We left home at 7:30 am to travel to Loncon 3, the 72nd World Science Fiction Convention, in London’s Docklands. After a smooth mainline train, Tube, and Docklands Light Railway journey, we arrived at our hotel around 10 am. It had rather confusingly changed its name from when we originally booked, but we found it, checked in, and dropped the luggage. Then over the road into the ExCeL. Which is HUGE. We entered from the Custom House station end: registration was at the Prince Regent station end, so we walked the 500 or so yards through it.
There was a 45 minute queue for registration, which allowed chatting with other fans. (This was the largest Worldcon ever, with over 7000 attending.) Once we had our badges, we had the power to access the function rooms. I had used the online guide previously to decide on which items to attend, so there was no need to frantically read the 240 page “pocket” programme guide. There were up to 10 scheduled items happening at a time, so it paid to be prepared.
My first item was a panel called LOLcats in Space: Social Media, Humour, and SF Narratives. The room was very full, and I ended up sitting on the floor at the back, and was too uncomfortable to take in much. Full rooms were a recurring feature, but very soon signs went up: no standing, no sitting on the floors, due to fire safety regulations. So several times I didn’t get to the event I’d planned. However, I usually had a backup item available, given how much good stuff was programmed, or took the opportunity to grab something to eat!
Iain M. Banks was Loncon’s main Guest of Honour, but sadly died last year. Here the other Guests of Honour remembered him, his work, and various previous con anecdotes.
3pm and it was time for Speculative Biology - An Introduction, part of the science programme. This was partly about how life might be different, and partly about the history of people inventing different animals, ecosystems, and evolutionary histories.
What’s In a Name? was a panel about why writers use pseudonyms, and included Robin Hobb/Megan Lindholm, and Seanan McGuire/Mira Grant. The reasons included: separating out different genres/sub-genres so that the public know what they are getting (particularly if writing both adult and YA books); changing persona to overcome previous poor sales; “diluting” an otherwise overwhelming presence if prolific; being a ghost writer, or house writer for a “brand” like Nancy Drew; hiding salacious content from your grandmother. It was interesting to hear Robin Hobb describe how her name was carefully designed, to be gender neutral, to have resonances, to be short so it could be big on the cover, to begin with H to be at eye level in most book shops. Quote of the panel: “Mira sells better than Seanan. That really pisses me off. I’m jealous of myself!”
The final panel of the day was Why Aliens Are Cool Again. The panelists wondered if aliens had ever been uncool. For example, the Doctor is an alien. But Paul McAuley dismissed him as an example of “charismatic megafauna”. And JarJar Binks was seriously uncool.
We finished the evening off with David Wake’s new play, The Cancellation and Re-imagining of Captain Tartan. If you have seen previous incarnations of David Wake’s Captain Tartan series, you know what to expect. Here Tartan is cancelled after a Blakes 7-style cliffhanger ending, only to be reimagined many years later as an American version, all in a dastardly attempt to remove the science from science fiction. Side-splittingly hilarious.
And so to bed.