David Lang­ford on a mem­o­rable sci- fi meet- up

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Lang­ford on Lon­con, while Bon­nie talks cats.

So that was Lon­con 3, the third World SF Con­ven­tion in London. Gosh, it was big, and hard on the feet – the London Ex­CeL venue is close on a kilo­me­tre long. This was the first World­con to sell over ten thou­sand mem­ber­ships; nearly eight thou­sand peo­ple turned up. Were there re­ally 5,324 pro­gramme events? The num­bers ran from 1,003 to 5,324, but that’s se­cret code for Day 1 Item 1 to Day 5 Item 108. Still, there was a lot hap­pen­ing.

Robert Sil­ver­berg of­fered me a vi­tal statis­tic: “I’ve cal­cu­lated that George RR Martin’s an­nual in­come ex­ceeds my to­tal net worth. And I am not a poor man.”

My one panel ap­pear­ance was “Evo­lu­tion of the En­cy­clo­pe­dia of Sci­ence Fic­tion”, where we ed­i­tors shame­lessly bragged about reach­ing 4.5 mil­lion words that month. The room was grat­i­fy­ingly crowded de­spite 18 ri­val attractions in the same time slot. No one hurled rot­ten toma­toes. That counts as a win.

Find­ing Charlie Stross’s birth­day bash and other invitation- only events was a chal­lenge. The Long March to pri­vate party rooms went via a huge bare un­used Ex­CeL hall and past four more such vast empty spa­ces, like park­ing bays in Iain M Banks’s Gen­eral Sys­tems Ve­hi­cles. Weak­lings turned back, but Lang­ford is made of sterner stuff when ma­jor is­sues ( free booze) are at stake.

I re­mem­ber break­fast with Christo­pher Priest; af­ter­noon tea with Jo Walton; George RR Martin plot­ting hor­rid butch­ery of ed­i­bles in the fast­food ar­cade; be­ing ac­costed by Pat Cadi­gan with “Lang­ford, you dog”; spend­ing too much; event clashes that made me miss the SFX party, though later I found our ed­i­tor down­ing free­bies at the Gol­lancz do. Sights in the tent- filled Fan Vil­lage hos­pi­tal­ity area in­cluded two TARDISes, the Iron Throne and a Hawai­ian Tiki Dalek which made it into Pri­vate Eye’s friendly car­toon cov­er­age.

The other SF En­cy­clo­pe­dia panel was a “Re­union” of sur­vivors from the 1979 first edi­tion, be­fore I got in­volved: mighty critic John Clute, Mal­colm Ed­wards of Orion/ Gol­lancz – both Lon­con guests of hon­our – and Peter Ni­cholls, who cre­ated the orig­i­nal SFE. At panel’s end he re­ceived a long stand­ing ova­tion as First Founder... an emo­tional high­light of the week­end.

Hav­ing once en­joyed a free trip to a US World­con cour­tesy of the TransAt­lantic Fan Fund ( TAFF), I try to support the fundrais­ing auc­tions and had do­nated three small stained- glass pan­els made by the late great Bob Shaw, ac­quired for peanuts in the 1980s. Would any­one buy them? Half­way through the auc­tion a panic- stricken auc­tion­eer whis­pered: “We can’t find them!”

No one hurled rot­ten toma­toes at us. That counts as a win

This was my cue to run all the way from the auc­tion room ( Ex­CeL Level 3) to the of­fi­cial repos­i­tory where I’d handed in the stained glass for pickup ( Level 0). Then back again with the bag. Puff, gasp, is this what heart at­tacks feel like? Bob Shaw’s cre­ations sparked fu­ri­ous bid­ding and fetched nearly £ 800. I’m still bog­gled.

De­spite fears of trou­ble from block vot­ing in the Hugo Awards ( see my SFX 251 col­umn), the “con­spir­acy” was a flop. At the cer­e­mony, Ann Leckie’s popular An­cil­lary Jus­tice added the best novel Hugo to its Clarke, Neb­ula and other awards; our own Charlie Stross’s deeply per­verse Love­craftian uni­corn story “Equoid” won as best novella, his third Hugo. The most re­pel­lently con­tro­ver­sial nom­i­nee placed be­low No Award, and Hugo ad­min­is­tra­tors sighed with re­lief.

Lon­con ended on 18 Au­gust with a fly­ing visit from Brian Ald­iss, who was at the first Lon­con in 1957 and who turned 89 that day. At the clos­ing cer­e­mony, un­for­get­tably, the en­tire au­di­ence ser­e­naded him with “Happy Birth­day To You”.

There’s more, much more, but I have only this one page. David Lang­ford thinks the Lon­con com­mit­tee did a bloody good job.

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