Sasquan: The 73rd World Science Fiction Convention in Spokane

Wednesday 19-Sunday 23 August, 2015

Eric with cardboard cutout of astronaut Dr. Kjell Lindgren, Sasquan Special Guest. Photo by some random fan.

This was the tenth WorldCon for Eric and myself, and it was by far the most memorable. Sasquan had the dubious distinction of being the first WorldCon to take place in a federally-declared disaster area. Wildfire smoke rendered the outdoors unbearable on the Friday of the convention, prompting the staff to put up these signs warning people about going outside. Photo by Eric.

The Hugo Awards, our annual fan awards, were convoluted this year by a slate of candidates having controlled the nomination process. As upsetting as this was, it caused a dramatic increase in the level of participation in the actual vote on the awards. Sasquan had a record number of memberships, and in particular a record number of non-attending memberships, people who couldn't actually attend the convention but who paid a reduced membership fee just to vote on the Hugos. With this huge outburst of backlash against the slate nominees, we were able to defeat the slate resoundingly. Only five times in history (the last time in 1977) have Hugo voters rejected every nominee in a category and chosen not to give an award in that category. In each of the contests in which slate-nominated candidates completely controlled a category, no award was given. Perhaps Sasquan would rather not have been the convention at which so few awards were given, but it does have the distinction of being the WorldCon at which the slate strategy was strongly rejected.

Sasquan was also distinguished by having a guest of honor who did not come any closer than 200 miles to the convention. Dr. Kjell Lindgren, a medical doctor and research scientist, participated in the convention from his temporary home on the International Space Station.

Dr. Lindgren was typically represented at the convention by one or another of a series of life-sized cardboard cutouts of himself. Photo by Eric.

Guests of Honor and convention staff at Opening Ceremonies, with cardboard cutout of Dr. Lindgren. Photo by Eric.

Dr. Lindgren recorded some videos to be presented at convention events. The oddity of his participation was emphasized by his badge amusingly floating up in front of his chest, demonstrating the lack of gravity. Photo by Eric.

Dr. Lindgren was the first person to name one of the Hugo award winners from space.

Because of his fame as an elevator talk show host, Eric was invited by the convention to record "Messages to Orbit," video messages from convention attendees for Dr. Lindgren. Thus, Eric spent substantial parts of the convention frantically arranging for lighting, solving technical problems, and hauling around unwieldy life-sized cardboard cutouts of Dr. Lindgren, an enormous video tripod, or both. He didn't have time to see many of the convention events, and barely had time to eat. But we're sure Dr. Lindgren will be very excited when he sees the video.

Friends (including a vice-chair of the convention, on the right) and an actual Sasquatch with Sasquan banner, with Eric holding up unwieldy life-sized cardboard cutout of Dr. Lindgren. Photo by some random fan.

While Eric was hauling around unwieldy life-sized cardboard cutouts of Dr. Lindgren, I attended various author readings and events. In terms of convention programming, Sasquan stands out as my favorite WorldCon. The programming and organization were outstanding. I thoroughly enjoyed the emphasis on literature and science.

I went to a reading by Ann Leckie, whose Ancillary Justice won the most prestigious Hugo award, Best Novel, last year. The sequel, Ancillary Sword, was a (non-slate) nominee for Best Novel this year, but lost. This year's Best Novel award went to The Three-Body Problem, by Chinese author Cixin Liu. The Sasquan Hugos were also distinguished by having two winners that were translated into English from other languages. No work in translation has ever won a Hugo before. My WorldCon became even more exciting when, at the end of her presentation, Ms. Leckie raffled off four copies of the manuscript of the first four chapters of her next novel, Ancillary Mercy, and I won one of them!

Eric took my picture bursting with enthusiasm about my copy of the manuscript. I'm wearing a new hat I bought in the Dealer's Room.

The Hugos were not the only breath-holding vote at Sasquan. We also voted on site selection for the 75th WorldCon in 2017, in a very hotly contested election among four potential locations. I am pleased to say that Helsinki won its bid. Friends of ours have been pouring shots of disgusting Finnish anise tar liquor and handing out Finnish candies (with surprise flavors slightly reminiscent of Bertie Botts' Every Flavour Beans) at con parties for years, trying to have a WorldCon in Helsinki, and they lost out to Spokane in the site selection for 2015. While we have no plans to attend the Helsinki convention, we were pleased to see them win.

This guy won a prize at the masquerade for his fabulous costume. I took his picture with Eric at a party. Note the ping-pong ball in the Captain's hand.

It seems that, when the surrounding forests are not on fire, Spokane would be a nice little town, with a good quality of life. It had far more character than I had been led to expect. The Spokane Convention Center is part of a lovely Riverfront Park. While Eric was recording videos for Dr. Lindgren, my friend Silven and I walked around and took some pictures of the Spokane River and Falls.

Spokane River.

Reflections under a bridge over the river. I thought this photo wouldn't work, but Silven convinced me to take it, and I am quite pleased with the result.

Spokane Falls.

Spokane Falls.

Silven in costume. Photo by Eric.

The convention chose Spokane's Historic Davenport Hotel for the party site. I don't think Eric and I have ever stayed in such a beautiful hotel before.

Lobby of the Historic Davenport. Note Hugo Award winner James Bacon chatting with some friends in the lower right corner.

The most exciting attraction at the Historic Davenport was the Hall of Doges. Inspired by the Doge's Palace, it was built in 1908 and then moved to its present location during a 2002 restoration of the property.

Hall of Doges from the outside.

Hall of Doges at extremely wide distortion.

OK, that was fun, but here you can see what it really looks like.

Eric took a picture of our beautiful bedroom.

He also had to photograph the gigantic bathroom. That cavernous shower was the size of a full-sized bed.

So many things made Sasquan a particularly special WorldCon. I thank everyone who worked on the convention for making it such a great experience in spite of the weather.

On to Olympic National Park.

Last updated: 24 August, 2015 by Eric and Beth Zuckerman