Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,
Nicholas
nwhyte

Beneluxcon

I was in and out of Beneluxcon this weekend, given that it was just up the road in the Novotel in Leuven and featured three particularly interesting authors, Ken MacLeod, Christopher Priest and Alastair Reynolds. There were 100 people signed up (I myself was alphabetically last at #100) but I didn't see more than 40 there at any given time. I was struck by a couple of features of the event which differed from any other sf con I have attended (not that I have been to all that many).

1) The programming was fairly light: both mornings and afternoons featured an hour-long session with a single GoH (MacLeod in the mornings, Priest in the afternoons) followed by another panel featuring more of the guests (apart from the three already mentioned, these included two Dublin writers, David Murphy and Robert Nielsen, and three Dutch/Flemish writers) to pick up on the themes of the first panel. So that was only four hours of actual discussion on each day, though there were also readings, signings, a workshop, a banquet, and a tour of Leuven, none of which I was able to attend.

I felt that this approach probably did ensure that the discussion panels were of higher quality than I have sometimes experienced elsewhere; there was no sense of "OMG I'm on another panel WTF am I going to say" which I have sometimes seen (indeed, sometimes experienced directly) at other cons. It was, of course, embedded in a wider theme of talking about "Visions of the Future", which the con chair attempted with varying success to channel discussions into. And it happened to suit my own intermittent attendance rather well.

2) The second point that struck me is rather less to Beneluxcon's favour. The eight featured guest authors and the four-strong organising committee were all male. Not a single woman appeared on a panel at any time during the weekend. Unless I missed something, the only woman mentioned in the programme booklet was a local fan who had recently died. Very peculiar. There were certainly women in attendance - I had long chats with Agnes (and Graham) Andrews, and more briefly with ex-crazysoph - but I felt a palpable gap in discussing the future of humanity, as only half of it was represented at the top table.

Anyway, I did generally enjoy it. Ken MacLeod's talk on the future of ideology was as provocative as I had hoped, and indeed I would have felt the con was worth the attendance for that alone. Christopher Priest on the inside story of The Prestige was also an entertaining insight into the processes of writing and then having one's work transferred to the big screen. I did very well in the dealer's room, picking up nine vintage paperbacks for €15, including Mutiny in Space. And I note that the organising committee for next year's Beneluxcon in Eindhoven includes someone I knew twenty years ago, so I'm open to attending it, if the guests are interesting and the everything is right.
Tags: sf cons, writer: alastair reynolds, writer: christopher priest, writer: ken macleod
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