Friday 3 April 2015

EasterCon Friday

We left home at 10 am to drive to Dysprosium 2015, the 66th British National Science Fiction Convention (‘Eastercon’), in the Park Inn Hotel near Heathrow.  After admiring parts of the M25 from our stationary car for a while, we finally arrived at the hotel close to 1pm.  The hotel was easy to find; a parking space less so.  After driving around the entire car park, we finally squeezed into a space that was right outside the Aviator Suite, where many of the programme events were happening.  Fortunately the opening ceremony wasn’t scheduled until 1:45, so we had time to check in and grab something to drink.

Then it was down to serious sitting on chairs, listening to panels and talks.  First was a panel on The Things We Learned From Pratchett: An exploration of fantasy, storytelling and ethics.  (LonCon was dominated by Iain M. Banks; this Eastercon by Terry Pratchett.  I hope this isn’t going to be a new trend.)  The panelists talked about his professionalism in his relationship to his fans; how Discworld series is a collection of subseries; how the structure of the books is a “classic screwball comedy” where events domino; and how there are inconsistencies in his world, but that doesn't matter.

In The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Human Spaceflight, SpaceKate gave a quick overview of the history of spaceflight, with several interesting anecdotes.

The panel on Cryptids (a species unknown to science, or believed extinct) covered both the panelists’ own inventions, and “real world cryptids”, from mythical (BigFoot) to real (recent discoveries of new species large mammals, as well as insects, amphibians, and funguses). One panellist didn’t want Bigfoot disproved, as belief in its existence is a valuable conservation tool!  Cryptids are urbanising: they used to live in the wilderness, but that’s running out, so they are moving into our towns, just like foxes. Seanan McGuire recommended Warren Fahy’s Fragment, as like Jurassic Park with mantis shrimp: “If you want a fun book about tearing people apart, it’s brilliant!”  But as the panel noted, many real species are being driven to extinction: “We people the wilderness with the monsters we want, while we are exterminating the real wonders.”

The Ultimate Urban Fantasy Panel followed on neatly from all this talk of Cryptids.  Now the unknown species are wizards, elves, fairies, and whatnot.  There was a discussion of how urban fantasy is different from paranormal romance: it was claimed that urban fantasy focuses more on the world-building, paranormal romance focuses on the relationships (although I suspect the real difference is “urban fantasy is stuff I like; paranormal romance is stuff I don’t like”).  A jet-lagged Jim Butcher described how he’d come to write the Dresden Files.  He had been writing a lot, but his writing professor didn’t like any of it (Roger Zelazny claimed that every writer learns by writing a million words of crap).  So he set out to prove her wrong, by writing something that conformed to all the practices she advocated.  He wrote a couple of chapters, and she said it was saleable!  So he sat down and planned out a 20 book series…

We rounded the evening off with a performance of John Robertson’s The Dark Room, a combination of stand up comedy and text based adventure where all routes (seemingly) end in DEATH.  Hilarious!

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