dc: The Doctor looking out from Laurel & Hardy film (fez)
[personal profile] dc
It's difficult enough getting back into the rhythm of regularly updating without dropped internet connections and Dreamwidth eating a (complete!) entry. This is the third attempt at updating since Eastercon... fingers crossed.

Anyway, I went to Eastercon — Illustrious, held at the Birmingham Hilton Metropole (or some arrangement of those words) by the NEC. If you want the one-line summary, I can't beat Dave Langford's: a pleasant weekend in a painfully pricy venue.

No getting away from it, that was an expensive place to stay. Non-con food prices were eye-watering. Fifteen pounds for a burger and chips. Admittedly, a very good burger (second best I've ever had, and the best in the UK), but, still, a burger. The room rate was (as is well known) higher than the con had wanted, and the rooms were pretty average for this class of hotel. However, the convention space — spread out on one level, so there were few stairs to navigate — was very good, in particular the arrangement of Dealers' Room and Fan Lounge, next to each other with a communicating door. Green Room and Newsletter were slightly off to one side, and the hotel's rigid NO POSTERS policy did mean that some of us got lost trying to find our way back from them at the start of the con (the hotel eventually put up a sign which helped). The programme rooms were adequate, but — and it is a big but — there seemed to be either an inadequate air conditioning system or the hotel staff didn't know how to operate it, since many of the rooms were consistently hot throughout the con. The heat made it very difficult to stay awake during excellent items, and also caused me some problems with my contact lenses drying out; pretty trivial, though, compared with another con member who had a serious medical problem triggered by the heat in one room.

Fortunately, I had at some point forgotten my previous resolutions and agreed to be Gopher Mum: the aircon in Gopher Hole worked. I had some concerns before the con whether we'd have enough gophers: a lot of people who would normally do some gophering couldn't make it this year, and some were only coming for a day. In the event, we got a lot of volunteers, many of them at their first Eastercon, and they did a superb job, working well as a team. It made my job very easy, which was very good. The Gopher Hole had a good atmosphere and was pretty fun to hang out in, so much so that on the Friday night Ops shut up shop and moved in with us for a while.

What I saw of the programme was interesting; I heard rumours of panels wandering well away from their supposed subject matter, or not being very well moderated, but I didn't see any of that. The Hay lecture in particular was ace, despite the oven-like room. David Weber, the one GoH I really knew nothing much about before the con, was very engaging and I came away wanting to try his books — and I can do that for free via Baen's web site. Nice. The poly meet-up on the Friday night went well, starting slightly awkwardly as always before we got settled into interesting and wide-ranging chat. It seems to be an item which fulfils a purpose, I hope there shall be one at Olympus next year. One aspect of the programme which was interesting was the idea to use 90-minute slots: the item should run no more than one hour, giving half an hour for toilet/food/drink breaks and getting to and from other items. I believe this was [livejournal.com profile] lproven's idea, and it seemed to achieve the more relaxed atmosphere intended.

Every con has its brown-trouser moment, I suppose (I still sweat thinking of Satellite 1, when we were minutes from the opening ceremony and the speaker for the first item still hadn't arrived, having got lost en route). This year it was Doctor bloody Who. The business of getting the room emptied from the previous item and having the queue form (it was a very long queue) went smoothly. And then, fifteen minutes before broadcast time, the digibox failed... The tech team worked feverishly and got some very effective help from a member of the hotel staff. Literally with less than a minute to go, they got an internet stream of the programme and screened that. (At the closing ceremony and later the Dead Dog, the failed digibox was ritually smashed.) Phew doesn't cover it. The episode, thankfully, was worth the hassle.

From what I could see of it, the LRP looked like lots of fun, though the organiser did say at one point, They will keep fighting! They are allowed to shoot each other, they're not supposed to fight! I did like the idea of having a small bar as part of the LRP space, open to all con members — real ale available there too. Which reminds me, the real ale (and cider) selection in the fan lounge was excellent, the only problem was the bar staff manning the real ale bar didn't know anything about it; they couldn't even say which beers were light and which were dark. (They weren't even clear on the fact that all the ales there were real ale!) But it was all good...

As well as the programme, etc., it was good to get the chance to hang out with some of my favourite people (this is the main thing I like about cons, to be honest), though maybe not as much as I would have liked to given the Gopher Mumming. The excellent [livejournal.com profile] sigisgrim had a small and much appreciated gift on my arrival which helped my con go much more smoothly: a bag of good ground coffee. (I had a combination mug/cafetiere, so all I needed was hot water...) It was delightful to get time with [livejournal.com profile] pogodragon and Ann again, and as always [livejournal.com profile] banhe and I ended up pushing books at each other. Many of the gophers were people I hadn't met before, but they were a good gang to hang out with. [livejournal.com profile] dmwcarol made it along for a while, it was very good to see her, especially given the stresses she's been through lately.

On the whole, I don't think I've enjoyed an Eastercon more than I did Illustrious; maybe a couple just as much, but this was a very relaxed and fun con. A remarkably smooth-running one, too, on the day. The tech team under [personal profile] crazyscot seemed excellent, and communication and coordination with them was smooth and efficient. Green room were excellent and very determined to look after panellists, pursuing me one day with coffee because they hadn't been able to get it to me for the (very early!) panel I had been on. This was good.

I think this is going to be one of those cons that leaves fond memories which last for years. Nice one, [livejournal.com profile] sharikkamur.

Plan for next year: do less, hang out more.

(no subject)

Date: 2011-05-19 09:31 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pogodragon.livejournal.com
[livejournal.com profile] pogodragon!

I'm an LJ user, I cross post some of my stuff to DW but I don't read there or consider it anything like a primary journal.

It was a fun con, pretty much ... erm, what you said there I think. There was stuff that went well, stuff that went less well but overall it was really rather good.

(no subject)

Date: 2011-05-19 09:45 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tanngrisnir.livejournal.com
Slip of the mouse, sorry.

It was, wasn't it?

(no subject)

Date: 2011-05-19 09:49 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pogodragon.livejournal.com
It was indeed. I was mainly sorry that I've not enjoyed the HH books I've tried. Mr Weber was such a great GoH that I feel quite guilty about it.

(no subject)

Date: 2011-05-19 09:56 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tanngrisnir.livejournal.com
I know what you mean; I may well end up feeling similar when I try them. :)

(no subject)

Date: 2011-05-19 10:19 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alexmc.livejournal.com
> In the event, we got a lot of volunteers, many of them at their first Eastercon, and they did a superb job, working well as a team. It made my job very easy, which was very good. The Gopher Hole had a good atmosphere and was pretty fun to hang out in,

Worth repeating. I think a good lot of gophers can really make a con work well.

Thanks to all who volunteered.

(no subject)

Date: 2011-05-19 12:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dalg.livejournal.com
Sounds like a good time was had despite the £15 burger !!! That's seriously overpriced.

Not seen you in ages, good to at least see you posting again.

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