An account of our adventures at the British Eastercon, Paragon. Written by Eric with interjections, editing and photographs by Jean. Previous page (Arrival in UK). Larger versions of some of the photos in this chapter are available on our Bravenet photo storage site. This page last updated 4 October 2001.
Friday 13 April 2001
On our way to Hinckley at 11 a.m. for the Eastercon with John Harvey driving, Eve explained the numerous things I missed in my previous notes of our stay with them. The countryside looked green and lush, doubtless a consequence of the recent rain and floods.
The Hanover International Hotel at Hinckley was a lot nicer than I ever expected. I must admit however to having misgivings about the massive figure of Poseidon in the foyer, holding up the ceiling. It should have been Atlas, or maybe Hercules. Late one evening, the trident held by the statue became occupied with a giant piece of polyurethane painted to look like a slice of toast.
We entered our room (photos on right and left), and just about turned around and fled from the sybaritic splendour and luxury exposed to our unaccustomed gaze. In the bathroom, the towel rails were heated, the bathing equipment included both shower and deepset bath, each equipped with more nozzles and hand controls than the average moon rocket. The auxiliary equipment in the bath even included a set of rubber ducks!
The main room was even more splendid, with a lounge, a bed of aircraft carrier proportions, comfortable chairs, and a fancy desk complete with a computer. We were well above our usual level of squalor, although I imagine we could manage to get used to living in this luxurious style.
The convention material we received at registration included a Harry Turtledove novel Into the Darkness donated by John Jarrold of Earthlight (Simon and Schuster). http://www.earthlight.co.uk. This is the first part of a fantasy series in which Harry rewrote the history of WWII with dragons and mages. Cute, but not to my taste.
We also had an extensive Paper Tiger graphics catalog, listing all manner of SF and fantasy artwork books. I see their interesting email newsletter on a fairly regular basis. http://www.papertiger.co.uk
Some slightly worrying material appeared in the Paragon programme book. At least two of the committee, Steve Lawson and John Dowd, revealed they had read Kemlo books during their misspent youth. Also GoH Mark Plummer revealed he had re-read a Neil R Jones Zorome story, for research, he says.
The program book also had a nice little writeup about GUFF, but alas, Jean's name was spelt Webber rather than Weber.
The program book also revealed the 1948 Eastercon had Bertram Chandler as GoH, and as he was often thought of as an Australian writer, it is nice to see that continuing connection with GUFF attendees at the con. Indeed, we want to make GUFF an annual event, rather than once every few years.
Dave Langford (photo on left) and Cheryl Morgan were in the fan room before it opened, and we were able to get in and say hello to Sandra Bond working behind the desk. We also wanted to introduce ourselves to organisers Greg Pickersgill and Catherine McAuley.
In the bar we talked with GUFF administrator Paul Kincaid, who kindly bought me a most welcome beer; Maureen Kincaid Speller, who dodged off frequently to see others; and David Stewart from Ireland.
The opening panel in the fan room was appropriately enough about fan rooms, with Greg Pickersgill as moderator, Rhodri James, Claire Brialey and Eric Lindsay. I'm not sure that I was an appropriate panelist, but given the material in this fan room was the best I have seen, I tried to contribute to the discussion.
Talked with Ian Sorenson, last seen at the Seattle and Boston Corflus. He introduced a Leeds fan, not that we ever got to Leeds, with many insults as is his wont, and also introduced Eileen Weston.
I recall a large card being prepared for sending to Arthur C Clarke, so as many of the attendees as possible were encouraged to sign it, just because it was 2001.
Dined in the Brasserie with Ben Yalow of the bow tie, and active convention fan K.I.M. Campbell, originally from Canada. Ben Yalow had to head off for the Buffy panel. He advised that even Smofcon had a Buffy panel and he has to be on each Buffy panel.
The queue at the buffet cashier was so large that Jean soon found that you could avoid it by ordering a pizza at the door for delivery to the table. Food is Jean's area of expertise. Grolsch turned out to be the most acceptable beer in that area of the convention.
Later, in the bar with Maureen Kincaid Speller and David Stewart, I talked up our relaxacon planned for Airlie Beach in June 2002.
I tried getting our GUFF and Relaxa.con publicity into the next convention newsletter by talking to the helpful staff, and managed that with the GUFF material. We had already handed out some of the round GUFF badges we had made to some previous winners and helpers, just to help with publicising the fund.
The very late night GUFF and TAFF quiz lured lots of people into the fan room, more so I think than the earlier panels, which I think is a bit of a worry. Quizmaster was Roger Robinson, while the TAFF members were Maureen Kincaid Speller, Sue Mason, and current TAFF winner Victor Gonzalez. GUFF was represented by Eric Lindsay, Jean Weber, Eve Harvey and Paul Kincaid. The TAFF folks proved somewhat better at answering the questions, assisted mightily by a wonderful performance by Maureen.
Saturday 14 April 2001
We started at 8:30 with a giant breakfast (included in the room rates) of five varieties of incredibly fatty eggs, bacon and sausage, baked beans, fruit, toast, cereal. I was later to argue that this actually included five varieties of vegetable, at least for the purpose of following a healthy diet. Well, it is plausible that the sausage was mostly vegetable.
Talked with Peter and Eileen Weston about travel to Australia. Peter says the weather in the UK is depressing him. I talked with Peter several times during the convention after panels, and really hope he will make more trips to Australia when he retires.
Saw con publications organiser Peter Dowd in the con newsroom again for a while. He wants to organise an interview, thus proving convention newsletter editors get increasingly desperate as the convention proceeds. Of course, they were never there when we checked the room. Wilf James even asked Eve Harvey early this evening about the interview, having sighted her propaganda GUFF badge.
The Art show Consisted of two rooms organised by Robbie Bourget. I went through a couple of times, and was very impressed with the high quality of the work presented. This was materially assisted by the large number of David Hardy items, however there were several other artists of like standard whose work was also on display.
The Dealers' Room was crowded with book dealers, and also some fantasy rings and brasswork and the like. The aisles were very narrow, and I felt the prices mostly very high for my pocket. However the place was crowded every time I saw it. The proportion of book dealers was most pleasing to me, even if I couldn't afford to buy.
Talked with jan howard finder about his Australian trip report. He was waiting for someone to arrive for his readings for children, however the audience so far was nil. jan says he could keep his notes up to date by stopping at 3 p.m. and writing, however on his short (6 month) trip, he always felt he needed to check something else later in the day. I'm not sure any of us take the leisure any longer to reflect upon what we write. Writing now means, for most fans, an e-mail workalike, and all style is lost, as you can clearly see on this draft.
Some panels, like the one on World Building, were somewhat too interactive. People sitting around a beachball they were about to terraform is a little too intense for me.
Fan GoHs Mark Plummer (photo on right) and Claire Brialey (photo on left) had a panel at 4 p.m. in the Lakeside fan room. This was done as a photoshow of fans via a computer projector. Fun presentation of various fans, including several uncharacteristically in suits under circumstances that were neither a wedding nor a funeral. Naturally young and cute photos of the GoHs were included, whereas had I been them, I'd have attempted to suppress such items. The photo of Ted White was blurred around the edges, perhaps a case of art following life. There were more embarrassing photos of British fandom than I ever expected to see in a single sitting. I think Marianne would have said they were all very silly.
Jean went for a meal around 5:30, and I accompanied her to the Brasserie. I think I'm still full from the giant individual pizza last night, and the even more giant breakfast. It was interesting to note that every pizza appeared distinctly different from the ones seen the previous evening.
Purpose of fanzines panel at 6 p.m. in the fan room. Before phones and the internet, fanzines were perhaps the glue keeping fandom together. Mike Scott said Plokta's purpose was to enable them to get together every six weeks of so and eat too much food, and also to avoid having to do locs. You can control who reads your fanzine, but not who reads your web page. A fanzine establishes connections between people who may have never met. In joint fanzines, sometimes one editor was enthusiastic, and this carried the fanzine along when it might otherwise have stalled. Fanzines are great because you can edit and rethink your material, which perhaps is not as common in electronic media. Greg Pickersgill complained that the sercon and the fannish side of fanzine fandom are a great divide, and throw away zines from the other side of the great divide.
End of year family letter was raised as almost a fanzine, except not written as well, and with fewer jokes. The family version is intended to be informative, whereas the fanzine version is intended to be interesting and if that happens to be less than totally accurate, then so be it. The fanzine depicts an edited life.
Greg thinks about perhaps eight people as the audience when writing a fanzine, although the completed version eventually goes to a whole bunch of people you don't give a toss about. Certainly raises the question of whether it is worth the postage to you.
Greg Pickersgill (photo on left) and Catherine McAuley (photo on right) organised the fan room, which was perhaps the best and most comprehensive I have ever seen. It certainly had by far the best display of fanzines I've seen. Greg however pointed out that it had only a few percent of the total attendance, which was disproportionate to the space and resources allocated. Greg found the fanzines were not selling, and perhaps not even being able to be given away free. This was despite him having some really fine examples. He even indicated he would perhaps be giving up the reprint functions of Memory Hole.
Hotel and memberships person Steve Lawson seems on vast numbers of con committees, and I met him briefly while he was between his various duties. Interesting character.
Steve and Ann Green were present on a day trip to the con, and it was great to get a chance to talk to them. Both Jean and I got photographs (right and left) to prove this, since it had been a fair while since we had heard from them.
The Eastercon panel at 8 p.m. was, as expected, about how to ensure there was a future Eastercon. The scale of Eastercon was raised, and how this affects the hotel required, and the effort you need. I don't believe anyone actually knew what to do, and the possibility of there not being a con some year was mooted. This sort of topic is not unfamiliar to an Australian audience.
We spotted Yvonne Rowse (photo on right), also seen at Corflu. Yvonne won a FAAN award last year at Corflu; Best New Fanwriter? Don't recall exactly. (See how much attention we pay to details? If it's not written down immediately, it's gone, alas.)
As an aside, this year Paragon appears to have had 814 members.
Being a very short person, and at the back of the crowd, I didn't see much of the masquerade that Giulia de Cesare organised. Certainly a backstage area, rather than a corridor, would have made life easier for any organiser. Photographs of the various winners appeared in the convention newsletter, and should also be on the Paragon web site.
The fireworks around 10 p.m. were absolutely magnificent, a lengthy and elaborate display of considerable quality. I cheated and watched them from our hotel room, rather than brave the cold outside past the parking lot. I later found that £2000 of fireworks were set off by the volunteers.
Various parties in the lobbies, bar and rooms through the hotel. I sat around talking with a veterinarian about foot and mouth disease, finding with no great surprise that the newspaper and TV reports are less than accurate. It also appears that vaccination is not the panacea some seem to believe, as some animals then get the actual disease, possibly from production problems with the vaccines.
It was 1/2r Cruttenden's birthday, and he ran a fine party in his room 555. Chris Carter took me there, with me assisting with his wheelchair. Brian contributed the year-old Stroh's soaked glace cherries and mandarins, which were the base of the tasty and dangerously smooth punch. Caroline Mullen was there with their very quiet baby. Alison Scott was noisy about Corflu and other cons, and con bids. Ben Yalow and I agreed that a Corflu could probably run successfully as part of a Boskone, just like FanHistoricon ran with a previous Boskone.
There were several parties in the same area, and even a noise complaint, presumably from early retiring fans.
I was surprised to find that the bar was still open around 2:30 a.m. and I crashed fairly early, at 3 a.m.
Sunday 15 April 2001
After the usual enormous and unhealthy breakfast, Jean checked out the book auction, while I listened to the end of the world panel. I'm so depressed. Usual suspects. Global warming, floods, bad weather, disease, nuclear disaster, asteroid impact, terrorist use of chemical and biological weapons, especially against animals so as to produce economic disruption like foot and mouth does.
Jean and I met in the newsroom, where Wilf James had wanted to interview us for the newsletter as GUFF delegates.
The Forward into the Past panel in the fan room had Ken Slater, Steve Davies, Claire Brialey moderating, Victor Gonzalez, Doug Bell and Jean Weber. Jean mentioned the addition of the woman's movement to Australian SF, and the addition of extra program items as fans were interested. Ken Slater (photo on left) mentioned the hoax woman fan Joan Carr in U.K. fandom who produced Femezine around the late 1950's, and drew in many woman fan writers.
Claire thinks new fans are looking for something new and different, to take the free spirit they see in fandom, but reject the dead past as a tyranny. Later they may perhaps find the past still has relevance and immediacy. Ken Slater said rituals keep changing, and gave the Knights of Saint Fantony as an example, while Victor added FWA (devised by Ted White in the 1980's) as a still current silly trend. Every group has problems with active members. The active ones are the students, and the retired. Claire had said tribal groups were disappearing. Victor says technology allows them to make us work harder. This in response to a comment that maybe they want us to do trivial things instead of thinking about problems in society.
What's the Point of Awards with Martin Easterbrook, Chris Hill, Dick Jude, Tony Berry, Eric Lindsay. For some reason Greg Pickersgill found some comments on the sample aspect of voters most surprising and engaging. Greg also seems to have recovered his enthusiasm for trying to draw people into thinking about the material presented.
Bill Burns offered us a lift to Manchester or Stockport, but on Monday rather than the Tuesday we were scheduled. This sounded like a wonderful idea, as we were not looking forward to braving the trains with all our luggage, even though we will miss the dead dog party.
I don't know whether there was actually chariot racing around the hotel during the weekend (we heard rumours, but didn't witness any ourselves), but at least some of the three recumbent tricycles (see photo at right) present did pass through my field of vision at different times outside the hotel.
Snacks instead of dinner (or lunch), just like yesterday. Jean was sensible and bought another pizza, and then went to sleep early, as on most evenings since she hurt her back in the early days of the trip. Too many airline flights is my suspicion.
Fund raising panel with Alison Scott, Vince Docherty, John Richards moderating, Maureen Kincaid Speller, and Bridget Bradshaw. United fan fund distribution method tends to favour funds and fan charities most in need. I thought it went rather well, and is a topic we need to consider given that GUFF will need to raise much more money if it is to go to an annual event as we want.
The grand one hour Plokta and Son auction on Sunday at 7 p.m. seemed to do a fine job raising money, although several items were not presented for one reason or another. The propeller beanie I plunked on Alison's head raised £10, but probably only because Alison said she would wear it all evening in the bar. Jonathan was later noted to be assisting Alison in this wearing experience.
Saw Bill Burns, whom I'd known previously only via the Memory Hole mailing list, and confirmed we would be going to Stockport with him, and would meet in the fan room.
The late night quiz in the fan room gathered a pretty decent audience, but I'm not a quiz fan so I soon left.
Alison Scott's party in the creche at room 314 around 11:30 seemed worth attending, if I were still awake, but I must have been too late for it. Or more likely, I checked room 341 instead.
I crashed around 1 a.m. having pretty much failed to bestir myself enough to find any late night parties this time.
Monday 16 April 2001
We loaded our bags into Bill and Mary Burns' car soon after breakfast. We had a trouble-free checkout despite experience in Australia of payment for convention-sponsored rooms going wrong at the hotel end. It was good to see the Eastercon assisting GUFF with the rooms, as this leaves the fund in a better position for the next set of candidates.
I talked with Paul Kincaid and Maureen Speller. I'm suggesting that we write a GUFF administrator's guide, with checklists of items to take care of, and perhaps templates of flyers, posters and other publicity.
We left the convention around 2 p.m. to drive to Stockport, where we'll be staying with Paul and Cas Skelton. The next installment of this report will be in Part 5.