I went along to Bradford for my first Eastercon (British National Science Fiction Convention) at the weekend — just for a couple of days, to see what it was like. I enjoyed myself, but not as much as I’d hoped to; I think that came down to feeling more like a ‘visitor’, so I’ve booked for the full weekend next year. This post will give some general impressions I had of the con.
First, there was a lot going on, much more than at Fantasycon or Alt-Fiction (the conventions I usually attend) — something like nine or ten different rooms in use (not all at the same time, but still), plus media programme, games room and art show. I was very impressed at the range of events on offer, which included film shows (in addition to the media room), music performances, talks on science and history, and even items that had nothing much to do with science fiction (oh, to have been there for the ‘science of chocolate’ session!).
I was surprised by the size of the venue. For all its many streams of programming, and its much larger number of delegates (I believe that Eastercon typically averages about 800-1000 attendees, compared to Fantasycon’s 200), the physical space of the convention could not have been much larger than that of Fantasycon (and I’m sure the social areas were smaller). The dealers’ room was also much smaller than I had expected. Having said all this, I don’t if it was typical of Eastercon, or whether it was just the size of that particular hotel.
As for the events I attended — I saw John Clute ‘in action’ on a panel for the first time (he was every bit as erudite as I thought he’d be). There was a talk on the Clarke Award shortlist, which I’m sure I would have got more out of if I’d read all the books. And quite an interesting panel on ‘old versus new SF’, in which the two ‘teams’ of participants recommended three books of ‘old’ or ‘new’ SF to each other. I hadn’t read any of the six books under discussion (More than Human, The Man in the High Castle, Stand on Zanzibar, Revelation Space, River of Gods, and The Yiddish Policemen’s Union); but I found it striking that the ‘new’ books were all by reasonably well-established authors (respectively Alastair Reynolds, Ian McDonald, and Michael Chabon), and I wondered which ‘new’ writers the panel would have recommended. Alas, there was no time for such questions, and it’s a whole different discussion anyway.
Highlight of the two days: well, it has to be discovering one of my reviews quoted in publicity material, but that doesn’t have anything to do with Eastercon, so…
Best panel: not about SF, but a talk on urban exploring, and seeing fascinating photos of the old American Adventure theme park, and other abandoned buildings. It’s amazing what abandoned places are out there — though I’ll happily leave the exploration of them to others!
Most interesting fact: I never knew that Tiffany was a name that goes back hundreds of years. But, to paraphrase the contributor (I forget who it was), ‘Princess Tiffany’ would just not sound right in a serious fantasy novel nowadays.
Favourite coincidence: there was a depot opposite the hotel belonging to a company called ‘T H White’. I don’t think they were guarding Arthur, but you never know…
Anyway, that’s my little report on Eastercon LX, and I look forward to experiencing the full weekend next year.