Novacon 42 – 9th– 11th November 2012
A science fiction convention report by Pauline Morgan.
Long, long ago (1971) in a city far, far away – well Birmingham, actually – a group of Aston University students and Vernon Brown reassembled after the Easter break and bemoaned the fact that there would not be another SF convention for a whole year. (Comic Conventions didn’t count.) So they decided to hold their own. Thus Novacon was born. Six very sad people have been to every one! This year, forty-one years later, they reassemble, along with about two hundred and fifty other people in a hotel in Nottingham, for Novacon 42.
Traditionally, Guests-of-Honour have been either fans who have given a lot to fandom or professional writers who are or have been fans. This year’s GoH was Jaine Fenn, author of four novels and a long-time fan.
In many respects, Novacon is very traditional. Attendees know what to expect and if anything the programming lacks edge, not that most regular fans attend much of that. For anyone who has never been to an SF convention, this is a good one to begin with. There are not too many people, it is possible to find all the programme rooms and to actually meet up with the people you want to. Other conventions are much larger.
First stop on arrival, after having picked up your badge and programme, is the Dealers’ Room. This is the place to look for those books you missed first time round. Other than small press publishers such as Newcom Press, new books are sparse, possibly as most readers now buy on–line or download as eBooks. Other than books, there are several stalls selling crafts such as hand-made or limited edition cards and Yvonne Meaney (author John Meaney’s wife) will make you a waistcoat from one of her wide selection of exotic materials. Missing this year is the jewellery but you can join several forthcoming conventions, the next two Eastercons and the World Con in 2014 among others.
Downstairs is the Art Show. Excellently organised by Serena Culfeather, the material on display caters for variable tastes and pockets (much will be on sale in Sunday’s auction). David A. Hardy always has a number of examples of his astroart in various media – a few originals, evocative photographs and limited edition digital works. Often he produces an unexpected item. This year it is a selection of limited edition bumper stickers. The most magnificent item on show is not for sale. Peter Harman constructs the most inventive Steam Punk paraphernalia. This year’s offering is the ‘must have’ vampire killing kit. Enclosed in a large, portable wooden case it has a variety delightfully adapted objects. It has to be seen to be fully appreciated. The show also introduced artist, Alex Storer, who is exhibiting for the first time at any con. He admits that he still has a lot to learn but his digital art is very promising and someone I am sure we will see more from. The Art Auction on Sunday sees the regular team back together (they allowed new blood to try out at Eastercon). Chris Morgan and Rog Peyton persuade punters to part with cash to help support the starving artist.
Next door to the Art Show is the room where Dave Lally lurks, inviting members to join him in viewing some his favourite films and videos. The other side of the Art Show is a room labelled ‘Off-Piste’, where anyone can arrange small gatherings or minority programme items. There were poets in there on Saturday.
Meanwhile, up on the ground floor, the con is opened in the traditional way introducing the committee and the GoH to those who managed to creep out from the bar. Although there are a number of panels, discussions and other events planned to take place during the weekend but don’t expect the regular fan to attend them all. You will find us in the bar catching up with old friends. The mixture of programme items, though, is varied ranging from fan discussions to serious scientific talks, from quizzes to panels and, of course, the midnight book auction.
Jaine Fenn makes a good Guest of Honour, being much in evidence. On the Friday evening, two new books are launched with the aid of drinks and peanuts. ‘Downside Girls’ (pub: Monico) is a slim volume of four stories set in the same floating city as her first novel and advance copies of her fifth novel, ‘Queen Of Nowhere’ (pub: Gollancz), not officially available until January, are available to buy and get signed. On Saturday, instead of the usual Guest of Honour speech, Jaine elects to be interviewed by Pauline Morgan instead.
Parties are always a good idea. Saturday morning sees Elsewhen Press launch Mike French’s second novel, ‘Blue Friday’, while Sunday there is tea and cakes courtesy of LonCon14, the World SF Con in London in 2014.
Even Sunday’s closing ceremony isn’t the end of events. Those who do not have to hurry away stay for the Beer Tasting and Thai food.
As with any convention, how much you enjoy it depends on what you are prepared to put into it. The biggest criticism is probably the laid-back approach to programming with a half-hour break between each item. I know con programme events traditionally over-run but there are other ways round it.
Before leaving, I sign up for next year when the Guest of Honour will be Hugo winning author Jo Walton. Is this because I really enjoyed myself or is it because I’m stubborn enough to think I can out-last those other five who have been to every other Novacon? Only time will tell.
© Pauline Morgan 2012
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