Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Eastercon 2012: Part 2

So last time I talked very vaguely about my Eastercon experience ... which made sense because I was very vague throughout most of it, thanks partly to alcohol consumption of course, but mainly due to meeting lots of wonderful new people (and plenty of wonderful ... er, old people too) and because, let's face it, it's a damn good day when I'm not looking at least a little dazed.

But here, for whatever they're worth, are my more concrete impressions, as reconstructed by going through the programme and working out what the hell it was I actually did for three days:


Arrived in Heathrow around four, panic-finished the chapter of Prince Thief I was working on and then wandered over to the Eastercon hotel.  Or where Google Maps said it was - which was nowhere near where it actually was.  Wandered for an hour or so through the grim environs of Heathrow airport and eventually managed to find the convention using internet research and house numbering.  Entered the foyer, got slightly scared - could this vast and milling crowd in a posh hotel foyer really by Eastercon? - and rang Lavie Tidhar.  Assured that, yes, this was the place and I wasn't hallucinating.  Led through check-in and escorted safely to the bar, at which point normality began to resume.

Normality in this context, of course, meaning drinking and hanging out with writerly and publishering folks, with a brief diversion for one of my two proper meals through the weekend at a curry house down the road.  Watched Nir Yaniv suffer, thanks to Lavie's blasé ordering of some fairly virulent curries.  Back in the bar, introduced by Lavie to his friend Jobeda; somewhere along the line we decided to hang out at some panels the next day, not to mention her proposed stand up comedy act.  Left for my distant B & B somewhere past three, leaving George R R Martin damn near the only person left in the bar.  No wonder the man's a living legend!


Arrived back at the convention somewhere around lunchtime, feeling oddly guilty for missing Lavie's Non-Anglophone SF panel.  Wandered for an hour, trying to get the lay of the land ... not easy in a hotel designed to obfuscate the unwary.  Got lost.  Got found.  Got lost.  Ran into Jobeda on the landing between the first and the third floors.  (There was no second floor that I could find.  On the map it was marked mysteriously as the Non-Smoking Floor.)  Affirmed that we were both going to the How To Get Published panel, which we promptly did.  Felt a little sneaky being there, and very glad to have that particular hurdle behind me, at least for a little while.

Milled for a couple of hours, ate delicious apple crumble in the bar and went to Lavie's The War on Terror panel - which was interesting up to a point, but the politics / literature balance got a bit askew, until one irate fan pulled the panel up on it in no uncertain terms.  Killed time until the Masquerade and Cabaret, and Jobeda's stand-up act. So this is what people do at Cons when they're not in the bar! My eyes were opened to a brave new world ... as were those of the children left in the audience for Jobeda's hilarious but somewhat explicit stand-up, despite the compere's warnings, who got a crash course in male anatomy that probably saved their parents hours of muddled bird / bee analogies.

Back, inevitably, to the bar, with a brief diversion to watch a bit of A Tale of Two Sisters in the video room.  Discovered that Korean horror isn't necessarily to everyone's tastes.  (The room was empty.)  Briefly understood the plot for the first time, in one of those startling moments of drink-fuelled clarity.  Back to the bar for one last stretch.

I'm the one, sadly, who isn't Joe Abercrombie.


Suffering mightily from drinking from far too many pints of scrumpy.  Surely anything that's 7.2% and comes in a pint glass should come with a goverment health warning, or at the very least a free stomach pump?  My one and only panel, Wench, Fetch Yon Tankard Here, was at 12.00, which hadn't seemed so unreasonable two days ago.  Fortunately, I was far from the most hungover person there; at least I wasn't reduced to wearing sunglasses.  Somehow, it seemed to go very, very well.  Bella Pagan had actually prepared questions - lots of them! - and my fellow panelateers, Joe Abercrombie and Jaine Fenn, were in sparkly form.  (Even the one of them in sunglasses.  All I'll say is, it wasn't Joe.)  We had a good crowd, there were lots of questions, and I got to plug Adrian Tchaikovsky's Shadows of the Apt series for its cracking fight scenes, little realising that he was actually in the audience (and also Sir Apropos of Nothing by Peter David, who wasn't.) 

Next came the marvellously titled You Got Your Robot Elf Sex in my SF, which turned out to be possibly the best panel I saw, and one of the most well attended ... obviously we genre folks need to talk about (and possibly write about) sex a hell of a lot more than we're currently doing.  After that was the BSFA awards, which I mentioned a little in the previous post; all I'll say here is that it was another reminder that these things work best when they're open to the widest of audiences.  Eastercon, for me, was a success precisely because it nailed that so well, and jokes about writers aimed at their writer mates fell too wide of that bar.  Still, it was all worth it for the look on Paul Cornell's face when he won for Best Short Story. Sadly, even Paul Cornell couldn't save the last panel of the Con, Multicultural Steampunk - mainly because he wasn't on it.  With at least two authors openly not interested in the topic at hand and only Lavie making any real attempt to talk about it, not to mention a startling lack of multiculturalism and that wacky 9PM time slot, it probably wasn't the best panel to close out on.

 I had good intentions of an early night, mainly because I was fading fast, but interesting people kept appearing and talking about interesting things, and the upstairs bar was serving cheap - by Heathrow standards - wine.  Finally drifted B & B-wards around half one, leaving behind a crowd that was showing no signs of flagging after three days of hard-but-literate partying.

Tortoro does not condone T-shirt murder.
Had I realised how much was going on on the Monday I might have stayed on - my one very small criticism (apart from the other very small criticisms I've made, obviously) was that the final programme was released a bit late for those of us making long journeys to plan around ... but then I can only guess at the last-minute crises that were going on in the background.  As it was, I had no choice but to bid farewell to the Radisson Edwardian and to Eastercon ... at least for a few months.  Next year I'm doing the whole damn thing, I swear it!

If there's one thing I learned over the course of the three days it was that it's worth taking at least a little time to savour the wonders the organisers have slaved for months to put together.  And if there's another thing it's that while writers and editors are generally great people to talk to, there are other great people out there too, and some of them will cheerfully discuss Studio Ghibli films for hours when accosted by a random stranger who threatens to murder them for their Tortoro T-shirt.

Obviously, these are both valuable lessons.

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