Were you at Eastercon last weekend? Blogger Lee Harris discusses the ins and outs of attending any con, plus reports back from the 60th British National Science Fiction Convention in Bradford.
A few short years ago I was a convention virgin. Oh, I’d been to one or two literary festivals, but I’d yet to pop my con cherry. These days, although I’m not in a heavy con relationship, we’ve been photographed in public together, and even gone to second base.
My first convention was FantasyCon in Nottingham. FantasyCon is the convention of the British Fantasy Society (BFS) which promotes fantasy, horror and science fiction in all its forms. It’s a relatively small convention, with around 300-350 members, and it’ll always hold a place in my heart – well, you always remember your first, don’t you? It’s at Nottingham again this year, and you can find the details at www.FantasyCon.org.
This past weekend I attended EasterCon – the convention of the British Science Fiction Association. Like the BFS, the BSFA is interested in all three genres, but it has a very specific focus on science fiction, and EasterCon is generally two or three times bigger than FantasyCon. This time, for the first time, I attended in a professional capacity, rather than as a fan. You see, I work for Angry Robot – a new genre imprint from HarperCollins, due to launch in July. I was expecting it to be a far different experience, attending a convention as a publisher, rather than a punter, but the nature of the UK con (I can’t speak for overseas events, yet) is such that business meetings are low key, and although networking is done, it doesn’t feel like a business experience. Meetings are informal, and generally held over a pint in the convention bar.
Or, more accurately, many pints.
By far the best thing about conventions is the meeting of likeminded people. I have friends I meet only at conventions, and when we meet again, six, nine, or 12 months down the line, our conversations pick up where we left them the last time we parted. It is also very easy to make friends at a con – everyone there has the same general interests as you, and there are bound to be many with the same specific likes and dislikes.
Some personal highlights from this year’s EasterCon:
Moderating my first panel
I’ve been a panelist on a number of occasions, but never before moderated. It wasn’t a topic I had a great deal of experience of, but my panelists were all pretty conversant with the topic, and besides – Wikipedia is my best friend!
Being acknowledged in a new anthology
I picked up a copy of Ian Whates’ new book The Gift of Joy and was delighted to discover I was listed in the “without whom…” section. This is my second time as an acknowledgee, and a great thrill.
Watching Doctor Who with 500 other people
You know what? The Easter special wasn’t the best episode of new Who ever, but until you’ve watched an episode with 500 people who have spent all day in the bar, you haven’t lived! The episode was largely a pantomime, and a large, half-drunk audience really responds to panto! Heading out of the auditorium, if the grins on the audience were any bigger, there would have been a lot of heads falling off!
Listening to Eoin Colfer talk about his new Hitchhiker’s book
When it was announced that a new H2G2 book was to be written, I thought it a terrible idea, so I went into Colfer’s talk with my arms metaphorically folded, and I dared him to convince me it wasn’t an enormous folly. For the first 25 minutes of his hour-long slot he spoke about his life, his background, his family, and his writing method. By the time he started talking about the books itself, he had completely won me over, and I can’t think of anyone I’d rather see writing the book. What a charmer.
Not paying to attend
As I said, I was there on a work ticket, which was a huge relief. Cons are not cheap to attend – £70 for a weekend pass, plus another £200+ for the hotel, not to mention the beer, the food, the books and the dancing girls… *ahem*
Meeting some marvellous new people
Talking to Paul Cornell about Doctor Who, David Bishop about The Weakest Link and Liam Sharp about Jeremy Beadle. Meeting the incredible Jetse deVries properly for the first time, and plotting the overthrow of the literary establishment with Andy Remic over a table full of empty beer glasses. Also, Liz from myfavouritebooks blog and loads of others I have only previously met online.
Watching the RockBand competition on Sunday night
Compered to perfection by author David Devereux and organised by Forbidden Planet’s Danie Ware, this was very loud, very late, and very silly fun! The rumour that several music lovers in the audience spontaneously combusted has not yet been confirmed nor denied.
And the only two lowlights:
Being persuaded by Eric Brown that a particular curry house was good, despite the low price
Now, I’m all for a bargain, so when the 20 of us made our way to [name deleted for fear of lawsuit] I was in a jolly mood. £7.20 for two courses, including tip? Result! I should perhaps have realised something was not quite right when I noticed that one of the menu items read simply: “Meat Curry” – the least descriptive menu item I have ever read. I plumped for the vegetable rogan josh – you can’t go wrong with a vegetable dish, can you? Unfortunately, it turned out to be the gift that wouldn’t stop taking. For two days! I love Eric to bits, but next time he invites me for a curry? I’m going for pizza!
Buying too many books
I swore to myself that I would steer clear of the dealers’ room. I always find myself buying too many books at conventions, so I made a conscious effort to refrain. Did it work? Did it buffalo! Several pounds heavier, and sixty pounds lighter, I am now the proud owner of yet more books to sit somewhere on my ever-growing “to read” pile.
I’m off to WorldCon, next – Montreal in August. Again, it’s on a work ticket (and yes, I know I’m a jammy sod). This convention relationship I have? I think I’m heading for third base…
This is a personal article by Lee Harris, one of bloggers – read more about our volunteer contributors on this dedicated page. Angry Robot’s website is here and you can visit the official Eastercon Bradford LX website here.
Were you there? Are you planning on attending any other cons soon? Or does the very thought make you collapse? Your thoughts are welcome as always, in the comment thread below or on our forum.