Remember the good old 1980s? I thought I did - I went to the Metropole Hotel at Birmingham International airport several times for Star Trek Conventions.
It's all changed, of course. I remember walking across to the hotel from the station, but this time we were very happy to take the courtesy bus, because I didn't recognise anything! There's a whole new building next to the lake called Resort World - where we found a nice place to eat and sample interesting beers from round the world called World Bar. The Young Man was especially pleased to find some Icelandic Einstock beer.
Since we'd arrived early, we volunteered to help with the setting up. In the end, there wasn't much for us to do beyond moving some panels about, setting chairs out, and cheering the Thunderbird-esque machine which trundled into the middle of the dealers' room so that Tech could run cables across the ceiling with skyhooks. We also spent some time chatting to a very interesting couple who seemed to know everything there was to know about running conventions - so it was lovely to see them accepting the Doc Weir Award for fans who work hard behind the scenes, at the Closing Ceremony on Monday.
On Friday, our first costumes of the weekend were Steampunk Victorian adventurers. As Miss Amelia Harper, I'd just come out of the desert where I'd been digging a lost city with Gertrude Bell, and the Young Man was Cutter Conway, world traveller - and willing to indulge in various shady dealings for the right price.
The first panel we went to was From LGBT to QUILTBAG, talking about all the different varieties of gender and sexuality, and how they can be incorporated in SF and Fantasy, so that stories are more realistically diverse.
The history of comics was next, with Jack Kirby at 100 - I hadn't realised just how wide his influence was.
The panel on Preparing Your Manuscript for Submission was well attended, and the lady running it, Joanne Hall, who works for Kristell Ink as acquisitions editor, gave a lot of sensible advice.
Then it was time for The Explosive Opening Ceremony, at which the guests of honour were introduced. These were Colin Harris, fan and scientist, Pat Cadigan, writer, and Judith Clute, artist.
And then Dr Emma King took over for the explosive part. She workfor the Royal Institution in an educational capacity which seems to involve blowing a lot of things up!
Here's a photo taken by David Lascelles, where she had three children on stage as volunteers, who had to put an asprin into a film canister with some water, and then run like mad to the other side of the stage before it blew up!
I had taken a short piece of writing to read out at the Open Mic - but the room had problems with the lights, and nobody could find the person who was supposed to be organising it, so we headed off to the fan lounge to eat before the stalls closed at 8pm. We ate very well over the weekend, and there was a constantly changing variety of food on offer - we never did get round to the Jamaican goat curry, though the Thai green curry was very nice. And we were also in the right place for the last event of our evening - a Literary Beer with Russell Smith: