The first of the posts-which-I-need-to-catch-up-on.
It’s hard to believe how long ago Eastercon feels already. My impressions of it were… mixed, but I think it’s fair to say the positive outweighed the negative – although this had little to do with the organisation of the Con itself.
I’ll admit to being slightly puzzled by the location, which was a perfect example of splendid isolationism if ever I saw one. It’s all very well running a Con in a hotel right next to Birmingham NEC if everything in the NEC itself is shut for the bank holiday weekend. Umm. This left the majority of attendees stuck with the hotel’s massively overpriced bar food (I ran into Rod Rees in the bar, just as his insanely expensive lunch arrived. We were so gobsmacked by the cost that we barely got to talking…) but that’s an already well-discussed gripe by now.
The thing about Eastercon is that it is, of course, very science-fictiony (and is to the BSFA what Fantasycon is to the BFS) so there’s inevitably less on the programming that appeals to me than at, say, World Horror or Fantasycon. As a result, I went to even fewer items than I usually do at these things (I think I managed 2… maybe? More of which later.) and more than ever, the reason for my going was the people.
This is why I enjoyed my Eastercon so very much, in the end. I met some wonderful people as well as catching up with some I already knew – even if it was all-too-briefly.
Lee Harris & Ro Smith spirited me away to watch Dr Horrible’s Singalong Blog (god, it’s good) and, as the name suggests, they sang along with most of it. The lovely Mike Shevdon & I got to bore everyone else with archery talk (again), and I caught up with Emma Jane Davies & Saxon Bullock as well as Rod, whose Demi-Monde is rapidly going, well, global. And having convinced me to read some Tim Powers, John Berlyne charged round the Dealers’ Room in search of the copy of “The Anubis Gates” he’d spotted earlier – and which we failed utterly to find.
But quite apart from old friends, there were new ones – some of them, like the fine fellows previously only known to me as mygoditsraining, gavreads and figures, from Twitter.*
There was the stellar Amanda Rutter, our fearless leader from Genre for Japan – this being the first time that we had met, and to get together with Amanda & Ro was fantastic.
I ended up tagging along with the Angry Robot team for most of the weekend, particularly with Anne Lyle (whose alternative history novel comes out early next year) and – at long last – Adam Christopher, whose debut will also be published by Angry Robot in 2012. We’ve chatted on Twitter for a while now, and have managed to miss each other at two conventions at least, so to finally get round to talking face to face felt long overdue. He’s an absolute gentleman, and both very funny and annoyingly clever – and I hope we get the chance to catch up again soon.
I got chatting too, to YA author & self-confessed China Mieville fanboy Tom Pollock – someone else I’d have loved to spend more time talking with as he’s fabulous. The same goes for the lovely Helen Callaghan (the lady has a healthy appreciation for Gerard Butler. She can do no wrong.)
My experience of the programming was slightly less positive: most notably summed up by the ”Women Invisible” panel. Scheduled against one of the major Guest of Honour Q&As, this was never going to be well-attended, which was a shame. This was further compounded when what could have been an interesting debate on how to increase the visibility of women within genre (and to discuss why they are perceived as being so much less visible in the first place) descended into little more than in-fighting. It felt like an opportunity missed – and, to make matters worse, was largely repeated in the next gender-specific panel the next day. Perhaps the issue of women in SFF is too emotive for some of us, and unimportant for others… and never the twain shall meet.
But as I say, the memories of the actual programming are secondary to all the others – and I came away with some great ones: being dragged off to a very late-night room party by the excellent Lavie Tidhar & Mike Ramalho from Angry Robot / Osprey, where we were amply furnished with free drinks (hurrah!); watching Dr Who with an entire convention’s worth of people; an intensely serious but ultimately very interesting 3am conversation in the bar; another very late-night conversation which was still interesting but decidedly less serious (and after which The 300 will never be the same again…) and so many more. Adam tried to convince me to watch Dark Shadows from the start (and not just the bit where it gets interesting….), Amanda co-opted the Beeblebear I bought for Small Boy, and Ro introduced us to the game of Creative Consequences. The other palyers have already posted the stories they took home as a result: I’ll post mine soon.
In short, I had a fabulous time – in spite of (or, I suspect because of) my rarely moving from the bar. I always knew there would be a limited amount on the bill to interest me… but I came away feeling like it had been a weekend very well spent indeed - something I put down entirely to the quality of the company.
Which just goes to show: with the right company, even the Cons you’re not entirely sure about will turn out just fine…
*I should probably point out, as I’ve been oh-so-gently prompted to do (coughGavcough) that these fine folk also have real names. And those would be Andrew Reid, Gav Pugh and Adrian Faulkner respectively. Honestly, you try and preserve a little mystery….