Loncon 3

Loncon 3 was my first non-US Worldcon, and only my second British convention, so it’s hard to say which elements of the convention were specific to L3 and which were British fannish traditions.

The convention was the second largest Worldcon to date with close to ten thousand attending members. The committee did an excellent job getting word out and putting together a world class event and it was great to see the result.

It was held at the ExCel Center in the Docklands, which is pretty huge but well laid out. Like most Worldcons this one only occupied part of the center and was originally supposed to share it with another event. The event was a music festival called Jabberwocky, which would probably have been a nice neighbor and added a more festive air to the East end of the building. Unfortunate the event was canceled, leaving those of us on that end of the center with a slightly emptier walk each day.

The Excel has a number of eateries and seating sections along the way, though, which worked out nicely compared to the usual central food court. Conventions in general and Worldcons in particular greatly benefit from any central areas that help find folks more easily.

The central social area was the Fan Village, on which I will probably be writing more extensively elsewhere. It contained the convention center bar, which has several nice ales and a few decent food options, plus a number of tents which held convention bids and fan groups. The village replaced the usual fan tables during the daytime and the party floors during the evening and was right next door to the other major social areas; the art show, dealers room, and exhibits.

John and I arrived on Thursday morning and found the line for registration wrapping around and up some stairs but by the next day it seemed to be under control. Once we got our badges my next order of business was hanging my art. John also had to hang some art which had been donated to raise funds for TAFF, so we decided to get that out of the way first thing.

Unfortunately the art show was not well run. The art programme itself was good, as was the artist showcase. The quality and variety of the art on display was excellent, including guest of honor Chris Foss, some amazing John Harris originals and a bunch of other fantastic pieces. But there is no way around it; the actual running of the art show was a mess and my interactions with all but one of the staff (who was top notch) were unresponsive at best. But that’s for a different report as well.

The rest of the staff I encountered during the convention were all pleasant and helpful, and the events and programming seemed to have had a lot of thought and love put into them. There were problems with capacity during several programming items, but that is always an extremely tricky logistics problem. I would suggest conventions institute a policy of counting people in line and letting folks know when it looks like capacity has been reached, but beyond that all you can really do is make your best estimation.

Loncon 3 featured several unique stage and musical events of which I managed to make two; the Retro Hugos and the stage adaptation of The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers. Both were thoroughly enjoyable and made the convention feel unique.

The Retro Hugos featured Mary Robinette Kowal and Rob Shearman and a fun time travel conceit that tied in with the War of the Worlds. It was a reasonably short ceremony, with two musical interludes and it was great to see everyone glammed up in period attire and other fancy duds. The live music was provided by twelve piece swing band the Brideshead Ballroom Stompers and after the ceremony they continued playing into the night, with the convention having provided swing lessons earlier in the weekend.

The Anubis Gates was the next big event I attended. This was a new stage adaptation of the book and had its premiere at the convention. Because of this it had the occasional rough spot here and there, but it was still very enjoyable. The book is intricately plotted and complex so I was impressed with how well the adaptation worked. Even beyond the script, the actors were great and there were some very cool bits of staging and use of the entire room.

I did not attend the Hugo ceremony, after standing in line for the play and a few other things I didn’t really want to risk not getting in after queuing in heels. But the livestream was very good this year and it was a relief after the crazy drama from the nominations to see such a great ceremony, such great hosts, and such a great list of winners.

As with all conventions the panels varied based on the panelists and moderators but overall they seemed to be excellent and varied. I especially enjoyed the World in Worldcon track, which focused on different national fandoms across the globe. I also attended a great panel on mid-century British magazines.

I was on one panel myself, about the Fan Hugos. I was on it with John as well as Teddy Harvia, Andy Hooper, and Foz Meadows. I was especially glad to see the convention following the great British tradition of rewarding panelists with a drink (to be collected in the green room 15 minutes before your panel). This method is not just more enjoyable for the participants but most importantly means that you get to meet your fellow panelists and strategize prior to starting the panel.

There were tons of Californians in attendance, which was nice since I hadn’t seen most of them in a few months. Kevin Roche brought his Tiki Dalek, which even made it into a cartoon report on Loncon 3 in Private Eye magazine. He and Andy Trembley were working at the San Jose in 2018 Worldcon bid tent, which ended up being the place to run into Bay Area folks.

Speaking of which it was great to see Bryan Little and Mette Hedin, who managed to bring the costuming excellence as usual even if it was a bit lower key due to travel considerations. John and I joined them on Friday for a group costume as The Young Ones, which was a lot of fun and enthusiastically received.
They weren’t the only costumers who had to take baggage allowances into consideration of course, so there was perhaps not as much costuming as I’m used to seeing at other conventions of a similar size, but the quality of the hall costumes I saw was pretty high.

All in all it was an excellent convention that had more to see and do than anyone could manage to do in a mere five days. But as with most conventions the best parts were the conversations with old friends and the new people I got to meet.

Normally the end of a convention is a bit melancholy, particularly one you’ve been planning to attend for years. But with Loncon 3 there was the solace of having the Dublin Eurocon to look forward to just one week later. But that’s also for another report.

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