Picocon: a day of randomness and fun

by Cristina Rodriguez Trobajo

Picocon 22 Felix article

A report on Picocon 22, which appeared in Felix issue 1318, Thursday, 3 March 2005

On Saturday 19 February, three of the most powerful teams in the world (Team America, Team Rocket and the A Team), helped by the Illuminati (committee members) and three Guests of Honour, invaded and took over Imperial College Union, devoting their day to randomness and fun.

The Imperial College Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Society (ICSF) held its annual convention, Picocon 22, and it was a total success, thanks to our Picocon Sofa, Ali Ryan, and all the effort he put into organising it. As our Sofa says, "the convention went smoothly [considering our first interviewer didn't arrive on time]. I think everyone had a good time and we managed to raise a fair amount for charity". Picocon was visited by more than 120 people nationwide, including some from Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Picocon opened its doors at 10am, as promised, thanks to the effort of the Illuminati, who got there at 8am to set up. As attendants were arriving, they got sorted into teams (the above mentioned). Only one team could win by the end of the day, and its members could earn points by bringing 'things' to the front desk. These 'things' included everything from former ICSF Chairs or published authors to origami pieces and tickets from Mornington Crescent. The bonus token was bringing Excalibur, for which the Kingdom "on" England was awarded. Team Rocket was the winner of the day, by a fair amount of points (too many ex-Chairs ended up in this team).

One of the best moments of the day was, undoubtedly, the Destruction of Dodgy Merchandise (DoDM). The auction was lead by one of the ICSF ex-chairs, and the tools provided were a hammer, a rubber bonker, bolt cutters and lots and lots of liquid nitrogen. The highlights of the auction were the Spirit of Obi Wan, the LoTR Goblet of Greed, Wind-up Legolas and, last but not least, William Shatner's video Mysteries of the Gods which, alone, went for £45. Sadly, it was not destroyed. It is now in David Weir's possession. If anybody sees it, you are allowed to retrieve it by any means and bring it back to the ICSF library, where it will be disposed of properly. The total raised by the DoDM was over £165, with all proceeds going to RAG.

The central events of the day were the authors' talks, running from the morning all the way through the afternoon. Two of our authors had topics to their talks: Gwyneth Jones on Insanity, and Brian Stableford on the Myth of the Space Age, while Jon Courtenay Grimwood had a Q&A session about his books. Finally, the three of them took part in a panel discussion, where they discussed different aspects of science fiction. Both the talks and the panel discussion were a success, the attendance being very high.

Afterwards, to balance serious discussion with inanity, the Ministry of Silly Games took place, run by Dave Clements. Members from each of the teams took part, in a desperate attempt to win the last points and snatch victory off Team Rocket's hands (which, of course, didn't happen). The fact that Dave, awarding the points, belonged to Team Rocket has nothing to do with this... The players lived up to everybody's expectations, excelling at Mornington Crescent, Charades and Just a Minute.

While all these events were happening around the Union building, dB's was a continuous event of games and books from opening to closing time. We had two book stalls from two of our favourite booksellers, Fantasy Centre and Porcupine Books. They are some of our stronger supporters, having come to many Picocons! Several games were running throughout the day, including a non-stop multiplayer UT2004 and others, such as Munchkin, Magic and Pirates of the Spanish Main.

However, at 5.30pm, something out of the ordinary happened. Two men, representing the noble universities of Cambrigde and Imperial, met in the Quad to defend the honour of their societies by means of the ancient tradition of fish duelling. Dressed in black and protected by chain mail, both men fought, with two fish each, to the death or to the best of seven blows. Oxford brought shame upon themselves by failing to present a champion. Sadly, the Imperial champion lost to Cambridge, but lost with honour, and managed to get fish guts on his opponent's face. Even so, the Fish Duel Trophy will be sent to Cambridge, until we can retrieve it next year.

To round off the day, Picocon ended with the Grand Quiz. Ten brave teams faced a furious barrage of questions in ten rounds, with a variety of results. Special mention goes to the Wye team that, well, tried. Surprisingly enough, the winners of the quiz were the team 'Authors and Mooks', formed by our guests of honour (because some of the questions were not about their books, of course not) and their 'babysitters'.

Something new this year was the constant presence of a filming team, putting together a documentary on fan-run conventions, both from the point of view of the organisers and the attendants. Coming soon to a theatre near you. Almost.

We hope that everybody who attended Picocon had a great time. See you there next year!

The Imperial College Union Science Fiction library can be found in the West Basement (Beit Quad) and is open between 12 and 2pm on weekdays.