Event Profile: Loncon3

PrintE-mail Written by Ed Fortune

2014 has been the year of the convention. Across the UK, there has been some sort of high profile geek related festival going on most weekends and the crowds have descended to join in the fun. So it seems fitting that the world’s oldest and most established science fiction convention, Worldcon came to London this year. Called Loncon 3, The 72nd World Science Fiction Convention, the event promised to show all the young whippersnapper events exactly how it was done, and it certainly achieved its aim. Vast, varied and very, very well organised Loncon3 proved to be a unique and enlightening experience.

Unlike the more popular one-day pay-on-the-gate style shows common to the UK, Loncon 3 was a 5-day mega event. An estimated 10,000 people descended on London’s Excel Centre to enjoy the festivities and the occasion drew in the great and the good from the world of genre across the world. Guests of honour included Chris Foss, Bryan Talbot and Robin Hobb and in addition the likes of Patrick Rothfuss, Steve Jackson, George R.R. Martin and Paul Cornell were also in attendance. The late great Iain M. Banks had been invited to attend prior to his untimely passing last year and his memory was honoured with a series of events and artworks across the convention. Of particular note was an artist’s rendition of a Wasp Factory which was breathtakingly disturbing, but not quite as powerful as version of The Chair from Bank’s seminal work, Use of Weapons.

The programme contained over a 1000 separate items; everything from an interview with Chris Foss to a game of AZAD was available for the keen fan. They were a great many panels, from games design to the future of sci-fi to the production of comic books, pretty much every strata of the nerd world had been covered, the organisers clearly deciding that attendees should never be bored. Representatives from STARBURST were also invited to moderate and participate in several panels and we are happy to report that each individual panel seemed slickly organised with technical issues being quickly attended to when they cropped up. The organisers had carefully selected their panellists and this lead to some great conversations over the weekend.

 

To give you an idea of the sheer scale of the event, it was possible to walk from a lecture on cutting edge scientific developments and then turn a corner and then simply find oneself attending a philharmonic orchestra’s rendition of famous science fiction theme tunes. One of the highlights was a stage production of Tim Powers’ Anubis Gates. This was very over-subscribed, but the production itself was strong and quite unusual. The same stage also played host to Phil and Kaja Foglio producing yet another episode of their Girl Genius radio play. You may think watching a radio show being produced is poor theatre, but Foglio’s pulled it off with great daring and aplomb. Another highlight included The Masquerade, a slickly produced cosplay event that allowed costumed fans from around the world the chance to show off.

A key feature of the event was the fan village; a marketplace filled with stalls, each one representing various science fiction societies from around the world. The village was also the place were various bids for future Worldcons were made. Though no one was surprised that Kansas City won the right to host the 2016 event, it is a credit to the longevity of Worldcon that people were campaigning for future events as far ahead as 2025. The fan village also featured various parties and the ever-present games tent meant that there was always something for those who had tired of panels and lectures. Children were also well catered for here, with everything from Chocolate Daleks to Quidditch being available.

The trader’s area was pleasingly vast and a second-hand book lovers paradise. The art galleries were brilliantly well organised as were the various authors’ signing schedules. This was a great place to meet your heroes in a safe and welcoming environment. Hitchhikers Guide to The Galaxy fan club zz9.org did particularly well, partially thanks to their very strange two-headed teddy bears called Beeblebears.

One of the central focuses of the entire convention is of course, the Hugo Awards. The ceremony was carefully staged and managed whilst still maintaining both a sense of occasion and a touch of anarchic fun. Being an international event means that it isn’t always possible for all the nominees to be present. For example, double award winner Kameron Hurley was at Gen Con in the US that weekend, but everyone had briefed their representatives and the acceptance speeches were all very good and heart-warming. The final list of winners is a roll call of some of the most interesting and progressive voices in the Science Fiction and Fantasy community and proof positive that the Hugos are still very relevant. The after-party was reportedly legendary, with the likes of Peter Davison and David Tennant turning up to the Loser’s Party. (Doctor Who didn’t win anything this year.) Both former Time Lords were presented with special loser’s ribbons from George R.R. Martin; who has been no stranger to Hugo disappointment in the past.
 

This highly successful event will clearly shape the future of SFF fandom in the UK, inspiring others to great heights. With a great number of newer and younger fans joining in to discover that there is more out there than simple one-day events, the fandom world is already abuzz with news of the next big event. A good number of UK based attendees are already making plans to attend Worldcon’s slightly younger brother, the British National Science Fiction Convention known as Eastercon, which has been running since 1955. Others are cheerfully backing the next two Worldcon bids to come to Europe; Helsinki in 2017 and Dublin in 2019. Time will tell of course, but the future certainly seems very bright indeed for British Science Fiction and Fantasy fans.

Photos by Anne Davis.
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