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
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!”
The other weepingly funny moment for me 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 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
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
The whole show wrapped up with a charity raffle, where
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
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 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