Yesterday I got back from Eastercon, which was held at the Birmingham Hilton (next to the NEC).
I’m not what you’d call a seasoned convention attendee. I had been to two before Eastercon, following my decision in 2010 to actually throw my hat into the fandom ring and actually talk to people instead of just lurking on forums and pretending I was taking part.
So, when I pass comment on the convention, the caveat really is that I’m not an old hand at the convention thing – it’s just my experience of it.
First, the venue. The Hilton is a nice hotel, I’ll give you that, but it’s super-expensive. They laid on a special convention restaurant which was mean to sell meals at lower prices, but they were still pretty damn expensive from my perspective. It was also miles from anywhere and although the NEC and the airport were a short distance, both venues were also quite pricey considering the fare they had on offer.
While you could say that this is the cost of having it in the Hilton, it had a knock-on effect for people at the Con. I turned up with a pretty tight budget, and although I factored in a serious chunk of it for the purchasing of eats – even going so far as to guess at how many times I’d offer to buy people drinks* – I ended up eating into my dealer room budget to the point that I didn’t much while I was there.
And that annoys me, really, because the whole point of being there is to get to know people and also hopefully to pick up some awesome stuff – and I think more than a few of the dealers were disappointed by the lack of sales. It’s just one event, but you’ve got to wonder how those sales figures affect the businesses they trickle back to.
Another Hilton thing was the function rooms, which were fitted with insane air conditioning. Queens room? Roasting hot. London room? Freezing cold. Normally that wouldn’t bother me too much, but when you spend one panel trying to get warmth back into your hands by sitting on them and the next on the verge of sleep because it’s so cozy, then there are issues.
As to the schedule, I didn’t go to many panels this time round. I skipped the writing ones because I’ve been to writing ones before and honestly there are only so many times I can be told to write more, write consistently, read lots, and edit ruthlessly.** I went to one on combative female characters that meandered off down some odd paths regarding real-world military attitudes to women, and another on fugitives in fiction that had some nice banter about meddling with story archetypes and form.
The evening events I was a little disappointed with. I’d always imagined them being a lot more lively and inclusive of the attending cohort, but the ball and ceilidh were pretty quiet affairs and the disco was…well…it was…
It defied description.
Anyway. I’m coming down on the Con a little too hard, perhaps. Despite, in spite of, and aside from all that, I enjoyed myself massively. The people that I met – that I already knew, knew through twitter, or had simply never met before and stood next to in the bar – made up for it more than ten times over. Adam Christopher made a spirited effort to mention all the people he met at Eastercon over on his ‘blog, something I don’t think I can match. What I can do is say that there are some enormously awesome people out there who consistently made me feel very, very welcome, and they helped make a weekend that was plagued with potentially fun-destroying or fun-limiting issues to be a very great deal of fun instead.
*I overestimated that. I think people felt bad about taking me up on it because of the prices.
**and not get my hopes up