Thursday, 3 April 2014

The Sci-Fi Weekender 2014

For some reason, I find myself not wanting to say anything bad about this year's Sci-Fi Weekender.

Which isn't to suggest that it was great or anything, only that I can't work up much enthusiasm to be mean about it.  I guess it's just hard to be enthusiastically negative about something so unenthusiastically average.

Also, in fairness, I knew what I was getting myself into, having heard no end of horror stories about last year's event, and mostly went because I thought it might be a nice, cheap mini-break in Wales - which it was for the most part, and certainly would have been if I hadn't been recovering from a vicious bout of flu.  I have no right to moan, (except about the flu), and in fact should probably count myself lucky that I got to play mini-golf and sit on a beach in late March.

So - due to some planning that could kindly be described as eccentric - all three of my events were on the Saturday and within the same four hour period.  That, combined with the whole flu thing, combined with the fact that I was kicking off by moderating for only the second time and after that on a damn panel show, had left my nerves quite frayed.  And that nerve-fraying wasn't helped by the fact that the previous panel overran because there was no one except a comically grumpy sound engineer (who kept assuring us that while we might talk about science, what he was doing was real science) to manage the stage, or the fact that the panels were being held in the middle of a large hall in which most of the rest of the Con was - very loudly - going on.

But once we got started - we being Danie Ware, Bryony Pearce, Gareth L. Powell and Kim Lakin-Smith, speaking on the nebulous topic of Fantasy Writing: The Myths Exploded - things went solidly.  I forgot to get everyone to announce themselves and my carefully prepared questions ran out at about the forty minute mark, but my panelists were brilliant and covered admirably for the fact that I hadn't really understood the question.  (What are these so-called myths?  Not knowing, I made a load up.  But in retrospect I think I could have gone further.  "Why is Fantasy perceived as being obsessed with marsupials," that kind of thing.)

With the myths of Fantasy writing well and truly exploded and their ashes stamped upon, I had time for a quick lunch and then it was off to be a part of Just a Minute, live in front of a whole hell of a lot of people.  Quite how my name had ever been arrived upon as someone with the quick wits and unerring confidence required to play Just a Minute before a live audience I shall likely never know, but I'd been mad enough to agree to it and I was determined to make the best of it, even if "the best" meant passing out through sheer terror on stage. 
Me, Jonathon Green (Probably sucking up, or thinking about it.)

Looking back, I can't believe that's not what happened, but I have fractured memories of getting out there and even saying a few things, although ... and I'm being honest here ... I am absolutely abysmal at Just a Minute and should never be allowed, let alone encouraged to play again.  There was a moment when it seemed I might not come last, which was the most I'd dared hope for, and an eloquent monologue about how sloths are nature's fluffy backpacks coupled with stealing a point by successfully accusing Jonathon Green of sucking up (he was) had left me feeling very slightly confident.  But it soon became apparent that I was entirely terrible and appropriately doomed, and inevitably I was beaten by fellow contestants Gareth Powell (winning for the second year, and judging by his performance, having spent the entire intervening time practicing), Jonathan and Steve Lockley.

Last up there was a panel on merging genres, which due to the aforementioned eccentric programming schedule and my inability to transmute time and space I arrived late at.  But by that point I had no more nervousness left, and so blundering up on stage to join an already on-the-go panel with Simon Clark, Theresa Derwin, Paul Lewis, Danie Ware (again) and Sara Jane Townsend was no big thing.  In fact, by that point I was quite enjoying myself, and possibly delirious.  At any rate, I remember talking quite a lot, Sara did a sterling job on the moderating front, and it all seemed to go off without a hitch.

Writing it all down like this, I guess the reason I don't want to badmouth the Sci-Fi Weekender is that, in a crazy way, I had fun there.  And everyone else seemed to be having fun too, even if it wasn't always obvious why.  And fun is good, there's no two ways about it.  Would I have rather gone to a well organised conference with a surplus of cool stuff to do and some slightly more imaginative panel topics?  Hell yes.  Will I go to next year's Sci-Fi Weekender should anyone ask me?  Probably not.  But is there fun to be had surrounded by Storm Troopers and Daleks and not one but three Judge Dredds in North Wales?  I guess, if you squint hard, there is.

1 comment:

  1. Well that's the thing; I guess if one had paid to attend a sci fi con and it turns out that mini golf and a walk on the beach were the highlights then one would be rather least we came away with an image of sloth backpacks :-)