Eastercon has happenned. And I had a lot of fun.
To give a general breakdown of what happenned:
The early morning journey to Bradford went pretty smoothly (after one of those annoying moments when you arrive promptly at the bus stop only to find that two of the early morning services are spontaneously not happening, and that you don’t actually move again until nearly half an hour later…). The first day had a couple of entertainingly tricky moments, like my phone being on the verge of dying which made staying in touch with my roomsharer (who I’d never actually met) into a fun experience of phone-borrowing, and also proved to me that while getting drunk on red wine is great fun (as long as excess is avoided), getting drunk on cider simply leaves you with a rather unpleasently fuggy head, an experience I am no longer in a hurry to repeat. But for the most part, it was a huge amount of fun, getting the chance to catch up with lots of people and also manage a few panels, as well as hearing a few of the kind of things you can only ever hear at sci-fi conventions (like some eye-opeing and completely unrepeatable tales of Phillip K. Dick’s bizarre habit of falling for hopelessly crazy women, provided by author and convention guest-of-honour Tim Powers).
Saturday was another fine day, with some interesting panels mixed in with the chance to trawl the dealer’s room – although the fact that my current situation means that storage is a real problem also meant that things were made exceptionally simple – I could look, but I really couldn’t buy anything unless I absolutely HAD to get it. And then, of course, there was the art show, where a pretty massive number of SF and Fantasy art prints (and originals) were up on display for the auction on Sunday, and I spent some time walking around there with my jaw dropping. There was work from artists like Jim Burns and Fred Gambino that had me simply standing there going “Wow….”, and there was one Fred Gambino piece that i did make a pre-bid on but I didn’t actually get as I couldn’t stay for that long at the auction. Plenty of panels, from the Morality (and Psychology) of Superheroes to the art of reading a writer whose opinions you dont agree with. And then it was Saturday night, and time for the BSFA awards (fronted by Kim Newman and Paul J. McAuley with a rather extended Two Ronnies-style comedy skit that was frequently funny but way too long, and proved that writing funny and actually being funny are two very seperate things), followed by the Doctor Who Easter special. I will do a TV Eye post on this soon, but I will say that while this was New Who on autopilot, it was also a thoroughly unapologetic romp where I could even just about cope with the nails-on-a-blackboard presence of Lee Evans, and the whole thing was enjoyable enough to balance out the almost complete lack of anything actually new (Watching it in an audience definitely helped, as well as the fact that it was being shown in HD, the first Who to be shot that way). After that, it was time for my two panels which kind of blurred past – the RTD one was actually surprisingly pro, and we all managed to make some decent points about RTD’s reign without turning into a “Why didn’t he do it that way?” rant, while the Comics Adaptation panel was lively and fun, and I finally got to make the point about V for Vendetta – that the movie’s decision to retool it as a conspiracy and let the ‘ordinary people’ off the hook actually diminishes the original’s moral complexity – that I’d originally thought of at last year’s Eastercon about an hour after the Film Adaptation-related panel I was on then. But it all went well, and left me wishing I’d been on more stuff.
And then Sunday arrived – the day I’d originally planned to depart, and I’m very glad I changed my mind. There were some decent panels (including a great one about Jack Kirby that I only found out about at the last minute), and the interesting experience of a Steampunk Tea Party, but fast approaching was Forbidden Planet’s Rock Band competition. Thanks to some organisation from author David Devereux (one of the many new acquaintances I made), they had a major setup of the PS3 version of Rock Band, complete with instruments, and a full-scale battle of the bands was to happen, complete with prizes. Well, I couldn’t really say no to that sort of thing, and did fuel myself with a combination of free Scandinavian Beer, red wine and lots of sugar. A combustible mix, and I was essentially a band of ‘1’ with backup from a great girl called Rachel and an equally great guy called Simon. We were ‘Dependably Nondescript’, and before we were up, I guested on Rachel’s band and made a spectacular hash of the drums on a track which may have been Alice in Chains, or Soundgarden, or somebody else… well, whoever it was, it was long and grungy and not very interesting but I tried my best. And then, a few bands later, it was my turn – and I ended up doing vocals on a version of ‘Hungry Like The Wolf’ by Duran Duran which very nearly brought the house down. It was huge, huge fun (and the kind of singing which only works if youre basically singing with your entire body), and right afterwards, David Devereux (who was also hosting) told me “That was fucking awesome!”, and for the rest of the weekend I was rechristened by him as Saxon Le Bon, a name which i have the worrying feeling might stick around for a while… But loads of other people were also generally saluting me and saying “Stonking performance”, and it was such a massive amount of fun – there’s something wonderfully liberating about letting yourself go like that. Our band got through into the semi-finals but crashed out almost instantly (mainly thanks to them switching to a different version of Rock Band, and being unable to switch off the setting where the song actually halts if you don’t perform it well enough) – but even if that had happenned, the eventual winning band had a girl who was an absolutey fearsome drummer, and obviously very practiced. She went straight for the ‘Expert’ setting and hit every single beat, and actually kept the otherwise ramshackle band from failing by her sheer drumming power. Yes, it would have been lovely to win, but considering the fact that the prize was a lovely but monstrously impractical Star Wars Millenium Falcon toy (the damn thing was 2 1/2 feet long!), I ended up oddly glad as I wouldn’t have known what the hell to do with it…
Monday was, as is usual with cons, a winding down day. There was an excellent panel on comics, and a fun one on Battlestar Galactica (even if one of the panelists could have done with being a bit less slappable), but mostly it was just an opportunity to say goodbye to a few people, have a very easy time, and then make the journey home which was equally smooth.
So overall, it was a great weekend. And if there was only one small down-side, it was the fact that I wasn’t in the main hotel – the buses were actually pretty good (lots of people were complaining about them, but I never had any troubles). There’s that… and there’s also something that’s a little more specific to my current situation, and more about to how I relate to this year’s (and last year’s) con:
One of the side-effects of being in my current life situation (and of generally being a blend of outrageous confidence and overwhelming insecurity) is that I don’t always feel like I fit. I’ve always had the sense that I don’t quite fit in – there have been very few times when I haven’t in some way felt like a square peg trying to fit itself into a round hole. And this all sounds like I’m heading towards a conclusion of “And I have found my place where I fit at last…”, and yet that isn’t quite true. There’s something that Neil Gaiman said as part of his Guest of Honour speech at last Eastercon: that his first Eastercon was a rather major experience for him, and that he felt like he’d finally found his ‘tribe’. And I could understand that, but I think it’s stuck with me out of an odd sense of envy – I’d really like to feel that sense of belonging, that sense of clicking into place, but it’s not quite there for me. And yet, this weekend I came to the conclusion that that’s no bad thing. I am a unique, odd person – the kind of person that some people are going to get, and others are simply going to be perplexed by, and that’s just as much true in fandom as elsewhere. Especially now, when I’m spending the vast majority of my time on my own, my desire for a sense of connection can be really, really strong, and of course it’s often the way – when you really, really want something to happen, that desire can often get in the way and end up derailing it. Life is, as they say, bloody complicated. I guess the short version of this is that there were a few moments this weekend when I felt a little out-of-place, and where the whole idea of just ‘being around people’ brought up some difficult stuff that I wasn’t always able to deal with. (Added to which, there’s the sometimes awkward fact that having a very good time can often mean that your brain relaxes and starts letting out some of the stuff that’s been building up without you even realising it). So yes, those moments happenned. But they didn’t last long, and the really nice thing is that there were friends there who were unexpectedly nice, and were on hand to provide support, hugs and ginger biscuits.
As with much of life, there were up and down moments – but I’m happy to say that the overall atmosphere was one of ‘up’. And that’s what matters in the end.