Last weekend, we went to Wales. Not, as we usually do, to camp or walk up mountains. But to attend a science fiction convention, the SFX Weekender.
I'd never been to anything like this before, so I didn't really know what to expect. A friend won free tickets, and I do enjoy reading a lot of fantasy and sci-fi books, so it sounded like it might be a fun use of a weekend. There was a packed schedule: films and TV screenings, various talks and events, as well as a bar and a shopping area full of small stalls. There was a quiz one night, where we somehow managed to come fourteenth out of about a hundred teams (hint: it wasn't down to me). And just wandering around the site was entertaining of itself, as there were loads of people dressed up as their favourite characters - from Darth Vader to the daleks.
I went to a few discussion panels where authors and other artists took on a diverse range of topics. Elf Preservation considered whether fantasy books require invented species of strange creatures; It's Not A Story, It's A Map addressed the ubiquity of maps inside the cover of most epic fantasy novels; What Makes British Comics Unique gave a lot of interesting insight into the difference between the US and UK comics scene; We're All Doomed! was about the increasingly-popular (post)apocalyptic fiction.
But the highlight for me was watching Just A Minute played by four speculative fiction authors - including China Mieville, who just happens to be one of my favourite writers. The topics were all fantasy-and-scifi related, and the writers really got into the spirit of the game as played on Radio 4.
We also went to a few screenings, including an hour-long session of sci-fi shorts (which introduced me to the idea of comedy sci-fi), and a singalong showing of the musical episode of Buffy.
If you're at all into sci-fi, fantasy, or horror you might well enjoy something like this. I'm already hoping to win more tickets next year!
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