Shamrokon

After Worldcon in London was over John and I had a mere few hours back in Leicester to regroup before it was time to take the train to Peterborough to visit his parents.

Coincidentally this was also the week of the Peterborough Beer Festival, so we popped over there for one night of drinking draught ales and eating delicious English pork products. This is my second year attending and it’s a really fun event, not to mention the perfect little adventure in the middle of two big conventions. We also had a little bit of time to relax with John’s family before heading off again, this time to Dublin for the 2014 Eurocon, Shamrokon.

We had missed our chance to book in the convention hotel but found a place a short walk away called the Hampton Inn. Since our place came in ridiculously early in the morning we dropped our bags at the Inn and headed out to spend a few hours wandering the city. The city center was less than a half hour walk from our Ballsbridge/Donnybrook base so we wandered over and saw the National Gallery, which has a decent permanent collection and an excellent section for Irish painters.

Afterwards we walked through Merrion Square Park and visited the statue of Oscar Wilde. This was one of several interesting sculptures in the city, Dublin has done itself proud in that regard. Wilde is made of several different varieties of stone to create the colors of his clothing and is depicted reclining on a rock, looking quite pleased with himself. Also in the same park is an equally interesting tribute to another beloved Dubliner. The Joker’s Chair is a memorial to comedic actor Dermot Morgan (from Father Ted).

Oscar Wilde Statue
Oscar, eternally amused.

By the time we had seen these it was early afternoon and my feet were getting a little tired so it was back to the hotel. We checked into our room, which was pretty swank but also hilariously debauched looking. Decorated in deep pink, black, and chrome with dimly lit halls and boldly patterned wallpaper the hotel was nice but would have felt less out of place on the Vegas strip than along a pleasant Dublin street.

John headed up the street to the convention hotel while I took a bath and a nap to recover from our travels. I suspected Shamrokon would be a convention for staying up late and drinking, which I was looking forward to after not having managed to do as much of that as I would have liked at Loncon 3.

The area around the hotels was pretty, with quite a few embassies dotted around. It had a few sights of its own including a wonderfully dynamic statue of Queen Medb. While walking back from lunch I also spotted this lovely one in one of the gardens.

 

Statue of Queen Medb on Baggot Street, Dublin.
Medb Triumphant

The con hotel was a Doubletree, and those of you who have stayed there will know they have the wonderful tradition of handing out warm cookies to guests at check in. We discovered that at this one they were also apparently happy to hand them out on request. Needless to say we ate our weight in cookies.

The Doubletree featured two bars, one of them was directly beside the lobby and had your classic sports bar layout, though large enough to include little corners to converse in. The other was a long counter style bar near registration and the lower programming rooms. This allowed for multiple socializing areas, including the lobby itself which had many comfortable couches laid out in nice circles. Overall it was a very good convention hotel, pretty well suited to the size of the membership and with friendly staff.

On the Saturday night the various Eurocon and Worldcon bids in attendance hosted the International Party. They lined a ballroom with long tables along the walls from which Helsinki, Dublin, St. Petersburg, China, San Jose, plus a few others I’ve forgotten each served their chosen liquors, there were tables in the center of the room, but most folks remained circulating or wandered out to the reg/bar area directly outside to chat. It was interesting to compare and contrast the effect with the Fan Village the previous week. Certainly the smaller space worked better for me, as did the variety of regional liquors being served. It was still very different from a room party model, but I enjoyed it a lot.

The dealers room and art show were in the same room, a model I find tends to work very well. I was too broke to peruse the dealers but the selection seemed to be pretty decent and there were several book vendors. The art show was small but interesting, one nice thing of traveling for conventions is getting to see artists you wouldn’t normally. Artist GOH, Jim Fitzpatrick (whose art I recognized but whose name I was previously unfamiliar, leading to a minor embarrassment later) was one of the standouts but the whole show was good. Unfortunately one of the few places the convention failed a bit was on the art show web page which failed to provide a list of who displayed.

Programming was very good, and I especially enjoyed the Le Fanu track. Prior to the convention I had never heard of Sheridan Le Fanu, who was an Irish writer and one of the original gothic writers. There was a series of panels ranging from lectures to conversations about his work and I came away with a nice list for my library card. Also of interest to me were a panel on European fairy tale traditions, one on the history of German science fiction and fandom, and another on Polish science fiction recommendations. Altogether the programme was a great companion to the international bent of Loncon 3.

Another thing the two conventions had in common was a solid app, both used the Guide app which was accessible from the app store or through a web app. I would love to see more conventions use it, since it loaded quickly and made choosing what to see nice and easy by allowing the user to select program items and then toggle between a personal or complete guide. It also came in handy as a way to track what I had seen when once I got around to composing this report.

Being a smaller convention the socializing was easier, but it was still possible to miss people with everything that was going on. I had what I consider the proper convention balance between hanging out with friends, namely Bay Area folks I didn’t get to see nearly enough of at Worldcon, and meeting new and interesting people.

The weekend flew by and soon it was Sunday night and time for the Dead Dog, which started directly after closing ceremonies at 7pm. John and I had an early morning flight and needed to catch the coach to the airport at 3AM so we simply decided to stay up all night. It turned out to be quite easy, since everyone else was equally reluctant to see the convention end.

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