This was my first Novacon, and I didn’t really know what to expect. John had warned me it was small with a single track of programming, and it was that, but it was also well designed for the space it occupies so despite being around 200 people it never felt constricted or claustrophobic.
The Park Inn has seen better days but still manages to be friendly and comfortable, and has the advantage of being on a street with multiple pubs and restaurants in reasonable walking distance for most folks. I didn’t get to see a lot of Nottingham on this trip but there are some gaming and comics shops also a short distance away and the city looked worth adding a day to next year’s trip for some exploration.
We arrived at around 4:30pm, a couple of hours before Opening Ceremonies. This gave us time to unpack and hang art, John had brought TAFF donated art and I had some new flat pieces as well as a few folding fans. The show was larger than I expected for the convention size and I ended up selling a fan and two pieces, so that was a pleasant surprise.
One of the advantages of a smaller event is you get to actually spend time with just about everyone you want to. By the evening I had at least said hello to everyone I already knew who was there, but as I am still a newcomer to local fandom there were plenty of folks to meet for the first time, or to have my first proper conversation with.
John and I braved the cold to get supplies from the Co-op down the street, then enjoyed some wine at the book launch party for Dogs of War, the new book by GOH Adrian Taichovsky. We stood around, chatted, and drank wine until we got peckish, then popped down the street to a place called The Cod’s Scallops. It’s a very cute upmarket fish & chips place decorated in a retro English seaside resort theme, all striped cushions and saucy postcards. They had a table service section but the prices are higher there so we chose to head back to the hotel with a ridiculous amount of battered fish (monkfish for me, seabass for John), a huge portion of chips, plus some extras like scallops, cockles, and fried black pudding. Our little hotel room smelled of fish for the rest of the night but it was worth it and we were well fortified for the ensuing night of drinking.
We chatted with the usual suspects in the bar till around eleven thirty when we started to fade and seriously considered going up to bed, but we ran into Jo Playford who helped us rally a bit longer so we eventually got to bed at a sensible but not embarrassing hour with our dignity intact.
Our first hotel breakfast on Saturday was pretty good despite truly terrible coffee, bad enough I didn’t finish my first cup. Like many hotels the Park Inn has installed those little coffee machines that produce bad coffee and do it slowly, inconveniencing both the customers who have to stand in line and the staff who has to manoeuvre around the people blocking the floor, and maintain the stations as well as take care of tables. (I dislike them, in case you can’t tell)
Still, it was a good breakfast and we got in some quality chat time with Fran Dowd as well before heading off to check out the art show and the dealer’s room. The former had a few tempting pieces and a lot of artists I am not personally familiar with, which is always nice. The later was mostly books and convention tables, plus a cool jewerly vendor.
At noon there was an excursion to a nearby pub called The Lincolnshire Poacher, which was warm and cozy with a nice beer selection. We spent an hour or so there and then left folks to their pub lunches while we took advantage of the hotel pool and sauna.
Then it was time for the first programming item I was excited about; The Rise of African SFF
Moderated by Geoff Ryman, editor of 100 African Writers of SFF it had three authors on it; Ezeiyoke Chukwunonso, Masimba Musodza, and Nick Wood. Tosin Coker was also listed but did not appear, sadly making it an all-male panel. But it was a good one all the same, Chukwunonso in particular had some interesting points to make about afrofuturism, African SFF, African diaspora SFF, and how they relate to each other – there was a lot to chew over there and some points I had not considered. There was a handy printed reading/resource list provided by the African Speculative Fiction Society, and after the discussion ended the authors all did short readings.
The next stop was the bar for conversation and beer, of course. We chatted till dinnertime, then found Claire and Mark and attempted to find Tobes – who ironically turned out to be on a panel about food! He promised to join us once that wrapped up so the four of us headed over to Royal Thai down the street, it was the only place that had a table for five available but fortunately it also turned out to be really good. Tobes joined us eventually and we had a nice relaxed meal.
Back at the hotel I got changed and made it back down just in time to take advantage of the free bar generously provided by some mysterious anonymous fan. Then it was time for the Pub Quiz, which was a lot of fun, though by the end of the two hours it had gotten rather chaotic and I had stopped remembering little things like book titles, author names, my own name. We eventually spilled out into the bar and spent the rest of the night chatting. I switched to wine until the bottle ran out and then as the bar was long since closed, the resourceful Ellie Winpenny provided vodka. At around three am I left the remaining souls and staggered off to bed.
In the morning John literally dragged me out of bed for breakfast, which I put down to the inferior quality of the duvets at this hotel and their inability to really get a grip on when you need it. Still, breakfast was necessary and I eventually forgave him. We vaguely considered attending programming but ended up at the pool instead for another lovely soak and swim.
Thus refreshed we packed our suitcases and left them at reception so we could enjoy the last few hours of our convention. Follycon hosted a tea party, with biscuits and muffins as well as far superior coffee to what the hotel had provided so far. Afterwards we picked up our remaining art and the cash for our sales, one of the things I love about UK conventions is the fact that they pay up on the spot rather than after the convention.
The last hurrah before we left was Doug Spencer’s Recycling The Redshirts talk. It was about ST:TOS, its unfortunate death count, and also cannibalism. It was both informative and odd, and a pretty good way to end the convention for us.
We said what goodbyes we could and then disappeared into the chilly Nottingham night.