My resolution to do fewer conventions this year got a serious crotch-kicking over the last few weeks. I’ve already sung the praises of Celsius 232 in Aviles, and I’ve just got back from a mammoth series of London shenanigans starting with Nine Worlds and ending with the World Science Fiction Convention aka Loncon 3.

First caveat: there was far too much going on for me to talk about it all.

I loved Nine Worlds last year and said so at length on these pages. 2014 did not disappoint. Nine Worlds remains a gloriously diverse, colourful and energetic convention, covering genre fandom across many different media, and also engaging with various social aspects of the genre which other conventions might perhaps shy away from. Highlights for me were getting to talk about Doctor Who (twice!), listening to Laurie Penny’s talk on her new book Unspeakable Things, which is a remarkable, eye-opening read about feminism (2) and the trap of stereotyping gender for everyone concerned. Paul Cornell ran his Only a Moment (3) with his usual aplomb, and the cosplay was spectacular – and also far, far, more common than in other UK cons I’ve seen – to the extent that it wasn’t unusual to turn up for a panel item and find out that one of the panellists was a superheroine or the like. All in all, Nine Worlds was a great success, and I’m definitely up for next year. I’m not going to talk about the hotel (4).

Between 9W and L3 there were a series of literary genre events to keep the plates spinning. Danie Ware of Forbidden Planet told me that logistics for the various signings were a constant trial. On the Tuesday we had Fantasy in the Court, in which 400 people and, it seemed, as many authors tried to get into the Guiness Book of Records by squeezing into Goldsboro Books. On the Wednesday I eschewed Fantasy Faction’s Grim Gathering (because of insufficient levels of grimness) and instead attended the Gollanczfest at Waterstones Piccadilly. This turned out to be an engaging audience with Patrick Rothfuss and then a series of short panels on genre identity, chaired by (I think) Simon Ings, Jaine Fenn and Sarah Pinborough, and including contributions from luminaries such as Adam Roberts, Connie Willis, Gavin Smith, Ben Aaronovitch and – in particularly impressive form – Joanne Harris. By this time, however, I had hit some kind of saturation point, and so instead of socialising I went and ate some noodles quietly with a good book, and felt much better for it.

And then the inexorable spiralling towards Loncon, in the manner of a spaceship crossing the event horizon of a black hole (5). This was my first Worldcon and… it was big, real big. I’m used to Eastercon or Fantasycon, say, where you can go into the one bar and say hi, and know around 40% of the faces there at least. Loncon3 was enormous, and the Excel centre was enormous, and weird (Den Patrick commented on Twitter that it looked like the Death Star on Casual Friday). It took me a while to find my feet, and because of being on those feet for the previous week, there were some decided ups and downs for me that were almost entirely internally generated. Overall, though, the whole business was extremely good, and very well run. Despite the enormous number of people, the venue never felt that crowded, although some of the panels certainly were. Lee Harris ran a semi-genre version of I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue (6), I did a bunch of panels (very nice one on tech in fantasy with Django Wexler and Robert Jackson Bennett among others, plus one on monsters run by my editor Julie Crisp, and including KJ Bishop, Tom Pollock and Rjurik Davidson in which I confessed my fondest wish to be a rust monster); both my reading and my kaffeeklatsch were well attended, and I kept up my enviable record of failing to strike up any meaningful conversation with George RR Martin (4 opportunities!); also I met a Canadian fan attending the convention via his remote mobile robot (kind of like Sheldon that one time in the BBT) which was a perfectly SFnal moment. I found time for a number of science panels, including one on gender and AI (special mention to GLADOS!) and a whole series on speculative evolution given by such luminaries as Darren Naish, Lewis Dartnell,  CM Kosemen (Snaiad), Gerte van Dijke (Furaha) and Dougal Dixon – one of my longtime heroes ever since I read After Man back when I was 16 or so.

And of course there were the Hugo awards, about which there have been some difficult politics this year (7), but the results spoke for themselves, all winners to be congratulated. Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice became the first book to win Hugo, Nebula and Clarke ever. Charles Stross took home the novella prize with Mary Robinette Kowal taking the novelette. Game of Thrones won the short form drama, confounding expectations of a British Dr Who victory (I got to offer commiserations to Peter Davison!). Justina Robson and Geoff Ryman were the hosts, and extreme string-pulling there led to me getting an invite to the after-party, which felt a bit like Bowman going into the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey, if that had involved rather more corridors and stairs. The remote Canadian robot also crashed the party. “I’ve only 38 minutes of battery life left,” it told me. “I feel the same way,” I confessed.

(1) Emphatically not the last in the Baxter/Pratchett science fiction series.

(2) If the word puts you off then the book is all the more important. It’s a very good grounding as to why feminism isn’t necessarily what you think, and why a patriarchical system isn’t on the side of (most) men any more than it’s on the side of women.

(3) Emphatically not Just a Minute, because the BBC objected.

(4) Okay, let’s talk about the hotel. The Radisson Blu Edwardian at Heathrow, which I’d previously visited at Eastercon a few years back, was the only damper on matters. It wasn’t the hotel, and it wasn’t the breakfasts (previously abominable but now quite satisfactory), but the service was terrible. Getting a drink at the bar could take an unconscionably large time even when there was no queue, and at the main restaurant/bar thing (Trunks?) this would usually be while you watched half a dozen staff just amble about performing no useful function known to man nor beast. I also note apocryphal rumours that turning up without your con badge would guarantee instantly improved service. Possibly it’s just that the staff are used to big tips from jetsetting businessmen. It would be unfortunate if the fact that the con had a very visible range of displayed genders, for example,  had contributed to this.

(5) If science has recently disproved the popular view of how black holes work then please substitute your own metaphor.

(6) The BBC’s lawyers even now sharpening their pencils.

(7) Not the Ross thing, the other thing.

Be Sociable, Share!