A Knife! A Knife! My Kingdom for a Knife! (AKA: Breakfast)
The food was being brought out at a reasonably adeuate rate, so I was able to have the full fry-up, toast and fruit extravaganza… which, as mentioned in my saturday writeup was slightly underwhelming but still perfectly adequate. However, this time there seemed to be a distinct absence of knives. It wasn’t immedialy obvious at first due to the “pot luck cutlery” approach the hotel used – displaying the cutlery handles only, so you couldn’t see what you had until you’d pulled it out of the containing napkin to look. Annoyingly, every time you asked a member of staff for a knife, they’d nod and wander off, then later be seen bringing out more food… and no knives. Every now and then, one of them would wander over and check to see if any had miraculously appeared, and would then wander off and reappear… with no knives.
Eventually, when I was halfway through eating with just a fork, some knives did appear. I pity anybody who was sat further into the room, as I don’t think they’d made it to the breakfast buffet table before the poor chap carrying them had been swamped with people demanding cutlery. I was sat right next to the door he came in through and there were people who’d got to him before I did!
Panel: Big Biology – What are the biggest biological tropes in SF
I attempted to attend this panel, but it was heavy duty thinky stuff. At 10am. I should have known better! It sounded interesting. It probably was interesting, but my brain hadn’t finished its POST yet, let alone fully booted. I stayed about 20 minutes then quietly slipped out. I needed something to kick me to life, so I grabbed something that was a passable imitation of a cup of tea and had a bit of a chat with a few folks whilst waiting for the next item to start.
Guest of Honour Talk: Alastair Reynolds
I’d been quite looking forward to this item, as I’m something of an Alastair Reynolds fan… but the blurb in the readme did look suspiciously similar to what he’d presented at Picocon in February, so I wasn’t going to be overly worried if I missed it. As it happens, I’m reliably informed that it was quite similar, although still very interesting, but with the main difference being the addition of some technical issues.
Not really a problem for me. I was expecting to have to duck out early to go and meet Beth (t’other half) who was coming along for the day, and so had deliberately garbbed a truly sucky seat near an exit. Sure enough, just as the first round of technical issues got resolved, I got an “I’ve arrived” text message. So I pulled the ripcord and discreetly baled out of the talk to go and meet her.
Beth’s never been to an Eastercon (or anything similar) before, so we spent the rest of this slot making sure we knew what we were doing, and getting some kind of idea of where & when we’d meet up and what programme items we both wanted to go to. Beth was keen to go to a number of the less SFnal items, whilst I was keen to go to the more SFnal ones… this didn’t surprise me at all, and there was enough on that it wasn’t a problem.
Medieval Combat and Rapier Demonstration by the SCA
Beth’s a (currently slightly lapsed) re-enactor. I’m an ex-fencer and (lapsed) rubber sword LARPer. Bearing those facts in mind, we kind of had to go to this. It was interesting enough, although the blurb was a little misleading as there wasn’t much by way of rapier, which was our main interest. However, it was a good and entertaining item – it’s not often you get to see armoured people beating the hell out of each other in a wood-panelled hotel function room with chandelier lighting.
All good fun, basically.
Panel: Approaches to Writing – Iain M Banks & Ken Macleod
I know I went to this panel, but clearly I was caught in a temporal anomaly or somesuch, as I have no recollection of it at all beyond the fact that I was there. I also have no notes from it, and no photos, which is just plain weird.
I’m sure it was good, and it’s merely that some kind of godlike post-singularity AI has reached back and edited it out of my memories for some reason.
Pyrotechnics: And The Walls Came Tumbling Down
Stephen Miller delivered an interesting and entertaining presentation (with live demonstrations) about pyrotechnics for film and TV. In the talk, he was working through a number of effects shots from the film “The Fall” (which I now want to see!)… but he started with a couple of more generic demonstrations. The first was a demonstration of why all mobiles had to be turned off – he simply set up a small explosive behind safety screens on the stage, then walked clear and turned on a phone and waited for a short time. Sure enough,a few seconds later there was a loud bang and I felt the warm trickle of somebody else’s tea or coffee down my back.
Thanks mr-guy-behind-me-in-the-audience! Actually, if mr-guy-behind-me-in-the-audience is reading this – don’t worry about it in the slightest! It only got me a little bit… it was just unexpected!
He then took us through the effects for a gunshot, then for the bullet hit. After that came fizzing fuses, and then at the end was a massive building detonation. The talk took us through all kinds of stuff, like how detonators work, how nailboards work for timing things in sequence, using a napthalene burst to add in smoke and orange flame and so on…
All good and interesting stuff that started to tempt my inner pyromaniac…
Guest of Honour Interview: Mike Carey
Despite having read much more by both Alastair Reynolds and Iain M Banks, this was the interview I’d been waiting for – partly because I’ve not read the entirity of his back catalogue – there’s enough in there that’s still new to me that it’s interesting to see where it goes.
I’ve read some of Mike Carey’s Lucifer comics, some of his run on Hellblazer, and have recently started in on both his Felix Castor novels and on his newer comic – The Unwritten. Lucifer is interesting and I’d like to read more, but it’s a way down the list. Hellblazer… well, it’s Hellblazer. Felix Castor, though… I just can’t put them down. When I pick one up and get started, I just push on through until it’s gone. The only reason I’ve not read the lot is that my local bookshop didn’t have the first three, so I’ve been having to order them!
So having Mike Carey being interviewed by Paul Cornell – where could this possibly go wrong? True enough, it didn’t. Basically, the interview was a bit of a travelogue through his catalogue of works in both comics and novels, with some discussion of TV and film in there as well. Hearing about works I’ve not come across yet – even ill-fated ones that ended before their time – has left me intrigued and wanting to find out more.
The only place it did fall down a bit was with a bit of an odd non-question at the end… after which they decided to sneak another question in despite being out of time so it could wind up with something other than a compaint about a plot point an audience member didn’t like. I think that was the right move, and left things with a good tidy ending.
I’ve got no idea what I did for the next two hours. I think there was some atrium chatting and I made an abortive attempt to listen to the Liz Williams guest of honour interview… I’ve found Liz Williams to be a compelling speaker before – enough to turn me from not being interested in her books to having picked one up and quite liked it (and planning to read more), but this interview just left me cold. I don’t really know why – perhaps just covering ground I’d heard her speak on before, or perhaps just taking a direction in th
e interview that didn’t grab me.
In the end I basically had a two hour gap with occasional bursts of programme, before going and retrieving Beth from the calligraphy workshop she’d been attending. Once the calligraphy tools had been appropriately cleared away, we regrouped for food before setting off for the next programme item…
Harry Potter and The Half Cut Prince – A Musical
A phrase leaps to mind:
Dear God. Why. Why, God? Why?
But in all the good ways. This was a highly entertaining rehashed musical version of Harry Potter, mashed up with a bit of Doctor Who and The Rocky Horror Show. It was thoroughly improper, full of atrocious puns and worse dialogue. The songs were an exercise in lyrical torture…
In short, it was glorious. I hardly stopped laughing the whole time. Mr Ian Sorenson and your varied and occasionally unwitting cast, I salute you!
As I mentioned a short while ago, this was the second time I’d seen Mitch Benn in about 10 days. As a result, some of the act wasn’t exactly new and fresh to me, but it was still very well performed and very entertaining. Highpoints were the songs “doctor who girl” and “Mitch Benn’s Musical Version of The Very Hungry Caterpillar“… and the audience request of singing “Crap Shag” (a song he doesn’t like performing anymore) in a dalek voice. The fact that he managed it at all was frankly terrifying, and also stragely awesome.
Steampunk Ball with Ghostfire
To close out the evening, there was the Steampunk Ball – many folks dressed in steampunk finery… myself and Beth included. Although I wouldn’t call mine “finery”, as I was deliberately aiming for the “steampunk navvy” look rather than a gentleman engineer. Alas, I didn’t get many photos of folks in their costumes, but there are plenty more starting to appear out on the net already. I just didn’t want to be walking around with my camera out as it kind of spoiled the look… Unlike somebody else, who had a steampunked point and shoot digital camera, which was awesome on so many levels.
The band (Ghostfire) took some getting used to, though. Some of their music was great… some not so much. I think in some cases it was more an issue with the sound mix – in other cases it just sounded like the music and vocals didn’t quite match up. As the night progressed that seemed to all come together, though. What was annoying, though, was that their set was broken up – whenever they’d managed to get things going and got people out on the dancefloor (as usual, not including me!), they stopped for a 20 minute break. I also think they were having trouble getting that atmosphere going as the houselights were staying on the whole time… without those, or with them being dimmer, people may have been more inclined to get up and dance a bit! I may not be a dancer myself (more a “falling over in perfect time” person when I try), but I’ve worked enough gigs and club nights to know that houselights kill the mood.
Still, it was a good night and I got into the gig as it progressed. We chatted a bit with a few other folks around the place, and had photos taken by several folks – probably more due to Beth’s costume than mine. In next to no time she’d cobbled together enough garb to thoroughly upstage me, as usual! Still, I’m not about to compain about having a girlfriend who regularly looks far better than I do!
However, Beth was only a day member of the convention. Which meant she had to get home after the ball or she’d turn into a pumpkin, or something. So the ball ended for us when we reached the point where I wasn’t going to be awake enough to drive her home and then get myself back to the Hotel. The drive was an enlightening one… It usually takes about 25-30 minutes. But if I do it at around half one in the morning, it takes about 10-12 minutes. I was back at the hotel around 2am, but the sudden fresh air outside and the drive had done for me… so I retreated to bed.
Thus ended Eastercon day 3 for me.