Loncon 3 was my first Worldcon, and in fact my first really big con at all. When I try to get my thoughts in order, I find I’m still a bit overwhelmed by it all, though London itself has a lot to do with that. How to give it all a focus ….
Well, I can’t. It’s just too big an experience. All I can say is, I had a great time. I began with the SFF Masterclass, which in itself was also a great time, and at which I met some great people. For three days, we were centred in Greenwich, in the Endeavour Room at the Royal Observatory, and you can’t get much more central in Greenwich than that, right up in a former telescope dome. I have to confess that on the occasions when I wasn’t instructing, I played truant, rather than sitting in on the sessions that Neil Easterbrook and Andy Duncan were doing, and went wandering. I explored the Royal Park at Greenwich and spent a (hot) day at the British Museum. Seeing the latter has been a lifelong ambition of mine. But I really enjoyed the masterclass sessions I was there for (my own) and found the discussion elicited by the books I’d assigned to be quite stimulating.
Actually, I did sit in for part of one other session, since while I was in London, a number of copyedited chapters of The Lady: Marakand Part Two arrived for me to deal with. As my computer chose those days to have a serious crisis, once I did get it restored to functioning (thinking, right, I’m in London sitting up to one a.m. trying to fix my computer — successfully, after a couple of days), I needed to do some real work. So I sat in the telescope dome at Greenwich Observatory and worked on The Lady. Appropriate, I suppose, since the most noteworthy architectural features of the temple of the Lady are the two domes.
I had a friend’s Oyster card and found getting around London by Dock Light Rail, Tube, London Overground and Thames Clipper mostly straightforward with a few bursts of confusion, the rare occasions when I’ve been anywhere with public transit being Toronto, where there are hardly any transfers between subway lines or to West Berlin of the eighties, where the system was a time-punched card.
I was thinking about what a literary city London is; not a real place at all, but an assemblage of associations. What is the British Museum? Sutton Hoo and The Story of the Amulet, The Magician’s Nephew and Greenwitch. What is the Thames? So many things — most recently the geographical thread binding Ben Aaronovitch’s Peter Grant novels — but so much history. And Our Mutual Friend, and the waters of the Isis and Handel, “the fever is abroad in Rotherhithe”, the Docklands and the Blitz . . . . So many streets and neighbourhoods resonate with so many stories, known names. One walks on the heels of Paddington, of Holmes and Watson, of Psmith and Wooster, Peter and Harriet, just in reading the names on the signage or of the Tube stations.
Loncon itself was a lot of fun; to be honest, I had expected to be a bit oppressed by crowds, which I don’t enjoy, but it was far less crowded and frenzied than I expected, because the venue, the Excel Centre, was actually big enough to hold the thousands comfortably. There were a few long queues — the one for the theatrical adaptation of The Anubis Gates was the length of the Excel. Compared to other cons I’ve gone to, admittedly only a few and much smaller, it was admirably well organized, too. Even eating was easy; the central boulevard of the Excel, which is almost a km long, was lined with fast food places, some of them very good and none with huge lineups, which is a bonus at a con. The panels I was on or attended were all very interesting, well-moderated and with a lot of good discussion. Taken all in all, Loncon 3 is going to be the con against which I judge all others. (And the takeaway curry from the Mint Leaves a new standard in basic curries.) Went to some parties and receptions, met some old friends in person for the first time, made some new ones, discovered that some of my work as a feral academic is rather better known than I thought
And then there was my voyage up and down the Thames on the riverbus, a walking tour of the heart of the city, and a day at Kew Gardens. More to come. Mostly photos! I’m going to make a couple of galleries, I think.
I’m very grateful to the friends and relatives who helped me make this trip possible, and to ArtsNB, the New Brunswick Arts Board, which offered a grant to assist with travel expenses. #SFWApro