By Jacq Monahan – TAFF Delegate 2012: From April 6-9, Olympus 2012 attendees convened at the Radisson Edwardian Heathrow for the 63rd Annual Eastercon (National British Science Fiction Convention). The venue lived up to its labyrinthine reputation by confusing everyone who checked in after they’d received their key card. I myself thought that I’d been given a gag room number that didn’t really exist. Then again, I’m a Yank, and that’s both a noun AND a verb.
All of the action (panels, bar, Art Room, Ops, Gopher Hole) happened on the third and fourth floors, accessible by marble staircases, elevators, and accident. It seems that one could find their way around by not looking for anything in particular and simply stumbling across the place they were looking for.
The four Guests of Honor (George R.R. Martin, Cory Doctorow, Paul Cornell, and Tricia Sullivan) were introduced at an Opening Ceremony where they shared the stage with Eastercon organizers and two Fan Guests of Honor (Margaret Austin and Martin Easterbrook).
Membership got attendees a badge with the descriptive name of their choice. Somehow I got the moniker TAFF Jacq, perhaps to differentiate me with fellow con-men FLAP and CAR. Other creative badges held names like Crazy Dave, Lost Car Park, and THE Anders.
A heavy bag accompanied the lanyard, and it contained two large paperback books, an Olympus mug and pen, programme books (two) and various flyers touting future conventions and publications. Locals were thrilled. Travelers wondered how they would stuff the extra 10 lbs. into already crammed suitcases for the return flight.
An entire third floor wall was dedicated to various other-con information. Most of the third floor, however, was taken up with the popular bar area, a place I christened Wasted Space. The name suited the activity that went on there – pints poured, shaved, and consumed at 4 pounds each – but the name was also quite literal. Most of the square footage was consumed by a large pond full of ceramic animals and fish, good for no other purpose than to gaze upon while being forced into closer proximity than one would like with fellow con-panions.
False indoor bridges gave the inebriated an extra sense of danger in maneuvering their way around the crowded-though-spacious, area.
The Dealers’ Room was full of books, jewelry, Beeblebears (at 29 pounds each, all 20 of them sold out) weapons, dragons, and even more books.
The Art Room featured a Fiji Mermaid, paranoid signs forbidding photographs, requisite female-only nudity in more than one painting, and fantasy sculptures left uncaptured for this report because of paranoid signs forbidding photographs.
The Green Room was where you’d go before your assigned panel to order a drink. The Gopher Hole was where you’d go if you suddenly lost your mind and was looking for frenzied organizational tasks to complete. Lost was a place you found yourself several times during the first two days and it was always in a different location each time.
Ops was where you’d find people who eyed you warily as you entered. Were you heaving yet another complaint their way? Urgent problem? Logistical nightmare? These were the people with the Big Printout, who could unravel any mystery. One could virtually wither under their laser-like gaze and their heard-it-all-before pronouncements.
Panels – there were scores of them, covering fantasy, television, film, REAL science, GOH interviews and readings, a fan programme, and one constructed just for kids.
Of course the hotel’s largest meeting room, the Commonwealth, was reserved for the well-attended Opening and Closing Ceremonies, the George R.R. Martin and Cory Doctorow interviews and readings, and the notorious, traditional spoof that is Ian Sorenson’s play.
This year’s offering was Oliver, with a Twist, and starred Ian himself (in a dress) along with Yvonne Rowse, Julia Daly and Doug Spencer. There were parts for the TAFF and GUFF delegates, too, although it was rumored that Charles Dickens himself lobbied to have his name taken off the credits. Those brave enough to attend got enough laughs and groans to approximate a drunken revel, and soothe entire affair was deemed a rousing success by all.
GRRM, as he’s known, dominated the con with his reading of an excerpt from his unfinished The Winds of Winter, the sixth book in his popular Ice and Fire series, telling the crowd that it all came to him “in a vision.”
Canadian Cory Doctorow was interviewed by his longtime publisher Patrick Nielsen Hayden (TAFF ’85) and opined on world affairs and the stoicism of Brits. Seems sometimes even the urbane Doctorow likes a good rant – he just wishes he’d get a little sympathy from his English counterparts.
Panel names ranged from the whimsical (Imaginary Gripe Session) to the uber-serious, real science-oriented (MER Rover Mission to Mars, Geo-engineering to Save the Planet, The Science of Rocket Science).
Gender Parity was a hot topic. Were females being equally, even adequately represented on panels? For example, Sex and Fantasy on TV featured five male panelists and only one female to fend off comments like, “I’ll never object to nude women on television” and “why do they have to show male full frontal?” These last two utterances were made by men. Surprise!
A Fan Programme introduced Fan Fund delegates to interested attendees and also offered an auction and Tombola Table for eager chance takers who seemed to toss their pound coins into the till for a chance to win the set of Dr. Who figures – 11 in all.
A Kids’ Programme featured Balloon Modeling, a Beads and Origami Workshop, How to Knit a Dalek, Parts 1 and 2, a Beeblebears’ Picnic, and Clay Creature Composition, in addition to an Easter Egg Hunt.
Panels on Film and TV were augmented by an eclectic group with titles like Training Horses for Film Work, Tips for Playing Scrabble, Podcast Workshop, and Sufficiently Advanced Magic.
A movie room screened Minority Report, The Day the Earth Caught Fire, Galaxy Quest, and assorted shorts (not the wearable kind, mind you).
There was a Disco, a Masquerade (the Wirrm from a Dr. Who episode won the Award), a Red Planet LARP, hours of Filking, and even dance lessons for the incredibly brave or alcohol-fueled.
BSFA Awards were announced (Chris Priest controversy aside) and Hugo Nominations netted congratulations for attendees Claire Brialey, Mark Plummer, and James Bacon.
The con sold out before it opened – a rare occurrence – with nearly 1,400 souls meandering about the confusing corridors of the Radisson at any given moment. You could say that the experience added to the exploratory and discovery experience of the event if you were so inclined.
You could say that Eastercon Olympus 2012 was a smashing success and you’d be correct, if only you could find the right hallway to take you to tell someone about it.