Loncon3 trip report: day 2

Day 1 was about getting there. Day 2 was Thursday, the first day of the con itself.

My first stop was not the ExcCeL centre, but Shoreditch. We had ordered some stickers from Moo for Abi to hand out to all of the Making Light folks who would be attending. We had left the order too late for it to be delivered to our home, though, so I got it sent to the Moo Shop for collection instead. As well as being the most convenient delivery location, it was also an opportunity for me to take a 10km-ish walk through some parts of London I’d never seen before.

(A quick diversion about shoes. I started wearing Converse All-Star high-tops back in 2003. The first time I tried on a pair, they fitted like slippers, and they have been my default April-October shoes ever since. (I prefer something warmer in winter.) I wear them until they wear out, and then I buy a new pair: men’s size UK 9, EU 42.5. I don’t have to try them on — that’s just my size.

Except the pair I bought in July has been awful. They were uncomfortable from the moment I put them on. The first time I wore them for any length of time (on our plane journey to France) the interior stitching near the toes dug into my feet so much they gave me blisters. I put up with it thinking that I just needed to wear them in a bit, but even after six weeks of wear they still pinch and hurt. They’re definitely the right size, but something about the stitching in this pair is different than in every pair I’ve owned for the last ten years. Using them as my only footwear for the con was a mistake. Walking 10km in them before the con had even started left me with sore feet, which changed my gait, which hurt my knee. Not clever.)

View of Canary Wharf from Ben Jonson Road over Regent’s Canal
OMG GIANT HEDGEHOG

Despite the pain, it was a lovely walk with some nice views. I got to the Moo shop a little after 10, got the stickers, then walked to Liverpool Street station and got the tube and DLR back to Customs House.

At the hotel, Abi and the kids were all dressed up in their costumes. I gave Abi the stickers and they headed over to the con while I stayed behind for a quick shower — the day was warm, and I was sweaty and smelly from the walk. After freshening up, I walked over to ExCeL and met up with the family and Liza for lunch. Alex and Fiona were adjusting to their new-found celebrity: people were stopping them and taking their photos already. Abi was nervous about her upcoming panel, which would be her first ever at a con. Alex had an order of fries from the chicken burger place, and the rest of us failed to make much of a dent in the mountain of pizzas I ordered.

After lunch, we hustled to Abi’s first panel: “Diggy Diggy Hole!: Minecraft and Gaming Communities”, moderated by the head of the gaming programme at the con, Esther MacCallum-Stewart. It was a fun discussion of Minecraft and Youtube, with lots of kids present. Simon “Honeydew” Lane of the Yogscast even made a surprise appearance on Esther’s phone, and we all sang “Diggy Diggy Hole” to him. Afterwards we congregated outside and started chatting with other families who were there, and immediately made friends we would spend a load of time with for the rest of the weekend. We were eventually encouraged to leave the corridor and stop making so much noise.

Meanwhile, elsewhere, Patrick and Teresa were in a car somewhere between Wales and London. Teresa’s first panel was at 16:30. Increasingly frantic text message relays made it apparent that they weren’t going to get there in time. To help speed things along, Alex (dressed as a member of the Night’s Watch) and I stood around at the entrance of their hotel, ready to escort them as soon as they arrived. They pulled in shortly after 16:30, looking slightly frantic. We split up to make things easier: Alex showed Teresa the way to her panel, while I helped Patrick park the car and haul luggage.

Teresa’s panel sounded interesting, but by the time I eventually got up there it was full and too late to get in. Alex was sitting guard outside the room, and we decided to head off back to the Fan Village to hang out. We only made it a few steps before a woman came up to us and said she was making a programme about Game of Thrones for Swedish television, and would Alex mind if she interviewed him? Of course, he was happy to oblige. He spent the next twenty minutes getting set up in front of the camera, talking about Game of Thrones, and showing off his magnificent costume.

Alex being interviewed

(Something that frustrated Alex a bit throughout the day was that people kept addressing him as “Jon Snow!” On the on hand it was great that his outfit was recognizable as from the series, but he had to keep insisting that he wasn’t Jon Snow, but rather a member of the Night’s Watch.)

Abi had planned a Gathering of Light for the evening. The kids and I were on our own, and we decided to go back to the hotel room to have something to eat, then come back to the Con afterwards and find a panel to attend. “How to Survive” sounded interesting: a discussion about rebooting civilization after an apocalypse. It was so well attended, however, that we had to sit in the aisle. ExCeL securty did not approve of this behaviour, and they removed all of us fire hazards part-way through.

A member of the Night’s Watch, and pricess Merida. Note how the Night’s Watch remains stoically in character.

We wandered down to the bustling Fan Village, and settled ourselves down by the gaming tent. There was a LARP going on inside, but the board games lending library table had moved outside the tent. We picked up City of Zombies and gave it a try. It’s a fast-moving co-operative game with a neat (educational) game mechanic. You have to add, subtract, multiply, and divide your dice rolls to come up with the exact numbers to destroy the zombies attacking you. We played a medium-length “easy” game that took us about 40 minutes, and it was fun.

It had been a long day and we were all tired in a wound-up and excited kind of way. As we headed out of the Fan Village, we passed the Gathering of Light. We stopped for a brief chat, then Alex and I went back to hotel. Fiona stayed behind with Abi, and the two of them made their way back together some time later. (I don’t remember much of that very last bit. I think I was too exhausted to be paying much attention.)

Loncon3 trip report: day 1

Worldcon started with a road trip for us. We set out in our rented car on Wednesday morning and made it down to Calais just before 15:00 for our ferry. Abi took the drive to France. It was the first time Abi and the kids had been on a Channel ferry, and the first time I had been on one in over twenty years. Alex and I had a bite to eat in the restaurant. Abi and Fiona spent a lot of time on the deck outside, trying to ward off sea-sickness. The weather was not great and we didn’t see the White Cliffs at their best, but at least we’ve been past them now. Abi remains unconvinced about passenger ferries as a viable means of long-distance transport.

Those cliffs look threatening

I took the drive from Dover to London. We arrived at our hotel, the Ibis Styles on Victoria Dock Road, at just after 18:00. We had booked a studio apartment with a double and twin singles, but it took a couple of attempts to get this combination right. The first one they offered us had two double beds. Alex took one look at the double bed, one look at his little sister, and said, “I’ll sleep on the couch.” After trundling all our luggage back to reception, I got a look at a second apartment, which featured one colossal king-sized bed and one single. The third one they offered us was goldilocks — a double and a twin, all in one big room with a kitchen area and a sitting room. Perfect for our needs.

We settled ourselves in a bit and freshened up before walking over to the ExCel Centre itself. Despite being just across the road, it was still a bit of a walk to get to the con registration area, because the ExCeL is huge. We crossed the road at the Custom House DLR station at the West entrance and walked the length of the concourse to the registration desks at the East entrance. This was exactly the right time to do that, because hardly anyone else was there. We got our badges and booklets, identified the main features of the con area, and then walked back West to find some food.

Just after registration
Some workers near the West entrance of Excel. May have been statues. They didn’t say much.
GREAT

We located a Tesco not too far away, grabbed some bread, cheese, cereals, and other room-food, and wandered back to the hotel. Alex and Fiona had been used to sleeping very later for most of the summer holiday, and we’d all had to get up early that morning. We were exhausted, and so we didn’t stay up very late.

Mixed Media, Saturday 23 August 2014

I haven’t been actively hunting for new music in the last month. Mostly listening to stuff from my library, and also these three albums I acquired just after getting back from France in July:

La Roux – Trouble in Paradise. I liked her first album, but didn’t love it. The new one feels richer, denser, and has more of a bass-y heft to it. Favourite tracks: “Cruel Sexuality”, “Paradise is You”, and “The Feeling”.

Curiously, my brain has shourt-circuited La Roux with Laurie Penny. It’s something about the name (LaurieLa Roux) and the nickname (Penny RedThe Red). I had hoped to catch one of the panels that Laurie was on at Worldcon just to convince myself that she wasn’t going to spontaneously burst into song, but the timing didn’t work out. I will forever wonder.

Anushka – Broken Circuit. Varied electronica with lovely vocals, running from sweet and summery to deep and dub. Favourite tracks: “Never Can Decide”, “Atom Bombs”, “Broken Circuit”, “These Things”, “Mansions”.

Röyksopp and Robyn – Do It Again. An intense five-track EP. The central track, “Do It Again” is unashamedly upbeat and poppy, but it is nested inside much darker and moodier pieces like a dark chocolate with a fruity centre. I’ve usually had this on later in the evening rather than during the day.

In terms of reading matter, I signed up for the special Comic Con 99 cent trial of Marvel’s “Unlimited” app, and I’ve been trying to find out just how much superhero action I can handle over the course of a single month. The answer: quite a lot. Favourite discoveries: Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Captain Marvel and the new Ultimate Spider-Man with Miles Morales. I hadn’t read much Spider-Woman before, and I do enjoy Jessica Drew’s snarky attitude. Nova and Guardians of the Galaxy are also good, but the cosmic-ness gets a bit much after a while. Right now I’m trying to get through all of Civil War (with its numerous tie-ins) before my special offer month runs out. Don’t think I’ll quite make it. But there’s so much value in the Marvel’s back catalogue that I might keep it on for a bit longer.

Bob Shaw collection

Juist in time (well, maybe) for Worldcon, and after having talked about it for literally decades*, I am finally starting to put together a catalogue of my Bob Shaw collection. I’m at the point where, apart from translated editions, there are only minimal gaps in my collection of his novels. It would be annoying to find myself face-to-face with a shelf of books in the dealers’ room at Worldcon and not know which ones I should be targeting**.

“For the truly compulsive hobbyist, there comes a time when a collection gathers weight — metaphysical, existential weight. It becomes as much a source of anxiety as of joy.”

The Brazilian Bus Magnate Who’s Buying Up All the World’s Vinyl Records

Also, sensible advice from Jen, “If you don’t do anything with it, it’s just hoarding.”

* two
** Again