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 ConsConventions Updated: 01/05/17

Friday Saturday Sunday Monday Tuesday

Friday

Walked to the Radisson early in the morning, trying to get in before the rush. Didn't exactly work, as there was a huge queue for registration. Anyway, got registered, had a look through the programme, sorted out what I wanted to see, then went to Ops and volunteered for Tech. I got taken to the Commonwealth (the main event room), where things were being sorted out, and was almost immediately given a speaker to lug over to the Royal (the second event room). Dropped off the speaker, got the (now) spare lot from there, and took them down to the Tetworth (which was miles out of the way). It was locked, so I came back, and pretty soon, myself, Rob and Kelvin (the head of tech) were heading back there with full sound kit to set it up in record time before the first event (we managed it, too).

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Back in the Commonwealth, we spent time setting up, against the clock and the equipment. Not long after 12, as there seemed to be a surplus of people to be doing useful stuff, I went out to go to the "So you want to be an SF writer?" panel. After that finished, back to the Commonwealth. Spent another hour or so setting up, then was allowed to go get lunch (the first event in the Commonwealth had been moved because we were running late). Even so, when I came back, it was a rush to get everything in working order for the new first event. Not entirely sure what I did next, but it was probably elsewhere. I was back in the Commonwealth for "Don't give up the day job", followed by "Judging a book by its' cover", both of which I considered pretty essential for me, given my prospective self-publishing career. Then, with nothing particularly appealing in the programme after that, I made myself available again. Was sent to the Royal to first assist in, then to run sound for "Be careful what you wish for" (about whether the new Dr Who was actually any good or not), followed by "Star Trek: Is there anyone still to explore?", which enlightened me about some of the few available pieces of information regarding the new ST movie. Then it was back to the Commonwealth for "A hitchiker's guide to webcomics" (again, something I considered pretty essential for me to see), then ten minutes of frantic last-minute set-up before the Opening Ceremony. Afterwards, there wasn't anything useful for me to do, so I went over to the Royal for a panel on the UK short fiction market (pretty poor, especialy compared to the US market, was the general consensus). After that, I hung around for a few minutes, trying to absorb the atmosphere and so on, then went and caught the bus home.

 

Saturday

Woke up late, so was later in to the hotel than I'd hoped to be. What with my plan of going round the Dealers Room first, and trying to find someone who could be persuaded to have a few of my leaflets on their table (and failing), I missed the first panel I wanted to be at. I turned up at the Commonwealth at 11 anyway, and almost immediately was grabbed by Boggis to go and operate camera two on the far side of the room, for the guest of honour spot by China Mieville. I'd never heard of him, but I thought, "I might find out about something good here". I didn't, really. He didn't talk about his work, he did a talk about perceptions and interpretations of literature, censorship (including of the mind), and limits of freedom of expression. He mentioned changing the name of the Agatha Christie novel to "And Then There Were None", but I was left a little puzzled as to whether he was for or against it. He also mentioned the Danish cartoons of Mohammed, and how they should never have been published in the first place, as they were so offensive. Now me, I think that they should have been published. After all, no-one has the right to not be offended (as someone on AFP recently said). To those who were offended: a) get a life; and b) have you ever considered that the Muslim world needs to be shown its' image in quite a large part of the West. If they want that image to improve, if they want the (real and perceived) persecutions of Muslims to stop, then they need to stop behaving how they were portrayed in the cartoons. Firstly, because organised religion is the biggest joke ever in history, and secondly they need to realise that, and act on it. (Rant over)

I stayed in position for the following item ("Fantastic London", about how well London fits into fiction of very many types in almost all mediums - Neil Gaiman considers it a writer's duty to fuck with the public's heads by doing things such as writing a full-costume dinner party scene set on the platform of an abandoned Tube station, and filming it on location, complete with trains going past), then went and had lunch at the nearby MacD's. Then I hung around, taking the weight off my feet, reading "Guilty of Literature", which I'd bought that morning, 5 of the purchase price of which went to the "Match it for Pratchett" Alzheimer's research fund. I also bought a copy of Fritz Leiber's "Lankhmar" trilogy, which is something I've been meaning to do for a while. Anyway - 4 o'clock, and it's off to the Tetworth for a panel called "What does an editor do?" Apart from the stuff I already knew about (marking for correction of mistakes, basic suggestions for improvement, and selecting whether to buy or not for the publishing house), not a lot. Except paperwork.

Then back to the Commonwealth for the Maskerade prep and rehearsal (which started a few minutes late due to the George Hay Memorial Lecture overunning), for most of which I was a surplus body, until Boggis collared me again to help test the talkback boxes dotted around the hall. We found the problem, fixed it, and got them all back up and running. Frantic set-up type-stuff was happening, and we managed to get it all done with no more than a ten minute delay. I volunteered for camera one, as that would mean I got to see the show, and would have something else to put on my CV. It also meant I was instructed by Kelvin to "make love to" several of the female entrants, especially those who co-incidentally happened to have sexy costumes. As camera one had a better zoom than camera two, and had a better perspective on the stage, I covered most of the action - including the bit where Tal's skirt rode up rather high during her piece (a 30-second vampiric version of Snow White, basically). I also got told to change direction of my pan when at about halfway point on a body-length pan over Barbarella, and I just happened to be passing over a singer's knees in an instrumental passage when she moved them.

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Anyway. After seriously overunning, we shut down and refit for the disco (some people couldn't wait for it to start), then headed for the bar, where Kelvin got a round in for the tech crew.

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By this time it was about 11.30, and so I decided one drink then home, as the disco hadn't really picked up. I drank, I talked (mostly about the Darwin Awards), I bought a sandwich with the last of my groats (Gopher Reward Tokens), and wandered to find somewhere warm to sit and eat. This turned out to be the Commonwealth, as the warmest place in the hotel with free seats. Just as I got in, they were finishing "Walk This Way" by Aerosmith, and followed it with "Jump Around". When the next one ("The Final Countdown") started, I wrapped up the sarnie, shoved it in my pocket, and headed onto the dancefloor, where I found Rob and Kelvin moshing away. I joined them in the moshing and the air-guitaring and the stage-diving for the rest of the evening. The stage was clear. It didn't take long to retrieve two mic stands and some empty flight cases for use as props. When Judith Proctor turned up, Kelvin Proctor danced with her, before we all briefly left for a talk about the lack of tech people. The fight to be the first back in when we heard the opening chords of "Ace of Spades" was a purely reflex action. Anyway - more moshing, more air-guitaring, more stage-diving. We spent most of the rest of the evening on the stage showing off. During the very final track (Abba's "Gimme Gimme Gimme"), we each got a round of applause from those who were still standing. After that, it was just a matter of picking up all our kit, arranging a start time for tomorrow, sticking a few leaflets up in the gents, then heading home.

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Sunday

Two hours sleep. Then up, and bus in. Straight to Commonwealth - no-one there. Toilet, back to Commonwealth. Again, no-one there, so went and waited in the atrium, where it was slightly less spooky. It was about ten-to-nine. At about ten past nine, a gopher came up, asking if I was the techie who needed a gopher. I said I wasn't, but the ones who did were probably inside. And they were. Kelvin and a couple of others had made it in while I was outside, and had started resettting everything. I began to help, and soon, with the assistance of more gophers and tech crew turning up, we soon had the hall ready for programme items again. Not completely, though, there were a few missing things, a few things not fully operational, but we sorted them after the first event finished. It was the current Eastercon Committee bidding for the 2010 Eastercon, and as there were no other bids, and they've got a proven track record, they were approved for the bid within about 20 minutes.

I was on camera one for the next event, Charles Stross' GoH piece. He talked about the development curve of the aerospace industry, and how it was applicable to things like the current computer chip industry, and nanotechnology. Rather interesting, but I was in danger of falling asleep several times, due to my tiredness and the lack of movement. Fortunately, I didn't. Once it was over, Kelvin grabbed me and asked me to find out where a certain wire went. I followed the wire out a pair of fire doors, down some stairs, and into a courtyard, where they went up the wall to the roof. I went back, and discovered the fire doors didn't open from that side, so I had to follow the fire exit route out to the front of the hotel, and go back in again. I got back just in time to be told to get on the cameras and focus them on the stage for the next event, the "Not the Clarke Awards". There wasn't going to be much movement, so the screen went off, and Kelvin left me in charge of the tower as he went to try and fix whatever it was the wire I had followed was supposed to do. I think it was something to do with getting a satellite feed from the video cameras for the next event - Neil Gaiman's GoH piece. I was on camera 2 for this one, while he read a couple of his pieces to us, and was generally photogenic the whole time. I did feel tired this time as well, but not sleepy. Not yet. The sleepy occurred after I got lunch (at 3.30pm) from MacD's, and returned to the hotel to try and kip. I managed to find a quiet(ish) corner of the Atrium, and dozed off.

I was awoken about 40 minutes later by Kelvin pushing a few groats between my folded arms. I thanked him, realised the time, and went off to do things, like submit my photos for the photo wall, take a bit of exercise, and try and get myself awake and alert. Then I went to a panel in the Winchester, which was almost as out of the way as the Tetworth was, called "Who are you calling obsolete?", fanzines run by younger people. It was a very lively discussion, if not particularly triggering of my interest, and I didn't feel tired at all during it. That changed dramatically, however, when I stayed for the next event there, "Fan history: Why bother?" This was a panel consisting of three old men and one comparatively young woman - the men all had something to do with traditional, established, fan activity, and its' study. They completely lost my interest almost immediately, and as I ploughed through my programme to try and find something else to go to, they started ganging up on the woman, who was the only one in the room who was aligned with the topic, rather than merely steadfastly maintaining the old ways. With a muttered, "For fuck's sake,", I left. I returned to the Commonwealth, and snuck into a chair at the back of the "The appeal of Lovecraft" panel, where I tried to get some sleep. I wasn't the only one uninterested in it, as instead of the titled subject matter, the discussion was following the lines of Lovecraft's political leanings, and China Mieville was apparently going off on one about them. I was so far back, and so fatigued, the only one on the panel I recognised was someone with dyed red hair, who I had run across before as someone who was very pretentious and snobby, and so therefore wasn't worth paying attention to.

After it ended, I woke myself up, and helped with the set up for "The Terminal Zone", the Eastercon play. Then I left, wandered round for a bit, caught a baffling short "Apollo-landings-conspiracy-theory" film, then went to the "Roughening up Fantasyland" panel in the Tetworth. It was about creating a sustainable suspenion of disbelief in fantasy novels, using Diane Wynn Jones' "Tough Guide to Fantasyland" as the definitive encyclopeadia of tropes that would end the suspension of disbelief if used. It actually stayed quite on-topic, covering areas such as marketing-pigeonholing, depth-of-detail, padding, unintentional jarring errors, and so on. When it finished, I headed back to the Commonwealth, intending to help with the change-round to the disco. However, as Mitch Benn hadn't yet finished his set, I hang around and caught the end of it. Then I helped move chairs, clear the stage, and set the lights and speakers. The disco ready to roll, and the Alpha Indigo Romeo band ready to rock to a few well-chosen pre-agreed-with-the-DJs pieces, we went outside while the disco gathered life.

It was during this time talking with Rob and Kelvin in the Atrium, that I realised I had bumped into the person known to me only as Neal a few too many times for mere co-incidence, especially as on most of those occasions, he had made a sharp about turn. If someone's not mature enough to simply ignore me if they don't want to run into me, and instead send out a scout to keep tabs on me, then, frankly, I don't even want to know who that person is, let alone meet them. Unfortunately, I suspect I already do and have.

Anyway, we spent about an hour talking and so on, then went back into the disco, which was getting fairly warmed up. Myself and Rob tested the dancefloor for a bit, but Kelvin was unavailable. Which was a pity, because without him, the Alpha Indigo Romeo band looked and felt rather lacking. When the pre-arranged tunes came on, we did our best, but without Kelvin's unleashed hair, we felt lonely on stage, and couldn't put our all into it. We decided to cut our performance short, and head off. I missed the half-hourly bus by a couple of minutes, so I walked home.

 

Monday

Slept through my alarm, so got in late. First thing I did was go to the Dealers room and sign up for Redemption '09. After that, I went up to the Commonwealth. I can't recall what I did next. The programme says "We could write Heroes" started at 11am, and I do recall being there for the start of that, but not for how long before. Anyway, I spent most of it looking over Rob's shoulder as he used the free hotel wifi net access to check his webcomics. Not long from the end, I was invited up to run the tower - which, apart from not realising the radio mics were on mute for the Q&A session for "Sex and the singularity", I did rather well. The next event was "Hitchhikers: How a radio 4 comedy took over the world", a panel with Neil Gaiman on it. Kelvin and other came back for this, and I was given a quick rundown of how the vision mixer worked, then put in charge of it. This also passed with no major problems or fuck-ups. Next was "You're reading it wrong", a panel about interpreting how we read things. It was less well-attended than the previous panel, so I was put in charge of the tower again (no video cameras necessary), which suited me fine. Everything so far today (with the exception of the "Heroes" panel) were things I'd wanted to see. I hadn't had lunch yet, though, and it was 3pm when it finished. The next panel was "Darker than Potter", something I wasn't bothered about seeing, followed by the Closing Ceremony (something I did want to see), so I turned over the tower to (I think) Boggis, and spent some of my rapidly-accumulating groats at the fast food bar in the Atrium.

Lunch done, I had a wander, and got back to the Commonwealth. It was the last quarter-hour or so of "Darker than Potter", and I was preparing to settle in and wait for the Closing Ceremony. Then Kelvin collared me and Rob, and gave us tasks to do. We had to set up a PA system in the Atrium for the dead dog party, and we had to set up the Royal to show Rocky Horror and the Buffy musical. The Atrium wasn't so much of a problem - mic stand, mic, pair of speakers, speaker stands, gig-in-a-box, lots of cable. The Royal was - there was already a projector and screen there, but no DVD player or speakers. We found the speakers with self-contained amps, and carted them over, along with some cables and stands, got them set up, then wondered where the Hell we could get a spare DVD player from. We made it back to the Commonwealth just as the Closing Ceremony was finishing.

Mariel had a Cunning Plan to raise money for "Match it for Pratchett" - she makes badges, so why not make some with Tanith Lee's kiss on, and some with Neil Gaiman's fingerprint on, and sell them on eBay? She had already got Tanith Lee's lipstick imprint, and now she was hanging around the door tot the Commonwealth, too nervous to go up on stage and approach Neil Gaiman. In an attempt at calling her bluff, I threatened that if she didn't go up there, I would go and bring Neil down to her. She called me on it. Damn. Okay, so I stood and though for a minute, then sidled onto stage, waited for Neil to finish his conversation. He turned to leave, and found me in his way. "Mr Gaiman, I'd just like to thank you on behalf of the tech crew for being so damn photogenic," I said as I shook his hand. He laughed, then asked, "Is there something you'd like me to scribble on, or something?" "Well, not for me, but there is a young lady down by the door in the white T-shirt and hat, who's an absolute bundle of nerves about meeting you." "Well, bring her up here, bring her up here." "We've tried, she's not moving! If you could just, y'know, say “hi,” as you go past, that would be brilliant, thank you." "Right. The one in the hat?" "The one in the hat, yes, thank you." He moved off, I followed, and hung around in the doorway as he talked to Mariel. A few minutes later, the conversation successfully concluded, Neil left, and Mariel came to find me. Apparently there was a look of abject terror on my face as I said, "You're going to kill me now, aren't you?" In my defence, attractive women spontaneously coming up to me and kissing me does not happen very often. It happened then.

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Things weren't entirely finished yet, though, we still had to go bouncing all over the hotel finding bits of tech gear and bringing them back to the Commonwealth. The cables for the DVD player in the Royal were still causing problems, so we spent a bit of time going back and forth trying combinations (whilst rooting arond under the tech tower for this, I found Charles Stross' nameplate, so I nabbed it). Eventually, Boggis sorted the DVD player problem, and after taking down the PA from the Atrium again, and tearing down all the kit and stage in the Commonwealth, and making sure the only tech gear left was in the Royal (operational) and the Commonwealth (ready for transport), we were allowed to call it a night - for now. In the Royal, Rocky Horror was just finishing. There was nothing else to do except finish off the supplies of real ale the convention had laid on, and wait for the Buffy musical to finish, so we could take the kit down and over to the Commonwealth again. The alcohol made it bearable.

Last trip to the Commonwealth done, lights out in the Royal, nothing else to do. Kelvin gave me some groats. I now had more than I could spend on drink, and there was nothing else open where I could spend. Mariel had attached herself to me (I was her hug-bunny, a confused kitten, a hedgehog, or a Christmas tree, depending on what my expression was and what the lighting was like), and she also had surplus groats. An idea arrived. On Saturday night, I'd found out that Misha, the gopher-mum, had suffered a hernia. I decided it would be a good idea to cash in the groats and try and get him a get well present. We found the Con treasurer and cashed them in, but it wasn't all that much. We went to the internet lounge to scour his LJ for hints at what he might like. We spotted that his first fandom had been Winnie the Pooh, so off to Amazon we went. Not enough money, so we headed out into the hotel at large at started asking random people if they'd "like to contribute to the small fund to buy Misha a Winnie the Pooh book as a get well present". We nearly doubled our funds, and I took the opportunity to hand out leaflets for my books. Back to the internet lounge, on to Amazon again, order the book - hang on, where does Misha live? Five minutes later, after Mariel had gone to get Rob (who had a phone), I was talking to Misha's flatmate. Back to Amazon for a third time, order the book again, gift wrap it, get it delivered to Misha's address, and we were done! I was by now entering my hyperactive phase, and my companions didn't think it would be wise to let me loose for a while. So we went up to the Atrium, where we talked until Rob (who had his laptop with him) started talking to his girlfriend. Mariel and I found a seat at the other side of the Atrium and talked, completely losing track of time until about three in the morning, whereupon I decided I had to get some sleep. So we went back and found Rob, who was now co-ordinating the sale of the Neil Gaiman and Tanith Lee badges. He offered me crash-space, I accepted.

 

Tuesday

Woke up a bit later than I had done Sunday. Attempted to sneak into the dining room for free breakfast, but the staff were checking room numbers, so I hied me MacDonald's to have breakfast - complete with a coffee cup that's dye wasn't properly fixed, and turned my fingers green. Anyway - got back to the Commonwealth in time to help load up the Stage Electrics van with all the kit they'd rented us. Then had to load up the Con's van with the timber from the stage, to go somewhere. Then, we had to go and fetch all the sofas from around the hotel. The comfy-looking sofas and armchairs, and the coffee tables, had been bought by the Con, and now needed taking to a charity shop. Their van had broken down, though, so that was the second of the day's trips to be made. We brought them to the Commonwealth, and whilst the wood was being taken away, we were supposed to dismantle them, and/or sell them to departing con-goers.

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Henry and Rob did a bit of showing off, and carried one woman on a chair. Someone said they should get their shirts off, and we could get a photo of the slave-bearers carrying their queen. Henry declined. There followed a rather hectic few minutes, where it took six of us to try and hold onto him long enough to get his shirt off. He left a trail of collapsed people strewn across the floor of the Commonwealth as he twisted away from all attempts to hold him down. Only I and Mariel managed to stay in contact with him for longer than a few seconds at a time (I managed to get his bum-bag off, a shirt button undone, and was left stretched full-length holding one of his shoes, the only bits of apparel that he lost). He eventually went to ground only after tripping and hitting his head on one of the partially-dismantled sofas.

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The van came back, we loaded up the sofas, and lunch was served in Ops. We realised no-one was watching all the stuff in the Commonwealth, so I went back. After a while of no one joing me like they said they would, I went back to Ops, and this time Henry, Rob and Mariel came with me. We spent some more time mucking about (we had nothing to do until the van came back), then Rob retrieved his hard drive and we settled down to watch The Call of Cthulu and Dagon. Rob came up with a new version of "Row, row, row your boat":

Row, row, row your boat,
Gently over Doom,
Cthulu's coming for you now,
Cthulu's coming soon.

He said he wanted to have children just so he could teach it to them.

Kelvin came back with the van partway through Dagon, so we stopped watching and began loading the van for the final time. It took a while, and when it was done, that was it, there was officially no more to do. So we said our final goodbyes, and headed off into the rather damp not-yet sunset.

It was the most fun Convention I've ever been to.