My Road to Worldcon 76. Part 3: ¿Qué es una Worldcon?
I figured that most of my readers are familiar with Worldcon, the World Science Fiction Convention. However, it was still a bit of a mystery to me on what to expect and how I would fit in. The 2018 iteration would be in San Jose, California, very near San Francisco. I’ve never been to either of these places and my Inner Wanderer started asking friends online for recommendations of things to do around the Bay Area. And by things to do I meant places I could eat. I’m a bit of a glutton.
I started researching more about the con and found out how it is a volunteer-based organization, made possible by their common love for science fiction. A fan convention by the fans for the fans. While living in Orange County, I had the chance to attend a couple of Comic-cons in San Diego and the Animexpo before it moved to Los Angeles. But the Worldcon was something different, it felt more personal. I pleasantly saw this firsthand during my time there.
The saying “It takes a village…” can be easily used to describe the efforts it took to plan and had things sorted out for my Worldcon debut. My eagerness made me jump for the opportunity but some aspects started to pop in my mind. What do I make?
I wanted a science fiction and fantasy angle but how do I develop it? Do I want plated food or self-serve? Can I go with something simple yet fulfilling? How do I not disappoint people? I can imagine we all deal with that last one A LOT.
After my trip to Japan, things started to get in high gear. I was included in an email chain among some of the persons involved with the reception. Facts started to pop from this conversations, thankfully answering some of my previous questions.
- Expected guests: 50 Mexicanx Recipients as well as 50+ people
- Venue: Large room at the San Jose Fairmont
- Dietary restrictions: None
- Cooking space: Christine “Doc” Doyle’s magnificent kitchen
- Budget: Open but no caviar filled lobsters with gold leaf and foie gras croutons on their expense!
I was still undecided on what to make that could be good for the event. Thankfully, something helped me figure it out.
On June 11th I had the chance to FINALLY meet John Picacio. He came to Austin as Robert C. Cargill was signing copies of his collection of short fiction “We Are Where The Nightmares Go” at Bookpeople, our local independent and awesome bookstore. John provided the cover art and they had a very interesting chat, sharing stories from their past, from their movie credits (Sinister, Doctor Strange) to their famed collaborations (Game of Thrones Calendar).
It was great to finally meet John. I waited until everyone had their copies signed and timidly approached the table. My shyness disappeared when I saw John and immediately recognized me. “I’m so glad to finally meet you, brother!” He said effusively. I still get a chill whenever I think about this first encounter, as his energy and kindness was palpable. He was REALLY glad to see me. Heartwarming doesn’t even start to describe it. He introduced me to Robert, who I had briefly met during the Austin premiere of Doctor Strange, where he had a brief Q&A at the end. We chatted about the Mexicanx Initiative and the fortunate circumstances that led me to meeting Jodorowski in Paris.
Once I got some one-on-one time with John, I shared some of my initial ideas for the event, my sci-fi spin and some thoughts about what could appeal to everyone. He might have noticed me rambling/freaking out because he calmly said “Do something you feel comfortable. I trust your skills and play to your strengths. I know you will do great.”
And like that, my initial fears subsided. He also shared finger food would be a good idea, something that could be easily enjoyed and without too much fuzz. The wheels in my brain started turning.
I started thinking something showing my traditions as well as the new lessons I’ve learnt in the US. The choice was simple: gorditas, a Mexican specialty of stuffed fried masa dough. I opted for a smaller version of these, around the size of a mason jar mouth. There would be two versions, one for meat eaters, another one for vegans. The meat option would be filled with carnitas estilo Michoacan, using my grandmother’s recipe but adapting it to a modern technique called sous vide. With it you cook the food at a constant temperature to assure more tender and intense flavors. The vegan version would be vegan carnitas, made with mushrooms, using sous vide too.
Now, the science fiction angle. The easiest way would be playing with my specialty: salsas. I opted for making 7 salsas, each spicier than the previous one. The first one that came to my mind was Soylent Verde, because it was an easy pun. My dear Aussie friend Paul CZ came up with a couple of the other names: Picard de Gallo — Make It Salsa happened while eating BBQ, while Obi Juan Chipotle was sent over Messenger later that same day.
The Melange/Spice/Blue Salsa would need some experimentation with new ingredients, modernist cuisine techniques and hot peppers. Just what I love. Tears in the Rain was suggested by John through the email chain with the planning group. Dracarys, named after the fire spewed by the dragons in Game of Thrones would be the spiciest one as a local farmer grew a test batch of Carolina Reapers, the hottest pepper ever created. She saved me 4. Mischievous glee crossed my face when I received the piquant bounty. The name was kindly suggested by my friend Stacy, as she is a better expert on Game of Thrones lore than I’ll ever be.
My friend Paul was also very reassuring. “Everyone wants to see you succeed,” he told me, during that BBQ friend-date. Simple, yet effective. I felt how parts of my impostor syndrome were melting away.
Things were moving along nicely. I had a menu in my mind and some Mexperiments coming soon. Next step: the kitchen lab!