Wednesday, 28 September 2016

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back by the Sea

Reviewing Fantasycons often feels like dancing about architecture: silly, pointless and probably against the entire spirit of the thing.  More and more I suspect that no one even really cares whether any given Fantasycon is good as such; heck, I'm not even sure that I do.  Every year I find myself drifting a little bit nearer to what I take to be the consensus among hardened F'con punters, that the nation's most cheap and cheerful genre conference is best considered as an excuse for a get-together with old friends, because if you go in expecting much more than that then you're likely to be disappointed.

Still.  I was a little disappointed.

That comes down largely, I think, to the fact that the last two years have been uncharacteristically great, and there was a small part of me hoping that somehow that might stick.  So for 2016's Fantasycon to be such a retrenching stung that bit more than it really needed to.  With the seedy seaside hotel location, the vague but constant sense of disorganization and the lackluster panel topics, there were literally points where I forgot that I wasn't somehow back in Brighton in the not-so-good old days.

And I'm conscious, already, that I'm grumbling about something that was a great deal of fun, having had a great weekend, and that makes this feel all the more futile.  But I can't really point to any of that fun as a result of Fantasycon itself, except in the very loosest sense of, I wouldn't have seen any of the people whose company I so enjoyed if we hadn't all been gathered for the same occasion.  By the same measure, so many others were saying similar things that it seems unreasonable to pretend it couldn't have been quite a lot better.  A decent program pamphlet maybe, with a map to make up for the lack of signage?  A number of microphones that equated in any way to the number of panelists?  More than a couple of panel topics that weren't done to death years or decades ago?  A slightly less smelly venue, with drinks closer to the right side of drinkable and food a bit nearer the correct end of edible?
Shove penny!!!!!!

Ah well.  Goodness knows, it wasn't a disaster, and it really was a lot of fun, and I guess that if this were the baseline for Fantasycons of the future then I could live with that.  Certainly I liked Scarborough more than any other F'con location I can think of, and that fact alone made up for the aspects that didn't work quite so well; going paddling and playing on the shove penny machines and visiting Scarborough castle and drinking free mead were all highlights.  And as always at F'con, the nights were great - though even then, at least one bar space devoted to the convention would have been nice.  On both nights, it really only began to feel like an event after about eleven o'clock, when the other guests had gone to bed and you could tell the convention goers from the normal folks.

Anyway, next year sounds hopeful, so long as the already contentious travel arrangements get sorted out, as I'm sure they will.  And having griped so much, I should add that I'm genuinely grateful for all the hard work and thought that went into this year's event, which was always apparent, even when things weren't quite coming together.  Fantasycon is never not enjoyable, it attracts one of the most varied and interesting crowds of any UK convention, and I'm grateful that it exists.  I just find myself wishing, sometimes, that it could keep a little closer to the bar that other conventions have set without losing its distinctive charm.

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