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That was the Octocon that was

Maybe it's just my frame of mind, but I didn't get a lot of actual sf experience out of Octocon. There were good things - dinner on Saturday evening with mizkitcheftedcaptainlucy and irishkate; dinner on Sunday evening with bellinghmanbellinghwomanjemck and natural20; ending up in the bar last night with Alastair Reynolds and others; catching up with various other old friends, too numerous to mention all individually; the David Stewart remembrance panel, and the auction which followed; the quiz, where mysteriously only one of the three university teams actually turned up (and even they had to have their arms twisted to appear), and I led a scratch team of mature fans to a symbolic victory - thanks particularly to Julian West for doing the questions.

But, to be honest, I was a bit disappointed with the rather laid-back style of the programming, and attended only ten minutes of any of the thematic panels (a discussion of religion which did not appear to have a moderator). The programme item descriptions did not list the panellists (an error also made by MeCon in August); I make my choice of what to attend based at least as much on the participants as on the actual subject, and at Octocon I felt curiously unmoored. The fact that the website had been updated so late in the day with details of the actual convention (the "What is Octocon" page still says that the event will happen "on Saturday 14th and Sunday 15th of October 2006") gave me the feeling even before I arrived that the actual programming was an afterthought, and this impression was frankly reinforced by my experience (and what I heard of other people's experiences) at the convention itself. As noted above, only one of the three teams billed to appear at the quiz actually showed (and they were not so much a team as just the students from the college in question who happened to be in the room).

Perhaps I am spoiled by my experience of conferences in my day job, where intricate programming, carefully prepared presentations, and vigorous chairing are the order of the day. I realise that running cons is a hobby rather than a profession, but I am surprised to see it (sometimes) done so casually.

I will not come to Octocon next year, but I will listen out for reports as to whether things have improved - it doesn't take much, all it requires is actual planning ahead with the aim of ensuring that guests and participants have a good time. They have booked George R.R. Martin for the 2009 2010 event which will be a real challenge.

Many many thanks also to bellinghman who facilitated a bit of historical research for me. More on that when I get back home.

Comments

( 21 comments — Leave a comment )
slovobooks
Oct. 15th, 2007 08:11 am (UTC)
Just a minor correction: George RR Martin is GoH at Octocon in 2010. The GoH in 2009 is well-known super-fan Dave Lally.

I'll put up my own con-report over the next few days. However, I'll largely be in agreement with you.
deannawol
Oct. 15th, 2007 09:13 am (UTC)
A super-fan as GoH, hmmm. Any idea who the other guests will be or is it by far too early for that sort of detail?
deannawol
Oct. 15th, 2007 09:13 am (UTC)
That's sad to hear but I won't say that I'm surprised. What people need for cons is one or two people on staff that tend towards the OCD side of organisation. But I think that conventions move in phases, and the same seems to hold true for both sci-fi (from what I've observed) and gaming conventions. Hopefully, they'll take some lessons away and improve things for next year.
natural20
Oct. 15th, 2007 10:20 am (UTC)
Obviously you know my opinions on this and I will be writing about it later. However it was, as always, excellent to see you.
mizkit
Oct. 15th, 2007 10:34 am (UTC)
Ted just said, after reading this--and I have to admit I'd been thinking it over the weekend--"We need to hold a con down here in Cork." :)
irishkate
Oct. 15th, 2007 11:17 am (UTC)
That's what I was thinking too..hmm...

xnamkrad
Oct. 15th, 2007 11:24 am (UTC)
hmmmm - P-Con VI in 2008 maybe? Something to think about.
slovobooks
Oct. 15th, 2007 07:15 pm (UTC)
This was something I mentioned to you a while ago, you might remember. A one-day mini-con in Cork would be good fun. If you want to talk about it seriously, I'm always at the end of a phone/email/Facebook/whatever...
irishkate
Oct. 16th, 2007 09:35 am (UTC)
seriously
I think that </>might</i> be possible to arrange for next year or the one after - We could look at timing - and perhaps we could write up a HOW TO RUN A CON for what needs to be done when to ensure you have guests when you have people and a place etc...

But I couldn't even begin to look until the 2 work related conventions I'm running (or involved in running) are over - in November.
slovobooks
Oct. 16th, 2007 10:10 am (UTC)
Re: seriously
OK, I'll certainly be glad to help do this, and I've already got a good idea for a Guest of Honour. Perhaps we should continue this either in a locked post for interested parties only, or just by email. or, if you're on Facebook, it's farily handy for doing round-robin discussions.

Yes, by the way, I do have a "HOW TO RUN A CON" piece, which was on The Alien Online, which is unfortunatly no longer actually, eh, online... I've been attempting to re-post all those pieces, so I'll let you know where to find it.

But, yes, I was always hoping someone would wish to do a small con outside of Dublin, particularly in Cork, and I'll be happy to discuss it with you, and even come out of my now increasingly flimsy 'retirement' to take an active hand in it.
irishkate
Oct. 16th, 2007 11:30 am (UTC)
Re: seriously
email me at k8sheehy at iol.ie and we can continue the conversation there rather than take over poor nwhyte's thread.

And I should NOT get involved in running something but - something small shouldn't be too bad and I have some experience...
trivialities
Oct. 17th, 2007 09:49 am (UTC)
Re: seriously
The con-running article is now here. Yes, this is Pádraig, just under another guise...

Will write ASAP, i.e. hopefully before the end of the day. Would we do this quicker by phone, do you think?

I'm at pomealoid[at]yahoo[dot]com, if you're looking for me.

Sorry for all the running forth on your LJ, Nicholas!
bellinghman
Oct. 15th, 2007 11:38 pm (UTC)
You know, I think we'd come. Heck, it's not that far from Rosslare into Cork. (And I think there's a Swansea-Cork ferry, though what the price is for that, I wouldn't know.)

(Oh bugger - Swansea/Cork Ferries don't currently have a ship.)
mizkit
Oct. 16th, 2007 03:08 pm (UTC)
I think the Swansea/Cork ferry is supposed to start up again in the new year. It was off for refurbishments or something this year.
bellinghman
Oct. 16th, 2007 03:13 pm (UTC)
I hope so - it's a route I've never been on. Mind you, I've not taken a car on the Fishguard-Rosslare route either (been a foot passenger with my ex, but that was a long time ago, and done Pembroke-Rosslare recently).
mizkit
Oct. 16th, 2007 03:23 pm (UTC)
It's a route I have been on, actually. The first time I came to Ireland I took the Swansea-Cork ferry. I don't know if there's one that takes less than 12 hours, but the one we took did take that much time, and left at 6pm or something, and I would generally recommend getting a bunk (or being in a car you can sleep in, I suppose) if you're going to do that. :)
trivialities
Oct. 17th, 2007 09:50 am (UTC)
Go back and have a look at the above thread between irishkate and myself. if you're both interested, we'll keep you in the loop.
irishkate
Oct. 15th, 2007 11:18 am (UTC)
It was my first con and I was just happy to meet everyone. I had no other fandom cons to relate the organisation to.
slovobooks
Oct. 15th, 2007 07:15 pm (UTC)
Go read my reply to Catie.
bellinghman
Oct. 15th, 2007 11:40 pm (UTC)
It was nice meeting you, too. Ah, it had it's good points, but it's not really that representative of how a con should occur. Being about 1/3rd of the size of the one there just 3 years ago, there's been some shrinkage.
xnamkrad
Oct. 15th, 2007 11:23 am (UTC)
It was good to see you again. Largely in agreement with you on the convention organisation - it did leave something to be desired. And I'll be in contact with the people to make polite comments and suggestions to the future.
( 21 comments — Leave a comment )

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