Always something, always entertaining.


There are always screenings at a Worldcon. Usually you will find screenings of the Hugo nominees, and lots of other interesting films. Often you can find screenings of obscure and cult SF&F films and anime.

Chicon 7 is excited to host the Chicon 7 Film Festival 2012, which will showcase some of the best films, shorts, features, and trailers from around the world.

Hall Parties

The nightlife at a Worldcon is, well, very alive. A specific area in the hotel, usually one or two (or three) floors, is designated as Party Floors. Each night of the convention there will be room parties – some hosted by publishers, some by cities bidding for future Worldcons, and some by fans or groups of fans. The great majority of room parties are open to all members.

At the room parties you'll find snacks and refreshments, and lots of good conversation. You may find someone making ice cream with liquid nitrogen. You may find someone else playing a theremin. You may find belly dancers.

Filthy Pierre's Official Party List is posted each afternoon near the VooDoo Message Boards (just ask, you'll find the Message Boards), so you'll know what parties you want to check out each night.


There are two aspects to costumes, Hall Costumes and the Masquerade.

Hall Costumes are just what they sound like, members wearing costumes around the convention. While Worldcon isn't really a costume party, you will occasionally find members in costume. You'll also find members in pieces of costumes, a Dr. Who scarf, a propeller beanie, etc. While it is by no means expected that you wear a costume, you won't be out of place if you do.

The Masquerade is judged costuming competition. It is divided into categories based on the costuming skill levels of the participants, and judged by a panel of costuming experts. The Masquerade will be held in one of the large halls on Saturday night. If you're from the east, expect to see costumes done with the same skill as you would see on Broadway or at the Mummers; if you're from the west, think Hollywood or Las Vegas.


Somehow with access to everything in the world on the internet, I seem to always find great stuff in the Dealers Room. You'll find lots of books, videos, anime, toys, clothing, jewelry, chachkas, art, and who knows what else. If you're looking to increase your collection, or looking for that unique gift to bring your loved one whom you left at home, you'll find it in the Dealers Room. You'll also get to make great personal connections with dealers from out of your area.


Well, Science Fiction and Fantasy are art, right? But you'll find real art in the Art Show – the artists whose work you've seen on the covers of your favorite books and movie posters. Most contemporary, some from past decades. Some big, well known names, some new, fresh, promising ones.

The Art Show will be open for several days. Most work in the show is for sale via auction. Throughout the show, a "silent auction" is operated (when you sign up for your bidder number, someone will explain how it works); anything not sold at the silent auction goes to a live auction. In addition to the auction, low-cost reprints of certain displayed pieces are available for sale in the adjacent "Print Shop."

Guests of Honor

Each Worldcon selects a small number of Guests of Honor. Guests of Honor are chosen for their lifetime commitment and contribution to the field. Effectively, this is the Hall of Fame for the science fiction and fantasy field – and it is filled with major names, from Asimov to Clarke and Bradbury to le Guin. Chicon 7 has chosen to add six new names to this list – Jane Frank, Rowena Morrill, Story Musgrave, Mike Resnick, Peggy Rae Sapienza, and John Scalzi. For more info on the GOHs, check out the GOH pages on our web site.

Program Participants

In addition to the GOHs, there are all the participants on all the panels, the Masquerade, the performances, etc. Who are these people? Where are they from? Do they get in for free?

A Worldcon program requires a lot of participants – generally around five hundred. You'll find short bios of all our participants. All are experts in some field or fields – some are professional authors, editors, publishers, and artists, some are scientists, some are educators, some are astronomers, some are philosophers . . . and some are just regular folk who have developed or acquired expertise in some specific area. (Yes, of course there'll be gull-durned rocket scientists!)

Again, no one slides, everyone pays. The program participants are paying members too. (Actually, many of the program participants, in addition to maintaining their hectic schedule of appearances during the convention, are volunteers who actually help operate the convention.)


There are a lot of people at a Worldcon. Within the boundaries of good manners, everyone, from the member standing next to you to the GOHs, is approachable and friendly. (Hey, they wouldn't be here otherwise, would they?). While many languages are spoken, English seems to be the common language.

Go to the panels, talk to the other members. Go to the hall parties. You will make friends – you'll find other members who share your interests, and you'll find others who have different, but fascinating, interests. You'll find a large percentage of the members are "repeats," and travel to the Worldcon, so each year they make more friends – but it always starts with their first convention, and the willingness to extend the hand of friendship to others.

First Time at a Worldcon?

At every Worldcon there's a program item called something like "Welcome to Worldcon," or "First Time at a Worldcon," or "So: This Is Your First Convention? Here's What To Expect." The session is usually hosted by Gay Haldeman. Gay has been going to science fiction conventions for nearly fifty years. She knows the ins and outs of Worldcon, and how to have a good time – her session is worthwhile for any first-timer, or anyone with questions.

What to do before you leave home

Buy your membership sooner not later. Tell all your friends that you're going. Make your travel reservations. Make your hotel reservations. Do it early so you get a room where you want. Make sure to specify whether you want your room on a "party floor" or not. Check our Facebook page often. Check the web site and print out the Program a few weeks ahead. Review it (this could take hours) and circle the items you like. Review the convention maps ahead of time so you know the lay of the land. When you pack, include both sunblock and a water bottle.

What to do when you arrive

Assuming you already got your membership through the internet, go to Registration, where they will have your Badge and packet of materials. Then go to the VooDoo Message Board and circle your name, so anyone else who may be looking for you knows you have arrived.

If you downloaded and printed the program ahead of time, great. If not, find a place to sit down (ask where the Fan Lounge is), review the program and decide what's important to see next. Don't forget to go to Rusty and Gay's "Welcome to Worldcon" session.

Most important, just like the big buffet, try and sample those unknown delicacies. And remember, this is five days and nights of fun, fun, fun – so pace yourself, get some sleep, take showers, eat your meals, and have a great time!