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That was the EasterCon that was.

April 9th, 2015 (09:55 am)

Sarah and I, as usual, spent the weekend at EasterCon.

EasterCon used to be the annual convention of the British Science Fiction Association, but is now the annual British National Science Fiction Convention. As the name suggests, it happens at Easter (although the first few actually took place over the Whitsun holiday, back in the days when you could call a holiday Whitsun and people would actually understand what you meant...), normally in a different city each year (this year's was in London - specifically at the Park Inn Hotel near Heathrow), with programming starting part way through Good Friday and running until late on Monday (a closing ceremony normally takes place at about 4:00pm on the Monday, but this is followed by the Dead Dog Party*). Although it's affiliated to the BSFA, it's not actually run by them; rather, each year, a different committee takes on running the convention, the committee that will run any particular EasterCon normally (or at least tradtionally) being decided at a bid session at the EasterCon two years previously. The committee for this year's one, known as Dysprosium (because it's the 66th EasterCon, and Dysprosium is the 66th element on the periodic table...we're nothing if not science geeks), was formed after the EasterCon two years ago, at which there was no bid for this year's one, so a group of us got together and decided that there bally well ought to be one. I say us, because huntingospray and I were both involved, Sarah as hotel liaison and myself handling memberships.

I've been attending EasterCons regularly since Orbital in 2008 (only missing out on LX in 2009), and I think Sarah started joining me for Illustrious in 2011 (she may conceivably have been at Odyssey in 2010), and I found this one of the most enjoyable I've been to. EasterCon is primarily a literary-based convention still, although it acknowledges and celebrates science fiction in all media, and so the guests of honour tend to be writers or artists (with a fan guest of honour as well, and sometimes a science guest too). There's less of the feeling that you get at media conventions, particularly the "big" ones, of the guests being "them" and the attendees being "us," with a separating wall between the two. Rather, we're all in it together. Although there are signing sessions at which the guests will happily scribble on whatever books and other items you've brought with you, you can also socialise with them at the bar (if you're the sort of person who socialises easily).

Various items include panel discussions, book readings, guest of honour interviews, workshops, evening entertainments (this year we had, perhaps obviously, Professor Elemental). One would probably need a time turner to successfully attend all the items one finds interesting, so there's always a bit of compromise, in addition to which if you're anything like me you normally find yourself flagging after sitting on more than three successive items and need a break. In addition, it's quite possible to decide to go to so many items that you realise that you haven't left time for food.

But anyway...this year there was a rich blend of items which I went to. Probably my favourites were, apart from the aforementioned Professor Elemental (and his "support" act, John Robertson's wonderfully geek-friendly The Dark Room - John had us on his side by making reference in the opening moments to The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant and musing on why it's never had a multi-million dollar film franchise based on it - "did someone mention the word 'leper'?"), a panel by Liam Proven about retro computing, and a panel about the new film Robot Overlords by writer Mark Stay and...erm, one of the effects guys, whose name sadly I didn't catch. Also, my friend blazingskies did the disco on Sunday night (and another friend, tlanti, actually persuaded three-left-footed me to get on the dance floor! A miracle!). I managed to find excuses to part with my money, such as a new t-shirt by the wonderfully mad and charming folk at Genki Gear, and guest of honour Seanan McGuire's Incryptid books which I got signed by her. I attended the BSFA awards session, mainly because Claire North was up for an award with The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August. She didn't win, but OTOH I came away from it thinking, hmm, I wonder if the Ann Leckie book that won is any good?. So I ended up buying that, and the first book in the series too...

Also, because the intersection between Christians and science fiction fans is not as small as you might expect, there's a Sunday morning service. Two in fact; although I normally go to the "traditional" service, this year I decided to go to the Quaker meeting instead, at which I received a warm welcome and which I found a very relaxing and refreshing experience. It was my first time at a Quaker meeting, but definitely won't be my last.

The committee did, IMO, a sterling job at running an enjoyable convention. There were only two, fairly minor, negative incidents throughout (and one of them resulted in me giving blazingskies and greyfore a lift back to Sheffield, so every cloud has a strontium lining, as they say). All involved in helping the convention run smoothly should be commended - the gophers, the stewards, the tech crew, the guests, those chairing and talking on panels. Also, much credit should go to the staff of the Park Inn for making the weekend such an enjoyable experience (and indeed for getting into the spirit of the convention too).

Next year's EasterCon (with a committee that formed literally on the eve of this year's EasterCon) will be Mancunicon in Manchester, whilst 2017's will be Pasgon in my favourite city, Cardiff, so I'm looking forward to both of those, and hoping to be a bit more involved in them than I have been in the past (Sarah finds it difficult to stop offering to help out, or to say "no" if asked, whereas I've tended to be more of a passive consumer). If you fancy a break from the fandom politics that is the Sad Puppies, why not spend your Easter weekend in the company of about a thousand other fans (but at an event that, IMHO, feels like a far smaller, more intimate event than it actually is) and go along to one of them?




*No actual dogs involved.

Comments

Posted by: DaveH (aeglefinus)
Posted at: April 9th, 2015 10:41 pm (UTC)

You are aware that Ancillary Sword is the sequel to Ancillary Justice? I enjoyed both but would venture the opinion that you need to read the first before the second.
In my BSFA voting I listed Ann's book second after Dave Hutchinson's Europe in Autumn and had not read any of the other nominees. Will look out for Claire North's one.

Posted by: Ghyste Mortua (ghyste)
Posted at: April 10th, 2015 06:22 am (UTC)

I always wish I could get to Eastercon, but because its over a holiday weekend family obligations nearly always have to take precedence. I really enjoyed it the one year I did manage to get there (2008's Orbital) but even then I could only fit in the one day.

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