EASTERCON 2001

This is a review page on Paragon for my web site, as a means to thank the people who organized it all, friends who attended, and to communicate to other
friends who may either want to attend future conventions, or just learn what we got up to.

This year's Eastercon, Paragon 2001 took place from 13th to 16th April at the Hanover Hotel, Hinkley, Leicestershire. I took an extra day either
side of the convention itself, so I went down there on the 12th.

GETTING there was not easy, as I had to change trains twice. There
should only have been one connection at Crewe Station, but the train from
Crewe to Hinckley broke down at Birmingham and we were all hauled off after
almost an hour to wait another thirty minutes for a replacement train. The
new train had fewer carriages so we were piled on like sardines. The
driver admitted that we were dangerously overcrowded and that he would
therefore have to go more slowly. so it ended up that a two and half hour
journey turned into a 5 and quarter hour hell-ride. I pity other passengers
on that train who were going on to London Stanstead in that state. As you
read this, they may yet to have arrive there.
Once in Hinckley things looked up considerably. The hotel was
very nice, though somewhat isolated, being surrounded by A roads and
motorway slip roads with little in way of anything within walking
distance.
Inside the place looks both delightful and eccentric. A statue of
Neptune holds up the mirrored ceilings Atlas fashion, (as someone
observed, the hotel was held up by the God of earthquakes. Convention
rooms, the bars and guest accommodation were all held in rooms that run off a
central Rotunda room, and like many guests I found i still often took the
wrong arm of the rotundas throughout the time there. Also eccentric
were the various shop display windows, which bore some very odd
statuettes, books, Roosters and hens made of local grass, (including one
perched for no apparent reason on the head of a statue of Marilyn Monroe)
and a collection of books on Eastern Mysticism.
Food for evening meals was limited in choice and expensive, unless you
had large single portions of courses like curry or Stroganoff where your
only limit was how much you could carry on one plate in which case you
could have quite a lot of food reasonably priced. Many people chose to hire
cabs and set off to dine out.
Bar prices proved reasonable and the Snooty Fox Pub in the hotel was to
become the main relaxing point and meeting point between convention
events. Somme nights it was gone 4am when we left the bar.


FRIDAY

Huge terrific buffet breakfasts would prove a daily highlight
throughout the week. I registered early for the convention itself and took a
swim in the hotel's excellent pool, and then stayed in the Rotunda and bar
areas most of the day meeting old friends as they arrived, and helping
carry stage props for the 20.01 play to the rehearsal room when our
director David B Wake arrived. The first talk I got to was one on Authors'
web sites which was useful in a general sense, talking of authors often
having their sites run by fans, who could often get too fanatical, give
away essential plot information, abuse copyright rules by reproducing
large bodies of the text from books, Stephen King's failure to use the net
to sell some books, but that the net still proves an invaluable resource
for writers and fans in SF.

Next I went to a book reading session with the wonderful Molly Brown, http://www.okima.com/book/bio.html who read from a terrific short story (Doing Things Differently , which was featured a few years back in Interzone Magazine,) and then invited everyone to join her for
dinner to carry on a talk that time ran out on long before everyone
had said everything they wanted to say but sadly I had already eaten and had
other plans ongoing so I missed out on the meal invitation (sob).
The talk on SF vampires was another gem, highlighting that SF
vampires tend to have a more heroic depth than the more overtly evil
vampires of tradition, while Buffy still largely works well in showing
more traditional vampires. Also, vampires today prove harder to kill than
their forefathers. Several examples of good and bad vampire stories were
given, good as in Buffy/Angel,. bad as in Lifeforce.
Friday formal events finished with a screening of the Rocky Horror
Picture Show to which fans were invited to come in full drag, as we often
do, but while many happily heckled the show and threw rice, and a
little water, only a handful of us dared to dress up for this event. That
I did was made worse by the fact that my hotel electronic key cut out and
I had to go to reception in full drag to get it recharged up so I could get
changed. I got some very funny looks from hotel staff for this.

SATURDAY

Spent the first few hours robot making, which on the whole involved looking
puzzled over a growing pile of robot motor/gearbox kit parts and
meaningless instructions until someone would come along to try to
show me what to do, and end up inadvertently building my robot for me. The
finished result was little more than a set of wheels carrying the motor and
a battery pack. The battery was far too powerful for the motor and I fully
expected it to burn out quickly. I was amazed to see children building
much bigger and more complex robots with frightening degrees of skill and
ease. I called my robot R -U - R- D NUFF (Are you hard Enough!) Time would
tell how well it would fare.
The first talk was a fantastic one on the use of martial Arts in
SF, with live demonstrations of karate, Kendo and other fighting skills
to help illustrate the talks, showing how some classic fighting stances
adopted by stars like John Claude Vandamme are impractical in real combat
while others take a more realistic approach. The talk ran on to show how
karate would fare against Kung Fu, and the morality of teaching truly
lethal combat skills to the younger generations of today.
There followed a great spoof on Who Wants To Be a Millionaire like
quiz shows called Who Wants To Be A Six Million Dollar Man, presented by
Jane Killick who convinced no one she was Chris Tarrant, but we did have an
electronic question computer that mimicked the one on the show, as Sue
Mason drew the bionics acquired by contestants hangman fashion as they
progressed, though no one achieved total cyborg status in the end. Great Fun
to watch.
After 20.01 rehearsals it was time to watch the Masquerade, which due
to other activities, I skipped entering this year. The standard was high,.
especially on the adult costumes, but the kids were good too. The adult event
was won by The Sons Of The Stake, fearless vampire huntress and their prey
(Gary & Linda Strattman, and Nigel Furlong) but they faced stiff
competition from among others, M@ as the year 2001 Obelisk, (straight out
of Asterix The Gaul comics) and the best 2001 gag not to appear in 20.01
on the Sunday, and of course, SMS, Eira, David, Angus, Tim and Sparks in
their Victoria and Albert and Mr. Brown presentation in which the
resurrected Prince Albert has had Victoria recreated in a huge
steampunk machine (actually gold painted robotic parts mounted on a
trike) only to have his dreams shattered by the arrival of Mr Brown
(another head sticking out of a gold plated steam-trike) and the new
republic. -
A stunning firework display unmarred by the cold night air,
drizzle and peculiar distant behaviour of fire engines and police cars going
back and forth on the same stretch of road as if lost. The fireworks roared
overhead, often literally, as with the huge sea anemone display that
floated right over our heads. After that we retired to the bar for more
beer before bed.

SUNDAY - Beyond Cyberdrome, saw Victoria And Albert faced not with
Mr. Brown but the new trend for heavy metal music maestros, Iron Feetus,
who have allegedly declared Asimov Was A C'Nut. There was a loud clash
between the traditional national Anthem and the Sex Pistols take on God Save
The Queen, and robot mayhem commenced quickly. My own robot, R-U-R-D-Nuff,
which was practically thrown at the opposition spun round in circles
and then got battered against a wall, where it seemed to fall to bits, only
to be resurrected and rebuilt by two kids who were nearby and sent back
into battle, a fate that was repeated twice more before it tangled in the
wires of another robot and once pulled free by human intervention, spun
round in circles by itself oblivious of the robots and mousetraps around
it. Other FONTbots were entered, but the victory went to Gimp Two, one of
three robots presented by that team, with another award going to the
roboteer responsible for giving his robot a vid-cam eye view of the battle
arena. Iron Foetus manager Mark Slater bravely disabled the mousetraps by
booting them to death when they failed to trigger properly. I rescued
and deactivated R _ U - R D - Nuff before he burned through the hotel
floor. He may well fight again with some improvements in future combat when
his punishment has been decided for his failure this time.
At some stage in the weekend someone attacked Neptune's statue and used
his trident as a place to hang giant pieces of toast, which looks great
in the various photo-captures of the results, how they did it a/.at all.
b/. without self-injury, and c/. without capture by the hotel staff (who
found it as amusing as we did) is a mystery.
I missed out on the poetry event as it was on too close to the play
which we rehearsed again, and then we had to do it for real, but it was a
tremendous success, as audience reaction alone showed from the start. . I
never even got to do a school nativity play so this was my first ever stage
acting challenge. (or rather first three challenges as I was a/. a monkey
in the opening scenes, totally covered in an extremely hot fur costume
and mask, b/. Bernard Quatermass, TV expert in a TV interview, and c/.
Kano, on Space 1999 Moonbase, though I had only one line here to shout
from off-stage) I loved doing it. Everyone seemed very appreciative of us,
(Cast and crew and lighting and sound people worked very well as a team
throughout) and the rest of the cast, who I watched from the auditorium (my
scenes were done with early on) were brilliant. I worked backstage on Dave
wake's Captain Tartan Production two Eastercons before, which was also
great, (there is a brief reprise of that play in this one, and that got a
great audience reaction too) and 20'01 was also to be a major success. I was
glad to be a part of this.
MONDAY -
I went to the talk on movies into TV shows, (Blue Thunder -
good film rubbish TV show) MASH (good but different in both mediums), and as
one child pointed out, the opening credits of the Pink Panther films became
a Cartoon TV series. (au - bless) TV shows becoming films were also
discussed, again, a medium with mixed fortunes., The Trek shows became good
films, The Flintstones and Lost In Space less so., It was interesting to see
how many non-SF movies and shows came into this discussion, i.e., Callan,
Shaft, etc. We were told to watch out for Josie And The Pussy Cats the
movie and so on. Buffy was highlighted as a good show coming from a bad
movie.
The panel ended by reflecting that we could one day see Coronation
Street The Movie, and various other stuff too. Someone observed that while
a short-lived series like Shaft became a film (it was three films before
the TV series) Hawaii Five O ran for much longer and hasn't yet been
filmed. The key word here I expect is YET.
As the day went on friends left for home , so our population
dwindled and depression set in, but the Dead Dog Party for the remaining
last night survivors had more surprises. There was a nice buffet of cake,
sweets, Pringles, etc, and lots of videos to watch, including Galaxy
Quest, which was fun to watch again, but this time with an audience of
people who really knew where the jokes were coming from. We also saw old
resurrected episodes of Space patrol, a sort of step-brother to
Fireball XL5 which looked good but really needed Gerry Anderson's hand.
At special request, we were shown a clip from The Evil Of Fu Manchu
in which one convention guest, Dave Lally (then a child actor) gets
killed by Manchu's freezing ray - a scene shown now to much merriment,
especially as kids in the audience picked up a line from the 20.01
production, (itself a jokey reworking o a line in Red Dwarf) and spent
twenty minutes repeating over and over, "You're dead, Dave, you're all
dead, Dave), which shows that some people were paying really good
attention to the play especially to Caroline Loveridge's ultra-cool
holographic CAL 9000 computer performance.
But then it really was over, bed, followed by breakfast, a few more
teary goodbyes and home, thankfully on an easier journey than I had going
to Hinckley, which proved to be one of the best Eastercon events ever.

Copyright. Arthur Chappell        

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