While it mat be technically in London, it's a good two hours away by Underground, so we were staying in the hotel. I didn't know till after the first night there that British hotels include breakfast in the price of the room, which was a pleasant surprise. Also pleasant was likely the best buffet breakfast I've ever had: fried eggs, real hash browns, sausage, fried mushrooms, toast, juice and coffee, fruit. And non-greasy as well!
The pre-reg for the con was strong, and according to the figures today attendance was in the 1300 - 1400 range, making it the biggest Eastercon since 1984. I did have to try to not roll my eyes whenever someone went on about how huge it was, but it's all relative. (Apparently the biggest local anime con is capped at about 300 people, and sells out 8 months in advance.
I got a scare during the opening ceremonies when they were listing the people we've lost in the preceding year, and they mentioned Ray Bradbury, but it was a British SF fan of the same name.
Eastercon runs four days, and we got there on late Friday afternoon. Not a lot was going on that evening, but there was a great panel on "New Dr. Who: Is it as good as we think?", the consenous being that it is quite good while having some serious weak points, mostly due to the fact that it's Dr. Who fanboys who are writing the show. (Moderator: "Who expected to see Dalaks?" Almost everyone. "Who expected to see Cybermen?" Almost everyone. "Who expected to see Daleks fighting Cybermen?" Nobody.)
One thing the con really had going for it was four high profile literary guests: Neil Gaiman, Tanith Lee, Charlie Stross, and China Mieville. I was talking to Judith the con chair for a bit and asked her how they managed this. It was pure luck, they invited all four, expectng to get one, maybe two, and they all said yes!
First GoH talk was China Meiville, who's talk was on "Spoiling SF for Everyone",or rather, how it's perfectly fine for other people to read things into books that you don't see, and how you have to sometimes separate the author from his work, Erza Pound may not have written such stunning poetry if he didn't hate Jews quite so much. And Lovecraft was quite the racist too, but his stories still have unmistakable power.
He's also really angry with the ongoing "war on children" in the UK, with the wide-spread use of "Anti-Social Behaviour Orders" to restrict the freedoms of minors for crimes as small as playing musics too loud, to the re-writing of Enid Blyton books to remove any of the cheeky bits and the "rude" names of the major charactors (Fanny is now Franny).
I had to leave his talk a half-hour early (all GoH talks went 1.5 hours), and I had signed up for the Coffee Talk Sessions for all of the author guests (eight lucky fans get to sit and talk with them for an hour) and was lucky enough to get the one with Charlie Stross. I've never seen him at a con before and it was great, we all talked about his past and upcoming books, the one he has coming out will be about a sex robot created six months after the human race has gone extinct, so she have a bit of a crisis concerning her role in the world. He also talked about a space opera we tried to write once about space pirates who board your ship, inventory your cargo, and then place "put" options on the good arriving at market. Yes, they are accountancy pirates, and they had to take action when "real" space pirates show up. Unfortunately, the book never really gelled.
Also a great story about how he was warned that his novel <i>Halting States</i> would be of interest only to people obsessed with Slashdot, but fortunately his publishers underestimated how many people that was.
Got to see Neil Gaiman that day at the <i>Mysterious London</i> panel. While he has mixed feelings about the <i>Neverwhere</i> TV mini, he loved the making of it. Apparently saying you're with the BBC gets you in anywhere in London.
Unfortunately, while he likes Toronto "lovely city, good restaurants and bookshops", it lacks the magic of cities like New York and London where anything can be imagined to happen. "No one ever thought 'Let's see the dark side of human nature - Toronto!'"
I've never read any Tanith Lee, but after her GoH speech I'm certainly going to. A very intelligent woman, passionate in her beliefs and interests (and she wrote two Blake's 7 scripts!)
British cons have no con suites or room parties, but Eastercon had three convention bars set-up, on top of two hotel bars, so it was no problem finding places to hang out in the evening.
And convention dances are the same everywhere it seems, which is no problem with me.