Right then, it’s time for a LonCon 3 report!
So what was LonCon 3? It was the 72nd Worldcon and it was a big bloody sci-fi con held in the ExCel centre from Thursday 14th to Monday 18th August.
Let’s leap right into my list of things wot I did:
We registered on Wednesday, and it was a very easy process! That left us with a lot of free time in the evening, so we decided to check out the Yi Ban restaurant opposite our Travelodge. I suppose it was nice, but there were about 3 dishes I could choose from, which is not… great. Still, the salty, spicy tofu was yummy!
The programme started on Thursday and I went to:
Wild Raving and Exquisite Movements – The Quest for Longitude. This was a talk about the various ideas and patents that cropped up after the Longitude act was passed. It was pretty interesting, but it went too fast! There was no real in depth look at most ideas, but there were certainly some really interesting ones that I’d like to find out more about.
Critiquing the Costumes in Films. This was meant to be a small panel discussing examples of good costumes from bad films and good costumes from good films. Unfortunately it started without a projector, so it made the panel quite fractured. I’d love to see this rerun with a projector at the start, and some more in depth discussion of what makes certain costumes work so damn well. On Twitter I put up a couple of recs of my own – the costumes in Dredd, specifically Ma-Ma’s and the judges were, to my mind, a fantastic adaptation of comic costumes. A bad film with great costumes, IMO, is The Three Musketeers (2011), most especially Orlando Bloom’s Buckingham.
Why Do We Read Fanfiction? (Or, Fanfic 101). So I was reeeally looking forward tothis panel! I had two friends on it, and I really love being positive about fanfic/transformative fandom! And uh. Well. This could have been a great panel, if it hadn’t constantly had to fight against one panellist’s opinion that if fanfic is not canon compliant or a canon AU, it’s essentially worthless and should be origific. No amount of pointing out that people write fanfic for a huge number of reasons, not just to ‘fix’ canon, seemed to sway this panellist’s opinion. In an exercise of watching five people politely disagree with one other, it was interesting. In fulfilling the panel’s brief, it was disappointing.
The Superhero Industrial Complex. A panel discussing the cinematic universes of superhero properties. It was very interesting! I thought the point that other companies were trying to rush to catch up to Marvel’s shared universe of films and that can be an issue – trying to rush the emotional connection, which is a key part of Marvel’s success, can often lead to worse films. I think the panel could have happily carried on for another hour, but the discussion we did hear was great!
YA Books Set In London. A panel going through why London is so popular as a setting for YA books. I was glad to hear someone bring up the fact that probably a lot of this is down to colonialism – people are told that British culture is the best, and London is the centre of British culture, therefore people set books in London. Other points were that it is a very varied city, so there’s almost always something to appeal to any given writer and that it is like a giant magnet, drawing in people, cultures and money from a huge number of places.
Spin a Yarn, Weave a Tale: Textile Crafts in Medieval London. So I enjoyed what I saw of this talk! It sounded fascinating, first going through what people use to create yarns, how they are spun and woven into fabrics, dying techniques and the gender roles associated with the textile industry. Unfortunately I missed a chunk of it because I nipped out to the loo and briefly (too briefly!) met kat_w! We had a lovely natter about the Fanfic 101 panel, and then I disappeared back into this talk. It’s a fascinating subject and I’d love to learn more about it!
For Thursday evening’s dinner, Mum and I went along to the big Tesco on the North Circular, where we stocked up on food, makeup and sharpies 😀 This set us up nicely for Friday!
Something a little less lovely was waking up with SUPER HUGE hair, thanks to having braided it whilst wet and sleeping on it (it’s been a while, so I only think this was Friday…).
Best 21st Century Comics: Predicting the New Classics. This was a lovely panel to start the day with! A wide ranging discussion of what goes into making a classic comic and what the panellists felt would become classics. I did notice that they stuck mostly to indie comics, rather than anything from the Big Two, and I wonder if that’s a symptom of both companies mainly being involved in on-goings, which must tie into much larger universes and thus in some ways preclude creating truly classic one-shots (after all, a run may be good, but most people wouldn’t say a run of 50 comics is a classic). Ada Palmer said that she would kindly collate all the recs and put them up on her blog – exurbe.com. [ETA: Ada posted this list just after I posted my report, and it’s on Tor.com and very much worth a read!] So check that out!
Producer and Celebrity Relationships with Fans. A panel that basically discussed all aspects of fan interactions with creators, especially interesting was the idea that if you, as a creator, want to use social media to help your career, it’s better to start building your online presence before anything even comes out and to be genuine – we’re all savvy enough to suss out empty marketing techniques. The main thing I remember from this panel was this most fantastic Frodo!Bear:
The Role of Fandom in Contemporary Culture. Aaaah, this panel. Thiiiiiis panel. It could have been great! I don’t want to go entirely into what issues I had with it, because there are so many and I don’t want to be needlessly negative. I would like to see this panel rerun with a bit less of a focus on fandom history and more discussion about fandom’s role in pop culture and how things like sports and music fandoms affect their source materials.
Drawing the [redacted]: Comics and Censorship. One of my favourite programme items! A talk by Jude Roberts about the history of censorship in comics. She covered a wide variety of comics from a wide variety of countries and overall it was just a thought-provoking exploration of the topic. There’s a blog post here: http://pornographiccomics.wordpress.com/2014/08/19/drawing-the-redacted-comics-and-censorship/
And so ended Friday! And yes, dinner that evening was another trip to Tescos! We’re very classy.
I had to get up early on Saturday, to do a run through of the makeup we wanted to do for our panel on Monday, but I still didn’t manage to get to any morning panels!
Feminism and Sexism in Fandom. A fairly wide ranging discussion of sexism within fandom, people’s experiences of it (including an example that happened within the con) and a few ways to try to deal with it. It was pretty interesting, lots of the panellists had different backgrounds, so we heard many different perspectives.
So You Want To Be A Podcaster. Full disclosure: I don’t actually want to be a podcaster. I have the worst wheezy breath imaginable, lmao. However, I wanted to go to an ‘easy’ panel, with people I liked talking about things they’re good at, so I chose this! I’m really glad that I did! It was fantastic to hear about how each of the panellists got into podcasting and how they go about creating what they do! This was one of the nicest panels I attended at LonCon3, I urge you to check out the podcasts created by: Alasdair Stuart, Grabrielle de Cuir, Mur Lafferty, Emma Newman (also check out her books!), Miquel Codony Bodas.
Pygmalion’s Statue and her Synthetic Sisters. Another genuinely wonderful item! This was a talk given by Paula James that covered the basics of the Pygmalion myth and then some of the retellings of that in cinema and tv. This included a fantastic clip from Buffy, which reminded me that when it was good? It was amazing! Shame that was so infrequent in later seasons, lol. ANYWAY, yes, I was very happy to have gone to this and to have learnt so much about the myth and it’s modern reinterpretations.
And so, onto Sunday! Where I think I only went to one programme item? Er, oops?
There were also some cool cosplayers around! They were raising money for the Dogs’ Trust, which was awesome:
These Are Not The Elves You’re Looking For. I’m sure this was a good panel. That definitely seems like a likely thing for it to have been. I’m pretty sure. However, I remember not one damn thing about it, possibly because it was a full panel and that meant I had to sit REALLY STILL to try and avoid fidgeting and annoying the people sitting next to me. So er. I focussed on that and apparently missed the entire thing? Ha.
Rather than stick around, that evening me and my family went for dinner at Pizza Hut. I had some salad and hot food. It was bliss!
And then Monday happened! The day of my two panels! The last day of the con! Alas!
Makeup Design for Costume and Cosplay. Oh man, this panel was a blast! I was on a panel with Lars Adler and Anushia Kandasivam, and we came prepared! On Saturday we’d practiced the makeup we wanted to talk through on the panel, which involved turning Anushia into an Orion girl (from Star Trek!). We discussed how we’d done this, and I specifically talked about the makeup we’d put on top of the green foundation and also a few essentials for beginners. I could have talked for muuuuch longer, but the panel was only an hour long and I had to book it a little bit early to get to my next panel. I absolutely will write up a post detailing what I learnt about water based foundation and some basic makeup tips for cosplayers, or just people who like makeup 😀
Fan Shaming. The second panel I was on! I think it went really well, for the most part. I do worry that I spoke a bit too much, but I hope the other panel members said what they wanted to as well. There was an iffy moment in the questioning (that I noticed, there may well have been more…) but our moderator did a fantastic job of getting us off that topic and to the next question. I’m not going to write too much about what we spoke about here, as I want to do a separate post on it. We went over a lot of topics and I hope people found it as instructive and constructive as I did!
(The last panel I went into!) They Do It Differently. A panel discussing how fans from different countries do their cons. It was kind of interesting, and I really enjoyed hearing that Israeli cons use volunteering as a method for getting younger people into cons (they volunteer some of their time, and then get entrance into the con, which is great for people who don’t have a huge amount of disposable income!). Although certain anecdotes were interesting, there was also a moment where one of the panellists singled out Nine World’s Code of Conduct as too long and insultingly in-depth. Apparently, no con ever has had harassment so telling people … not to harass… is insulting their common sense. Which is absolutely common. Right. Someone in the audience also wondered whether guests at cons were ever troubled by hordes of crazy teenage fangirls – you can imagine how I felt about that. Overall, this was an interesting panel to end the con on – some good commentary, some interesting points and a few instances of offensive nonsense.
To be honest, I’d say that was a good summary of most of my time at LonCon3. I don’t say that to try and tear the con down – for me, the positives did outweigh the negatives, but I don’t want to ignore that I did have certain problems during the con. I think that in some ways I was unlucky – the problematic bs I heard did not come from most of the people I met, just a few! But it was enough to colour my experience of Worldcon. I think other people have put up posts which were more eloquent that I could be so I’m not going to go into this.
Instead! I’m going to talk about how being unwilling to attend panels to hear basic social justice 101 fails encouraged me to be super social and make lots of friends! And to reaffirm friendships with the people I only see at cons! That, for me, was one of the best things about Worldcon, I loved getting to talk to people in the fan tent, or just chatting in the halls. It reminded me that whilst fandom might have a few problematic people, it’s also filled with fantastic people coming from a huge variety of backgrounds. The conversations I had with people at Worldcon absolutely made it worth going and it gave me hope that the problematic voices will either learn or be drowned out by the people who are coming into fandom, who are already participating and who are actively being the change they want to see in fandom. I’m honestly very proud to count so many wonderful people as my friends! <3!
I also want to talk briefly about the organisers behind LonCon3 – there were a few issues during the con (room size, mic problems, issues surrounding children not having a dedicated tent, a couple of other things I’ve heard) but for the most part I think the team did a fantastic job! I particularly loved the reduced rate for younger members (which is a brilliant way to encourage younger fans!), from what I could see the access arrangements worked well (particularly for my dad, who had a hypoglycaemic attack during the concert – the staff were very accommodating in letting food be brought in), I loved the scope of the programming – I think there really would have been something for just about everything and I really enjoyed the ExCel as a venue. I think things like the Fan Village and Exhibits spaces worked fairly well (if they happen again, perhaps some clearer signage would be beneficial, especially for things like the flexible space) and I much preferred having the parties and main social space being together like that. I’m aware that there weren’t enough volunteers, but I think that they and the organisers did a fantastic job, especially considering the size of the con. So well done and thank you to them!
There was one issue I had, which I do want to bring up here – it’s not cool to take photos of people without asking! I mean, it’s one thing to have a picture of the crowd, it’s entirely another to take a snap of one specific person and it’s yet another thing to post a photo of someone without asking online. I noticed two people taking photos of me as I was walking about on Sunday, and found out a third had posted this photo of me online (I have cropped out the other people in the background):
So firstly, yes, let’s all take a second to admire my cool outfit. I do look pretty spiffy!
Secondly, let’s understand that this photo makes me pretty uncomfortable – I never post pictures of me side-on. I’m still working hard at loving my body as it is, so to be confronted with exactly how fat I look from the side is quite difficult for me. So that’s one aspect of why I’m not really happy this was done.
Thirdly, I think people do have a right to know how and where their image is being used. I spoke to the person who took this photo over twitter and told them I wish that they’d asked, and they apologised. In the future, I hope people know to ask, and I hope that codes of conduct at cons can make it explicit that you do need to ask before taking someone’s photo. Most people say yes! And if they don’t, they have a good reason, so we need to have the conversation before we go taking photos 🙂 Additionally, this is a photo showing my hair colour – so there was no need to have a full body shot which included other people. I’m happy to show off my face and hair! I’m even happy to talk about what I used and why, so it’s a shame we missed out on that conversation.
I know that this post is pretty late + long, so I’m not going to drag it out much further, except to say, if you enjoyed Worldcon, then I have some recs for other cons in the UK to go to!
Redemption – 20th – 22nd February, in Coventry. I went to Redemption ’13 and had a great time! It’s a relatively small con, and the hotel is pretty iffy, but the members are friendly and the programme had some very interesting items on it. If the scale of Worldcon was overwhelming and you don’t mind being in a crowd where most people know each other [although they’re all welcoming if you can work up the nerve to say hi!], I’d say it’s a wonderful con in an interesting city! http://www.conventions.org.uk/redemption/
Eastercon – 3rd – 6th April, in the Park Inn in Heathrow. Eastercon is probably what Worldcon would be like if it were scaled down to roughly 1500 members. It’s skewed towards literature, but the programme normally has a little bit of everything and it usually has a great science track. This is the con I’ve been to the most and whilst sometimes it can seem to be yet another clique of people you don’t know, I generally find the discussions and talks very informative and interesting! http://www.dysprosium.org.uk/
Nine Worlds – 7th – 9th August, probably Radisson Edwardian in Heathrow. Nine Worlds is the con that I think everyone should go to! It has a lovely atmosphere and it normally has more discussion about the latest fandoms, rather than Eastercon and Redemption which do have those discussions but has a lot more about older fandoms too. Nine Worlds is very much a geek fest, so this does mean some panels are a little less in depth than Eastercon, but you definitely still get interesting tidbits and opinions! One of the main draws of Nine Worlds is that it is very active in making their con a visible safe space for everyone. https://nineworlds.co.uk/
I am going to be at all three conventions! So if you’re a newbie to any of them and you need someone to say hello to, say hi to me!