Whew! What do you call a ten-day whirl of delayed flights, storms, malfunctioning Jetways, broken luggage, 11 hours of non-functioning in-flight video, and 45 minutes on an LA tarmac in August without air conditioning? Answer: My trip to Loncon 3. And I mean that precisely: That was the trip out. (Not to mention the 90-minute tube journey through London at rush hour with two suitcases, but we knew about that.)
It is a tribute to the Loncon crew that even with all that, the trip was worthwhile. It helped that we lucked into a hotel next to the convention center; some people were commuting 30 minutes every day. We only commuted ten minutes a day, and that was because we were on the “unfashionable side” of the ExCel, as Lady Bracknell would say, and it was a long walk to the convention space proper.
And still it was worth the trip. European cons offer one great advantage that American cons just cannot seem to match: Europeans. I lost count of how many languages we heard. And European cons don’t run on the wimpy 10 – 5 schedule we have here. They ran seven tracks of programming from 9 am to 11:30 pm. (I shudder to think who you had to offend to get an 11:30 pm reading. Maybe those were reserved for horror authors.)
I did have a problem with the program–not that there weren’t panels I wanted to see, because we’ve been to so many cons that new and interesting panels are few and far between, but because I was shut out of fully sixty percent of those I did want because the rooms were too small. I realize Loncon may not have been expecting 7000 attendees, but really, if your venue’s rooms aren’t big enough, get a new venue. Otherwise you might as well call yourself Comic-Con.
Fortunately, the real reason I went was to meet people. I’m a member of Codex, the internet community for newer pros, and we have an annual Worldcon breakfast which is the only chance many of us ever get to meet the others, let alone those of us who live in Europe and don’t get to smaller domestic cons. The breakfast was a great success, and I managed to put faces to a lot of names, exchange some business cards, grouse a little about magazine response times. There were other meet and greets, and I believe I made some worthwhile contacts.
After four days mostly spent walking or sitting at the convention center coffee house, the con was over. The concom was exhausted. Most of the guests went home. Us? We were only half-way through our London adventure, and the “interesting times,” in the Confucian sense, were only beginning…