Star Wars Celebration Europe

Count DookuIt’s not often I get to a Con and have full freedom to roam.

But heading to Star wars celebration Europe on Saturday two things struck me. One was the sheer SIZE of the booth that I was not actually stuck to – and the work that had gone into making the company’s presence actually happen – but the second was something about the Con itself.

Mainly: inclusion.

Inclusion is a geek grail; it’s an ideal that we raise to the light and we wish would happen, and it’s also (sadly) often the thing that eludes us. There are those events that go to great effort to welcome to people and to make them feel at home, to ensure that environments are safe and wanker-free, and long may they continue.

But SWCE had done all that, and made it look effortless – apparently The Force is with them.

Vader and Family

There were cosplayers of every kind, no barriers raised by age, by gender, by sexuality, by wealth, or by anything else. Signs stated very strongly the ‘Cosplay is Not Consent’ motto – but that boundary seemed to be taken as read. There was humour, there was appreciation, and that’s all good – but nowhere did I see a lack of respect.

Rey and BB-8One of my colleagues commented, on Saturday morning, that she’d seen ‘no Slave Leias’ – (in fact, I did see one later, but that was a fella) – through she had seen a dozen women, from little ones to big ones, all costumed as Rey. And I thought – we’ve done it. This is what a Con should get right – the freedom to Cosplay whomever the fuck you choose. (And I have no problem with Slave Leias, just for the record, my only problem comes when that’s ALL a girl (or a boy) is allowed to be, if that makes sense? Anyone is allowed to go to a Con in a bikini and be hassle-free and happy, but they should also have a choice!)

Ahsoka As Star Wars proves that it has the sheer power to break boundaries and feature a strong female lead, a black stormtrooper, a gay pilot (oh you know they have to), the fact that we can get this right can blaze the way for the rest of fandom to follow. Everyone should have a hero.

Pink Chewie and Han Mercury SWCE showed me – that you really can be anything you want. And it’s okay.

SFX Weekender – The Con Comes of Age

Pontin’s. In Wales. In February. Eight (yes, eight) trains and eight-and-a-half hours from Sutton – by the time I rolled in, a G&T was necessary and the travel chaos was having a similar ‘blitz spirit’ effect to the chalets at Camber.

The weekend’s been maniacal, fantastically busy – we’ve had non-stop a stream of signings, as well as a huge array of fans and costumed characters, buying t-shirts and goodies and books. We’ve met John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra; we’ve seen Daleks and K9s and giant Predators and hot girls on stilts. We’ve seen robots, large and small. We’ve seen Steampunk, we’ve seen superheroes, we’ve had a large amount of beer. We’ve seen Pat Sharpe and Craig Charles, spinning their tunes, getting us all up to dance our arses off.

Thanks go to all of the publishers and guests who signed for us, to Suzanne and the girls for letting me nab chalet space (and bacon), to Gollancz for letting us nab taxi space, and to Alasdair Stuart for extremely well-timed coffee runs (did I mention we were busy?)

Memorable moments include Al Ewing’s tunes, Raygun Rankin’s ink and Sam Sykes’ thighs (don’t ask). Oh, and the gorilla with the unlikely banana.

Through all of the event though, there was a common theme of conversation. Namely – the face and content of the ‘SF con’ is changing. Angry Robot’s Lee Harris drew the difference between the ‘fan convention’ – the cons that we know and love, the ones at which we see the same faces, the same friends – and the ‘commercial convention’. The SFX Weekender was the latter, it was more like Kapow! than it was like EasterCon – it’s a con that’s opened out to new ideas and new demographics, to more people and younger people, to new blood and enthusiasm. China Miéville said the ‘Geek Pound’ is still strong – and he’s right.

SFX got the mix right; they’ve effectively blended the traditional ‘book con’ (panels and signings) with geek-cool celebrity, with cosplay, with props and monsters and movie culture, with music, with glamour, with in-jokes and eye-candy… all of this explodes out of the traditional mould and comes together to bring us something new.

We like it. The Con has come of Age.







WHC: World Horror Con

So – how do you write about a Con that you saw so little of??

In fact, though Alex and I were nailgunned behind the FP trading table as usual, we did manage to prise our way free and explore the labyrinthine wonders of the antique Brighton hotel… certainly enough to know that World Horror Con was doing it old school.

Here, we found, the fans were serious – an older generation of dedicated horror collectors disdaining the common paperback in favour of first edition hardcovers, many of them calculating their luggage weight as they went along. World Horror Con was not a Con about costumes, it was gathering of experts – world-wide, word-wise and hard-core.

Though the Dealers’ Room was tucked out of the way of the main programe, props to Stephen Jones and the ever-eloquent James Bacon for bringing events in to us… peaking with the two-hour signing with the Master Himself, James Herbert – a man for whom Brian Lumley will stand and queue and Ingrid Pitt will publicly declaim her affection. I mean, horror-fan or no, who hasn’t read a James Herbert book?

The appearance of Neil Gaiman as secret special guest caused the inevitable flurry – perhaps the only point that paperbacks were suddenly in vogue. Had we known he was coming, of course…

Anyway, away from the (mostly) revered silence of the Dealers’ Rooms, the Con took ‘old school’ in a fantastically retro direction – out onto Brighton Pier with a free bar and an open Ghost Train ride, a winner of a combination.

And just to add to the nostalgia, the MonQee reappeared, gathering more fans and more signatures – he crashed over with me on the Saturday after the Stoker Awards.

Throw in a plethora of book-launch parties and you have a WorldCon worthy of its title. There may only have been 500 members, but I’ve never seen a community so focused upon the genre they love and have grown up with, upon the multiple anthologies they collaborate and write, and upon friendships that stretch back through years without number.

There have been many of our friends there too – but, at World Horror Con, we could watch a different age of fandom.

‘Horror’ said Solaris’ Jon Oliver in an interview with Andy Remic, ‘has no boundaries’. Ironic really, when you consider how close the community that surrounds it really is.

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