An Aussie in Europe

    Loncon3 mic logoFirst, let me thank all the European fans who voted for me for GUFF. I won the race and have finally returned from five weeks attending SF conventions and meeting fellow fans and doing fannish things.

    Five weeks wasn’t nearly long enough. I did many things and met many people, but Europe’s fandoms are so rich and so interesting that it was only a tiny fraction of the whole. This is not a report about European cons and fandom, therefore, it’s a look at what a single Australian fan encountered while visiting European cons on behalf of Australasian fandom. While there will be a proper (and very long) report elsewhere in due course, I thought you’d appreciate a quick overview here.

    I attended four conventions during my five weeks (and will be at Conflux in a week’s time – I’m obviously an addict): Loncon3, Shamrokon, Liburnicon and FantasyCon. I’m not going to report on my panels or other moments in the sun, for they’re probably reported on by others and if they’re not, they’re almost certainly forgettable.

    1. Loncon 3

    Loncon was the biggest convention I’ve ever attended. I was overwhelmed until I realised that I had to find mechanisms to deal with the size, and once I did that, it was an amazing experience. I avoided the big ticket items unless I was a part of them, for instance. This means I missed some of my dream items, but it also means I didn’t suffer from too many people in too small a space. It also meant I got to play in the fan village a great deal, and I made many new friends there.

    The advantage of the size was the number of choices: missing the big ticket items didn’t mean I had a lesser convention. I encountered many of my favourite authors and (mostly) didn’t actually swoon at their feet. I also did a bit of volunteer work (ahead of the con, and in the Green Room) which meant I turned up knowing people and with places to go and things to do.

    It was a magnificent convention. It was a comfortable convention, once I had worked out that I probably should avoid the big crowds. And it was a lot of fun. There were so many options for so many kinds of fans: I keep telling people that it was the first time in my life I got to be all the different parts of myself in the one place.

    2. Shamrokon

    Shamrokon was one of the happiest conventions I’ve ever attended. I don’t know if this is typical of Eurocons (for it was my first) or Irish conventions (my first there, too), but it was pleasant and friendly from beginning to end. Even the hotel staff commented on it.

    Some of my personal highlights were the cake-tasting (and the rather cool people I met while melting over the perfect chocolate cup cake) and the Dothraki jewellery workshop. James Shields and Brian Nesbit know their fandom.

    I spent a lot of time in the dealers’ room, chatting and even more time in the bar, chatting. At one stage we were invaded by leaflets encouraging us to worship the Elder Gods, and I now regret not having a set with me, to show people who feel the need to convert me using leaflets.

    Shamrokon was where I finally got to meet French fans and critics. It’s also where I suddenly lost my French. These two things are not unrelated…

    3. Liburnicon

    I was a guest at Liburnicon, so I saw everything differently. I got to meet most of the organisers, for one thing, and a thoroughly nice bunch they are, too. I also had the privilege of spending a large chunk of time with the other guests (Ian Gibson, Véronique Lejeune and Frédéric Pinson) which was both fun and illuminating.

    Liburnicon is a very young con – the average age was… not much, and the energy levels were intense. People partied late and slept late and ate occasionally (mostly pizza). The formal programming was mostly lectures, and, alas, I ended up in long conversations with interesting people instead of attending the lectures. I should have persuaded someone to translate for me, for they were very good lectures (I know, for I audience-watched throughout).

    My personal highlights were Ian Gibson’s Q&A, and breakfast-time which was generally Véronique and I chatting about almost everything, mostly in French (for my French returned) but also in English. One day we were trying to identify the comics used in the construction of the sugar containers and failed, so I went to the next table and asked the local comics expert, who instantly knew. This sums up Liburnicon for me: between us all, we knew many things and enjoyed sharing that knowledge.

    4. FantasyCon

    FantasyCon was quite different. It was compact and most of the people I met there were writers or critics. I was so tired by then that the evening activities were beyond me, so I heard with fascination everyone else’s anecdotes about them. Writers (mostly British) seem to know how to party. As do critics. I think they should meet the Croatian youngsters.

    It had a buzz about it, and also the scent of chlorine in the bar.

    At the end of my trip, I did a whistle-stop tour of Finnish fandom (each night a different drink!) that took me to Turku, Tampere, Jyväskylä and Helsinki. The warmth and hospitality of the Finns (and their doughnuts and drinks and Moomins) bode well for a worldcon, so I hope they win their bid.

    I suspect salmiak is the Finnish equivalent of Vegemite, though, and only suitable for some. The taste of salmiak balanced the fact that the Finns must be the most allergy-sensitive nation I’ve encountered. I have acute allergies and fandom dealt with them rationally, as a matter of course. Not quite as matter of course were the Northern Lights, which I was lucky enough to see.

    One important thing I noted throughout my trip (as an Anglophone) was that English is the common tongue between different fandoms. It’s easier for an English-speaker to travel in fandom than almost anyone else. While I used other languages when I could, I didn’t really need them, for everyone went out of their way to make me feel welcome in my own language.

    Thank you Europe, for your share in my tour!


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