Nexus 2001

By Harriet Monkhouse

I've just managed to finish this report in July, though three weeks after the event... Apologies to those who get it on two (or three) lists, though the latter probably means only Una.

Having had rather a good time at Nexus 2000, I decided to trek south to Bristol again this July, and indeed it turned out to be my last chance: the Nexus organisers announced that this would be their final con. A pity, as it's just the sort of convention I enjoy, with a large programme of discussion groups and workshops to complement the guests and videos. (Roll on Redemption '03!) But apparently they will continue to exist, under the title Nexus SF Communities, as a focus for SF fans in cyberspace, and you can find out how somewhere on

So I left Manchester on a blazing hot Friday, courtesy of a train that was only an hour late when I joined it and an hour and a half late when we finally got to Bristol. Fortunately, it was air-conditioned, and the combination of a special offer on tickets plus my refund for the delay eventually brought the cost of the round trip down to seven pounds 50 pence. And I'd never intended to arrive in time for the opening ceremony anyway...

I trailed into the hotel about 20.30, located some of Blake's people, plus my hotel room, then a bowl of soup. Halfway through soup everyone else disappeared for the quiz, so I gulped the rest down, located the quiz room, and joined a table. This was probably a bad thing for the team in question, as points totals were later adjusted to penalise larger teams, and in the meantime I think there was only one moment when I managed to answer a second before everyone else (I recognised the theme tune to Space: Above And Beyond, for which feat Ivan and Sasha Rukaber can take full credit). We might still have won had it not been for the "build a space station" round. Despite Judith recording a promotional audio tape describing the facilities for the benefit of the judges, and the lovely Chase Masterson (Leeta, wife of Nog, from DS9) expressing her appreciation of the special lab for the scientific study of sex in zero gravity (sponsored by Coca-Cola), it turned out that what the judges really liked was something standing a metre above the table. (But it was supposed to be floating in space!) Oh well, maybe we'd have done even less well without the pair of scissors from my handbag.

Then we had a drink, and, remembering the happy time we had reshooting Rumours of Death for Wobblevision the previous year, rang Wobblevision impresario Emma Peel in Glasgow to demand that she write a script and email it to us at once. But she said we'd have to do it ourselves, so we went to bed instead. It was still very hot, and the rooms weren't air-conditioned, though there was a noisy electric fan...

Oh yes, at some point during the evening, I saw Rene Auberjonois (Odo from DS9) crossing the floor, and my jaw dropped in amazement. He's beautiful!

Next morning, after breakfast and a first look round the dealers' room, where in the absence of Tshirts I bought three badges for Redemption '03, we set off for the 10 a.m. discussion of SF Revolutions. It started only a few minutes late, which surprised us, as we thought that revolutions were like heroics and never ran to schedule. Gareth Thomas was in attendance to discuss the failings of Blake's strategy, eg why did he keep blowing up communications centres when he could have captured them to broadcast revolutionary propaganda? We also wondered whether the recent return of the King of Bulgaria as Prime Minister foreshadowed Princess Leia's prominence in the republican cause in Star Wars.

Later in the morning, I attended another discussion, entitled "Is Deep Space 9 Too Violent?" (Though this clashed with Gareth's official guest talk in the hall, I've seen quite a lot of Gareth recently, so calculated that I could afford to miss it.) We swiftly disposed with the official subject ("no"), and went on to talk about "Why DS9 is Really Good". (Probably the group's only weakness was that we could have done with a devil's advocate who did *not* think DS9 was Really Good.) Most of us were particularly pleased by the move away from Planet of the Week syndrome (whereby any planetary crisis can be wrapped up in 40 minutes); long-running plots and developing characters gave a chance to depict a more realistic working out of galactic politics. And viewing other cultures (Bajoran, Cardassian, Ferengi etc) regularly over several years helped to provide more solid alternatives against which Federation ideals could be tested. We had a fascinating debate about whether the Bajorans were closer to the Jews who founded modern Israel (in which case the Cardassians are probably not Nazis but the British who controlled then-Palestine after the Second World War) or to the Palestinians (in the future) after their intifada. I'd never thought of the latter, but some striking arguments were advanced.

Sharon, whom I know through another list, said something about Odo being a lost child, which leads me to the afternoon's highlight...

But first I took an hour out to watch cricket in my bedroom, which turned out to be more fun than I expected; it was raining at Edgbaston, so instead of Australia beating England live Channel 4 was showing highlights of India's sensational defeat of Australia after following on at Kolkata. All hail, Laxman, Dravid and Harbhajan Singh! etc etc

...anyway, the afternoon's highlight was Rene Auberjonois's first guest talk on the main stage. He entered in a black sweatshirt inscribed "Nobody Knows I'm a Changeling" on the front and "We're Everywhere!" on the back. This was later auctioned and somebody got what I thought a pretty good bargain at 160 pounds. Rene remarked that he much preferred charity cons (this one was supporting Leukaemia CARE) to other sorts, and was an enthusiastic auctioneer at the end of this and his next talk.

Anyway, before he got on to the selling bit, he talked entertainingly on a variety of subjects. Probably most interesting to me, as I hadn't heard it before, was the long story of how he got the part of Odo, on about the fiftieth audition, when the people responsible for casting finally decided they didn't have to stick with the description of the character as "a young John Wayne" when Rene was growling so nicely.

He said he was disappointed that Odo and Quark hadn't spent more time on-screen together - originally, their relationship had been intended as a major plot strand, but he felt it had taken a back seat after other themes emerged. After the morning's discussion about the format of DS9, I was interested by the insight into how the storyline had evolved - it may not have been planet of the week, but it certainly wasn't the springing-fully-formed-from-the-head-of-JMS plot arc of Babylon 5 either. For instance, he mentioned how the Odo-Kira romance was a sudden revelation that hit whichever Big Cheese it was when he watched the rushes of the final scene of the one where Odo works out Kira committed a murder during the occupation. Hm, maybe he talked about that on Sunday. I heard him twice, so have lost track a bit.

Think we went and had a look at the art room after this, and admired a series of ceramic models of various TV SF characters, including what appeared to be a full set of Farscape except that we couldn't locate anyone resembling Crichton.

Then I watched cricket (now live on TV again) for a bit, and waited to see whether Adam Gilchrist could be the third Australian to score 105 in this innings, but he failed miserably, going on to 152.

At 17.30 I returned to Interactive Room II for a discussion of Women in SF, where we were asked at the start who our favourite Woman in SF was. My mind went completely blank, but at some point during the ensuing discussion I decided I needed two: Servalan and Ace. It was generally agreed that there was a shortage of working mothers in SF (though the example of Beverley Crusher was overlooked). Somebody thought it was stereotyping for successful career women like Ivanova to be portrayed as lesbian. And Sharon made some interesting points on the treatment of disabled people, and the tendency to make their disability (cf their gender in the case of SF women) the basic issue rather than an incidental fact.

I then ate something or other in the bar, after which we discovered an occurrence unprecedented in my experience: the organisers and the entrants for the Fancy Dress Competition were all ready dead on time, and were trying to persuade the audience, who had all assumed that there was no point leaving the bar for at least half an hour, to join them in the main hall.

So I trotted round and secured a front seat, in order to fulfil my obligations as back-up photographer for Steve, who was featuring in the parade as a platinum blonde cheerleader. This meant an encounter with the technology of digital cameras, which seemed reasonably straightforward apart from a time-lag of what seemed to be several seconds between my pressing the button and the camera registering an image. I took a lot of very nice pictures of patches of empty floor where someone had been doing something spectacular a few seconds earlier; I'd never noticed before how fancy dress entrants like to run on and off at top speed.

The easiest bit to photograph was the prize-giving, where they were forced to stand still next to a guest of honour. I remember Hermione the witch getting a prize from Rene, and The Doctor and Ace getting one, appropriately from Sylvester McCoy, while Gareth bestowed one on the transvestite Seven of Nine, resplendent in a shiny red jumpsuit to die for.

After the ritual humiliation of Henry Proctor, on the eve of his 14th birthday, we repaired to the bar, and almost persuaded him to play Vila in our attempt to shoot Warlord in Wobblevision, but he decided to go back to the SF Racing Room and make his position as undisputed Nexus champion even more indisputable. His brother and father remained, however, to give virtuoso performances as Tarrant and Zukan respectively, while Steve starred as the lovely Zeeona. I got to be Soolin, which meant I could point a gun at Avon's head when he was staked to the floor in front of reception. But I'm afraid we had to get through the episode without Vila, and without Dayna until the final scene, when we hijacked a passing Klingon and told him to comfort Tarrant (who was wearing Steve's pom poms to represent the curls).

It occurred to us that there was a panel on the psychology of fans upstairs, so we went along to it, but I can't quite remember what we discussed, except that SF conventions were a chance to do strange things/wear strange clothes without being stared at. And a young woman who was on a day trip to the con talked very enthusiastically about her experience. Then there was some unofficial filking.

There was a disco, of course, which was hot and noisy, but did play Time Warp at least twice, and tired me sufficiently to sleep better. This night, it occurred to me to move the pillow to the other end of the bed, so that my head was five feet closer to the electric fan.

It was now Sunday, and in the morning, after breakfast, I went to another discussion attended by Gareth, viz "Will There Still Be Live Theatre in the 23rd+ Century"? I think the answer came out as "yes", though conversation occasionally got a bit bogged down in whether it was going to survive the 21st century. I was interested to know how it was going to be financed (assuming it would be professional; Dr Crusher did get a mention at this point in connection with amateur players). Some talk about whether language would be a significant barrier (would plays be comprehensible to an alien species?). But then the last time I'd been to the theatre the play was in Japanese, so maybe that's not so bad.

I've been literally bumping into Sylvester McCoy at conventions and suchlike for years, but had never actually heard him speak (well, OK, I'd heard him say things, but just the sort of things you say when bumping into somebody), so I was determined to make up for this by going to his talk on Sunday morning. This was definitely worth it, especially for the surreal account of how he discovered his full name (which was, I think, Percy James Patrick Kent-Smith) towards the end of primary school, I think, (he had previously assumed it was just Kent Smith) and decided to become a priest because his mate chickened out of going to see the Father about a vocation. And eventually, after several bizarre career switches, he became Dr Who... I was particularly interested to hear that the BBC authorities had to be talked round into accepting the casting because they didn't think he had the authority to boss about Daleks and Cybermen. That was precisely my reaction when I first heard he'd got the part; I thought "Oh no, they're going to play it all for laughs." Whereas, when I actually saw him on screen, it was his authority, and the sense of the Doctor's veiled power, that most impressed me. So thank heaven the BBC didn't decide to go for a young John Wayne either.

Retreated to hotel room to eat some food and see how England were doing (they were losing). So was an Englishman in a much-interrupted tennis match. I re-emerged in time for the first half of Rene's second talk, which was preceded, like the first, by an excellent music video depicting Odo to the song "Bend Me, Shape Me" - and concluding, to "You've got the power to turn on the light", as Odo transforms himself into a shower of light cascading down over Kira. I enjoyed this so much that I crept out halfway through to go and see some other Nexus music videos in another room, which were also fun, but entirely Next Generation. I was surprised how many of the clips I recognised - I must have seen an awful lot more of TNG than I think. Got back to the main hall in time to see Rene auction an autographed silver bucket, donated by the hotel.

We'd been urged by MC Laurie to go off and write limericks about our guests or their characters, so, although I later found out I was past the deadline, I did.

My limerick for Gareth:
There once were two heroes called Blake,
But one was a Clonemaster fake.
When Avon saw double,
He said "This means trouble!
I'll shoot one for clarity's sake."

Handed these in, and had time to sit in on a few rounds of Just A Minute, which featured a lot of advanced technology (the buzzers) but could have done with a bit more simple voice technology (saying "Starting... now!). Judith seemed to be winning by a mile as I set off for the station, having booked myself on to the 17.57 train home. This meant that I missed the closing ceremony, too (I later heard my limericks were among those read out by Rene, which was nice). Took a picture of Steve standing outside Blake's local (The Reckless Engineer) en route.

The train arrived in Manchester nine minutes early.

Last changed on 17th of August 2001 - Back to Conventions

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