So, that's us back then. I see you haven't tidied up any while I've been away. What are all these bottles doing here...?
Anyway. Yes. EasterCon was a blast. In case any of you don't know, this year's British Science Fiction Convention was held at the Radisson Edwardian hotel, about two hundred yards north of the North Runway at Heathrow. Guests of honour were Charlie Stross, China Mieville, Neil Gaiman and Tanith Lee, and Fan Guest of Honour was the very mighty Rog Peyton. It ran from Friday last week to yesterday. Have I said it was a blast? Well, it was.
On Friday, we decided to take things easy, not rush, take our time getting ready and driving down to Heathrow. We missed the opening ceremony, but we always miss the opening ceremony. I don't think we've ever seen one.
Because I left it so late doing the bookings, the Radisson was full, so we were in the Renaissance, another hotel about three hundred yards up the A4 from the Radisson and roughly a hundred yards closer to the North Runway. We did not, to Bogna's disappointment, get a room that actually overlooked the runway. We had to make do with watching the planes taking off and landing while we were having breakfast (the dining room looked out to the runway) and standing like fools in the car park on the way back from the Radisson in the evening.
Actually, I was surprised how quiet it was there. I mean, I know the hotels down there are soundproofed to levels beyond human imagination and the planes weren't actually flying right over the rooftops at an altitude of about a thousand feet, the way they do when they come in over Cranford and Halton and Colnbrook, but even when we were standing shivering outside the Radisson having a ciggie the traffic on the A4 seemed louder. Odd. I still wouldn't like to live there, anyway. Although people do. The villages of Sipson and Harmondsworth are right there.
The presiding spirit of EasterCon this year was: cold. The weather outside was freezing; we had snow, we had rain, we had hail, we had high winds. Our room at the Renaissance was really cold and nothing we did changed that. We checked in and went across the road to the Radisson, where the dealers' room was so warm that I started to feel rather ill, so I went for a wander. When I came back it was time for the launch of Celebration and Myth-Understandings, two books edited by Ian Whates and much to be recommended. The launch went fine, and while we were milling about afterward something odd happened. A complete stranger came up to me, said in a broad New Zealand accent that he'd been looking for me, and would I mind signing a book for him. This doesn't happen to me very often (in fact the only time it's ever happened was at the last EasterCon we went to, in Glasgow, where someone came up after the disastrous `How To Get Published' panel and asked if I'd sign a copy of As The Crow Flies) so I sort of babbled that I'd be happy to, and he opened his bag and took out the copy of Year's Best Fantasy and Horror with `The Pavement Artist' in it and asked me to sign the contents page. Then he took out a notebook, flipped through it, and handed me a page torn from another book, which turned out to be the contents page of the original Strange Pleasures, the one I had a story in, and asked me to sign that too. I thought that was the strangest thing. He'd obviously memorised the names of all the people in those books and he was wandering round the con checking out badges until he found a name he recognised. He was a really nice bloke - later in the weekend we discussed how England are bitch-slapping New Zealand in the cricket at the moment - but that was a strange moment. (Even stranger was looking at the contents page for SP for the first time in mumble-mumble years and seeing who else was in it. Neal Asher was there. I can't wait to remind him.
So, after that we went to a panel - and you'll have to forgive me but I've forgotten what it was about (they all kind of blur into each other after a while) in the main hall, which was absolutely freezing - Bogna had to leave halfway through to warm up a bit. And that kind of set the tone for the weekend as far as we were concerned. It was really cold.
Of course, we didn't get to all the panels we wanted to. We never do. Some of them clash with each other. Some of them clash with incidentals like getting lunch. Some of them clash with conversations you don't want to leave. For me the high-spots were a panel on London in fantastic fiction, with Geoff Ryman, Neil Gaiman, Graham Sleight and someone else whose name escapes me because I'm really tired - that was an absolutely brilliant panel, best I've ever seen - and one on HP Lovecraft with Charlie, China, a Scandinavian writer whose name I missed because I got there late, and chaired by Roz Kaveney, which was excellent. The rest were uniformly good, but those stood out.
What else? We spent a lot of time on the BSFA/NewCon Books table, partly because I like being in the dealers' room selling stuff (and we managed to unload a couple more copies of SP2) and partly because it meant we could enjoy the company of The Two Ians, Whates and Watson, who we are most fond of. Chatting to Charlie about how in god's name he manages to write so much when there are only so many hours in a day and he seems to be permanently on the road. Listening to Bogna chatting to Geoff Ryman and Chris Priest at a Scandinavian party. Finally meeting Sarah Singleton, who Thog and I published in SP2. Standing under the Radisson's canopy having a smoke and watching soft hail sifting down out of the sky and bouncing off the parked cars while intercontinental jets took off on the other side of the road. Buying books (my second-favourite thing) in the dealers' room - I got hold of a copy of a marvellous new book of critical essays by Paul Kincaid; the book's called What It Is We Do When We Read Science Fiction and I've only dipped into it so far, but the piece on Keith Roberts' The Furies is worth the cover price alone and his essays on Priest are marvellous. I also finally managed to find a couple of early Dante Valentine novels by our very own lilithsaintcrow, one of which I'm currently enjoying immensely, as well as some Colin Kapp novels I'd never seen before. And some other books. Lots of other books. Not as many other books as I would have liked.
The food at the Radisson was terrific, and we wound up eating there every night apart from Monday, when we ate at the Renaissance, and the food was just as good there, although the coffee sucked.
We missed the opening ceremony, but we did make the closing ceremony, and it was very very good. One of the very best things about going to stuff like this is the enormous sense of community involved, and the closing ceremony was just that. It was warm, it was inclusive, and we all felt like part of a family.
All in all, I thought this year's EasterCon went really well, and the organising committee should be congratulated to the limits of endurance for their work. As should the staff at the Radisson, who were brilliant the whole weekend and seemed to enjoy it as much as we did. EasterCon returns to the Radisson in 2010 and we'll be there. I'll book earlier next time, so we don't have to walk back and forth between hotels. Although I'll miss watching the planes taking off and landing at breakfast.
But enough of this. All you want to see is the piccies, isn't it? Well, I warn you, they aren't very good.
This is Ian McDonald, who had just won the Best Novel award for Brasyl. Behind him is Charlie Stross, and in the background are Ian Whates and China Mieville and Ian Watson in conversaton. The chap at the right is Andy Bigwood, who won Best Artist.
This is the BSFA/NewCon table in the dealers' room. From left to right we have Ian Whates, Neil Bond, Ian Watson, Donna Scott, and Bogna.
And a moment later everyone just lost interest in having their picture taken.
And that's about it for this evening. I'm aware I have email and other stuff to deal with, and I'll do that over the next couple of days. I'm going to the launch of Paul Kincaid's book tomorrow evening and I might be home late, and I'm out on Thursday night and will be home late, but I'll be in touch.