Great Expectations, or Dealing with Unreasonable Fannish Demands
Experienced conrunners Michael Davidson, Gareth Kavanagh, Lesley McIntee, Alice Lawson, and Fran Dowd compared notes on some of the less than reasonable demands that had been placed on them by congoers and how they had coped. Strangely only two of the panel are intending to retire from running cons, in spite of complaints concerning matters over which they had no control (e.g. hotel room décor and carpet patterns), complaints that were received at the end of the con when particular problems could have been solved during the con, and complaints about panels which the complaining individual had not attended.
The panel all agreed that Eastercon programmes are much easier to plan in years when there isn't a Dr Who episode scheduled during the con. However, demands are tending to get more futuristic with fans wanting their programmes in multiple electronic formats, and for more and more items to be not only filmed but also live-streamed in real time as well as for panels to have online interactivity. The panel acknowledged that the technology exists, but also raised the issue of privacy concerns for audience members attending filmed panels.
This led to a discussion on how to deal with unwanted photography and filming, particularly when it is carried out by people not directly involved with the con (the example given being a film crew brought in to make a documentary about the hotel wanting to include the con in their schedule).
This was followed by a discussion on cost-related complaints and unreasonable expectations from congoers as to what membership entitled them to, and how many freebies they might get in return for appearing on panels. Not only do people expect more, they also have more places in which to vent their complaints, and the panel noted that monitoring the entire internet for complaints is pretty much impossible, so people need to complain directly to those who can address their issues. It was noted that some new fans are unaware that cons are run by volunteers with day jobs, and this needs to be addressed when they ask the impossible.
The panel wrapped up by agreeing that they'll never be able to solve everyone's problems, and that the best solution is to invite those who complain the most to join the committee.
After that panel, I stayed in the same room for...
Improvisation for writers. Planet Not: the secret of the formula
David Wake, Dawn Abigail and a collection of actors showed attendees how improvisational performance and story-writing share many similar traits and challenges.
David demonstrated several improve games and got the audience to vote on which of each pair of examples worked best, after which he tried to dissect the good and not-so-good storytelling aspects in each.
After an hour without panels, I then wandered along to...
Has steampunk gone off the boil?
Patricia Ash (editor of Gearhearts magazine), Jack Deighton (writer and reviewer), Amal El-Mohtar (writer and reader – especially of graphic novels) and Mr Peter Harrow (maker, exhibitor, artist and one of the people behind the Asylum con) – accompanied by his steampunk dalek – reviewed the state of Steampunk in relation to whether its popularity is still growing, or if interest is declining as it becomes more established as a genre.
The panel generally agreed that interest is still growing, but that steampunk itself is evolving, leading to some degree of backlash (e.g. from The Men That Will Not be Blamed for Nothing). However there has been a move away from goggles and ray-guns and into areas such as taxidermy (and I loved Peter's tree octopus in the Art Show) and new areas of steampunk costuming, including some stunning saris. Steampunk is getting to be even more multicultural with an increasing awareness of the colonial issues of the Victorian era.
Not that it's just about Victoriana, of course. Steampunk includes the Georgian and Edwardian eras, while pre-1800-influenced clockpunk and Post-WWI-influenced dieselpunk are also gaining in popularity. Reference was also made to valvepunk and transistorpunk.
Finally, the panel had a whole range of recs for us, which I shall type up elsewhere.
Next, I stayed in the same room for...
Sacha Haworth gave a fascinating presentation on obstetrics and gynaecology in science fiction, touching on where creators get it wrong, before taking a speculative look at the future to hopefully inspire some more realistic works.
It was all excellent stuff, which my notes don't really do justice to. I'll definitely be looking into some of the issues in more depth, though.
After that, I ran upstairs for...
Early science fiction writing
Mark Meenan had suggested the topic, and had invited fellow panellists Marcus Rowland, David Dryden and Heather Turnbull to read around some of the authors he'd discovered beforehand, going right back 440 BC and Herodotus' The Histories. The panel agreed that some authors stood the test of time better than others, but I definitely need to check out the reading list we were given.
I also want to get a panel organised for Redemption along the lines of a ballon debate featuring Historical Female SF Writers.
That was my final panel of the con, since I took an hour off before the...
At which prizes were given out and speeches were well received. Then some people went home, and the rest of us tidied up and had a bit of a rest before the...
Dead Laika Party
Satellite 4's answer to the Dead Dog party, at which I finally got to sample the Oook Ale: a limited edition ale produced by the Kelburn Brewery exclusively for Satellite 4, and described as is an intriguing dark ale, with an easy-going banana finish, inspired by Discworld's most famous Librarian (and named with Sir Terry's permission). I then stayed up far too late, because Juliet E McKenna managed to surround herself with far too many interesting people (and me!).
And then the next day, I went home, but not before making a list of possible panel ideas for Redemption and started to think what we could include on a guide to Coventry aimed specifically at Redemption attendees.