Tag Archives: worldcon

Eastercon 2017: Innominate

On Good Friday we started our day with a solid Novotel breakfast buffet, which is a good way to get into convention headspace. We had plenty of time before our train so we packed up and then popped into town for an hour or so, visiting the local Forbidden Planet and then to the station to catch our train to Birmingham for Innominate, the 2017 Eastercon.

The train to Birmingham was uneventful, though the second one was so packed we had to hop on different cars just to squeeze in. Still, we made it in one piece and the shuttle to the Hilton made up for the indignities of public transit. Once settled into out room we picked up our badges, hung our art, and headed to the bar for our first beer of the weekend, in that order.

The art show was a good first impression of the convention; busy, well attended, and full of cool stuff. John had brought art donations to raise money for Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund, some of them rather nice and a couple of questionable quality but high entertainment value. I had brought a couple of old pieces, a handful of new ones, and four of the fans originally created for The Dark Market. I am happy to report that my sales were the best I’ve had and I went home with only two of the ten pieces I hung. TAFF did pretty well itself, selling three pieces of art but raising nearly a thousand pounds in the Fan Fun auction to be shared with The Get Up-and-over Fan Fund and the Lazlar Lyricon effort to bring over some Brazilian Douglas Adams fans.

Attendance this year was just over 900 people and the layout of the facilities was good, with everything radiating out from the central hotel lobby/reception, making the the con feel full and vibrant.

Across from reception was the fan bar, British conventions famously center on the bar and encourage this by bringing in a local brewery to run a real ale bar. This year it was from a place called Purity Brewing, and although the selection was good the pints did run £5 each which was a bit rich to rely on for the whole weekend. Instead we picked up some beer and some vodka in a trip into town and alternated with the ale.

Behind the real ale bar was the actual hotel bar and lounge area, which was in use more as a quieter place to have a coffee or food and relax in comfy seating. Directly in front of the entrance to the hotel, between the reception and bar was registration, with the fan lounge behind it and programming down the hall to the right. All right there and easy to triangulate, with the added advantage that finding anyone mostly meant heading to the lobby and looking around a bit.

The fan lounge was in the con suite model in the sense that it was a large room with large tables for people to shit and chat. The hotel had set up a row of “street food” stalls along one wall, with baked potatoes, Indian, Caribbean, and British food on sale for relatively reasonable prices, and drinks at the end. It was a very convenient arrangement and relaxed enough that people could bring in other things from elsewhere without fuss. On a couple of occasions there was even delicious surprise birthday cake.

Being a holiday weekend there were several other events going on nearby, the Insomnia 60 gaming convention at the NEC convention center and a Boyzlife concert in our wing of the hotel. This last was new to me but I am told that it is in fact a frankenband composed of members of Boyzone and Westlife. The former meant that there were a fair amount of people about in nerdy shirts that were not in fact part of our convention while the later was just a bit confusing. We only really noticed the outside world on our brief trips to dinner and one excursion into Birmingham, where we kept it nerdy by visiting the really cool Nostalgia Comics and the world’s most labyrinthine game store location.

I had intended to volunteer a bit over the course of the weekend, but the couple of times I popped by to check in there didn’t seem to be much need so I ended up pretty free and clear aside from needing to take my art down at the end of the weekend. I didn’t attend a ton of programming, but opening ceremonies were good with Pat Cadigan’s energy kicking things off nicely and Dr. Emma J. King‘s explosive presentation following on its heels.

Also a blast was the Pyjama Disco by Jo Playford and fan GOH Colin Harris, it was well attended and the room had surrounding tables for people to chill when not dancing. I spent several hours on the dance floor with intermittent excursions to the fan lounge for cake and conversation. The setlist was nicely varied, with a fair amount of fan favourites but a good range from old school to current.

After the success we had with pre-arranging dinners with friends during Gally, we made a point of deploying the same method again in order to make sure we got time with some of our busier friends. This involved two excursions to the NEC adjacent food mall, which is basically just full of chain restaurants but in a weirdly impressive setting. We had Nando’s with some of Third Row and the next evening Pizza Express with Claire and Mark, the latter in particular I feel we never get to spend as much time as we think we will during the convention. We did get to hang out a fair bit with the inimitable Tobes, and I got some American time with Dave McCarty when he wasn’t busy smoffing – we primarily talked about our mutual love for Mexican food IIRC.

Meg Frank was there but I felt her presence more as a passing breeze of glam and glitter, sensed and then gone in the night. Anna and Hogg we got some quality time with on and off, never as much as one would wish for but luckily just enough to plot some plots for Helsinki.  We squeezed in a too brief chat with Fran Dowd at breakfast and saw Doug and Julie mostly in passing as their busy schedules permitted.

Oh, and I got roped into running the Fanzine Lounge at Helsinki, so that’s bound to keep me out of trouble for a minute.

Hugo Novels Shirt

My clever husband has put up this sweet design on Teespring, available until June 30th;

hugoshirt

The famous Hugo Award rocket, filled with the name of each Best Novel winner since the first awards were given. An elegant window into the history of our genre, in T-shirt form!

Shirts available in men and women’s cuts: be sure to click the drop down menu if you want the latter.
“Worldcon”, “Hugo Award”, the Hugo Award Logo, and the distinctive design of the Hugo Award Trophy Rocket are service marks of the World Science Fiction Society, an unincorporated literary society. They are used by permission of Loncon 3, the 72nd World Science Fiction Convention.

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.