Sunday, 5 August 2018

Eastercon 2017: Innominate | review by Stephen Theaker

I only attended for two days of this four-day convention, Saturday and Monday. It took place in Birmingham in April 2017, at a hotel close to the NEC, near enough for me to travel to in an hour or so on public transport, so I had bought a full membership fairly early on without knowing whether I would be free or not. My daughter and I attended on Saturday. I bought her a one-day ticket at a very reasonable rate. She was interested in attending a talk on manga and anime, and a session on painting alien worlds, and enjoyed them both. We also watched the BSFA awards, which were good, convivial fun, and then the first episode of Doctor Who season ten, which was shown on three huge screens in the main events room.

My daughter enjoyed herself enough to recommend the event to my younger daughter, my wife, and the two children of my co-editor, so they all came with us on the Monday. Upon arriving we had the nice surprise of discovering that my older daughter’s painting from the Saturday session had won a prize in the children’s art show, which got the day off to a great start. It was a banner day too for my younger daughter, who for the very first time in her life, after being asked for her name, had someone recognise it and say, “Oh, like Telzey Amberdon.”

That day we attended hair-braiding and journal decoration sessions, which were interesting, even for those of us without hair or journals (the hair I lost long ago; the journal I gave away to a little girl who didn’t have her own). Between the two workshops we attended the closing ceremony, which must have been an odd experience for the four members of our group who had only arrived an hour and a half before.

Not staying at the hotel overnight, only attending a couple of panels, not being there for the full four days, and not really talking to anyone in the bar, I suppose most people would say I didn’t properly get stuck into the convention, but I’d still say it was my favourite convention experience yet. A few years ago I said to an occasional TQF contributor that I didn’t really like conventions. He told me that perhaps I had been going to the wrong ones, and after this weekend I think he may have been right.

On the surface this convention was almost completely indistinguishable from the last one I attended in York (my favourite convention before this one), but a few small and significant differences emerged over the couple of days. The strand of events for children was one. (If we’d realised there was a Lego Minifigure event on Sunday we’d have gone on that day too.) It also seemed to have more fans as opposed to career-orientated writers (something at least one writer has grumbled about). And we didn’t hear anyone bellowing across the convention rooms like territorial wildebeests.

Course, my experience of other cons is probably coloured to some extent that I went there to present various reports to the AGMs, and watch the awards I’d administered play out, appear on panels a couple of times, and one time be the secretary and treasurer for the whole bleeding thing, whereas Eastercon was pure relaxation, nothing to do except listen to clever people talk about things (Aliette de Bodard was a standout contributor to both panels I attended) or watch the children get on with fun and creative activities.

Best of all, there were plenty of places to sit when nothing was happening. Sofas everywhere, a quiet room, a fan lounge; it really contrasted well with all the times I’ve been at conventions and struggled to find somewhere to sit and read my new books. There was no goody bag, and no convention souvenir book, two things some attendees of other cons care very deeply about, but I wasn’t at all bothered by their absence. The daily newsletters about convention occurrences were great fun.

If Eastercon returns to Birmingham we’ll definitely go again, and I think we enjoyed it enough that we could even be tempted a bit further afield. ****

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