Swancon 31

Swancon this year was our second, and what a difference 12 months makes. Having been to four cons last year, Ange and I had a taste of the gamut, or so we thought. Swancon this year promised to be fannish, which worried me to a not-insignificant degree. It turned out that way (fannish), and there were some organisational dramas, but the committee and volunteers held it together surprisingly well (and will undoubtedly learn the little things, like not hosting book launches in the market area).

But it was fannish. Very fannish. It was also hot – 38 degrees hot.

I saw my first Star Trek uniform. Beheld an overabundance of ‘furries’ (or was that ‘plushies’ – maybe both). Listened to the sound of too-frequent lightsabre noises. Perhaps shockingly, despite the nerdiness, I had a pretty good time.

The panel programme was disappointing, perhaps because of the apparent woes with programmers, and also the hugely unbalanced fan bias. But hey, socialising saved the day. With such a heavy fan element, the professionals (which is a liberal term) saved the day.

Surprisingly, Trevor (making the trip from Canberra) was there, selling his Conflux wares and generally operating while sleep deprived. It was good to catch up and share a goodly amount of pro/networking gossip. Trevor is the one guy who has a better knowledge of the spec fic industry in Australia than practically anyone else.

Our BBQ buddies the Batterbys joined me on my 10pm horror panel (along with Stephen D) on the first night. I’m starting to rue my lack of panel preparation – while it went well, I vow to be more prepared and six shades more *interesting* for the panels I do at Conjure next month. Lee and Lyn had full plates at the con, being popular and all, but they still found time to share coffee and a dinner or two. Ange also took the opportunity to abduct young Connor during the auction to walk him up and down the hotel stairs a dozen times or so. She was a damn sight more exhausted than he was!

We picked up a copy of Lee’s collection, Through Soft Air, at his launch on the Saturday, which looks to be a great read. I’ve already read a few of the previously unpublished stories such as ‘Father Renoir’s Hands’, which is delightfully confronting – the way good dark fiction should be.

Lee and Lyn also invited us out to dinner on Saturday, where we joined a whole bunch of peeps, including John and Sarah, Ju, and Cathy Cupitt, whom we met for the first time. That turned into a protracted and rather animated discussion between Cathy and Ange on the merits and definitions of ‘slash’. Being lost on the whole subject, I kept my focus on the spicy rice.

We also did a fair bit of socialising with Russell and Liz, which was a great opportunity to get to know them. Bad cocktails were involved at one point, as was a creepy transylvanian barman whose family hunted vampires for generations, and who insisted having a coffee drained one of chi, while at the same time he chose to intermittently avoid eye contact. There was also a great conversation on the first night about editing which lasted until 1am. Ange livened up for that one.

Other people we bumped into included Jessica from the KSP SF group, Adrian Bedford and Michelle (very very briefly), and ummm.. others!

Perhaps the high point of the con was the awards night. The Tin Ducks are a strange and very local/parochial award. With such a limited number of nominees available in the pro categories (and Stephen usually winning them all), it was a pleasant surprise to see a reasonable spread of winners. We, the pros, clustered together – the Battersbys, Russell and Liz, and Ange and I. We also caught up with Carol Ryles before the awards, so we dragged her into our entourage, which lingered at the back of the room. Alas, even with 5 nominations I didn’t get to walk the red carpet, but Lyn did with her win in the Best Pro Short work section. I was chuffed and surprised to be named runner-up in that category for my story ‘Ian’ (Ticonderoga Online #5), especially given the local popularity of the other authors in the running. Shadow Box and Shadowed Realms lost out in the pro production category to Borderlands issue 4, and HorrorScope lost to the SimonO retrospective in the Fan production category. Despite the platitude, it really was nice to be nominated.

One feature of the awards was a slideshow of the nominees, complete with wall-sized projected photos. Seeing my face plastered across the wall for dozens of people in a large room to gawk at was awkward enough, but my name was mangled with increasing creativity each time it was read out by the MC (Grant Stone). Jiraiya became Jeerraaaaaaayyeeeeyaaahhhhh. Russell rushed me up to meet Grant after the ceremony, where we discussed the growing horror empire of Perth and the possibility of a radio interview. Cool.

This was followed by another high point, where we (Russell, Liz, Lee, Lyn, & Ju) retired to The Moon restaurant for a late dinner. The atmosphere was like a sauna and Ju and the Battersbys retired early, but this allowed Liz, Russell, Ange, and I, to engage in gossip and a philosophically-charged debate about all-female publications, a world-tribe, and various other bits and pieces. Twas quite the enjoyable evening.

And thus ended our Swancon. We chose not to attend the final (half) day, which allowed us to kick back and recuperate somewhat.