A Whistle-Stop Tour of Worldcon75, Helsinki Day Two

Day Two – Aug 9: Back to Work

More cycling and not quite getting lost. THE CON IS LIVE! Thousands of charming geeky types swarming the venue. We have to queue to register. Penny takes the fancy queue for fancy people because she’s accepting at the Hugo’s should Foz Meadows win (spoiler: she doesn’t)… guess who registers first? Yup, I was amused. Got m’ID and first lovely ribbons – ‘First Worldcon’! Then we got to meet our colleague Mike Underwood for the first time in the meatflesh! He’s real, has legs and wears a hat. Most pleasing. (Thanks to Mr Paul Weimer for the fine *blink* shot of Mike!)

L-R Mike Underwood, Alex Wells, Penny Reeve, Nick Tyler

It was then that the profoundly British con-queue issue arose. We failed to get into Mike’s panel (Invented Mythologies), due to already insanely long queues. I then made a bid to get into Crackpot Archaeology, and managed to squeeze in (I could hardly breathe), and then got kicked out with 50 other people because of fire hazards or somesuch nonsense. This was to be a theme, oft-railed about by some of the more passionate attendees. So we went to the bar instead. BarCon, apparently, is a thing all of its own. They struggle to do beer well – 0.4L of Karhu for 6.50 in a genuine pint glass looks deeply disappointing. We also discovered the Long Drink – a vile gin and grapefruit concoction which looks like louched absinthe – became the hit drink for almost everyone. More of our authors appeared: Carrie Patel and Eric Scott Fischl (whose book, Dr Potter’s Medicine Show, was the first where I got a thank you in the acknowledgments!), which was pretty damn cool.

The front, the mascot, Alex’s first panel

After that I hustled to make it to Alex’s first panel, Global Warming and the Gaia Concept. Is Global Consciousness Already Here, and Doesn’t have a Clue? It was a fun topic, though I felt people took Gaia a bit too literally. It was enlivened by a real climate change denier skeptic wanker who the well-educated panel cheerfully took apart without being too vicious. The mood of the room against him was marvellous, as was the expression on all of the panel’s faces.

Worldcon, like all cons has one of my favourite features – the jumble sale, or dealer’s hall as people insist. Too many things to look at, but in short: a great display of the iconic Hugo awards from the last, well gosh, 74 Worldcons I guess. Some amazing Lego creations, geek junk and delights, and second-hand books. I immediately bought a book. Of course. The Outward Urge by John Wyndham under one of his many pseudonyms. I had it already, but only in hardback and it looked weird. Plus – one Euro? Yes please.

The impossible-to-get-into-anything-without-queuing-for-half-an-hour continued… I wandered around, unable to get into any other panels and instead found the Film Festival. A haven of non-touching speechlessness, seating and the dark. I saw the last film in the Alternate Realities slot, Strange Harvest by Stee McMorris. A splendid low-budget alien abduction tale with inventive camera work. That was followed by the first set of Documentaries: The Bus Trip by Sarah Gampel, a fascinating film tour around Israel and Palestine, with her conversations with her dad drawn over the top. Between the Lines: Fan Girls & the Appeal of Performing Slash Fiction by Cassie Yishu Lin, a live theatre version of two characters from Prince Caspian getting together in the real world. Then my favourite, The Secret World of Foley by Daniel Jewel.

Earlier in the day I’d noted that there was a Stand Up Comedy Improv Class on the first day, followed by a show the day after. I could hardly resist, but figured I’d blown it since Carrie told me she’d filled the last slot on the signup sheet. Dang it. I added my name to the top of a waiting list, and then just showed up. I needn’t have worried. The organiser had no idea there was a list, and in all fairness not much of an idea about improv – sure ya have to stand up a lot, but it ain’t stand up. But not to worry. The room was hilariously unsuitable – long and narrow, with a huge, immovable fuckoff table down the middle. We did some exercises, and I met Carrie’s husband, along with the thirty-odd random humans awkwardly having a go at improv around the edges of the room. I guess it was like much improv run with the best of intentions – a lot of fun, but even more confusion. I had fun though, and enjoyed myself. It’s a fine way to get to know people. I was definitely returning for the show…

Seeking an evening meal at Worldcon was constantly bedevilled by being out in the business district, so almost every restaurant closed either just before we thought about eating, or just as we left. Inevitably the Angry Robot mob ended up at Pasilan Pizza. Their pizzas were surprisingly good, the variation in size between small, medium and large being in depth, not diameter. While others chose based on content and translation options I picked a number and stuck with it. Good call. It tided me over into breakfast, which is the mark of a good pizza. It gave Carrie, Hiren and I a fine chance to dissect the improv workshop, and for me to persuade them to do the show!

Much of the gang had only arrived that day and were desirous of an earlyish night. Penny and I are not morning people, so we headed back to the con in search of action. Further failure to get into any damn panels… Drinks in the bar, naturally, followed by popping in to the Fright Night Begins… horror film festival. We caught the second half of Caravan, which was good and creepy, followed by the very funny and very dark Brentwood Strangler (trailers below).

After that we stumbled into the extremely lovely NS Dolkart and his family. Noah was being kicked in the head repeatedly by his frighteningly awake daughter, but nonetheless managed full conversation skills. We knew it would be a miracle if we saw him again since the con absorbs people and other than email we had no way to get in touch.

We called it a night, and enjoyed the fruits of our earlier supermarket purchases back at the flat. Having booked an apartment with only one bed by accident, Penny showed extraordinary valour in taking the air mattress with the car engine strapped to its back. What a star.

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