Last weekend saw my initiation into the world of LonCon3, the 72nd World Science Fiction Convention (WorldCon) held in ExCel, London. It was an amazing experience where ten thousand science fiction fans came together in our various guises as writers, artists, readers, booksellers, cos-players, and many more. Our one similar passion being SFF.
I had no idea what to expect and was quite nervous, thinking of the crazy comic cons in America, but I was pleasantly surprised at how warm and welcoming the WorldCon community was.
I arrived on the first day, Thursday, to find a long snaking queue, looping on the first floor where there was the Level 1 boss waiting at the end. After defeating the boss (you just needed to nod politely), we were allowed downstairs to Level 2, where a chat and a toffee later, we reached the minions who guarded the rectangle portal keys that you had to fight them for. Thankfully, if you waved an identity card and said your name, they became bewitched with the impossible combination of the sight and sound of the powerful words that were bestowed upon us during our first breaths. In their trance, they would confirm our bookings, and proceed to present us with the portal key, inscribed by the WorldCon elves, hung on a chain that was weaved with the bluest threads of seas and skies, in a likely land called China.
So, I got my pass, my LonCon3 guides, and I felt lost. There was ExCel, brimming with activity and people, and there was me, with my bad sense of direction and a list of things I wanted to do, but I didn’t know where!
I managed to find Big Green Bookshop‘s stall at the Dealers’ Zone and dropped off my books for sale there, then I went off to get myself orientated. I sat in for a couple of panels and met up with some friends, before heading home to prepare for my two panels the next day.
I got to meet Karrie Fransman at her session on ‘Experimenting With Comics’ and was completely bowled over by her work. It was an inspirational session that got me to dig out my iPad and stylus on the way home to start scribbling and drawing again.
SUN’S DAY OUT
On Friday, I had my assistant (aka husband) with me and we arrived a little earlier to check mosey around. That was when SUN had fun with some of the props.
Can you spot SUN?
We sat in for a panel, then went to the auditorium to catch some of the orchestra rehearsal. They sounded and looked great! However, a fellow audience at the rehearsal stole the show, as he was a telepresence robot, having a stroll around the auditorium. I guess it was just apt, it being a Science Fiction convention and all!
It was a very interesting discussion about literary cities and their places in our stories. How cities are characters themselves.
Fellow panellists (L-R): Michael Underwood (moderator), Zen Cho, Ian McDonald, Francis Knight, me, Candas Jane Dorsey.
I was a little annoyed for not being able to spend time mingling after the panel as I had to run to my next panel discussion, but I was on a high, coming from a brilliant talk and going to another. Thank goodness the rooms were close together.
My second panel discussion was on ‘Comic Book Networking: It’s Not Just The Interwebs’
Many writers, artists, and readers find comic book networks a closed community that seems impenetrable. On this panel, we talked about how all of us had different experiences in getting into comics, and that it isn’t scary, or difficult. In fact, it’s an extremely friendly community!
Fellow panellists (L-R): David Baillie, Lynda Rucker, Maura McHugh (moderator), Meg Frank, me
As it was the end of the day, we grabbed a quick beer to chill before heading back home to recharge over a burger and a large milkshake.
WHERE FANS RULE
Saturday saw me heading to LonCon3 without my trustee assistant. Well, I gave him the day off since I didn’t have any panels to do and was going to spend the day being a fan! I attended ‘Revealing the Real World Through Comics’, where I learnt about how the medium allows for some very difficult but meaningful stories in true life to be told, and to be accepted. Then, there was ‘We Need To Talk About TED’, which interested me since I wrote my MA dissertation just two years ago about TED Talks. There is clearly still a real issue about the commodification of knowledge.
I met up with Mike Carey, who is a true inspiration in my journey in becoming an author. When I grow up, I would love to be even just a little bit like him. If you’ve seen my book, you would’ve noticed his quote on the cover/blurb.
I met many other authors that day, sat in for readings, shared the Green Room with George RR Martin, and laughed and played with the gods of SFF. It was a memorable day for me, the fan, in this precious world of science fiction!
Nervous as a giggly school girl, with my assistant in tow, we headed to ExCel ready for my first ever signing session! Before that though, I managed to catch half an hour of the panel on ‘Writing and Pitching Comics’.
My first ever signing session was an unforgettable one for me, as I was humbled by the amount of support I got from friends and family, and WorldConners. The hour and a half went by quickly, with chats, photos, and laughter, and more than a few books sold.
We managed to grab some lunch with friends before my next and final panel for LonCon3, which was on ‘SF/F Across Borders’.
This was a lovely panel to end my LonCon3 experience, as amongst all of us in the room, it was clear why SFF is such a binding genre. Our differences brings us together, and the SFF platform we choose allows us to talk about these differences. Everyone of us on the panel had lived in at least three countries, and are at home now in places that we weren’t originally from. A clear message that stories do resonate across boundaries, cultures, and languages.
Fellow panelists (L-R): me, Glenda Larke, Stephanie Saulter (moderator), Suzanne van Rooyen, Jesús Cañadas.
The conversations flowed even after the panel, and through dinner for some of us, where the Chinese restaurant became shelter for hungry Con-ners. We gobbled down our rice and noodle, missed the Hugo Awards, but caught the best thing to end our experience at LonCon3 with, a reading of a ghost story by Mike Carey.
By the time we got home, the sun was hiding and the Hugo Awards were announced. A long, satisfying day and weekend at LonCon3, leaving us wanting more, and looking forward to next year’s WorldCon.
I stayed home on the last day of LonCon3, buried under piles of emails and manuscripts to edit, but I was brimming with energy to write, to create, to tell stories. Thank you LonCon3 for an amazing experience. Let’s hope that LonCon4 won’t take that long to come.
In the meantime…hello Sasquan!