The Quest for the Rubbish Bin
I successfully dragged myself, one large suitcase, two bags and a handbag through the labyrinth of South Kensington (with assistance at one set of stairs by a polite British chappie whom I didn't understand at first) and then the further labyrinth and obstacle course of Victoria Underground Station through to Victoria Station. I found the Left Luggage lockers (as suggested by someone on the Lyst) and decided to leave everything but my handbag in the locker, after I found that the zine I was currently reading would just fit into said handbag. I only went to one wrong window trying to get my railpass stamped. In my wanderings around the station in search of railpass-stamping, I noticed various food vendors. After my success, I decided to get something to eat -- of all things, a bagel with cream cheese, which was delicious.
The trouble arose when I sought to dispose of the bag the bagel came in. I couldn't find a rubbish bin. I searched high, I searched low, I searched to, I searched fro. I looked outside and inside, in the underground station and on a platform or two, and did not find a single rubish bin! Finally I spotted a cleaner, who had a rubbish bag on his cart, so I put it there.
No wonder there was so much rubbish about.
Statues and Other Oldnesses
I had decided to See a few Sights in London before I went off to Ashford, and, having a fondness for The Tomorrow People, I decided to go to the Embankment and look at Cleopatra's Needle (which had featured in one episode). I wished I hadn't left my camera back at Victoria Station. The Needle itself looked old and worn, but the bronze base and the sphinxes on either side looked fresher. What got me was the number of other statues around about. Directly across the street from the Needle was a statue to the British From The People of Belgium, a bronze of a woman in flowing robes and two naked (but strategically draped) children carrying trailing garlands of flowers. Opposite the tube station, in a wall, was a plaque bas-relief to Gilbert (of Gilbert and Sullivan I assume). In the Embankment Gardens (on the opposite side of the road to the Needle) there was a big bronze statue of Robert Burns, and, something that would interest Ross Mallet, a statue commemorating the Imperial Camel Corps. "To the glorious and immortal memory of the officers NCOs and men of the Imperial Camel Corps, British Australian New Zealand Indian who fell in action or died of wounds and disease in Egypt Sinai and Palestine 1916-1917-1918".
The most amusing thing was that as I was leaving the gardens, I was asked directions by some Brits! They wanted to know how to get to Trafalgar Square. I told them I had no idea...
The next stop was a quick trip to the British Museum, which I'd seen on my first trip in 1998, and was astonished at the transformation, totally impressed by the Great Court. Took a quick peek at the Americas galleries. The British Museum seems destined to give me sore feet.
I managed to catch the right train to Ashford, and though I perked up after an oral carbohydrate and protien intake (aka a Burger King burger and milkshake), by the time I got to Ashford I was eyelid droopy again, and worried that I might miss the stop. But I didn't.
When I arrived at the Ashford International Hotel and got out of my taxi, I was greeted by Anne Wells who had just gotten out of another taxi with friends. Alas I didn't recognise her face though she recognised me.
I got checked in eventually; my room-mate had already done so. I had my longed-for shower, followed by a cup of hot chocolate (the hotel provided sachets of Cadburys, much appreciated) and then hit the boulevard to see who was already there. Saw a couple of vaguely familiar faces, went up to them and said, "Your face is vaguely familiar." Turned out the couple in question had been to Neutral Zone, so that explained that. Chatted.
Then Judith (Proctor) turned up -- big hug. She dragged me to meet Michael Sheard who was in the bar. "This is the Australian I told you about."
He asked me "Why are Australian cons all Gaming cons?"
I said, "Because you haven't heard of the non-gaming ones!"
He tried to persuade me to run a convention (with him as guest, naturally) and I said, "No way, I know too many people who have run conventions, I'm not crazy."
Then followed an interesting conversation with Michael Sheard, Vicky, Vicky's husband (sorry, the name escapes me) and I, ranging across Doctor Who, the music industry, directing, copyright, creativity and how Suits don't understand how to invest in movies.
Then Michael Sheard had to go, and I repaired to the bar, where many people were, including Richard Proctor (reading the manual of his new digital camera) and someone whom I deduced was Steve Rogerson, since his first words were "Sorry I didn't reply to your email with more ideas about the panel." Though I was on more than one panel, the only one I'd been discussing ideas about was the "Telepathy in Other Shows" panel... so we proceeded to discuss more ideas about it. And then the discussion rambled all over the place.
Mutterings were made about dinner, and a small portion of the crowd actually wanted a sit-down meal at the hotel restaurant, including me. Ironically, it was the only dinner I ended up having in the hotel restaurant during the whole con. The restauranteurs were me, Steve (Rogerson), Ruth, Michael Sheard, Gareth Thomas, Julia (Jones), and (if I recall correctly) Deborah and Sheryl from the USA. I can't remember everything we talked about... disparagment of American food, led by disparagement of US chocolate... whether or not it is humanly possible to detect, by a sip or two, whether a drink is alchoholic or not (Julia and I insisted it was, Michael Sheard insisted it wasn't...)
The morning was spent running around; helped unload a few things for tech, put Refractions I'd brought in dealer's room, went to Sainsburys mainly to find out where it was (and get some batteries), helped Judith sort out auction items (which really consisted of her sorting them out because she was the only one who could make decisions about them -- well, I put things where she said to, anyway), and picked up my Rego stuff. I was a Purple Drazi. (There was an ongoing "Drazi War" -- each con attendee was semi-randomly assigned to be either a green Drazi or a purple Drazi, and any points they got during the con would go to said team. I say semi-randomly because there was a tendency to try to make sure that people known to be couples and suchlike, weren't on the same team...) I also failed to find whoever was in charge of the zine library; I wanted to put my copy of Staked Blake there so that people could actually see it, seeing as it wasn't actually in print, since Linda Knights changed her mind about printing and agenting it. The very time I decide I'm not going to print more than tribbers copies (and just leave it on the web for people to download) happens to be the time when Linda decides she needs to drasitically reduce her agenting activities. Them's the breaks.
2pm -- first real programme item, SF weaponry panel. This was fun, in an intellectual, hard-SF kind of way. How do light sabres work? PPGs? Blasters? Why bother with a Death Star when all you need to destroy a planet is a beat up spacecraft with a working FTL drive, load it with bombs, and point it at a planet? (Answer: it was a budget black hole invented to cover an embezzlement scheme.) What about the laser-injectors delivering Pylene 50 in "Traitor"? How does IMIPAK work? (Answer: like a microwave -- it re-tunes the molecular bonds so that they will break on recieving a particular frequency). Organic weaponry -- how do Shadow ships fire? (Answer: they fart plasma, and feel so much better after a good fight. Vorlon ships are more like electric eels.) We were just getting into how do forcefields work when we ran out of time.
I wandered around, hit the dealers room a couple of times, and observed... Where before there had only been Vote For Ares (It's a God Thing) posters up in the Ruler Of The Universe campaign, others appeared; Spock - the Logical Choice, Servalan, and Londo & G'kar, whose posters mainly consisted of slanging each other off. And I actually managed to find Una (McCormick) setting up the zine library, so I deposited Staked Blake there.
The opening ceremony was much as expected - intros (committee; guests -- Andy Lane, David Walsh, Michael Sheard, Gareth Thomas), announcements (such as that Ron Thornton couldn't come due to work pressures, which he'd told the committee on Wednesday). The Ruler of the Universe quick campaign speeches, the Drazi War rules, the announcement of John Sheridan as neutral scrutinizer of the Ruler of the Universe ballot -- but fortunately he "died" before he could give the Lincoln speech -- at which point we were all directed to do a mixer game while this tragedy was investigated, and when that was done it was announced that he'd been murdered, and Lord Reefa would be looking into it. Then 10 minutes later Londo (aka Lesley) announced that he knew who did it, and proceeded to accuse G'kar (aka David McIntee), and G'kar pointed out that the Centauri were famous for their habit of poisoning people.
Then the pub quiz (which wasn't in the pub, but right there and then, so it wasn't as if anyone attending the Opening Ceremony was going to get out of it...) David Walsh was conducting it, though the B5 questions had been provided by someone else, and he kept on mispronouncing the names. Teams formed simply from the table one was sitting at. We thought of a team name very easily, since Ares (aka Steve Kilbane) (who also happened to be Purple Drazi leader) was sitting at our table. We called ourselves the "Ares Is God" team. There were 10 B7 questions, 10 B5 questions, and 10 general SF questions. I was able to contribute to the B7 and general but not really with the B5.
Then the papers were swapped with another table and marked. (Note: *we* did not mark our own answers, so any discrepancies *were not our fault*) We got our sheet back and we had 26 out of 30 - hey, we might actually have a chance of winning! So then went the countdown: anyone with 30? Silence. 29? Silence. 28? 27? 26? We yelled and put up our hands. They started handing out the Drazi point certificates when David Walsh going through our answers declared one of them wrong. We handed the certificates back. "Anyone with 25?" We yelled and raised our hands again. David Walsh found another wrong answer (our scribe forgot to put the final "n" on Neroon.) "Anyone with 24?" It was us again. After another disputed answer, which was then conceded by the B5 expert (the What Happened to Morden question), they finally allowed us to be declared winners. The next-closest team got 21 I think.
Then I wandered around the hotel looking for and at the Movie Quiz things. These were pieces of paper stuck up in random places all over the con areas, with taglines from movies; you have to figure out which movie. The challenge was twofold -- first, to find them, second, to figure them out. I never actually ended up submitting my answers or even finding out whether I got any of them right.
I got as far as the hallway outside the zine room and I just ended up chatting with the people there. Since I was going to have to go there anyway to retrieve my copy of Staked Blake in order to wave it at the "Zine Launch Party" at 11, not much point in moving, considering the time it was. So the time rolled along, and I retrieved the zine, and went to the program room where the Zine Launch thing was (not really a party at all). There were almost a dozen zines debuting (or near-debuting) at this con, that was why they decided to add this item to the program; where the editors could stand up and say a few words about their new zine. When it came to my spiel on Staked Blake, when I said that Linda Knights pulled out, Judith then offered to print it, if I could get her the masters. So hopefully that may ensue.
The unexpected fun zine was Chris Blenkarn's "Parodies Lost" which included a filk based on Flanders & Swan's song "A Transport of Delight", which Judith spotted in the table of contents, and wanted to sing, and when she muttered that she couldn't remember the tune, I leapt up and joined her, and we sang out the first verse.
Then it broke up into general chatting. Jane Carnell was sitting next to me, and as she spotted my Stargate costume, we started talking Stargate and McGyver. I mentioned that the only McGyver fanfic I'd seen was a Sentinel crossover, and she made a face, and then it became clear that she thought that I was talking about slash. I said "I don't read slash", and she said "Whyever not?" and I said "Come to the Slash panel on Sunday afternoon to find out!"
The costume of the day was my purple flowing silk outfit, with long Minbari sleeveless coat, and Delenn head-bone. I had messed about for a while trying to do fancy things with my hair that didn't work, so I finally settled for a small plait to one side, with the rest of my hair free. The main problem with the costume is that the head-bone, pressing as it does on my temples, tends to give me a headache, so I can't wear it for long periods.
After breakfast I observed the wedding crowd milling about before they left. David McIntee and Lesley were getting married. They had met at Redemtion two years ago, so they thought it fitting to get married at this one. They had intended to get married in the hotel itself, but the prices the hotel were charging were considered to be obscene, so the actual ceremony took place at the registry office.
I was down for helping in the Chaos Costuming workshop all morning, so I turned up early to room 201, but it was locked. Sheryl was with me and suggested we go to Ops for the key, but Ops didn't have it, so we settled down to wait, and talked about The Sentinel. Fiona then arrived with the key and tons of costuming stuff. Fiona's collection was amazing, not to mention her abilities. I didn't contribute much at all; tossed in some ideas, cut out some holes, and drew & cut out a stencil and that's about it. The person for whom I did the stencil had been a cyberman last time (Redemption 99) and was a repeat customer without ideas. The final idea after a few rejects was disco-Borg (because he owned leopard pants which were crying out to be used). The stencil was supposed to be used to put the words BORG TO BE WILD on the back of his black PVC top, but he messed up with the silver spray paint (held the can far far too close) when he was using the stencil and it was messed up completely, just one big blur of silver paint. So we tried getting it off, but that didn't work, so they painted over it with black paint and did the lettering by hand. (You can understand that I found doing this workshop rather frustrating... and that I don't want to do it again; too much like hard work)
Sheryl dropped by waving a Sentinel zine and saying that Mysti Frank was in the dealers room. Fiona said fine, I can manage without you, so I went down to the dealers room. I drooled over the Sentinel genzines on the table and Mysti said I should buy all of them, but I didn't -- I just bought most of them! (Silly me, since I could buy them from her website, but she pointed out I would save on postage, though a little voice said I'd only do that if I still had enough room in my suitcase...) The result of this was that when I went over to Richard to buy Parodies Lost (Chris was selling it through the Proctors) I didn't have enough money to buy it, so I asked him to put a copy aside. But I did have enough to buy one ticket in the raffle.
Stepped outside the dealers room and ended up chatting with Sheryl who was now on Stewarding duty.
When I got back to Chaos Costuming, Nicola Collie was standing on a chair with black satin draped around her while Fiona stuck on velcro and put up the hem. Discussion ensued about the disposition of the silver mesh used as a drape on the side, and the gentle art of folding a bit of it into a puff that didn't look too big or too small. In the midst of this, someone came in with a photographer from a local newspaper who wanted pictures of people in costume, so we posed for him. He got our names, but not where we were from, which was a pity because I would have liked to have blown his mind with the distance I'd travelled to be there (evil grin).
Lunch was, as happened for all the con for me, something grabbed from Sainsburys like fruit or salad and a drink. Sat in my hotel room and watched the news coverage of the Foot and Mouth outbreak. Worrying.
At 4pm I toddled over to the Telepathy testing item, which was proper Rhine testing with partners. We didn't have enough time to finish, but what we did showed me to be flat average, which wasn't surprising.
I had good intentions to actually eat dinner either at 5pm or 7pm but I didn't, just wandered and chatted. At 6pm I went to the Farscape and Lexx panel led by Calle, Alison (Page) and Steve (Rogerson). It wasn't panelly, because it was in one of the smaller rooms with chairs in the round, rather than the panellists sitting behind a table in front of the audience. We had a good discussion, which wandered to US SF and the frustration of bad scheduling everywhere. The actual panel question was "Are Farscape and Lexx the B7s of today?" and the answer was yes and no, mostly no. It really depends on how you want to define "B7 of today". Someone commented that Andromeda felt like a formulaic copy of B7, because of the roles of all the characters, while Farscape and Lexx were their own shows, creative in their own right.
8pm-ish, the Fancy Dress and Cabaret.
These are not necessarily in the correct order, and I may have missed out some.
While the judges deliberated, we were entertained by the cabaret. First was Anne Wells and Katharine (sorry, I don't know her last name) doing belly dancing (Anne Wells had been giving a belly dancing workshop earlier in the day).
David Walsh did two numbers (not one after the other though!) One of them was "Hey Big Spender", during which he threw Vote For Servalan flyers into the audience, which many people picked up because they thought they might have been Drazi points... (oh well)
Steve "Ares" Kilbane and Fiona did some very good filks, calling themselves "It's a God Thing".
There was a funny skit by "The Reduced Blake's 7 Company" with two of them playing the part of producers/creative directors, and the other two playing... well, I'm not sure whether they were playing the characters or the actors or something in between, but it was quite funny.
The "wife" of the Centauri Couple did some amazing Turkish belly dancing. In a conversation after the con someone commented that one of the great things about SF cons is that someone is able to do something like that, and the audience be able to appreciate the skill of it (it was indeed very impressive) without just being thought of as body-parts to be oogled. And, related to that, only in an SF con could a woman go around wearing a chainmail bikini and people just accept it -- guys looking at her appreciatively without being slapped, and it also not being assumed that such a woman was exhibitionist, but simply that she likes wearing a chainmail bikini, because it's part of the fun of costumes. Not that I recall seeing anyone in a chainmail bikini at *this* con. A little too cold for it, I think.
After the cabaret, they wished Iain Coleman happy birthday with a cake, and then Judith did a ceremony with David "G'kar" McIntee and Lesley "Londo", in reference to their marriage, which was both touching and funny.
Then the costume winners were announced, both the fancy dress and hall costumes. The hall costume winners were a tie, but I can only remember one of them, the "other" Delenn that people kept on mentioning to me through the day when they saw me in my Delenn costume. One of the honourable mentions was a very good Captain Scarlet costume.
Just to be non-conformist (and because my head-bone was killing me) I had changed out of my Delenn costume before the Fancy Dress, and had changed into my anti-B5 Tshirt (Front: Babylon 5, the Last Best Hope - It Failed. Back: I'd rather watch B7 or VR.5). This proved to be a wonderful icebreaker, when a tall wavey-haired woman saw it and exclaimed "Someone else who's heard of VR.5!" Laughingly, it wasn't until we'd been conversing for a little while that I realized that it was Louise Rutter, nor she that it was me! Small world.
So I looked at snow, helped move Chaos Models (well, I minded the room while other people moved the models), looked at snow again while going over to Sainsburys to get lunch things, and since I had no watch, I got back too late to see Blake's trial. I ended up getting involved in the B7 versus B5 cricket match (2nd innings) which was being played on a green crepe-paper-covered table in the boulevard. The key piece of the game was this spinner which has all the possible things happening in it. It is spun for each ball, and to determine the outcome of special events. There were cardboard cutout figures for each player (plus little cardboard wickets) and they're all positioned on the green crepe. So most of the fun is in the imagination (or doing things like making the women field near Vila when he's batting, in the hope of distracting him). I had to leave before it was done because they were showing the B7 blooper reel in the main hall and I hadn't managed to see it before, so I didn't want to miss it this time.
Then I rushed up to Chartwell to be on the panel of "How Do Other Shows Treat Telepaths?" which had already started, just. The discussion ranged from curse-or-blessing; Utopian (Trek) versus non-utopian views where telepaths are both feared and exploited; through to the rare idea of telepath guilds. Examples were taken from books as well as shows (because I for one, couldn't resist, but I wasn't the only one). We discussed the idea of whether it is plausible that a telepath with an early gifting wouldn't be able to control it (Tin Man versus Darkover). The question was raised, can telepaths kill or does it just mean that a killing (receptive) telepath is simply psychotic?
At 3pm I went to the Writing Fan Fiction workshop, run by Nickey Barnard and Morag Kerr, which really turned into a discussion on editing fan fiction and the question of fanfic quality, which was interesting but probably not helpful to newbies or anyone who actually wanted a *workshop* on *writing*. Unfortunately Morag went on a bit too much about how wonderful an editor she was, and Nickey was too polite to drag her back on topic. Near the end of this we were interrupted by Michael Sheard and his Federation Troopers, whose mission, as they saw it, was to inject fun and dispell seriousness where they saw it. Which *was* fun, but it was also a disruption, which would have been quite annoying if the panel had been a really good one.
Then I went down for the tail end of Gareth Thomas's talk, and the closing ceremony. They showed the Blue Peter B5 they'd filmed (using the ships from the Chaos Modelling, and costumed people in the hallways) which was quite amusing. The long list of thanks. The Ruler of the Universe was "won" again by Servalan (he who cheats best wins, seemed to be the situation). The murder mystery was solved; Michael Sheard was dismissed as a suspect because he was *not* a Master of Disguise, the Doctor's medical credentials were questioned, and finally, the murderer was revealed to be -- The Master, disguised as G'kar! The tissue-compressed remains of the real G'kar had been found, and The Master took off his disguise, but before he could be arrested, Servalan put him under her protection and offered to share the universe with him. Then the winners of various things were announced. The winners took their prizes, and the raffle was drawn and those prizes given.
At some point I changed into my Avon costume, changing from the Tomorrow People tshirt I'd been wearing for the telepath panel.
The "Avon, A Man of His Word?" panel at 6pm was supposed to be me and David McIntee, but it was just me for 10-15 minutes as he was late. The previous panel was running late, so I sat in on an interesting ramble about the nature of vampires on Buffy/Angel, in which Tanja Kinkel was doing most of the talking. With the Avon panel, the discussion turned soon enough to general Avon discussion, the inevitable "was Avon mad?" as well as the given topic. There really wasn't all that much controversy in whether Avon was a man of his word; the consensus seemed to be "Yes, but he doesn't give it very often, and if he does, you'd better read the fine print."
The Slash panel was moved to the room I was already in, so I didn't have to go anywhere. I'd been worrying about this panel whenever I remembered it, occassionaly wondering why I'd been mad enough to volunteer to represent the anti-slash view (or I should say *an* anti-slash view) in a room that would undoubtably be full of slashers. The panel consisted of Judith (pro-slash), Predatrix (pro-slash), me (anti-slash) and Neil (neutral).
Fortunately I managed not to be lynched; I had a couple of provocative things to say, but managed to say it in a manner of "this is how it makes me feel" so as to actually try to engage in dialogue rather than condemn (because to do otherwise would be completely pointless). But it also shows how much face-to-face can make a huge difference, because some of the things I said (and other people said) would have incited an instant flame war if said on a mailing list, but we could tell by people's tone of voice and body language that they weren't meaning it in a condemnatory way. Well, some of us could. One person walked out when the discussion turned to a particular story which raised the question of whether Blake actually might have had pedophile tendencies and fought against them, because she felt that the room was condoning pedophilia, which wasn't the case at all! She did me a favour, mind, because she demonstrated how tolerant I was being! Predatrix (I think) pointed out that this walk-out was an example of the unthinking reaction that the Federation was counting on when they framed Blake in the first place.
One interesting exchange... Jane Carnell declaring that anyone who couldn't accept characters in an m/m pairing was a homophobe, at which hands shot up all over the room, and people pointed out that it can depend on the particular character as to whether people can see them as possibly gay (or bi). One question I thought of afterwards and wished I'd been able to ask was, are slashers more likely to see characters as straight if they don't particularly like them? (I wondered this, because Tarrant was cited as a specific example of a character that some of the people there saw as straight and it's often the case that Avon fans don't like Tarrant). Jane Carnell generously said that she would try hard not to see me as a homophobe, and I replied dryly that she'd believe I was a homophobe by the time I was finished, and then proceeded with my (albiet crude) analogy to try to convey how slash "squicks" me, why I find it revolting.
I was asked if I would react the same way to an original character who was gay, and I said no, but that I wouldn't like the character as much. Neil asked me, which would be more upsetting to me, a gay character, or a federation guard murdering someone in cold blood, and I said the murder, of course. Then someone brought up the question of what about characters of opposite sex who have deep friendships, like Mulder and Scully, what was my opinion of if they "became more than professional" in their relationship. I basically said I wasn't fussed either way, I could enjoy it when they were in love, or if they were just friends. (Mind, I'm just now realizing that maybe the question referred to MSR erotica, which is a different question again... I don't read adult fic either.)
The discussion wandered around a bit, it wasn't just me versus them, that was only a small part of it. And I had things to contribute to the discussion that weren't just anti-slash. Neil had some good questions to ask as a neutral non-slasher. One comment was that B7 slash was a-typical compared to slash in general. Most slash is Mills & Boon, with two guys instead of a guy and gal. Wheras B7 slash tends to have more conflict and power struggle (in keeping with the characters). It was also concluded that slash has a huge range, and is read for different reasons by different people. Slashers are more likely to see slashy subtext. In arguing from absence of evidence, neither side will ever convince the other.
The most heartening thing was that at the end, three people came up and thanked me for being brave enough to share my views to a hostile audience. Whee!
And much thanks to Judith for keeping order and preventing it from becoming a free-for-all.
While most of the audience left, some of us stayed for filking, including me. At one point, seeing all the chaos modelling spaceships sitting on a table in the corner, someone suggested we all pick up one and go marching around the boulevard singing The Battle Hymn of the Andromedan Republic -- so we did! We weren't exactly in tune or in sync, but it was fun.
After breakfast I packed, checked out and sat by my bags. I chatted with folks, took pictures, and hugged goodbye. The end was truly nigh. But I was not struck with post-con blues because Julia and I were going to stay at Judith's!
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