Novacon 39 Report - Ian Whates

Hi all,

As I mentioned before, our own Ian Whates (well, I say "our own"; he's his, really, but he's written the very cool space opera The Noise Within for us, so we have a sense of attachment to him) made it to Novacon 39 a couple of weeks ago. And Ian's been kind enough to write up a con report for us. He writes:

Novacon 39, November 2009

So, Novacon has found a new home. The previous long-serving venue polarised opinions dramatically. Some people loved the Quality Hotel, Walsall, others detested the place. Whatever your particular take on the matter, that venue is now well and truly consigned to the past.

I had some concerns about Novacon moving so far from its core membership – I realise this is not the first time the convention has done so, but still… As things turned out, any such fears were unfounded. Attendance seemed strong and must have been close to its usual level of around 200.

Okay, the important things: the bar was well-stocked, with Black Sheep flowing freely and no attempts to close as late nights dragged ever deeper into the morning hours; breakfast was buffet-style and offered a good choice on all fronts; Guest of Honour Justina Robson was her usual charming self, though flagging somewhat by Sunday morning (which she blamed on a cold rather than over-indulgence, and who am I to argue?), and the dealers’ room was spacious and well supported, with a good selection of booksellers and other dealers.

Programming has never been a particular strong point of Novacons, but this year offered a genuine highlight on the Sunday morning, when Dr Somah Raychaudhary of Birmingham Universality delivered a well received talk on black holes. There was the traditional quiz on Friday evening, and the Nova Award on Saturday, won this year (not for the first time) by the excellent Banana Wings, courtesy of Claire Brialey, Mark Plummer and Sue Mason. Several decent pubs were within walking distance for those seeking temporary escape, with Central Nottingham’s restaurants just a brief taxi ride away.

With last year’s GofH Ian R MacLeod on hand, regular attendees Ian Watson, Charlie Stross and Dave Hutchinson present throughout the weekend, and Juliet McKenna popping in on Saturday, the writing fraternity were well represented, and the overall vibe of the convention was very positive and happy.

Any gripes? A few, but they were invariably responded to promptly once brought to the organisers’ attention. On Friday, the hotel failed to understand the traditional provision of midnight bacon and sausage baps and sent the chef home because there were no orders, but this was rectified by Saturday night. I was a little disappointed that my own launch of Dave Hutchinson’s The Push didn’t feature in the main program listing but was consigned to a footnote at the back of the leaflet. Again, the committee, led by Alice Lawson, acted promptly, producing leaflets to promote the launch. The resultant turnout may have been small, but we enjoyed ourselves.

It seems almost churlish to raise such minor matters following such an enjoyable convention.

Well done to all involved, and roll on Novacon 40!

(Images thanks to Ian Whates - Top right: Brian Ameringan, Ian Watson and Dave Langford; Lower left: Tom Hunter and Rog Peyton.)

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