Every time I type the word “Eastercon”, my computer autocorrects it to “Eastern”. Which is becoming annoying, as I have typed it quite a few times lately, both looking for the website to make sure it really was going to take place in Harrogate (and not Halifax or Huddersfield, which apparently I also have mentally filed under “interchangeable”) and posting status updates when I was there, on Facebook or here, where I repeated the information I’d put together for the “Small Business for Creators” panel.
So. Eastercon. Also known, this year, as Follycon. I haven’t been to an sf convention for a few years. I have never found fandom to be this encompassing, welcoming presence people write about, but that’s because I’m horribly shy and it’s that horrible kind of shyness that makes you look like you’re horribly arrogant. But I think I’ve finally reached a comfortable old age, where I’ve re-learned the insouciant “go to the panels that interest you and retreat to your room if nothing else happens” manner of my youth. As it happened, there was a lot of “something else” happening, including hanging out with Clarion mates and other Sheffield fen, as well as people I know better in cyberspace. I also seem to have got over the weird disconnect I felt after Farthing folded, when I went, ever so briefly, from being Popular Person People Wanted To Hang Out With (because I was an Editor, and people who write stuff want to hang out with editors, because they might, you know, buy their stories) to Utter Nobody again. Trust me, you notice!
As far as Harrogate is concerned, it might as well have been Huddersfield or Halifax from my point of view, as my achilles tendon went “ping” for absolutely no reason a couple of days before the con, so I was limping a fair bit more than usual and absolutely not up to anything more strenuous than walking from the Premier Inn across the gardens to the Majestic. Nor was I up for tackling the stairs down to the dealers’ room and art show. However I can’t talk about Follycon without mentioning the bloke from the hotel staff who drove the golf cart that took me from the level access entrance to the ground floor round to the level access entrance to the lower floor. He was enjoying his job WAAAAAAAY too much, and the trip I took was definitely in the category “scream if you wanna go faster”!
I did a couple of panels on Sunday. Fiction about fiction was on “stories that answer, retell or continue previously-published stories by another author”. Tanya Brown and I were there as fanfic authors and Jeff Noon and Ramsey Campbell as, well, I suppose pros who have done the same thing but with work out of copyright. I enjoyed the panel immensely, and I had at least one line that someone instantly tweeted! (“Fanfiction is an artificial construct of capitalism”) All my fellow panelists gave thoughtful and thought-provoking contributions and Lee Harris did sterling work moderating. It was one of those panels where you walk away thinking you did a collectively good job (rather than where you walk away wanting to kill the other panelists, your audience or indeed yourself). The Small Business for Creators panel later was in one of the smaller rooms upstairs and scheduled against several other things I’d have liked to listen to, so when we gathered in the greenroom I was sorely afraid the panel was going to outnumber the audience. However it was remarkably well-attended in the circumstances, and people were really keen to talk about tax/get tax advice: I don’t think I’ve been on a panel before where people were actually taking notes as I spoke! Congratulations to Francesca Barbini of Luna Press Publishing for thinking of the idea and for moderating it so well.
The only “purely Harrogate” experience I had over the weekend was having coffee with my elderly godfather and his wife who live in Harrogate and whom I hadn’t seen irl for an embarrassingly large number of years. I had arranged to meet them for coffee in the Majestic on Friday morning, and we went round to the bar area just before it properly opened, only to interrupt what was clearly a serious conversation between some of the con committee and the hotel staff. I apologised for interrupting but explained my godparents were visiting and the hotel reception had said we could get coffee there, and was that the case… One of the committee members was in “hit the roof” mode and said no, the con had the whole hotel so there shouldn’t be anyone else there. I said I hadn’t realised that and should I go buy them a day membership, and you could actually see them regrouping and rethinking what they were saying. Reader, we had our coffees and catch up, and without buying day memberships. So, thanks, Follycon, not just for organising a great convention but for this sliver of kindness as well. Good job!