Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Eastercon 2012: Part 1

So I can't honestly say that I just got back from Eastercon 2012, because I didn't have the stamina for day four, but this is about the first time I've felt properly recovered enough to say anything constructive about it.

A lot of that, obviously, has to do with alcohol consumption, lack of food or sleep and all the other stuff that comes with having too good a time to worry about keeping your body functioning on anything but the most rudimentary levels.  But also, as with just about every Con I've been to now, it takes a day or two for the sheer excitement of being surrounded by hundreds of wonderful, wonderfully like-minded people in an environment shaped specifically with your emotional and intellectual needs in mind, and to get back into the mindset of day-to-day life.  It occurs to me right now that Cons are kind of theme parks for writers and publishing types and genre fans - except that instead of making you slightly nauseous and fractionally more stupid, they leave you brutally hung over but a little happier, a little more aware about what you do and why and who you're doing it for and how it fits into everything else around you.

BSFA award winner Paul Cornell, about to explode with joy.
I think that's been true of every Con I've done so far to a greater or lesser degree, but far more so of this one, when I finally went through with my long-standing intention of actually doing some convention stuff and not just loitering in the bar.  The fact that I managed it has much to do with Lavie Tidhar introducing me to the rather wonderful and lovely Jobeda Ali, who - although she writes and makes films and performs stand-up comedy and does more interesting things than you can count on all three hands - was basically attending as a fan, not to mention a Con newbie.

 Either Jobeda took me under her wing or I took her under mine, or else there was some kind of chimeric mutual undertaking of wings, but the upshot was that I actually went around Eastercon 2012 with my eyes more or less open, attended panels that I wasn't actually on, listened to what people were saying even when I didn't need to, talked to people who weren't (or weren't primarily) writers, and generally felt like I saw a least of little of what the organisers had put what must have been almost unimaginable trouble into organising.

And it was a triumph.  It really was.  A few brief and very random examples:

- There was a room where people only played board and roleplaying games.  I got the impression that some of them may not have left it through the entire four days.  Someone had taken the thought to include them.  They seemed to be having a great time.

- Gender-balanced panels, more or less ... but more more than less, if you know what I mean.  What I mean is, someone somewhere tried damn hard to get it right, and mostly succeeded.

- The fact that we, as an industry, got the Guardian's ear - in a very good way - and deserved it.

- There were families.  Actual families!  With children!  Many of whom were probably scarred for life when Jobeda did her stand-up routine, but hey, if they don't learn about genital surgery at conventions they'll learn it in the playgrounds, right?

Sure, there were some slip-ups, and a couple of them were fairly monumental.  I was less offended by John Meaney's sort-of-comedy routine at the BSFA awards than many people, and found some of it actually pretty funny, but there's no getting around the fact that it was deeply exclusive, in a way that so much of the convention managed not to be.  The Multicultural Steampunk panel, by being pushed to the arse-end of the schedule and then being not even slightly multicultural, became something of a bad joke, one not helped by the panelist who went to great and repeated pains to point out how little the panel topic applied to her.

As an industry, we still have a ways to go.  But how nice to feel like we're on the right track!  A win is a win is a win.

Next: Some actual discussion of what I did at Eastercon 2012.


  1. I can't get to EasterCons but manage several others each year, and for an experiment at FantasyCon I didn't imbibe alcohol. Believe me, the mind buzzing and welcome disorientation is still there, and without the hangover!

  2. Good point, Geoff. I'm not sure I'll be going quite that far any time soon, but I hope to practise a little more restraint from now on. Spending one day in three with a near-terminal hangover adds little to the con-going experience!