Thursday 25 April through to Sunday 28 April 2013 (Australia’s 52nd NatCon/Canberra Speculative Fiction Conference)
I promised Europa SF a report of Conflux. I fear this is going to be a bit of a disappointment (Conflux was wonderful – it’s me who is the disappointment) for my Conflux was strange and so my report is patchy. I’ll make it short and explain why and I will swear, faithfully, that I will try harder this weekend, when I’m going to Sydney (warm Sydney ! frost-free Sydney !) for the Aurealis Awards.
Conflux is Canberra’s local convention (Canberra is, for those who need to know, the Centre of the Known Universe, also the capital of Australia), and a city of a bit over 300, 000 people. It’s nestled in the mountains and has a more European climate than the rest of Australia. Where our overseas guests were looking for kangaroos, our local visitors were looking for autumn leaves.
Conflux 9 was also Australia’s 52nd NatCon (it was also my 52nd birthday, which is not relevant but it amuses me) and so it had a bit more panoply than conventions normally do in Canberra. There were two overseas guests (Nalo Hopkinson and Mark Gascoigne) and three local guests (Kaaron Warren, Karen Miller and Rose Mitchell). There was a masquerade and a banquet and a steampunk high tea and much other pageantry. There were five program streams, including kaffeeklatsches, signings, panels and talks. There were twelve booklaunches and, once, mysteriously, there was bubble blowing in the foyer. By Australian standards it was a large-ish convention (for a literary one) with about 300 people attending.
Conflux has its usual happenings (lots of writers and artists, the historical banquet) and Nicole and Donna made sure that writers and artists attended and that the banquet happened. The banquet was a repeat of one done some years earlier, which I can tell everyone all about, if they want (since I’m the person who designs the Conflux banquets). The important aspect of all this is that, if anyone wanted to meet their favourite writer, they just had to turn their head. Even the hotel staff were happy “I just talked to Garth Nix: my brother is going to be so jealous.”
The level of pageantry and panoply and fancy dress was rather high for a literary convention. It all began with the chairs (Donna Hanson and Nicole Murphy), who advertised it with costume at the previous NatCon, in Melbourne. Fans took note and a positive frenzy of sewing and costume design took place. More steampunk than you can poke a brass cog at.
Add everything up and Conflux was about costume and music and dance and much, much food. It had a great atmosphere, very friendly and relaxed.
Some of the events I ought to report on, I had to experience second hand, I’m afraid, for my eyes chose that weekend to become unreliable. My hospital visit only lasted a couple of hours (and my eyesight is returning, slowly but rather magically) but it means I missed the Ditmars and I missed the closing ceremony. I’ve heard wonderful things about them both, to add insult to injury. This means that you don’t get to hear about all the best segments from someone who has been there. You get to hear about them from someone who was in the lounge area chatting with friends (in a state of exhaustion, to be honest, eyes are tiring), not quite realising what she was missing for she couldn’t read the program.
To make up for this, I have photographs. My trusty camera did much good work. It amused me that everyone assumed I could see because my camera could. As I chose which photographs to send with this report, I got to see some of these things for the first time. It was a very colourful convention !
© Gillian Polack
Gillian Polack is an Europa SF’s contributor and correspondent for Australia and New Zealand.
Gillian is an Australian writer and editor working mainly in the field of speculative fiction. She has published two novels, numerous short stories and nonfiction articles, and is the creator of the New Ceres universe. She attended Melbourne University and was awarded a Bachelor of Arts (First Class Honours) in History, with the Margaret Kiddle and Felix Raab Prizes. She did her Master of Arts at the Centre for Medieval Studies (University of Toronto) and submitted her thesis for Doctor of Philosophy at the University of Sydney. She later took out teaching qualifications at the University of New England. She currently lives in Canberra, ACT, Australia.
Conflux 9 : venue – Rydges Capital Hill in Barton, Canberra (Australia) http://confluxnatcon2013.wordpress.com/