Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,


Well, I had a tremendous time at Eastercon. The unprecedented fact that it had sold all available memberships beforehand boded well; and the hard work put in by the team paid off in almost every way. 

I was on three panels and attended about half a dozen more. I enjoyed my three visits to the Green Room for panel participants. On one of those visits I found myself sitting at the same table as three of the Guests of Honour, Paul Cornell, Tricia Sullivan and George R.R. Martin. One of my co-panellists, awestruck, asked GRRM how on earth he manages to sign so many books in an hour. "Illegibly!" the author retorted. 

My first two panels were both rather eclectic Doctor Who topics in distant rooms clashing with higher-profile events (had I not been on the panels I would certainly have gone to the pub quiz and the BSFA lecture), yet to my surprise they delivered pretty full audience and (less surprisingly) entertaining and well-informed discussion.

The third panel was the Not The Clarke Award discussion, where I was one of four ersatz Clarke judges moderated by Graham Sleight as we discussed this year's nominations. I could not see him, but Christopher Priest was in the audience. It was an interesting process. Although I objected to throwing Sheri S. Tepper's Waters Rising out first, I was outvoted 3-1; but there was then a consensus that Greg Bear's Hull Zero Three should be the next to go. We then hit deadlock with each of the four of us wanting a different book to be chucked out next; but we rapidly agreed that the two remaining books which were definitely not going to win were Charles Stross's Rule 34 and Drew Magary's The End Specialist (which I think we discarded in the wrong order, both in terms of my own preference and in terms of what the balance of views on the panel was, but it doesn't really matter).

That left us split at two votes each for China Miéville's Embassytown and Jane Rogers' The Testament of Jessie Lamb, neatly ranged along the table in order of depth of feeling one way of the other. My proposal for a joint award was rejected by the moderator, and we dug in for a few minutes while each side tried to persuade the less dogmatic voter of the other side to switch. In the end, I didn't change my mind and the other swing voter did, so the mock Clarke Award went to Jessie Lamb. This was pure theatre, with a packed room watching us debate without audience participation, but it seemed to work as an event.

The new King on the Iron Throne

Otherwise, I attended the openng and closing ceremonies, the announcements of the Hugo nominations and BSFA awards, the "Just a Minute" game, the George R.R. Martin interview, the George Hay lecture on invisible women scientists, the unexpected sword-fighting display from the swordmaster from "Game of Thrones" and panels on "How Mobile Phone Technology Can Enhance The Con Going Experience", "How Pseudo Do You Like Your Medieval", "Gender Parity On Panels At Conventions", "Discuss The Hugo Nominees", and "Relative Dimensions (The Limits of Doctor Who)". I arrived late at the bid sessions for the 2013 and 2014 Eastercons and saw the room completely packed, so made a tactical withdrawal to the bar.

I have already written quite enough about the BSFA award ceremony (the actual award-giving itself was smooth, efficient, and went to my first choice in three out of four categories); the other panels were without exception excellent, with particular enjoyment of Lesley Hall's lecture on invisible women (not as well attended as it deserved, due to being on Monday at lunchtime) and the pseudo-medievalism discussion which included George R.R. Martin and Juliet McKenna. I took no notes so can add no more.

The penetration of smartphones helped make this con a most extraordinary experience. There were two factors in particular operating here. One was the smartphone app for the convention schedule, so that at any time you could tap on your screen and see what was going on now and next - or indeed track particular participants or programme lines throughout the weekend. The second was Twitter, which made it clear which fun panels you were missing and gave an amazing power of instant feedback to participants, to use for good or ill. Unfortunately (as I found when compiling a subset of tweets on Monday morning for an event the previous evening) Twitter's memory is pretty shallow; to archive all of the Eastercon content at the time would have been pretty laborious, and by now it may be functionally impossible. Perhaps there are solutions here that I don't know about.

For the record, here is my entry in the contest to write a story in a single tweet:
Zero-G sex doomed Al and Su; in their vigorous embraces they unwittingly vented their oxygen. Space bonking has now been banned.
I do not expect that it will win, but it does at least sort of have a beginning, a middle and an end.

I did better than a lot of others seem to have done in terms of food. I was satisfied enough with the hotel breakfast, which did not disagree with me (perhaps my standards are lower and my stomach toughened from my work travels); I found cheap lunches all four days; and I ate at the Sheraton sports bar, with different groups but in good company every evening. The downstairs bar was more expensive, but in contrast to Belgium it all seems overpriced to me, and (apparently after a glitch, resolved before I arrived) tap water and ice was always available everywhere.

Two things I did not do and wish I had sampled: I did not go to any of the film or TV episode screenings, because I was having too much fun elsewhere at the time, but missed some interesting opportunities; and I did not try any of the fascinating looking games in the Games Room, which was always packed and had a very good vibe. (I did try a round of Perudo / Liar's Dice on the first evening with deborah_c's offspring and glitterboy1; the younger generation kicked our middle-aged asses. Incidentally I have known deborah_c since 1986, longer than anyone else who was there, and I had not seen glitterboy1 since about 1991, a much longer gap than anyone else who was there who I had actually met before.)

The Games Room, a hive of activity.

I did enjoy the dealer's room, though I restricted my purchases to books rather than steampunk memorabilia, decorative masks, clothing or badges. I was a little surprised that none of the dealers had particularly grabbed the opportunity to sell much in the way of Doctor Who material at the con, though I did purchase a signed copy of Gareth Roberts' new novelisation of Shada.

But it's the people that make the event. I realised quite early on that I couldn't possibly keep track of all the conversations I was having and enjoying, or even just of the people I was meeting for the first time after conversations here on LJ over the years, or indeed who I had never interacted with before at all. I did feel I might have tried a little harder to talk to people I didn't know, but the heaving fullness of the event somehow made that difficult; also this was actually my first convention for several years, so there was a lot of catching up to do. And there were still a couple of people who I knew were there and did not manage to talk to. If you think you are in that category, you are probably right and I wish we had not missed each other.

Caroline Symcox admires Charles Stross's new Kindle;
Paul Cornell seems to admire Charlie's haircut!

And there were some lovely moments of shared joy as well - Paul Cornell dancing with glee at his Hugo nominations, Colum Paget returning the James White Award money to double next year's prize, the wonderful video taken from the International Space Station which was shown at the closing ceremony, the general sense of achievement at the Guardian's positive write-up on the Monday. Certainly there were things that went wrong, but there was an obviously shared culture of wanting to get it right. So thanks once more to those who made it possible, and I expect to see you again.
Tags: cantab, sf cons, writer: charles stross, writer: george rr martin, writer: juliet mckenna, writer: paul cornell, writer: tricia sullivan

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