Somehow, at around 9:20am, I was actually ready to get started. Which was odd, because that was exactly what I’d planned – I usually expect to either be running late, or (more usually) to actually be ready a good half hour or so before I need to set off, leaving myself with nothing to do. Since things were going to plan, I headed round to pick up TheMadOne, who I was driving to what would be his first Eastercon.
Upon arriving at the Radisson Non-Euclidean I went to see if my room was ready, and was told “1 hour”. So we registered and then started scouring the programme grid, whilst waiting for a few IFIS folk to arrive.
Of course, having also volunteered to assist with lighting setup, I thought I’d better go and see if they needed a hand… and immediately spent the next hour or so putting colour into lanterns. They already had somebody there who’d got a plan (going by the name of Barndoor), and it was a good one, so I basically just did what was needed rather than trying to steer anything in any particular direction.
After a bit of doing that, I headed out to catch up with TheMadOne again and get checked in to my room. The catching up bit worked, but the checking in bit didn’t – the room still wasn’t ready. This time they told me 45 minutes. Conveniently, the IFIS crowd arrived (consisting of Flick, Mohammed and Noah, with Patric already present for the weekend), having decided to come and attend for just the Friday. Probably not the best day to aim for if you’re only around for the one day, but the one they chose… so fair enough. We’ll try to get some of them for longer in future.
For me, it was time to go back for tech… which this time meant clambering up the tech tower and driving the desk whilst Barndoor focussed things appropriately. There were a few test plottings thrown about to get the stage lit and looking passable, after which we called it a day on lighting setup. This was my cue to go and actually get on with the convention proper – checking in, chatting and going to programme items.
Getting with the Programme
For me, Friday’s programme contained the following items:
- Alien Archaeology (which I fled early)
- Writing Steampunk (which I joined a little late)
- SF – Taking TV shows from TV to audio
- UK vs. US TV – Which side of the pond makes better television?
- Opening Ceremony
- It’s Shit but we like it – Crap TV & film
- La Menace Vient De L’Espace (film)
I’ll expand on a couple of the high points below… this doesn’t mean the rest was crap, just that I can’t think of anything meaningful to say about them in this context!
Moderated by Stephen Hunt (author of “Court of The Air”, etc…), the rest of this panel also consisted of Kim Lakin-Smith, Paul Skevington and Alastair Reynolds, whose latest book (Terminal World) has steampunk leanings… All in all an interesting panel, dwellng on a whole range of topics, starting with the decline of the “punk” part of the genre name and the rise of the tendency to add “punk” to the end of anything to make it into a genre and moving, through the idea of divisions between steampunk and dieselpunk, then on to the idea of steam being the last accessible technology.
The latter of those is one that interests me because while steam power has the appearance of being something that anybody can understand… it’s not quite that simple. There’s not many folks out there who’d be able to build a multiple expansion steam engine, or even understand the operation of one… but you can see it working. You can look at it and see bits move. Modern tech, you can’t see things move the same way… but it’s still accessible in it’s own way with just a bit of knowledge and a few tools. The growing hacker/maker community out there can attest to that – people who, for the sake of it, pull modern tech apart and do weird things with it. Curiously, there’s also something of a crossover between steampunk enthusiasts and hackers and makers… I guess it’s just about loving the idea of being in control of technology rather than the other way around.
Another interesting point raised, but not covered in much detail as it crossed into the topic of another panel was the similarity between scientific romance and steampunk. Where does one end and the other start? In effect, both tend to be hypothesized alternate futures, extrapolated from victorian steam power. The difference in those cases is merely the time and environment in which they were written. It’s an interesting idea, and one that I’d have quite like to have heard more discussion on, as I couldn’t make the other panel.
Right near the end, the guy who was running sound for the panel (in fantastic steampunk garb) recommended the anime “Last Exile” – a recommendation I would like to second very firmly. It’s a bit more dieselpunk than steampunk, but still thoroughly awesome. Interested folks can see the opening sequence on youtube.
SF – Taking Shows From TV to Audio
This panel was moderated by Maura McHugh, and otherwise made up of Nickey Barnard, David Bishop, James Swallow and Rob Shearman. Amongst that crowd there was a lot of experience from adapting Judge Dredd, Sapphire and Steel, Blakes 7 and Doctor Who into audio form, amongst others.
I own a few Big Finish productions of Sapphire and Steel and I have the first three reimagined audio dramas of Blakes 7, and have generally enjoyed audio dramas for a long time… I’ve also considered getting into making audio dramas or audio books myself on a strictly amateur basis. Some of the comments in this panel about the freedom of audio remind me of part of why I like this kind of thing – there’s a lot of creative freedom when you don’t have to represent anything visually. Likewise, some of the comments gave me good advice about what works and what doesn’t – small casts, simple and clear stories and situations.
If I ever do get around to writing or recording some audio drama, I think I might actually do a better job after this panel, even though I wouldn’t be working with established settings or characters.
It’s Shit But We Like It – Crap TV & Film
I can remember so little detail from this increasingly raucous and unstructured panel – but in broad strokes it could best be described as a cavalcade of entertaining toss. There was some discussion of what was and was not shit, but mostly it was just a barrage of audience members bouncing out their guilty pleasures for everyone to hear.
I refrained from mentioning my own favourite cinematic turd – “Wizards of the Lost Kingdom” – because a) it’s not well known enough for anybody else to really grasp the atrocity and b) the reason I like it isn’t because I enjoy watching it, but because I enjoy watching other people watching it… it’s hilarious! Next time, I shall bring a DVD to the con.
La Menace Vient De L’Espace
A fantastic short film. It’s a french film, although it’s in two spoken languages – French and Prot
ocole 123, which is a numerical language. It’s incredibly funny on many levels. Spelling and language are being replaced by a method of numerical communication called Protocole 123, until an opponent of that change is killed. The film follows the investigation of that murder.
This took me up to around 12:30am. That’s pretty early for a convention night, but after a full week of work and a fairly full day, I thought it was time to call it a night. The room was good and comfortable, and after a wash, a bit of time on the ‘net an a bit of a read, I nodded off without any trouble.
When I get some time, I’ll write up the following days of the convention as well.