Aussiecon4: overall impressions
I really enjoyed this con. I don’t imagine I will ever get to another worldcon, unless NZ wins for 2020 or Australia gets another in the next 15 or so years, so I’m immensely pleased that I can say I’ve been to one. I got to most of the panels I was interested in, and most of them were really worthwhile, so that’s a good result. I also managed to hang out with most of the people I really wanted to, and I met some new people – both those of whom I’m fans and ‘normal’ people, too. I thought the venue was basically great – I liked that there were people from the convention centre itself all over the place, to direct the lost and be security, hanging around. Selfishly, I liked being able to get there from my house in only about half an hour by public transport. And you know the other things I liked? I liked the itty con booklet with the programme in it, and the newsletter Voice of the Echidna which came out I think ten times over the con – what a great idea.
I’ve come away with some things to think about, of course. One of those is how to be a woman, and how to be a feminist, in this sort of community. Fortunately, that’s getting easier. The other thing, which I’d already started thinking about thanks to Merrick’s Cabal, is actually how much of a FAN I am or want to be. I’m not sure I want to be as inextricably involved in the fannish community as some people at the con seemed to be, not least because most of my current friends are not in that community and I wouldn’t want to lose them. Additionally, I don’t think I want to invest the sort of energy or emotion that appears to be required to actually become a FAN. There is no Big Heart Award on the horizon for me, that’s for sure. But – as this con has pointed out – it’s perfectly possible to be on the periphery and still get a lot out of cons, and being a small-f fan, so I think that’s where I’ll stay. Happily.
Aussiecon4: Day 5
By the last day of a con, everyone is starting to get a bit weary, and understandably so. There were a number of people who were particularly… weary… post-Hugos. Me, I was doing fine. So I completed my not-stalking of Alastair Reynolds by going to his book reading, and I’m glad I did because he chose a short story he’d written for Barclays Bank, on the issue of data security, which is unlikely to get much exposure elsewhere. The story was good, but seriously: can you imagine being asked to write an sf story for non-sf readers working in a bank on data security?? Tough gig . Oh, and that came after another little fangirl moment, when I was chatting to Jonathan and got to meet Garth Nix….
The only other panel I got to was the second half of one on maps in fantasy writing, with three writers who all do their own maps. One of them was David Cornish, whom I’d met a couple of days before, having interviewed him for both Snapshot ’07 and Snapshot ’10. The discussion was actually more interesting than I’d expected, about what to include and why, and the sheer number that these three, at least (Cornish, Ian Irvine, and Russell Blackford), produce for their own interests and the sake of the narrative which never then appear in a book. Reading list: The Selected Works of T.S Spivet (which I’ve been meaning to get for ages).
The rest of Monday involved helping Alisa, Terri, and Tehani pack up their section of the dealers’ room, with able assistance from Mitch and Rohan. After the bazillion boxes were loaded up and taken down to the loading bay, and picked up by the freight company, Alisa and I staggered back to Tansy and Finchy’s place with Trent in tow to debrief somewhat, after farewelling Tehani with hopes that she wouldn’t get done for excess baggage. And then I managed to get home not tooo late.
Bonus extra Aussiecon4 day
Although Monday was officially the end of Aussiecon4, Tansy and Alisa and I managed to draw it out for another few hours by catching up on the Tuesday to record some final, face-to-face Galactic Suburbia. So we did a Hugos round-up, like we did for the Ditmars; and then we did a worldcon wrap-up too. Our subscribers are going to be totally overwhelmed….
Aussiecon4: Day 4
Sunday was the biggest day for me in terms of panels I wanted to attend – and because it ended with the Hugos ceremony.
It began with a panel on far future sf, and was framed by Clarke’s so-called law, that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. There were some completely different points of view on the panel, which was awesome (although it was made just a little less awesome by the fact that all five were men, and made me wonder: who are the women writing space opera/far future sf? I’m reading Marianne de Pierres’ Sentients of Orion series, and I know there are some women in New Space Opera 1&2, but… I must find more). There was discussion over whether the quote was a sociological comment, whether it becomes a false premise as soon as a culture has a notion of technology, and whether it’s a concept that just keeps getting pushed further and further out by the word ‘sufficiently’. Reading list: Matt Hughes, GD Nordley, Gene Wolf, Robert Reed. (Yes yes, Alastair Reynolds was on this panel; he said great things.)
From this panel there was rushing to a packed seminar room for a panel entitled The Case for a Female Dr Who. One bloke, four women; one anti, four in favour. Paul Cornell is totally up for it, and seemed particularly taken with the idea of Julia Sawalha. Me, I’d like Helen Mirren, or Judi Dench; I am less convinced than everyone else seemed to be by the idea of Emma Thompson. It essentially turned into a discussion of how rather than the why, because most people seemed very comfortable with the basic premise. I do think an older woman would be more interesting, in a whole range of ways, than a younger woman. Reading list: Chicks Dig Timelords. Also: serious Doctor Who Fans are just a tiny bit terrifying. But I didn’t learn my lesson, and also ended up at a panel reviewing the latest season. The panellists discussed what they liked, or didn’t; attitudes towards Matt Smith as the Doctor, and Amy, and River; whether the show is/should be for kids, adults, or ‘family’; and how annoying it is when the sonic screwdriver becomes a magic wand to get the script writer out of any tight spot….
I next attended a panel on the history of Australian women in sf, both in writing and fandom. Lucy Sussex talked a bit about the nineteenth century, then Helen Merrick skipped to the 50s and 60s, then Alisa talked about what she’s found about the last decade or two. Gina Goddard talked about the last thirty years in fandom, and it was a little depressing to hear that while some things have changed – there were kids at almost every panel I went to, and no one seemed to have a problem with that – still some things have not changed. Reading list: Helen Merrick and Tess Williams’ Women of other Worlds; Lucy Sussex generally, plus her edited She’s Fantastic (bought the next day!); Sylvia Kelso; Tess Williams. Also at this panel Tansy and I were inspired to get to Wiscon together sometime in the next 5-10 years, dragging Alisa with us….
The next bit of the afternoon was, if anything, more hectic. I’d been expecting to go off and have dinner by myself and come back for the Hugos, because most of the others had invites to various exclusive parties. But Tehani ended up not going to the Orbit party, so she told me to go in her stead, for which I was humbly grateful although sad for her! So I ducked off to the loos and frocked up (gotta take every opportunity); ditched stuff in the dealers’ room rather than carrying it around, then hared off to a panel on Big Dumb Objects in sf (um, yes, another Alastair Reynolds panel…). This is the sort of sf I really enjoy, tied as it so often is with space opera, and I was really pleased to hear the panellists talking about the character options that are available and interesting to explore when you use a BDO. Reading list: Niven; David Brin?; Ringworld; Riverworld?; Robert Reed, stories about the Great Ship; Pohl; Farmer, World of Tiers; Ken McLeod; Charles Sheffield; Chalker; Larry Gibbon?; Cordwainer Smith; The Wanderer. Again, all of these are male, which makes me even more determined to find the women writing similar sorts of things.
The evening’s entertainment started with a party sponsored by Orbit, which involved Hugo nominees and others swanning around, dolled up, drinking when they could reach the bar and eating a small quantity of food. Again, I got to meet some people, and had other famous people pointed out to me. But really, this was all in anticipation of the main event: the Hugos ceremony.
Terri, Alisa, and I got a good spot from which to watch the ceremony, and Alisa tweeted the entire thing – which led to her missing the cover of Horn flashing up as part of the 2009 wrap up (link), all of which was hugely exciting. Before that, though, the woman in front of us – listening to us gasbag excitedly – turned around and announced she recognised our voices from Galactic Suburbia! Hilarious. Anyway, Garth Nix was a great MC; the ceremony went smoothly, most of the acceptance speeches were short and made the winner look good; most of the winners were ones of which I approved (which is important, obviously). Highlights: Cheryl Morgan liveblogging as she walked up to the podium to accept the Hugo for Clarkesworld’s semiprozine win; Frederick Pohl winning, at 90, a Hugo for Best Fan Writer for his blog (to match Hugos for writing and editing, and his grandson’s Hugo too); Peter Watts accusing the audience of costing him $20 because he lost a bet by winning.
After the Hugos, we brought the party back to Tehani, who had balanced the books while following Alisa’s tweets; we sat around eating junk food for a few hours, just chewing the fat. It was, again, wonderful.
Aussiecon4: Day 3
I’d be lying, and everyone who was there would know I was lying, if I didn’t say that the most exciting thing about day 3 was getting to meet Alastair Reynolds. Minor fangirl moment. I got to chat about astronomy with him, as well as about his writing, and of course got his autograph. So that totally made my
The first panel I went to was Tansy’s on the plight of female superheroes. Sadly, it was largely derailed by the bloke on the panel, who somehow hadn’t realised that a panel on that topic might be intended as a feminist critique of the institutionalised misogyny of the comic books industry, as well as other interesting topics. I’m not a comic book reader, although I might be if I thought there were better representations of women; even so this panel was disappointing.
Spent the next while in the dealers’ room, helping a bit but mostly hindering, and meeting more interesting people. Then I went to the Girl Genius radio play, which I’d been a leedle concerned about because all of the roles (except Agatha, played by Kaja, and some random ones played by Phil) were played by con attendees. But I should not have been concerned: they were, largely, excellent. It was hugely entertaining, there was some audience participation (GENTLEMAN ADVENTURER!!!), and all in all it was a brilliant part of the con.
I rushed out of there to a panel on feminists writing fantasy, which had a really good range of women speaking: some young writers, and some older; some writing ‘traditional’ fantasy and some deliberately flouting traditions. They talked about female characters, sex scenes, male characters, and their own inspirations. Reading list: Delia Sherman, Alaya Johnson.
The evening’s entertainment was a low-key affair. Alisa and I accompanied Tansy back to her apartment to record a short (for us) Galactic Suburbia ep about the Ditmars. We left Tansy with her loving family and went down to Tehani&Terri’s apartment, for dinner and gossip and general relaxing. It was really really nice.
Aussiecon4: Day 2
Friday started with Alisa, Tansy and myself walking over to the con and getting our heads around how we could keep a Galactic Suburbia recording to 50 minutes, because we were scheduled to record LIVE as a panel. First time doing it together, and we get an audience! Talk about intimidating. There were about 40 people in the audience, most of whom we didn’t know, so that was simultaneously encouraging and terrifying. We did manage to keep to 50 minutes, mainly because we were ruthless about the news section. It was a lot of fun! And we had matching tshirts courtesy of Finchy. It’ll be up live in the next week or so, once our dear producer gets home, has some sleep, and gets it online.
Next I headed to a reading by Garth Nix, but he was reading a story I’d finished just a few days before and I couldn’t summon enthusiasm. So I ducked out and went to a book launch, which was good to finally put more faces to names.
All of this was a way of killing time before I could go and interview the Foglios, which I was more nervous about than the live recording. I had a chat to young Jake, who gave me some questions to add to my own, and then we waited around… for a while… until Phil came back and we were good to go. The sound quality won’t be great, because we did it in the dealers’ room, and Jake will tell anyone who asks that I giggled too much (I did), but it was a lot of fun to do. It too will be online in the next week or so, once I compress it and get it to the GS producer.
The panel I most enjoyed for the day was on the under-appreciated characters in Lord of the Rings – that is, those whom the narrative underrates. Essentially this boiled down to Eowyn, Sam, and Faramir. The panellists were all excellent, and it was very cool to see other people with the same love of the book as myself. There was a fascinating discussion about the differences between the books and films, and why some of the changes were made, which I really enjoyed – particularly around Faramir and Arwen.
The evening’s entertainment began with a party at Crown for Voyager’s 15th birthday. It was all very swish – Tansy, Alisa and I frocked up in a baby change room/parents’ room we found that had huge cubicles! – and there were ever-so-tasty purple drinks, and little food. Again with the meeting interesting people, hearing interesting news (HarperVoyager to be the international brand), and hanging out with great people. We didn’t stay all that long because we had to hie ourselves back to the con for the awarding of the Ditmars and other Aussie awards, including the inaugural Norma K Hemming Award (the Norma). Reading list: Gene Thieves, by Maria Quinn. Overall we were pleased by the winners, I think – perhaps especially Helen winning the William Atheling Award for criticism, for Cabal.
From the Ditmars we headed back to Terri&Tehani’s apartment, and proceeded to eat a fair bit of junk food, drink some evil mudslides with McD’s softserve icecream thanks to Terri, and make a fair bit of noise. I got to hang out with Rob, meet Trent and Scottish Liz, and generally be with some of my favourite people. It was great… and even when we were told, around midnight, that there were complaints about the noise, it continued to be great, just quieter.
Aussiecon4: Day 1 #2
I didn’t have the energy to blog electronically during the con. Instead, I kept paper notes (outrageous, I know)…
My Aussiecon4 actually started on the Wednesday, when I hosted a full contingent of Strahans, the Tansy/Finchy mob, Tehani+baby Max, Alisa, Kathryn, and Alan. Half of them arrived at my place from the airport, so apparently having food and beverages on hand was welcome! I rather suspect that the supermarket over my fence was a very large drawcard, too. At any rate it was a marvellous way to start the weekend’s madness, with the people I was most looking forward to seeing.
Thursday started fairly early, heading to the apartments where all but the Strahans were staying to help the crew get boxes into two taxis and thence to the dealers’ room. An early highlight was heading up the escalator as Mondy and Rob Shearman were heading down – so I turned around, obviously, to catch up with them. I hadn’t seen either since Swancon 08, and it was great to see both the first day. Another highlight was helping Alisa, Tehani, and Terri (whom I finally met) in the dealers room, when Tansy’s eldest made a friend to play hide-n-seek with… who turned out to be the daughter of the Girl Genius creators! Minor fangirl moment there.
I flashed my newbie credentials by heading to the opening ceremony, which I quite enjoyed. As I walked in Holst’s Jupiter was blaring, which was a good sign. Someone had put a fair amount of work into a quite awesome series of film clips, which was basically Mad Max with spectacular bits of other movies thrown in and some clever voice-overs. Perhaps my favourite contrast was Hugo Weaving as Elrond, Agent Smith, and his Priscilla character. However, if as the voice-over suggested we’re really relying on Mel Gibson-as-Mad Max to save us all, I think we’re in trouble.
Heading back to the dealers room, I noticed that the Foglios had not brought a whole lot of hardcopy Girl Genius books and they were going fast. Tansy egged me on until I finally went around and bought myself one, complete with personalised sketch of Maxim (I heart Jagerkin) and autographs. Good thing I got one when I did (and one for Alisa’s sailor too), since they sold out in two hours….
Aside from hanging around the Twelfth Planet Press table gossiping, I also went to a panel on motherhood in SF&fantasy. There was some very thorough discussion of representations of motherhood in those genres, both in book and film, especially about the lack of women who manage to do both mothering and adventuring. I particularly liked the discussion of the problematic nature of Ripley and Sarah Connor. Reading list from this panel: Gwyneth Jones, Life; Pat Murphy, The Wild Girls; Eye of the Beholder, by someone whose name I didn’t catch.
The evening’s entertainment started with a book launch for Helen Merrick’s book The Secret Feminist Cabal, which I promise I will get around to reviewing soon. I’d met Helen earlier in the day – another fangirl moment! – so it was great to see the number of people who turned up to congratulate her on such an important work on feminisms and fandom. Plus, she signed the book I’d been carting around all day. ☺
Dinner was with a bunch of people, including Jake Flinthart. At 10, Jake Flinthart is an even bigger fan of Girl Genius than me, so we had a lovely time arguing about our favourite characters and where the plot is heading. I did make everyone walk a little bit too far for dinner, although to be fair their hotels and the convention itself is at the crappy end of town when it comes to food.
Marvellous day! I met heaps of other people, put faces to names, and generally exhausted myself.
From one nerddom to another
Twas the night after Aussiecon4, and Melbourne turned on lovely clear skies. We got out the telescope, and I’ve written up some observational notes over at my astro blog. Includes showing off to some under-10s, and the rediscovery of Jupiter!