11 April 2012

Eastercon: Olympus 2012

This was my second Eastercon, and my first where I actually stayed nearby and went to bed late most nights. This means that I'm fairly tired now, and also that some of my recollections are a little hazy, especially post-Saturday.

My experience was of a fun, interesting time spent among friends. I was happy almost the entire time and was lucky enough to avoid the problems, issues and drama that involved others

I felt much more relaxed this time around. It helped that much of the weekend was spent with a group of convention friends, who I now consider to be good mates. In that respect the weekend was brilliant, because even when things got weird, or embarrassing or dull there were people there experiencing it with you.
I did talk to various other people I'd hoped to meet/catch up with (and may have babbled a bit at times, but those I babbled at nodded and smiled and seemed, at worst, bemused). I suppose I could have tracked down more people, but I didn't feel much urgency to do so. With 1,400 people in one place you aren't going to catch (or even see) everyone, and rushing about would probably have made the weekend less fun. I managed to have conversations with a couple of authors I really wanted to speak to, and comported myself in a coherent manner, so that's a plus.

I liked that there was much more emphasis on fantasy this year. The military SF theme worked last year, but it's not something I particularly seek out, whereas I love Fantasy.
I went to quite a lot of panels, covering diverse topics, here's a selection of the events that made up my Eastercon.

Mike Shevdon's archery demonstration was the first programme item I saw and it was entertaining and informative (us geeks do love a bit of knowledge with our fun). I know little of archery, but feel much more informed now. I'm also definitely going to see Pixar's Brave when it comes out in cinemas -I was already tempted, but now it's a must-see. The great thing about conventions is that you can go up to people in the bar later with follow-up questions and have a chat.

As a group we ate at the Pheasant, a pub and restaurant which was a short walk from the hotel. On our first visit we thought it looked a bit pricey, until we saw the portions. On our second visit some of us -me included- had starters instead of main courses, it was a wise move. Much enjoyable dinner conversation was had there.

Saturday morning saw three fascinating panels in a row.
-The Sufficiently Advanced Magic panel was so interesting. Great points were raised and the panelists were all involved in the debate and I came away with much to think on. I'm not too fussy when it comes to magic systems and like to see different ways of doing it, I think the discussion covered the range pretty well. There was also discussion about historical technology levels and how that will affect magic is secondary worlds. The only issue was that I couldn't see everyone who was speaking. I think this was one of the best panels of the whole con.
-The How pseudo do you like your Medieval panel was very interesting and it was good to hear about author's research methods and how they approached history. Juliet E. McKenna's point about historiography was brilliant! People often don't realise how history interacts with and is coloured by the present day.
-The Gender Parity panel was also good and brought up many things that did need to be said. It certainly gave me food for thought and again had rather excellent panellists who were all totally engaged in the debate they were having. Things have clearly improved (which is good) but more improvement is needed. It was good to see that there were plenty of men in the audience. It was also nice that the discussion did not become about blaming, it was more about recounting experiences and looking for improvements.

I was not impressed by the disco, it too long to get to the rock and metal, by which point I was so tired.
However special mention must go to Jaine Fenn for her dancing. We were so impressed by her that some of us made sure to go to a panel she was on next morning. She had dark glasses and much orange juice, but still made some good (if croaky) points.

Sunday saw more interesting panels, although there were a few I didn't manage to attend because I was too tired.
The Nature of Heroism panel was interesting and raised some good points. Of course an hour can only serve as an introduction to such a topic. I've heard people express a range of opinions that about the way this panel went, and typically for me I can see where people are coming from, even when their opinions vastly disagree.
I think Tricia Sullivan raised an excellent point that did need exploring, about women often being excluded from heroism because it is focused on the arena of combat. I think the way she did it lost her some audience support, especially in moments when it felt like she was targeting other panelists who were not in disagreement with her. For me it felt as though she was being negative and blaming certain works/subgenres, when a more positive approach (naming good examples, suggesting ways of increasing visibility) might have opened up the topic more. Having said that I was still impressed by various things that were said, especially Tricia's initial point that what makes a hero is context. I'm also planning to find out more about moderator David Anthony Durham who did a fine job and sounds like he has written interesting books.

I was at the BSFA awards, which were themselves fine. The intro caused much controversy, but for me I think it was overly long, embarrassing and only funny for those in the know. I suspect it was designed for a smaller, more specific audience, and I just had the feeling of being on the confused side of a generation gap. Also I started plaiting my hair out of boredom.

The last panel I attended on Monday was Dystopian YA, which was another panel where I couldn't really see who was saying what. I wish I had taken some notes, as various titles and authors were mentioned which I should mention to the Teenage Reading Group I co-run at work. Again all the panelists made good points and some great stuff was said about our own society (centred mostly around UK and US, but this was acknowledged and briefly discussed) and how dystopian and YA fiction represent that.

Over all a good time. I'm really, really hoping I can go to the next one.


  1. Catherine,

    Thanks for the mention! And I'm glad you enjoyed the panel.

    I agree that it was a good time. One of my favorite con experiences in a while, actually.

    All the best,


    1. David,
      I finally got around to reading Acacia (my to read pile is huge) and reviewed it this month. Though the post gets a bit rambly, but that's what I do.

  2. I really needed to take notes as well - so many interesting books and authors mentioned!

    I quite liked the panels where there was a little heat from the panelists, conflict where it has a generous spirit and honesty is a mind-changing thing. I was surprised that GRRM didn't go through the list of female chars in ASOIAF in response to Tricia appearing to put him in the gender stereotyping category. I think you summed it up where you point out that "she was targeting other panelists who were not in disagreement with her".

    The only negative for me as a first-time con goer was the slightly bitchy undertone that I overheard a number of times from ex-conrunners and next-conrunners aimed at the 2012 team. It all seemed a little childish and, had this con been any less excellent and were I any less geeky, might well have put me off the scene for life.

    As it is 2013, 2014 and 2014 are firm diary dates.

    My wife and I just need to find a fannish group near Stoke now!

    1. Luckily I managed to avoid the negativity that others witnessed/experienced. I didn't hear any vying between conrunners myself, but I'm fairly good at avoid/ignoring the negative (which can be a mixed blessing). The main low point for me was that a friend got caught up in some drama. With so many people all together, most of whom are connected somehow, I think that's there's always going to be something like that.
      Still, I'm glad to hear you've not been put off and hope you enjoy future events.

  3. Yeah, I agree about the disco. I got the impression that unless the DJs got requests, they were just going to play the same old stuff they saw as the sort of "classics" that get played at every con. So I think next time I'm going to go armed with a list of awesome to ask for.

    And yes, Jaine has definitely got moves and also writes awesome books too.

    1. Well she got a sale from a friend thanks to her dancing, and if I ever recommend her books at work I'll find a way of mentioning it.
      A group of us did get into a discussion about the role of dancing in publishing and book deals. :)