Saturday, 11 April 2015

Dysprosium Day One

For which I wore my LonCon tshirt, of course.
I put myself in the hands of my native guide (who lives in London so understands things like Oystercards and the map of the Underground) and we reached Heathrow without any problem. Then it was a short, free, bus ride to the hotel, Park Inn, in the company of several other fans.
It's a very nice hotel. Our room was huge, with a view of aircraft taking off nearby (but quiet), and the staff were friendly.
The first thing I needed to do after Registration was to find the Art Room. I brought two emboideries along - thinking that it would just be an art show of fan work. It was a bit overwhelming to find that there were a lot of professional artists, including Jim Burns, Anne Sudworth and Fangorn, all of whose work I'd seen and admired at LonCon. In one corner was an exhibition of Herr Doktor's work, including a magnificent Martian fighting machine from HG Wells (he grew up close to where the Martians landed) and a piece that had been exhibited at the Longitude Exhibition at Greenwich, which was (he explained in a panel later) the most intricate doll's house he could manage, depicting a beacon which would be 50 miles above the Earth's surface to enable shipping to work out exactly where they were. And how were they going to get the beacon and crew fifty miles up? "That is a job for engineers - I am a visionary!" it said on the card.
There was quite a queue for the Opening Ceremony in the corridor - this was also the area where there were tables for various WorldCon bids and the Registration Desk, and the British Interplanetary Society (and another real space society whose name I can't remember).
So we were welcomed to the Con, informed that the person with the duck on top of their hat was in charge (whichever member of the committee that might be) and the location of the Real Ale Bar, and introduced to the guests of honour. Herr Doktor was very dapper (I think he was wearing his top hat on that occasion) and introduced himself as a mad scientist. Jim Butcher looked out over the audience like a rabbit caught in the headlights - due to jetlag; he'd had problems with flights. Seanan McGuire was suffering from jetlag too. "Everything is lizards!" she announced cheerfully. Caroline Mullen was the fourth Guest of Honour, but I'm afraid I know nothing about her, as we didn't manage to get to any of the panels she was on. Professor Elemental was also on stage, in his pith helmet - he was doing the entertainment that evening. There was also a short slide show commemorating all the SF people who had died over the last year, starting with Terry Pratchett and finishing with Leonard Nimoy.
We stayed in Discovery, the biggest room, with the proper stage, for the first panel; The Things We Learned from Pratchett.
Incidentally, I was impressed to see the wheelchair lift to the stage, and the wheelchair parking spots along the aisles. There were quite a few people at the Con getting about on mobility scooters and there were also ribbons available to wear which said "Invisible Disability" so that others were made aware.
Anyway, an enjoyable hour of discussion about Sir Terry's work followed - interestingly, both the Americans came to Discworld via Soul Music, which was apparently the first Discworld novel to really make it in the States.
Then it was down to the other end of the Conference Suite to the panel on The Marvel Cinematic Universe. The organisers had left plenty of time to get from one panel to the next, as there was a long corridor between the two areas, which was being used as the dealers' rooms. The Real Ale bar was in the central space of the Aviator Suite, of which Bleriot was the biggest room. An hour of talking about Marvel superheroes was followed in the same room by A Joy of Steampunk, where the panel was formed of Herr Doktor, Dr Geof (who also had a dealers' table), Sydney Padua (who has a web comic), Professor Elemental (who performs chap hop), and Major Tinker (one of the organisers of Lincoln Asylum - I recognised him from the burlesque show when we went up there. He wasn't performing burlesque - he was acting as the innocent Scout Master behind whose back all sorts of naughty things were going on.
I think the consensus was that everyone has their own definition of Steampunk, and that's fine, because it's all about being creative with history and costume and making things and writing and art.
We decided to splash out and go for a dinner voucher. To make it easier for the staff, money was only changing hands at the hotel reception, and then you took a voucher for lunch or dinner and handed it in. It was £18 for three courses, which that night were Chinese dishes. It was all self service from the buffet, and a very fine meal.
In the evening, we were in a Dark Room.
This was a show put on by John Robertson, based around the idea of the old-fashioned text based computer games where you choose options - in this case, all options seemed to lead to DEATH!
A volunteer from the audience (called Darren - they were all called Darren whether they liked it or not) chose the options, and after a few goes the rest of the audience was able to chant along: "You awake to find yourself in a Dark Room," and some of the options, which got steadily more bizarre the further it went.
John Robertson is performing the Dark Room at the Udderbelly Festival - the purple tent thing that looks like an upside down cow on the riverbank at Southwark. We were quoting bits of the show and giggling for the rest of the weekend.
And to round the evening off was Professor Elemental, getting everyone dancing as he performed his songs. He also stars in a comic, copies of which were available, along with CDs, at the end of the show.

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