Eastercon blog 2

April 24th 2011

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Having just eaten my own body weight in fried food, I can talk about Saturday at Eastercon.

Breakfast was an interesting experience. There was a concert at the NEC on the Friday; judging from stolen glimpses at programmes and CDs, some sort of light classical/operatic singer person, who attracted a mainly older audience. Who, inevitably, ended up mixed in with the Con goers in a massive queue for the restaurant come morning. It wasn’t pretty, and I think it caught the staff on the ground on the hop – whether they expected all of us to be up earlier, or later, than we were, it was difficult to tell, but seemingly at some signal through the aether, we descended en masse to eat, throwing their carefully conceived plans into disarray. Bwahahaha. I ended up squeezing onto a table with the Angry Robot guys, which was fine.

I went to a panel as a punter – since it has relevance to the Sekrit Projeckt – Is SF winning the Culture War? The answer is, of course, yes, yes we are. If not already won and we’re just stamping out the last pockets of futile resistance before we unite under our SFnal overlords. Two of the last bastions of mundanity being the broadsheet books review sections and the BBC – and this on the very day Equations of Life was reviewed in The Financial Times, of all places.

Facebook had informed me earlier that erstwhile stablemate and all-round tall person Ben Jeapes was coming up for the day. Keen to catch up in the flesh, rather than electronically, I spotted him just as he was going to a panel, but arranged to meet up in an hour.

And what an hour that was: spent playing Bananagram with Anne from Orbit. It could be considered leaving oneself a hostage to fortune playing a scrabble-like word game with a professional editor (and unusually for someone who works in publishing, an engineering graduate), especially when yours truly has a somewhat dubious rep for spelling. However, buoyed up by my suggestion of ‘Khat’ for Bella’s online Scrabble the day before, it was Game On.

I managed to hold my own in the two games we played, losing on the last tile each time (we won’t talk about the horrendous train-crash of tileage brought about by my moving my words up the table, then rearranging them so they made no sense at all), but to give you a flavour of it: second time around, my first word down was VOTIVES, which got rid of both Vs and was seven letters to boot. I glance up to discover that Anne’s opening gambit was QUIXOTIC. Arse.

So, I caught up with Ben, introduced him to the Orbit crew, just in case, you know… and suddenly it was time for me to head to the Green Room and meet the other panelists for SF Infrastructure and Engineering.

It turned out be a very minimalist panel with Nige (whose day jobĀ  is Incredibly Important in ways barely comprehensible to mere mortals like myself) and John (who works in Local Authority planning), and me. But we had around fifty people in to listen to us, and I think we kept them informed and entertained in true Reithian style. We’d barely got five minutes in before we decided that what was really holding us back was our lack of a dictatorial command economy. Revolution swept the room, and before long, we’d commandeered the resources of the entire planet, partly enabled by our massive orbital solar power collector/microwave laser. Job done.

It was Doctor Who time shortly afterwards: huzzah for the techies who got the picture on the screen about fifteen seconds before the programme started. Lots has been said about the episode itself elsewhere. I thought it was an excellent opener, and Arthur Darvill as Rory seems to be providing the moral centre as the Ordinary Decent Bloke. Talking to Paul Cornell afterwards, the Neil Gaiman-penned episode is something we should all be waiting for with baited breath. Spoilers.

Then the Cyberwarfare panel at 9pm. From three panellists earlier, we’d gone to six, which was probably too many. I was hopelessly outclassed – by Nige, by another Simon, who all had security access to real secret stuff you’re not meant to know about. Shhh. Fortunately, Lauren Beukes (of Moxyland and Zoo City fame) was ‘just another SF writer’ like me, though more famous. I was more useful in talking about the future developments of robotic warfare – drones, robot tanks and inevitably, Terminator-style robot soldiers.

Then proper beer in the Fan bar with Nige and Philip Palmer, followed by the hotel bar to sweep up the rest of the conversations. Half one. Where did the evening go?

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