Yet more conference blogging

by Henry Farrell on September 1, 2003

From one to the next … having just gotten back from the annual American Political Science Association meeting, I attended one day of the science fiction Worldcon in Toronto, stopping only to go listen to my “cousin’s band”:, who were playing in a small club here last night. Caught up with “Patrick Nielsen Hayden”: and “Cory Doctorow”:, as well as “China Mieville”:, who apparently sometimes reads CT. Indeed, I’ve met people who know the blog at both conferences; it’s a little unnerving for me to find out that we actually have readers, and to meet them in a non blogging context.

Early, banal impressions of the differences and similarities between the two conferences …

(1) Science fiction conference-goers are no more nerdy than political scientists. They’re just unafraid to embrace their inner nerd. As Dan Drezner “says”:, it’s good practice for political scientists to take off their badges when they leave the conference; they don’t want to come across as geeky conference goers to the mass public. In contrast, Worldcon attendees are proudly parading their badges around downtown Toronto as I write this post.^1^ Not only that, but they really _represent_ with their conference badges, attaching little stickers to show their allegiance to this or that cause, subculture or individual within fandom.

(2) Both political science conferences and science fiction conferences oversample heavily on bearded, slightly to very overweight guys with glasses.

(3) SF conferences are, by and large, more fun. Worldcon had more outre panels, more entertainment from simply sitting, watching the people go by. Also, a much better book room – scarfed a nice first of John Crowley’s _Aegypt_, as well as a few early M. John Harrisons.

(4) But panel discussions from the floor are, probably inevitably, much more mixed in quality in sf conferences than in pol sci ones. I attended a pretty good panel today on scarcity and economics, which I’ll blog more on later; the discussants, most notably “Charlie Stross”:, knew their stuff. The commenters from the floor, in contrast, didn’t, leading to a pretty confused discussion. People who ask questions from the floor at pol sci conferences almost always have some intellectual axe to grind – but they usually know what they’re talking about.

^1^ But as one conferee observed to me, it doesn’t take much extra bottle to wear a SF conference badge in public when you’ve already constructed yourself into a Dalek outfit.