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Worldcon 75

Started: 2017-08-20 15:52:10

Submitted: 2017-08-20 18:14:25

Visibility: World-readable

In which the intrepid narrator decides to attend Worldcon 75 in Helsinki

I've been a fan of science fiction for about as long as I can remember, and it didn't take me long to learn about the genre's two most prestigious awards, the fan-awarded Hugo Award and the writer-awarded Nebula Award. I have a vague recollection of seeing a list of winners for both awards in either the sci-fi stacks at Boulder Public Library or the Boulder Bookstore sometime in the 1990s, but I'm not entirely sure that's true (or if I'm confusing it with the Hugo Award winners written onto the pillar at Powell's).

The Hugo Awards are awarded by fan members of the World Science Fiction Convention ("Worldcon"), which wanders around the planet seeking out the best bid put together by local fans. Worldcon came to Denver in 2008, but the timing was terrible: I had just started my job at Qualcomm that week, and my family was dropping by that weekend on their way to Walla Walla. (We did manage to make it down to the Tattered Cover on Colfax for a reading and signing with Charles Stross, Joe Haldeman, and a couple of other people.)

Kiesa and I joined the 2014 Worldcon as supporting members, letting us vote for the Hugo Awards, but not attend the convention. (I wanted to attend the convention in London that year, but the timing was bad -- Calvin would start kindergarten shortly after the convention, and we weren't quite sure how much he would get out of the con -- so we ended up going to Scotland in the spring and voting in the Hugo Awards remotely.) We thought about attending Worldcon the next year in 2015, but with Julian as an infant we decided to skip the con and vote as supporting members again. In 2016 we could have managed the travel with Julian as a one-year-old toddler, but we had just moved to San Francisco and were not especially enthusastic about visiting Kansas City for the convention.

In 2017, the 75th annual Worldcon would be held in Helsinki. I knew very little about Finland, except that it's generally cited as a country with a good education system (probably because it's fairly homogenous). Julian would be two years old (almost two-and-a-half), so he would probably travel well. We waffled about going to Worldcon, and what else we might do with our vacation time, and eventually decided to go for it. (A couple of factors helped our decision: Calvin's school pushed back its start date to a week after the convention, and Julian's daycare took two weeks off in the middle of August. Since we'd have to scramble backup care for Julian anyway, we might as well take him to Europe.)

This meant getting a passport for Julian, and renewing Calvin's passport. Calvin got his first passport at the age of three when we went to Hong Kong at the end of 2012. His passport would still be valid until October of this year, but many countries seem to prefer passports with more than six months left, and we might as well synchronize our kids' passports. (Kiesa and I both got our passports in 2012, so they're good until 2022 -- but mine went through the washing machine once when I forgot to take it out of my pocket after coming home. On the bright side it makes it really easy to tell which one is mine.*)

[* It did also occur to me to check how full my passport is. My regular-sized passport book has eight filled pages and twelve empty pages. It's five years into its ten-year lifetime, so if I continue to travel at the same rate I will, in all liklihod, have plenty of room for the next five years.]

Getting our kids' passports proved to be surprisingly easy. Since they're minors, they had to show up in person at a passport facility to perform the necessary paperwork, and as their parents, we were encouraged to show up with them. (The State Department requires both parents to agree to our kids getting passports, to make it harder for one parent to remove a kid from the country without the other parents' consent. We could have signed a notarized letter granting consent, but it seemed easier to show up in person.) The passport acceptance offices tend to be colocated with post offices and generally have weird hours (and often require appointments), but the main post office in Bayview accepted passport applications without appointments on Saturday mornings. We woke up early one Saturday morning at the end of April, found the packed passport acceptance office in the otherwise-darkened post office, got a number, waited for less than an hour, turned over our paperwork, paid the fees, and left the building. We got the passports in the mail a couple of weeks later.

If you want to kiss the sky, you had better learn how to kneel.
- U2, "Mysterious Ways"