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Ytterbium: EasterCon 2019 (convention report).

May 17, 2019 | By | Reply More

Despite initial appearances this is not a report on a rare metal but a personal perspective of the 2019 Eastercon held in the Park Inn at Heathrow, London from 19th to 22nd April. Ytterbium is element 70 in the periodic table and this Eastercon was the 70th post-war Eastercon, hence the name. Typically, this was the hottest weekend this year and most of us spent it inside.

This convention had four Guests of Honour: authors Frances Hardinge and John Scalzi, animator and graphic artist Sydney Padua and fan guest DC. They were kept busy with panels, interviews and the now ubiquitous Kaffeeklatsch.

The Park Inn is a sprawling building with many small rooms and there were many transient groups not connected with the convention, including aircraft crews. Car parking spaces were like gold-dust, rare and ephemeral. We probably found the last legal one. The long corridor leading up from the back of the hotel boasted a host of around twenty small rooms, half of which were turned over to dealers to set up their wares. It was almost like an arcade of shops. The majority of wares were from small press publishers such as Elsewhen, Luna Press and Shoreline of Infinity. Others had jewellery, t-shirts or artwork for sale. Of particular note were Judy Perrin’s hand-painted clocks. Just to confuse matters, a slightly larger room, near the programme halls, provided more space for dealers, including NewCon Press, Jackie Burns’ jewellery and the only second-hand book stall to be found in the whole of the convention.

Most of the convention space was in an area hidden behind the restaurant. To find the large programme rooms, first collect badge at registration desk, then run the gauntlet of the many tables vying for your attention, hoping you will join their convention. Bribery with chocolate was a feature. At the end of the corridor was a choice of the art room or the beer cellar. As usual at these events, there is too much choice. So a few highlights.

The Art Show had some magnificent work from such as Jim Burns, Fangorn (Chris Baker), Jackie Burns, David A. Hardy, Anne Sudworth and Margaret Walty. Just as there is an increase of jewellery offered by dealers, there is also an increase being displayed and put up for auction in the Art Show. There was also a print corner where items could be bought instantly without waiting for an auction. The Art Auction, held on Sunday afternoon, is becoming a contentious event. Last year, a silent auction meant you had to put your name on the bid sheet and there was no event. This year, only items with two or more bids made it to the auction itself, which meant it was over in twenty minutes, a disappointment if you are looking for the entertainment from the team of auctioneers.

Saturday evening saw the musical entertainment. The two-woman group Playing Rapunzel finished with ‘Someone on the Internet is Wrong’ a great warm-up for the high point of the day, a performance by Mitch Benn. Mitch is happy to offend everyone and apologised for anyone he missed. He is well-known for his musical parodies and started with a little number entitled ‘Zombie Jesus Chocolate Day’ and carried on from there.

Sunday evening saw a select group of poets gathered to enjoy a wide range of verse. It was well attended considering it was programmed against a wedding and disco.

Throughout the convention, there were book launches, many supplying free wine with the hope that attendees would buy books. Some were in rooms too small for the event and getting within range to hear the readings from the authors represented could be difficult. One of the best though was Handheld Press’ launch of Rose McAuley’s ‘What Not: A Prophetic Comedy’. If the name sounds familiar, it is because she was best known for the award-winning ‘The Towers Of Trebizond’. Yes, this is a reprint, Handmade Press specialise in such books, but with the three libellous pages she was forced to remove. It is a dystopian novel involving eugenics and contained elements Aldous Huxley was later to use in ‘Brave New World’. The session generated a lively discussion.

Sunday morning saw David A. Hardy giving an illustrated talk on ‘Artists In Space: The Early Years’. This was immediately followed by Gerry Webb outlining the history of the British Interplanetary Society. While it has many members who have a world-wide influence of the development of space travel, there are only a handful of members who have been honoured by being given Fellowship of the BIS. In the past, people such as Arthur C. Clarke have been Fellows. There are a maximum of ten, all of them have to be alive. At the end of his talk, Gerry presented the newest Honorary Fellowship with his certificate. David A. Hardy joined the elite ranks of Fellowship.

Over the weekend, the 2018 BSFA Awards were presented.

Best novel: Embers of War by Gareth L. Powell.

Best Shorter Fiction: Time Was by Ian McDonald.

Best Non-Fiction: On Motherhood And Erasure: People-Shaped Holes, Hollow Characters And The Illusion Of Impossible Adventures by Aliette de Bodard.

Best Artwork: In the Vanisher’s Palace: Dragon I and II by Likhain.

Best novel: Embers of War by Gareth L. Powell.

It is worth noting that these awards are voted on by members of the convention, at the convention.

The most important part of any convention is meeting and talking to friends you have not seen for a year, and making new ones. Yes there are lots of panels and talks, interviews and workshops that you can attend, but just chatting to people who like the same things you do is what makes people keep coming back.

If you missed this one, Eastercon 2020 will be held at the Hilton Metropole Hotel at the NEC, Birmingham. Guests of Honour announced so far are Tade Thompson, Rhianna Pratchett and Alison Scott. For more information go to https://www.concentric2020.uk/

Pauline Morgan

May 2019

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Category: Cons, Scifi

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