So, you ask, how was the SFX Weekender? Well, it was a bit like Las Vegas meets Stalingrad, with irony, and geeks. Did I enjoy it? Despite a few small reservations, shit yeah.
I spent the first few hours resisting the urge to talk to people I thought I knew (and, there being no name badges, couldn’t be sure I didn’t). They looked like people I should know … For lo, this is my sub-species! Thousands of ’em. And, unlike the smaller and more bookish cons the bar was not packed with white, middle-age males. Not to dis white middle-aged males; some of my best friends are white middle-aged males – hell, I’m married to one. But seeing such diversity was great; media fandom is a fabulously inclusive place
Media fans also costume, something I did a fair bit of in my misspent youth. And they do it very well. Photos proving this are currently appearing all over the internet; there are some samples on Facebook here and here, with more being posted all the time. And they stayed in character: an excellent recreation of Deckard from Bladerunner broke off from talking to us when Pris went by, in order to gave chase. The excellent fannish efforts were supplemented with professional performers in costume, and over the weekend I saw a good platoon’s worth of Stormtroopers and enough Daleks to launch an invasion of North Wales.
The programming was sparse compared to literary cons, with only two streams, plus signings, but the program halls were massive, with audiences of a thousand plus for every item, and a lot more for stars like Brian Blessed. Sadly I missed Mr B, but I did laugh so hard it hurt during the SFnal (per)version of ‘Just a Minute’, which has been recorded for posterity here (warning: not remotely safe for work).
I survived my 10am signing with the support of fellow SF author Mike Cobley, even if neither of us was at our best (proof here). If you were one of the few who braved the early hour to come and see me – thank you! The Space Opera panel went well, although I did have a moment of unreasonableness when the question of gender was raised (unnecessarily I felt, given it was unrelated to the topic we were discussing). If you were there, I’d like to put your mind at rest that my threat to do actual bodily harm to one of this country’s most talented and respected SF authors was in jest, and he has now forgiven me. I also welcomed the chance to get out on the dance-floor during the evening DJ sets in the main hall, although there is something inherently wrong about the sight of the Three Doctors moshing.
I must admit that the commercial aspect of such events, specifically paying and queueing for a star’s autograph, holds no interest for me … but it does for others, so fair enough. I thought the commercial juxtaposition with the strong literary program might sit uneasily, but I didn’t find that to be an issue. I have a couple of complaints: the lack of amenities (comfortable seating, edible food etc) was wearing but this may be inevitable given the event was held in a
prison holiday camp; and the fact that all the half-naked stilt dancers were female – I’ve no objection to half-naked stilt dancers, but it’d be nice if there was something for all the punters to look at, not just the men. Oh, and please fix the WiFi for next year.
My gripes aside, I think we may just be looking at the future of geekdom.