Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,

Discworld Convention

I managed to get to most of three days of the Discworld Convention in Birmingham last weekend; it was great fun as I expected. The headline for me was that Terry Pratchett himself is looking and sounding very well. I saw him speak at the opening ceremony on Friday and the "Man in the Hat" interview on Saturday, and my friend D won the draw to meet him in a klatsch and reported that he was just as lucid in a group conversation. Long may he continue.

The striking visual thing about the con was the number of people in costumes; some tremendously elaborate, others just striking (eg burntcopper as Conina the Barbarian [edited - thanks for correction]). The children were particularly sweet - one young man was a superb Nac Mac Feegle, pained blue with kilt and red wig. (I think it was a wig.) This all culminated in the Maskerade on the Saturday night, which was won by a grand operatic double-act, performing the Depature Aria from Maskerade. Other colourful clothing was in evidence among guests at a very large wedding party also occupying the hotel (we appear to have coexisted peacefully).

I was staying with D in Kidderminster, an hour away by train, which meant no late nights and other commitments meant arriving around lunchtime all three days. D has just turned sixty-mumble and had never attended any kind of sf convention before, but also claimed to have enjoyed it greatly. Indeed, an oft-quoted statistic was that abut half of the 900 attendees had never been to any such event, which indicates that at least one part of fandom can still attract new blood. I suppose one test will be how many of them turn up for the next DWCon, or are attracted to other cons. (I saw no flyers for the next Eastercon, though its chair was in evidence and there were flyers for both Eastercon 2012 and the 2014 London Worldcon bid.)

As was pointed out by others, several con members were too young to have attended any such event. I was pleased to make the acquaintance of five-week-old Astrid, six-week-old Abigail and three-month-old Gwyneth and appreciated their (and their parents') tolerance of me talking to them.

As well as the Pratchett sessions, I managed to narrowly win a round of Unseen University Challenge as captain of a scratch team including two Irish woman and a young Canadian guy who suggested that we should be the University of Buggerup. We were no doubt helped by our mascot, an inflatable kangaroo which we borrowed from a lady dressed as a witch. Unfortunately I missed the second round due to an unexpected work meeting in London on the Saturday morning; I was replaced at short notice by a werewolf from Tallaght, but we lost.

The other grand extra-curricular activity for me was the Election of the Low King, as voted by all members of the convention. clanwilliam put herself forward as candidate, and I volunteered to be her campaign manager; it started well when she was endorsed by the Honourable Company of Journalists, Clackspersons and Gossipmongers. While I fear that the baby-kissing may not have been the grandest of ideas (compare first try, slightly improved second go), the campaign otherwise went swimmingly; my main contribution was prepping for her awesome hustings speech on the Saturday night after the Maskerade, and of course on Sunday she won and was duly inaugurated with full trappings of folklore, graciously appointing me her Prince of Darkness.

And I got drawn for a klatsch with Stephen Baxter, who is collaborating with Terry Pratchett on a series of sf novels. He was not over-pleased when I suggested that he was supplying the hard sf element to the collaboration, but got very entertaining about Doctor Who - his favourite story was The Mind Robber, and he had actually written the original 100th story for Big Finish in 2007 though in the end they went for a different concept. I am not always a fan of Baxter's writing, but I did like both Voyage and The Time Ships, and he was very charming in person.

It was of course also great to see old (and new) friends such as hypatia, ailbhe, rrc, bellinghman, bellinghwoman, dduane, felinitykat, gaspodia, gmh, irishkate, kelvix, mrscosmopilite, natural20, petermorwood, renarde, rmc28, fanf, sierra_le_oli, sacristan, uitlander, and watervole (apologies to anyone I missed). I would have liked to have had longer with everyone. Next time I shall try to stay on site.

natural20 in particular deserves huge congratulations; quite apart from running a super event overall, he himself ran an invent your own religion session and was always visible and approachable. His inspiring chant at the end of the opening ceremony will linger with me and I hope he will publish the words somewhere. Brave man that he is, he is apparently doing it all again in 2012. I hope I shall be there.
Tags: cons, writer: stephen baxter, writer: terry pratchett

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