Interacting with people en masse does not not come easily or naturally to me, and so I tend to find events like Eastercon a little overwhelming. It’s always worth that initial anxiety though, as Olympus 2012 proved so wonderfully well.
Perhaps the most special part of Eastercon is being able to put some faces to some names, to meet people I’ve previously known only online. At every con I’ve attended I’ve had the privilege of being able to do just that, to speak personally to some of those writers and critics whose work in the field is so important and brings me so much pleasure and inspiration. My only regret – and this is my perennial complaint about mass gatherings – is not being able to spend as much quality time with those people as I would like. There is so much constantly happening that it is difficult to find the quiet space – physical or mental – that is needed for an unhindered and extended exchange of views, ideas and enthusiasms. Nonetheless, it’s just lovely to be able to say ‘hi’ to people, to leave with that sense of having met, of a marker having been put down for future conversations.
Conversely, there were some friends present at this year’s Eastercon that I’d been looking forward to seeing and catching up with that I never so much as laid eyes on for the entire weekend, others that I glimpsed for a brief moment but who – owing perhaps to the bizarrely Escherian logistics of the Radison Edwardian’s corridor layout – were thereafter lost to me forever. This grieved me greatly – but then these near-misses leave me looking forward with optimism to the next con, when such non-encounters might be made whole.
So many of the panels (I always enjoy panels) highlighted topics that were thought provoking and involving. Inevitably there were clashes, and I was particularly sorry to miss Paul Kincaid’s panel on SF post-9/11 (I hope someone will write that one up) but by way of compensation I was able to enjoy a high spirited and stimulating ‘Not the Clarke Award’, expertly moderated by Graham Sleight and with the audience fully absorbed in the discussion. Niall Harrison’s ‘Fantasy Clarke Award’ was equally excellent and should definitely become a regular feature of the programme. Personally, I was delighted to see Jane Rogers’s The Testament of Jessie Lamb triumph in the Clarke debate, and to see Helen Oyeyemi’s Mr Fox make such a great impression over on the Fantasy panel. These were certainly two of my favourite novels from 2011, and it thrills me to see writing of this stripe and standard leading the way in genre discussions.
It probably isn’t fair to single out individuals for particular commendation – Eastercon, after all, is about the whole SF community – but I would like to thank Paul McAuley, Jaine Fenn and Graham Sleight for making my first ever panel appearance such a worthwhile and (almost) non-scary experience, and also to offer a huge personal thank you to Tricia Sullivan for being such an outstanding GoH. Trish is an inspirational person on so many levels and her contributions to panels – articulate, radical, intelligent and always entertaining – were among the best of the weekend. Her GoH interview with Farah Mendleson was satisfying to a degree that one rarely experiences at such events. I regret only that it couldn’t have gone on longer.
Most of all though, thanks to everyone who worked so hard, as always, to make Eastercon happen. We had a wonderful weekend and a truly memorable one. Thank you.