ICSF The History Book

Picocon 2001 - John's Sofa Report

Juliet McKenna

...the Sofa has the unenviable task of actually running the convention...

This was my fourth Picocon, but the first one that I've actually been in charge of. It's certainly been a learning experience, and I'm very grateful to the rest of the committee for all their help. All in all, I think it turned out quite well. The guests all enjoyed it, and it looked like the attendees did too. The only slight hiccup was that one of our guests (Geoff Ryman) got confused about the date, so didn't turn up. However, I hear that the impromptu panel went ok.

The booksellers seemed to be doing a reasonable amount of business, as there were always people there whenever I walked past. I took care of Brian "Porcupine" Ameringen's baby while his wife was registering, leading to the quote of the day from Jane Killick: "You're the one left holding the baby". Thankfully the baby refrained from vomiting over me!

Moving on to the events themselves, I thought that Jane Killick's talk went well, and the audience certainly seemed to enjoy hearing Babylon 5 gossip. I particularly enjoyed her anecdote about starting out as a journalist. Apparently she got this idea from Neil Gaiman: go along to magazines and say "I'm a freelance journalist and I have an interview with [writer] - would you like to publish it?" When one of them agrees, go along to that writer, and say "I work for [magazine] - may I interview you?" Like all the talks I attended, there were no awkward silences when people asked for questions, which was a relief.

In the afternoon, I moderated the panel discussion, with the theme "Do you need to know about a subject in order to write about it?" All three guests (Chris Priest, Jane Killick, and Juliet McKenna) took part in this, and were able to offer different opinions based on their varying experiences. One interesting thing was that Jane doesn't like doing research, whereas the other two do. I was also quite amused by Juliet's comments about the callous aspect to being a writer, where a friend was injured and she said "Oh, that's terrible. What does it feel like?"

Next, Juliet did a talk about "why do fantasy books always come in trilogies?", which was very interesting; I'm glad that I was able to attend it. I think this was the most popular event of the day, since almost all the seats were full, and people were perched on window sills. It was very well researched, and a copy of it should be on her website in due course.

The final event of the day was the pub quiz, where I was reading out the questions. This involved a lot of shouting, and I had quite a sore throat by the end, but everyone seemed to have fun. There were a few hecklers, but I think that in an event like this you have to tolerate an informal atmosphere, and we seemed to strike the right balance between letting people talk and telling them to shut up.

Aside from these specific events, there were also computers available to play "Unreal Tournament", which were popular, even if everyone else was much better at it than me. Sample conversation:

Me: Ooh, a quantum singularity generator. What does that do?
Michael: Use it from a distance.
Me: [Takes step backwards and fires it]
Computer: You have killed yourself
Michael: I said "from a distance!"

Richard was also running Dalek races, which I saw briefly, and they seemed to be entertaining people.

I didn't attend the film in the evening, but I hear that lots of other people did, which is good. So, now that's all over and done with, time to start planning for next year!

John Kirk, Picocon sofa, ICSF