MeCon report!

Due to a suspicion that I’ll just fall asleep if I try to work (though opening up the Dana to the appropriate file made me go, “Oh, yah, that’ll be a good place to start from,” so that’s a positive sign), I thought I might as well do a con writeup on the train, and therefore have it entirely done by the time I got home. World’s Fastest Con Report. Go me. :) Short version: it was a very nice *weekend*, if a somewhat erratic *convention*. A distinct lack of organization and some rather inexplicable choices made, convention-wise, though as a general gathering of people I like and a chance to meet new people and gab with geeks, lots of fun.

John Reppion and Leah Moore were there, as were , , Guest of Honor Iain M. Banks, Paul J. Holden and Alistair Reynolds on the guest side, and a whole host of people on the attendee side, including being Padraig “Ice-P” O’Mealoid (aka , the lovely , , , , , probably other LJ users I’m missing, two Italian Annas, Graham and Agnes whose last names I’ve forgotten who are from Northern Ireland but who live in the Hollands, and numerous others including a fellow in an excellent “You would make a good Dalek” t-shirt, which I had to stop and congratulate him on because I thought that was one of the most wonderful bits of season one. There were also con-organizers Shane, Mark, Chris (who all have LJ names I can’t remember) and , whose LJ name I obviously do remember. :)

I had a handful of particularly favorite bits, the first of which was our esteemed guest of honor, Iain Banks–who is a tall Scotsman with a rather dignified look to himself until you get close enough to see the twinkle in his eye, and then you suspect the dignity might be a bit of a front–giving his GoH speech. Whilst pacing back and forth as he spoke, he stepped in something red and sticky, and was somewhat distracted by examining the heel of his foot, which he twisted up behind himself to look at, and while hopping around, said, unexpectedly, “If I was a baby, I could smell my own heel!”

was sitting next to me, and while everybody laughed, he and I thought that was *particularly* hilarious, and nearly had tears running down our faces as we gasped for air through laughter. Furthermore, we spent the rest of the day wheezing, “If I was a baby,” at each other, and dissolving into hysteria again. So that was definitely a good bit. :)

The other weepingly funny moment for me was telling everybody about the extremely peculiar mistake I made a couple of weeks ago. He did a posting (you can figure out what happened by reading that link, but I’ll explain for those who don’t click through) about Latveria (Doctor Doom’s soveriegn homeland in the Marvel Universe), and for some reason I managed to get it into my head that the posting had been made by , who has been doing the occasional bit of fiction set in the Marvel universe. So I posted a rather surprised and admiring comment about how this posting sounded just like something would write, and then, to make matters worse, I explained who was.

Nicholas, naturally, posted and said, “Er, who did you think this posting was *by*?” and I more or less collapsed in embarrassment, and feebly tried to explain myself, and it was all quite a disaster. So he told everybody about that, which was pretty funny to begin with.

But on Sunday, he brought a copy of COYOTE DREAMS for me to sign, and John Reppion was reading over my shoulder as I wrote, “For Nicholas–a man I will never again mistake for another as long as I live,” or words to that effect. And John said, “Hey, isn’t that just exactly the sort of book Nicholas White would ask you to sign?” By the time I was done howling I could barely sign my own name. :) *wipes tears of laughter away* I am never going to live this down. *laughs and laughs*

Let’s see. Starting with Friday night, then, the pub quiz team I was on covered itself in glory by coming in dead last a second year in a row. We’re lulling them all into a false sense of security so we can come back and obliterate them, that’s what it is. While the quiz was going on, the con organizers came by and slipped pieces of paper into guest hands, so people would know what panels they were on. Paul, on my right, got one, and Leah, on my left, got one, but I did not get one. After a while, when the quiz was over, I said, “Um?”, and was told that since I hadn’t answered the email regarding which panels I’d like to be on, I hadn’t been put on any.

That was sort of the point at which, “Um?” became the functional word for the actual convention part of the whole weekend. The email hadn’t gone out until Wednesday night or so, and it’s true, I hadn’t gotten to it, but I’d figured I’d just be put onto panels anyway. I’m a novelist, after all, and they knew that, so it seemed reasonable to expect I’d be put onto appropriate panels. Unfortunately, that’s not what happened. They said, “Just show up to whatever you want,” and I sort of went, “Um, okay,” though shortly thereafter Paul, outraged on my behalf, made them actually sit down and figure out panels for me, which mostly meant I volunteered for things and they wrote them down. Sadly, a list of panels with their panelists was never posted anywhere the attendees could see it, so nobody had any idea at all who was going to be on any panel, which can dramatically affect whether you want to *go* to one, so that was kind of a problem.

Worse, by the end of the weekend it sort of felt like a lot of the con had been the Paul, Catie And John & Leah Show, as J&L had actually answered the email, and Paul had not only answered the email, but then thought better of his choices and answered it a second time, resulting in being on some totally inappropriate panels (which he removed himself from) but not on any appropriate ones (so he put himself on those ones, which kept him fairly busy). And, as also hadn’t answered the email, he wasn’t on any panels either, and I’m not sure Alistair was on anything aside from the novel-writing panel, and the only thing Iain Banks (the guest of honor, for heaven’s sake) was scheduled for was his GoH speech on Saturday, we felt a bit as if people must be getting very tired of us.

Also somewhat frustratingly a lot of the panel topics were very generic (and, as one of the attendees said to me, seemed heavily focused on telvision and comics, which was fine, but not really what they’d hoped for), and since nobody knew until we got there what panels we were *on*, we hadn’t had any time to prepare for them. So we went into panels going, “Well, um, let’s see what we can wing.”

A noteable exception to that was the fanfic panel with a woman called Emma, who I am *sure* is on LJ but I don’t know her username. She came prepared with notes, and we had a roaringly good time and I must remember to 1. email Paul about one of the ideas that came up, and 2. if I can find out who Emma is on LJ (ah hah! She is !), see if she remembers the other idea that Paul and I both went, “…heeeey,” over, because neither of us could. As somebody, maybe Paul’s wife, who is utterly delightful and whose name I will not mention here because I don’t know if she has/wants a net presence, said: “Interesting that it was in the fanfiction panel that new story ideas worth pursuing came up.” Which it *is*! But that’s a whole discussion for another time. :)

MeCon is, as a con, quite small and therefore extremely inclined (because everyone *fits*) to sit in the bar chatting, but there was really an awful lot of that going on. So by Sunday morning, after Paul had sat on a panel entirely alone, we’d sort of decided to stage a revolution and hijack a panel, so we went around to all the guests and said, “We’re hijacking a 4 o’clock panel, are you up for it?” and everyone said, “Yeah!”

Previous to that, though, we had the novel and short stories writing workshop, which I only just now realized that had I not volunteered for it, Alister would’ve been sitting on alone, too. Furthermore, since nobody had seen Iain Banks on a panel all weekend, I went and asked the con folk if he was scheduled for the novels panel, which seemed rather like a natural fit. The guy I asked didn’t know, so I just went and asked *Iain*, who said, “I’ve no idea! No one’s asked me!”

So, feeling rather like the inmates were running the asylum, I said the panel was in a few minutes in the second room, and that if he’d like to join us he’d be most welcome to. And he did, and I think most of the attendees showed up for it. It was actually a fantastically fun panel (they were all *fun*, don’t get me wrong, the weekend was highly enjoyable all around, but not at all organized), and included such gems as Al demonstrating how he typed (pounding away with his index fingers and kicking his feet wildly), Iain demonstrating how *he* typed (pounding away with his index fingers, then when they got tired, his middle fingers, then when they got tired, his nose, and then, outrageously, standing up and making as if to drop his pants, explaining, “Of course, I usually hit two or three keys at once when I do this…”), and then me saying gosh I touch-typed and it wasn’t very dramatic at all except for I had the most awesome chair/keyboard in the whole world, and I knew it was true because every writer who’s ever seen it has gone THAT’S SO COOL! :)

There was a point about fifty minutes in when the room next door had a burst of laughter, and Iain said, “Oh, no, they’re having more fun than we are, quick, everybody laugh really loudly,” and everyone *did*, and then burst into applause, and then laughed more. It was great. :) But the whole thing was going quite well, really, with questions from the audience and plenty of commentary on our different writing styles (as in the process, not as in the work itself) and we were going along great guns, and it got to be a few minutes past the hour, and here, honestly, is the bit that I can’t quite believe happened: they threw us out of the room.

I mean, really, I’m not sure I can say that without sounding self-aggrandizing, but that’s really not the point at all. The point is that a good two-thirds of the convention attendees, perhaps more, were at the panel, the guest of honor was on–at 2pm in the afternoon on the Sunday–his first actual panel of the con, we had plenty to say, the audience had questions, we were all engaged, we weren’t grasping for something to fill the last few minutes with…and they tossed us out. I literally couldn’t believe it. They came in once to kind of wave at us as if it was time to wrap up, and I think I actually said, “What, you’re not going to throw us out, are you?” because it was genuinely inconceivable that they would, but a couple minutes later, that’s what they did.

I’m still flabbergasted. To my mind that’s a situation where you look at the panel and the participants, you judge the importance of what’s coming up next, and you decide whether or not to cancel something upcoming in favor of the obviously successful panel going on right now. Given the particulars mentioned above, I honestly can’t believe they opted in favor of holding the next panel (which was a discussion of ST:TNG’s 20th anniversary/Star Wars’s 30th anniversary and what to hope for in the future of those franchises) instead of letting the one that was on keep on going. It was sort of weirdly insulting, which I’m sure wasn’t at all the intention, but just…wow. Not the choice I would’ve made. o.O

So after that we basically retired to the bar, where we lurked in anticipation of the 4 o’clock hour when we would implement our plan of hijacking a panel. It was actually pretty funny, with all of us getting rather excited about the whole prospect, and at four we scooped up everyone we could, said, “Come with us, we’re hijacking a panel!” and went downstairs with no idea of what we were going to do, but by God we were going to do it in full force with every pro in the house. :)

The poor guy whose panel we hijacked took it pretty well. The topic had been supposed to be about dead authors telling tales, and he was clearly surprised when dozens of people swept into the room. He said something like, “Wow, I didn’t think so many people wanted to talk about this!” And we, quite cheerfully, if perhaps not entirely kindly, said, “We don’t! We’re hijacking your panel! We’re going to do something else entirely!” He looked rather bewildered, but pleasantly so (an expression he never fully recovered from), and said, “Oh, okay,” while the pros all sat down around him or in the front row of the room.

We ended up having a general Q&A, which was actually so successful that I can’t help thinking it’s probably a *great* way to generally end a small convention like that one: get all the pros on the panel and just let ’em talk and answer questions and behave like goofballs and have a good time. We heard some really funny stories (Iain Banks’s brush with fame: he’s one of the knights in the big battle scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and John Cleese said hello to him :); Alistair Reynolds’s somewhat less delightful brush with a fellow who was buying his book: “Would you like me to sign that?” Al asked, having waited all his life to be in this situation. “I wrote it!” “You did not,” said the man. “I did!” Al said, but he was in running shorts and a t-shirt, and had no ID to prove himself. “You did not,” the man said. “He doesn’t live here.” “I do live here!” protested Al. “You do not,” said the man, and everyone at the news shop was starting to stare by now, and poor Al slunk off and didn’t buy another newspaper for months.), and about ‘s Muppets, and it was all really quite fantastic. We felt that it’d been quite the success, and it was a really good note to end the panel part of the convention on.

The whole show wrapped up with a charity raffle, where was reading off the list of things people’d brought for the raffle. After about the fourth set of books had been read off, , who hadn’t been around a lot of the weekend due to working/not being scheduled for panels, yelled, “You’re not going to show me up! Dammit, I want in on this!” and leapt up with a copy of his latest book, BRASYL, and carried it up to the raffle table in a real “I’ll show YOU!” way and plunked it down. Everybody cheered and laughed and clapped, and the first person whose ticket number was called snatched up the book. :) I was all disappointed, because I’d really hoped it’d be my number called and I could snatch it up! But, gratifyingly, the Walker Papers set was apparently snatched up second (I couldn’t actually see what people were taking), and in fact I think all the books anybody brought were the first prizes to be taken. Musta been the crowd. *grins* (Oh, hey, next year I should have the entire Old Races tr Negotiator Trilogy (someday I’ll learn to call it by that name) to give away! Cool!)

For an encore we went out to dinner with the convention committee, and there ended up being about twenty people, so inevitably we were, y’know, waving at people at the other end without ever talking to them. I’d said halfway through dinner we should switch around, but it’d probably confuse the waitstaff, except it turned out that they were just standing around calling out dish names rather than try to remember who had what (same thing happened at the restaurant the night before, but it was worse this time because it took nearly two hours to get our main courses, so by that time, hell, none of us knew what we’d ordered either), so we should’ve anyway. Still, it was good fun, even if I’d have liked a chance to talk with the people at the other end of the table.

I dropped by the Dead Dog party briefly, and introduced me to honey mead (not mead flavored with honey, which is apparently more typical, but actual honey mead, *made* from honey), which was, wow. Holy cow. Holy cow. They also had a block of 100% cocoa which, by the time I got there, was nothing but a few crumbs, but I discovered right away that if you have a small sip of honey mead, which, Oh. My. God. is really just like drinking thin honey with just the *slightest* *faintest* heat that tells you it’s alcoholic, and then put a crumb of 100% cocoa on your tongue to let it melt, you get what may be the most astoundingly blissful chocolate experience of your life. The mead’s *really* sweet and just coating enough to take the horrifyingly bitter edge off 100% cocoa, and holy wow. O.O

So, fortified with two sips of honey mead (I didn’t dare have more!), I trundled off to bed, and thence, today–after breakfasting with and and John and Leah–to home, and it has taken me pretty much the entire 2 hour journey from Belfast to Dublin to write this. It was a good weekend, and as usual, I can’t believe how *tiring* it is to go hang out and talk for three days, but we all of us–the writers, anyway–were in agreement that really, it *is* exhausting. We’re all so used to solitary lives and so little interaction, and then we do these Massive Overloads! with cons, even small ones, and it leaves us reeling and stumbling with weariness.

And I’m doing it again in three days. Oi!

ARGH. I’d been going to post con photos along with this posting in a very efficient manner, but I’ve apparently left the camera in Belfast. ARGH! (Oh, the very excellent , who I shall never again mistake for another, has con photos here and here!)

26 thoughts on “MeCon report!

  1. That’s a real bummer about the camera. But if you look at my pics here and here you will work out Emma’s lj identity pretty quickly!

    My post which caused all the trouble is here.

    Glad you got home safely.

  2. Blast it, I’d put a link to that post in the original posting and then accidentally cancelled it and forgot to replace it. *fixes that* :)

    I’m pretty sure the camera was either left at the dead dog party or at the B&B, because I know I had it at the party. I emailed to see if he’d picked it up.

  3. makes real honey mead. It is soooo good. (Especially the very young blueberry mead I had of hers lo these many years ago. I wonder if it’s ready to be raided distributed nowadays…)

    If I’d realized MeCon was in Belfast, I might’ve suggested my friend go up to it. :)

    Yay, panel piracy! Arrrrr!

  4. Indeed. I’ll get my own con-report done in the next few days.

    The two Italian Annas are: (tall Anna), and (short Anna). Graham and Agnes go by the surname of Andrews. The “You would make a good Dalek” t-shirt was worn by . Con-organizers Shane, Mark, Chris are , , and .

    Always happy to help!

  5. I have now done so, and they didn’t notice a camera, so I must’ve left it at the party. Thanks for the number!

  6. I’d never have guessed Iain Banks to be so lighthearted and funny — I’m a fan of both his sci fi and his other fiction, and quite a bit of his non-sci fi is very dark and grim and disturbing. And really, his sci fi isn’t the lightest-hearted of the bunch either..

  7. He’s a complete card with a wonderful sense of timing. I haven’t read any of his books (either sf or not sf), but now I really want to. :)

    Also, happy belated birthday! *HUGS*!

  8. I hope you get your camera back. I always like the pictures you post and I haven’t seen that many in your blog recently.

  9. Honestly, no matter how successful the panel was, if you were over on time, it was time to go – other people might have been anticipating a good old ‘shoot the bull (into space) and see where it lands’ session with the anniversaries of those franchises! It’s all part of the ‘share the love’ system.

    I do admire the hijacking of a panel though, that’s anarchic fun all right! It’s just that, well, I tend to empathize with the headaches that organizers get more these days, what with the raids and such I have to organize these days.

    The honey mead/100% cacao block sounds interesting though.

  10. I definitely think Iain Banks would have a good sense of humor from his books. Just look at the starship names he uses– well, in your case, you’ll get to look at them, and that’s not a bad thing at all!

  11. You camera was at the dead dog party after you left. This fact was noted and attempts to reunite it with you were planned for the morning. Try Mr Lally.

  12. But really, I mean, if he was a baby…

    It was great to see you at the weekend (very glad I decided to drive up), but I’ve got to say I’m with the con on the panels. If it’s time, it’s time.

  13. You lost your camera? Oh no! Hope someone picked it up.

    Excellent and very accurate report. We had a grand old time and really enjoyed hanging out with yourself and everyone else.

    – John & Leah

  14. Now, if I’d just read through ALL the comments before posting….

    – John

  15. Good encapsulation of the con – and some very good points about how the con was run/managed. I didn’t attend the full thing, so I should probably keep my powder dry lest I be told that I am not full of the facts, but I can smell poor management a mile off and my eyes were watering the days I was there. It was fun overall, but it could have been so much more. A lot of potential left by the wayside.

    The guy with the Dalek T-shirt was Eugene – the man with the book collection of the gods. Sound bloke. Amazing depth of knowledge on a lot of things, and more importantly forever curious about the stuff he doesn’t know. He has an LJ around here somewhere…

    Actually it was us in the room next to you – and when I heard the laughing etc from your room I was wondering what the hell was going on next door! :) And now I know…

  16. Apparently people make what they call mead out of other things and add a bit of honey in to make it mead. Or something. I don’t know, really.

  17. Thank you for the birthday hugs!

    I really quite enjoyed hearing about your adventures with Banks…It puts an intriguing sort of twist on reading his books.

  18. He’s one of the funniest and most interesting panelist I’ve ever seen at a con, which was why I was so totally flabbergasted that they didn’t put him on any panels. (And he’s very good a winging it, which was fortunate in this case, of course).

    If you decided to check his books out (which you totally should) I agree with him that Use of Weapons is hands-down is best SF, and possibly the best of his novels period.

  19. Dear Catie,
    First of all thanks again for signing my program and for providing much enjoyment at Mecon. I agree that while it was a fun weekend it was a little bit of a mess at times.That being said I still had a wonderful time. I’m a little annoyed I missed the hijacked panel, I was in the other room at that time. Oh well.

    Yours sincerely,

  20. That was the flaw with the hijacked panel, yeah. *grins* It was good to see you, too, and I’m glad you had a good time! I had lots of fun. :)

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