Saturday 22nd March.
I was woken up by a telephone call from huntingospray, telling me that it was snowing. Although it was gone 9:00am, it was far too early to be woken up given that I’d not got to sleep before 3:00am, but what the heck, when I’m awake I’m awake.
I wouldn't mind, but whilst it may have been snowing in Barking, it wasn't in Heathrow. Talk about a false alarm.
After breakfast at the Ibis, and a shower, I was later getting to the Radisson than I’d’ve liked (there is an argument for staying at the convention hotel, but on the other hand there’s an argument that I’m poor and couldn’t really afford it compared to the cheapness of the Ibis), missing two panels that I’d’ve liked to go to (Ashes to Ashes: Manchester to the Met and The Doctor – Saviour or Trickster God; if anyone who went to these would care to let me know how the conversations went, I’d be interested), but ended up making it to most of Who Wants To Be Master of the Universe, a WWTBAM-inspired quiz featuring lots of sci-fi questions. I even got some of the answers right. It was great fun, a really enjoyable way to spend an hour or so in the company of like-minded SF geeks. I really enjoyed a lot of the programming being run by Eclectic 21, and am looking forward to their contributions to Redemption ’09 and Odyssey 2010.
Stayed in the Winchester for A Way of Life or Just a Hobby? which was basically about fandom and what it means to be a fan and could you stop being a fan if you had to (I learned a new word: Gafiated). After that I had a bit of time to kill, and treated myself to a chicken burger from the hotel’s Brasserie, which was pleasant if a tad on the expensive side. I also braved the dealer’s room and regretted it, or at least my wallet did. I bought Alice in Sunderland from the Forbidden Planet stand – I’ve been meaning to check it out for some time, and was a little swayed by the fact that Bryan Talbot was signing copies. Rather annoyingly, the Forbidden Planet stand wasn’t taking payment by credit card, but fortunately there was a cash machine in the lobby, so I was also able to get the Heroes graphic novel. Also, cu_sith was selling wonderfully geeky badges so I bought a few (including a couple of commissions) and entorien was selling her novel Advent which I bought.
Next up was the autograph session for the main Guests of Honour. In the queue, I got chatting to a couple of people who’d been wandering around in costume as…oh, I think the guy was Van Helsing. They were very pleasant and amiable, and plugged ArmadaCon as we queued. Again, some people have said negative things about the autograph session and the queues, but – although I can understand that it was possibly not in the best location – I found it to be a far more pleasant experience than many other autograph sessions, and well stewarded, so as far as I’m concerned, huge kudos to all involved for keeping things running smoothly.
I had a few specific items for Mr Gaiman to sign – Richard (my brother-in-law)’s copy of Good Omens, and my copies of Good Omens and Don’t Panic. He signed these obligingly, and seemed just as intelligent and friendly as I've been led to believe. (I'm not sure, but I think it may have been his daughter who was standing behind him with a T-shirt bearing a quotation from Susanna Clarke. It was cool, anyway.) I asked him what he’d recommend for someone (i.e. me) who’s not read much of his work, and he suggested that given that I like Good Omens, Anansi Boys would be a good place to start. Similarly, I asked China Miéville what he’d recommend of his work, and he suggested the short story collection Looking for Jake. So, um, back to the dealer’s room, and the Forbidden Planet stall had both books (the former signed). So. Yeah. Bye-bye money.
The next panel item I was interested in was Religion in SF, which I went to. It wasn’t bad, I guess, but of all the panels this weekend it was one of the two which was most plagued by the aforementioned lack of amplification problems, and also one of the speakers (Tony Lee) made his antipathy to religious themes being explored in SF clear from the outset, and the other panellists seemed pretty lukewarm about the idea, and as a result it seemed a pretty aimless panel which was mainly kept going by contributions from the audience (one of whom, a Buddhist, played the “if you don’t believe in God you’ve got no basis for morality” card, and lost any respect I might have had for him). So. Yeah. Pity, because it’s a subject that I’m sure could make a really rich discussion – but this wasn’t it. (I remember loving Pennterra - I must re-read that some time soon.)
More time to kill, so I popped out for dinner. All things considered, I’d come to the conclusion that, despite the fact that Sarah would be Very Very Cross with me, the McDonalds next door to the hotel scored over the hotel’s provisions in two very important respects: first, it was slightly cheaper; and second, it had the words “I’m loving it” inscribed in large friendly letters all over its promotional campaigns. So, it would be the main source of nutrition over the weekend.
After that, back up to the Winchester room for Torchwood bingo, which was slightly beset by sound problems at first, but once that was all sorted out it was almost as much fun as last night’s B7 drinking game. It occurred to me that there’s very little Torchwood that I’ve watched since it was originally screened, so maybe when the latest series is over and I’ve got it all burned to disc, I could put that right.
I then sat in on a panel called At Least I Can Get A Fanzine Article Out of That, about fans’ more embarrassing anecdotes. Not the most wildly exciting of panels, but a pleasantly amusing way of spending an hour, although it was late by this point and I was sitting in the second row and if any of the panellists noticed me dropping off, I'm hugely sorry!
I do kind of regret not going to the Blake’s 7 Wobblevision session, and next time I get the chance (which I suspect will be next year’s Redemption) I’m putting that right.
One of the biggest let-downs of the weekend was Fact or Fiction. In the programme, it was described as “If you like a QI type quiz, come along and see if you can tell the difference between what you think you know and what you do know.” I guess I kind of expected a QI-type quiz with lots of sci-fi questions, rather than basically a re-run of QI in which all of the questions seemed to have been taken from QI, but lacking anyone with the charisma and uber-intelligence of Stephen Fry. Pity – I like a good quiz, after all, but that wasn’t one.
After that, back to the Ibis for an earlier night than yesterday.