The SFX Weekender

The second SFX Weekender – the second visit to Camber Sands – and this time you know what to expect…

Yes, the Mouth of Hell.

You know you’re in the middle of nowhere, scoured to the bone by wind and sand. You know your teeth will be chattering as you run to and from your tiny chalet, lost in the nightmare maze of concrete walkways. You know to pack your towel, your sleeping bag, everything you’ll need for a weekend’s indoor camping. Just like you know the carpet in the Main Void will stink from years of liquid abuse, and the velour on the benches in the pub will be worn to a shine by generations of drinkers’ bums…

But hey, you go – because you also know that you’ll have a fantastic weekend.

Favourite moments include the steampunk costumes of the actuator girls, the new take on an old act done by the eerily bendy Chris Cross, Dan Abnett allowing himself to be strangled, and Titan the Robot (of course). Craig Charles spun a spectacular set, Terry Pratchett was greeted by a cheer that raised the roof (‘never give up, never surrender’) and I met my son’s favourite canine celebrity.

Props go to the publicists, authors and artists who supported the utterly loopy signing schedule at the FP table – and the space we had to host it in. I’ve never had to contortion six names into a three-foot gap before (and, please, I’ll never have to do it again). Likewise props to the unnamed security guard who let us escape on the Friday night after nearly eleven hours on our feet – and to those who blessed us by bringing much-needed humour and beer.

Oh, and to those who asked? Yes, my head did fit into the saucepan.

Black Library publicist Andy described the weekend as ‘The Land That Time Forgot’, amused by the irony of the situation. Here we are, he said, science fiction readers and watchers and fans, looking to the future, and we’re stuck in something out of a 1950’s timewarp. Horror author Wayne Simmons observed that same irony as he talked about the progressive nature of the event – blending books and toys and comics and signings and music and panels and cabaret into something new that kicks down the doors of ‘fandom’.

Last year, the whole ‘chalet’ experience added to the event – giving a strong sense of ‘surviving disaster’ team spirit. This year, that legend became a Branding-point, with teasing tweets and wind-up conversations bringing anticipation and laughs of horror. Knowing what to expect, we all got into the spirit of things, swapping tales of terror from our scrotty, student-level digs.

Yes, I had to wash my hair in a saucepan – but it’s exactly that experience that turns the whole weekend into one long festival – a celebration of geekery in all its forms.

Well done, SFX!

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