Monday, August 22, 2011

Worldcon: the site

Worldcon was held in Reno because the Portland-based committee that ran it couldn't find facilities both adequate and available in their own town. What they got was a convention center the right size for a medium-small Worldcon, big enough for all programming but the evening events without being so large that we rattled around in it. Panel locations were intelligently laid out. As often before, the whole exhibits division was in a huge concrete (tiring to walk on a lot) hall with the dealers and art show way, way in the back to force attendees to walk through the display exhibits to get there, but with so much room allotted to the latter that the actual exhibits were scattered around the vast concrete space like tropical islands in the Pacific Ocean.

That aside, the convention center was OK. The hotels, well ... Look, it's like this. Reno is not Las Vegas. It has "gambling destination resort" in common, but it's a smaller, more low-key town with more else to do. (Not so small, however, to keep it from being in the awkward phase where a city's growth is vastly in excess of the current capacity of its transport infrastructure, making it very hard to drive around in.) On the south side of Reno, there are no more than two Vegas-style casino resort complexes, huge gaudy towers covered with flashing neon lights, visible from miles away.1 These, it turned out, were the only hotels in the vicinity of the convention center big enough to host a Worldcon, and it was to these we went. And in that necessity lies my dissatisfaction with the Reno Worldcon.

Our room at the Peppermill was comfortable and spacious, deficient only in minimal drawer space and in spotty-reception wifi that kept locking me out for "malicious activity" like trying to read online newspapers. The problem is that these resorts are casinos, seething Hells2 of flashing lights and pounding noise and tobacco smoke. Apologists will say, if you don't like casinos don't go in them. But you can't stay in those hotels, or even visit most of the events the convention held there, without going in the casinos. Even the front desks of both hotels were in smoky casino staging areas, and most of the restaurants, though themselves smoke-free, were actually inside the casinos. Sufficient knowledge of the complex and confusing layout - not easy to acquire, and only by the last day did I feel I was really getting a handle on it - could minimize but not eliminate the problem. Oxygen-breathing humans, as opposed to whatever type of creature actually inhabits casinos,3 cannot natively exist there. Every time we walked through even the hotel lobby, I kept being reminded of Dave Bowman trying to get through the emergency airlock without a helmet.

I've stayed in casino hotels twice before, at Vegas Corflus, but not for so long or with such intensity, or with B. - who is even more oxygen-dependent than I - with me. And I've had enough. Just enough. I'm not doing this again any time soon. I'm not voting for another Reno Worldcon, however convenient the location. And I guess I just answered my pending question of whether to go to next year's Corflu in Vegas.

1. Imagine 20 of these in a row, and you have the Vegas Strip.
2. I capitalize "Hells" because I mean this seriously.
3. The lights and noise couldn't entirely disguise how empty they actually were.

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