We just attended our first convention! Or 'con' as everybody calls them, which was at first slightly worrying. On Friday we jumped in the car (after completing Leiali's Integral Cleaning Regime, that is) and headed off for a lovely long weekend break at....Heathrow. Not exactly the number one choice of holiday destination, but thems the breaks.
The drive down was surprisingly trouble-free given the Bank Holiday weekend (I was continuously expecting a gargantuan traffic jam to rear its head, and with every passing minute that such a creature failed to appear I become increasingly convinced that it was simply biding its time) and we arrived at the Radisson Edwardian hotel in good time - just in time, in fact, to get completely lost in its labyrinthine corridors, occasionally resembling a well-lit Shelob's Lair (look: a fantasy reference!).
After checking in (after locating reception) we carefully consulted our maps and started to discern a kind of reason within the architectural madness. Leiali became instantly excited when she spotted Neil Gaiman lurking in a room, mostly disguised by a slatted blind but clearly given away by his big, Gaimanish hair that really refuses to be hidden.
And thus commenced the panels. These usually took the form of about 4 people seated behind a desk talking at the overly-nerdy audience, before opening the debate to the floor. Almost all the panels were excellent, with particular highlights focusing on 'politics in young adult fiction', 'the use of mythology' and 'fantastical London'. Gaiman's solo talk and reading was also absolutely superb - he's a remarkably natural public speaker for someone that should, by all rights, be a quiet, bookish writery type.
+ Neil Gaiman & China Miéville (both frighteningly clever)
+ Graham Sleight & Roz Kaveney
+ The Canadian author whose name escapes me, but who was spiffy
+ Excellent panels
+ Very well organised event
+ Unexpectedly bumping into: Nat from Canterbury, Nik from the sci-fi writing course and Leiali's old mate Jo
+ Leiali finally managing to track down the elusive Joe Abercrombie in the bar (of course), making up for a false positive the first night (another tall guy with a Himalayan nose)
+ Really, really friendly atmosphere
+ Easy drive there and back (despite all the snow!)
+ I'm feeling properly inspired to get on with my book again!
- Lots of super-nerds = bad smells, nose picking & eating and other unsavoury habits
- Bizarre temperature changes in every other room, which would have deeply concerned Egon Spengler
- The guy that wasn't Joe Abercrombie
- I want to be on the other side of the panel