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Dublin 2019 and Titancon

This is going to be long.

My journey to Dublin began in May, when I was planning my first trip to Europe as semi-vacations (they are never full vacations because I'm a freelancer and a writer, so I always have work to do regardless of where I am in the world) and I saw that Worldcon would be taking place in Dublin this year.

I've seen the live stream of the Hugo awards before, and I always dreamt of attending Worldcon, but it never coincided with me being in the same continent it was taking place in. So instead of going to Eastern Europe as I originally planned, I changed my destination to Dublin, with a pit stop in London to see one of my best friends who lives there.

This was me after buying the membership from someone who wouldn't be able to attend:

I think it was around July that they announced Diane Duane would be doing a workshop on workshopping and writing in general, and I jumped at the possibility of meeting and learning from someone like her. When they announced I got in (I believe it was a random draw of fifteen participants out of whoever applied) I spent the entire day doing my very embarrassing victory dance around the house.

I left Asunción on August 4, and after a stop in Sao Paulo Guarulhos, the airport which nightmares are made of, I arrived in Frankfurt after twelve hours. I stayed there for a night, and then headed to London. Ten days later, I flew from Stansted to Dublin. I didn't manage to get a picture, but I knew I was in the right place when a giant sign at the side of the road said "Swords" both in English and Irish.

It was late in the afternoon so I headed straight to Jacob's Inn Hostel to check in. I was a bit scared of their pod beds (for I may be small of stature but larger in width), but they were big enough for two of me. Well, maybe one and a half, but I did sleep with my backpack beside me and I never felt it. Other than waking up to an incessant phone alarm every day at 6:00 AM (until I got up and found the culprit and tried to ask nicely if they could shut it off), my stay there was perfect.

On Wednesday I finally arrived at the CCD very early in the morning after a few trials and errors with the trams. I got my badge and hunted down the My first worldcon! ribbon, and headed to the LitRPG/isekai panel moderated by Likhaim (who won the Hugo for best fan artist!). This may sound strange to some people, but I was so, so happy to see a woman (who actually likes and plays video games!) moderating the panel. Most of the authors in the genre are predominantly male, and I have perhaps five friends who play video games who aren't men. Paraguay is a small island surrounded by land. More on that later. I attended a few other panels and drank a lot of beer, but I had to head back to the hostel early because I had to work.

Thursday: The workshop with Diane Duane, which was hilarious, enlightening and quite easily the best time I've ever had in a 'workshop' setting. I hadn't managed to read all the excerpts before the due date because internet in Paraguay hates wordpress and PDFS for some reason, but now I have them all safely in my computer and I promised I'd get back to everyone. The highlight of the workshop actually came later, when Noelle and Caoilfhionn (that gorgeous name!) approached me at the bar and hung out with me. I am terrible at striking up conversations, and I was so glad they talked to me. I ended up spending most of my time with Caoilfhionn before she left, and with Noelle every night at the bar.

I was going to do a day by day recall of events, but the dates are a bit blurry by now, so I will just list the events and highlights in the order I remember them.

I wandered around the dealer's room and saw that Peter S. Beagle was sitting at one of the stands, selling and signing his books. I bought one and asked him to sign it for me. When I showed him the name on my badge, he was very surprised that I came from Paraguay, and switched to speaking Spanish. He told me a story about his Mexican cousins, whom he says are the most fun and prettiest of all his cousins, and then sang me a song in Spanish about a woman hitting her head on the headboard of a bed. I cried.

I could go on forever about the Kaffeeklatsches and all the books I got signed, but I'd rather focus on everything I felt throughout those five amazing days.

First of all, I was amazed by how welcoming everyone was. The fact that I came from Paraguay surprised a lot of people. I think it may have been the first time someone Paraguay attended a Worldcon. I got a lot of "Paraguay! That's far away!" and "Wow! I've never met someone from Paraguay!". It made me wonder if they said the same thing about the distance to those who came from Asia or Australia, since I think that is technically farther away.

Something I notice the more I interact with English speaking people is that some of you have trouble placing my accent. They know it's not perfectly American, but it's not what they're used to hearing from latinos or hispanic people either. And for some reason, some people are afraid to tell me that my accent is "good" or ask me how or why I speak English the way I do. I honestly don't mind. I'm proud of having both English and Spanish as my main languages. I think, read, write and mostly listen to music only in English. Spanish is my native tongue. English is the language of my brain. So please, ask away and I'll tell you that I don't remember learning English because it infiltrated my head at the same time I learned how to speak Spanish. In Paraguay, I speak a mix of Spanish, English and Guaraní. Guaraní, by the way, is Paraguay's second official language, and the only indigenous, native language that I know of that has that status in the world. It's quite common to hear me say something like "Nderakore, el gato está en el sink de nuevo." Nderakore is a swear word in Guaraní, and I won't translate it. Look it up ;) And the rest is "the cat is in the sink again."

Saturday night is specially blurry because I drank too much whiskey and danced until the party where John Scalzi acted as DJ ended. I danced with Noelle and a group of other people who joined us until they left, and then with Krissy (John Scalzi is her husband) because she was the only person whose name I knew. (Did I mention that I'm a terrible conversation starter?) I hope I didn't pester John too much, but he did honor my request of playing Macarena (we needed at least one song in Spanish!). I was flattered and a bit embarrassed when he announced to everyone on the microphone that he was playing it for the sole girl from Paraguay, and asked everyone to cheer because I had come from so far away. I'm not too good with crowds. But I did wave back :D

Throughout the weekend, I found myself thinking a lot about 'community' and what this word means for me. Paraguay is often mentioned as a very welcoming country, where foreigners tend to fall in love with the people once they visit. I think it's true to some extent, but Paraguay is still a very unwelcoming place for LGBT people, and its general tolerance to diversity is a few hundred years behind other countries in our neighborhood. Strangely enough, the signs on the bathrooms in the CCD were one of the most heartwarming things I read. I stole someone else's picture from twitter because every time I went to the bathroom, it was pretty packed, and I didn't want to obstruct the door to take a picture.

When I mentioned community, I told a lot of people that I never saw my love for science fiction or fantasy as something that belonged in a community, of sorts. It was just something I loved, like soccer, video games, cats or rock music. When I decided to write in these genres, it was just an extension of what I had already been writing in Spanish. This is also a story for another day, but I've mostly only participated in short story contests from Paraguay, Argentina and Uruguay for obvious reasons. Since I never finished college, these awards are my CV, and I'm really proud of them. But I always knew that when I decided to write novels, I'd do so in English and then translate them into Spanish.

In Dublin, the word 'community' took on a whole different dimension for me. I felt surrounded by people who were far more similar to me than most of the people I regularly interact with, despite being from dozens of different parts of the world. I felt welcome and loved, even if I got to speak to perhaps 1% of the people who attended. So thank you, to the organizers and to everyone who attended for creating such an amazing event.

In no particular order, these were my other highlights:

-Literary beer with V.E. Schwab and Charlie Jane Anders. I also attended their readings and loved them. -Meeting Cristina Macía and her husband, Ian Watson.

-Meeting Amanda, my Brazilian neighbor who happens to be from Belho Horizonte, the city in which I almost died in 2013 after a soccer match. This is also a story for another day.

-My very brief interaction with Seanan Mcguire when she signed one of my Wayward Children books. This is one of my favorite series ever, and I read two of her books (by Mira Grant) during the trip.

-Holding Mary Robinette's Hugo. Thank you for taking it to the bar after the ceremony so us mortals could see it up close. It was gorgeous, and well-deserved.

-Cat Valente's reading.

-John Scalzi's impromptu kaffeeklatsch after the first one was full the day before. If there's one thing I learned from him, it's "be bold, and mighty forces will come to your aid."

-Searching for open bars with Katy and Sylvie at 2 am in the morning. I may have been a bit loud to a man from Saudi Arabia who joined us. I asked him if women could drive in Saudi Arabia. He answered yes, a bit annoyed. Well, it was about time! (It was made legal in 2018.) I'm sorry, and thank you for seeing that we all made it to our lodgings safely.

-Dinner with Noelle and other amazing people after the con was over.

I'm so glad I decided to go. Now I have to save up for New Zealand :D

Now, Titancon.

This has gone on for too long, so I will try to be brief.

I went to Belfast by bus, and arrived to my hostel running from rain. My highlights from Titancon, in no particular order, were:

-Getting my massive illustrated book signed by George RR Martin. I'd been hauling that monster since Asunción, with Ryan Air and their luggage restrictions, in a bag that is now broken thanks to its weight, through four different countries.

-Meeting Laura and Jill while smoking outside. Laura works in an elephant sanctuary in Brazil, and had not heard bout Maia, the elephant that is in Paraguay's botanical garden since 1972. We are going to rescue her and give her a chance to live freer for the rest of her days. I promised. If you want to learn more about the sanctuary, this is their Facebook page.

https://www.facebook.com/santuariodeelefantes/

They are raising funds to rescue Ramba, an elephant from Chile who is scheduled to fly (yes, fly!) to Brazil when they can cover all her expenses. If you want to help give her a better life, you can donate to their campaign here:

https://www.kickante.com.br/campanhas/jornada-ramba

-Reading a part of my novel in the Literary Night, even though I didn't manage to sign up for it beforehand. Thank you Peader! Several people walked up to me to tell me they enjoyed my story, which was the best encouragement someone in my place could ever receive. That one is still wandering the dark void of agents' inboxes, so I can't share it with anyone yet. But I am publishing other LitRPG novels under my super secret pen name of Morgan Diaz very soon. Please don't tell anyone I'm her. If you want to read those, you can subscribe

here

and I will send you an email once they're out for preorder. I promise I won't send you anything else. I've never promoted anything I've written, but alas, here we are.

-Karaoke, even though I never got to sing my song. I would have sung La Bamba, by the way. Everyone knows La Bamba, don't you?

I could go on for a few more thousand words, but I have to go. Someday I'll write about how I fulfilled my teenage dream of visiting the Trinity College Library. I'm still in Switzerland and I'm going to Montreux just to take a picture with Freddie Mercury's statue. My late father introduced me to Queen when I was about five or six years old, and I will go convene with the dead in the only way I know how: by remembering them.

P.D. This site is in construction so it's still a bit wonky. Please forgive me if any links send you to any weird pages.

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