When I went to the Star Trek convention last year, there was a fee to get in through the door but then you also had to pay for most of the events inside (mostly involving actors, e.g. autograph sessions). This convention was different: the entry fee covered everything except for a few workshops which were booked separately (and limited to about 20 people each).
(Apologies in advance - this is another long post.)
The convention took place at Heathrow, split across 2 hotels: the Renaissance and the Radisson Edwardian. I stayed at the Radisson back in 1998 for the Wrap Party (a Babylon 5 convention), which was very good; I went back a year or so later for another convention, but I barely even remember that one. As it turned out, I didn't visit the Radisson at all for this one. It was convenient to stay in the same place as the events, but I think the Radisson is a nicer hotel (e.g. they have a swimming pool). An odd quirk of the Renaissance is that you have to use the lift to go between floors. The only staircase is a fire escape, so it exits outside the building and the doors can only be opened from the inside. It's fine to have lifts, e.g. for accessibility, but I'd like to have the option of taking the stairs (either for speed or exercise).
It took me about 2 hours to travel there from home, so in theory I could have gone there and back every day. That would have been significantly cheaper, but it would also be a nuisance, especially since the program was due to finish at 23:30 in the evening and start again at 09:00 the next day, so I wouldn't get much sleep in between. Similarly, I stayed at the hotel on Sunday night (after the convention finished), mainly because it would be a nuisance to check out earlier in the day and then carry my luggage around with me to all the events; however, that would be less of an issue if you travelled there by car.
They had several "tracks" at the convention, and several were added after the Kickstarter project. Looking at the website, they've had to convert it into a nested list because it got too long for a single list! I went back and forth between a few, but I didn't visit them all. I was going to post a list here of which tracks I attended, but I'm not entirely sure; the program didn't "tag" each event with the track(s) it belonged to.
Each program item ran for 1h15m, then there was a 30m break between items. (Some items were "doubles", e.g. film screenings, but they still fitted into the same timetable.) That meant that you could jump tracks whenever you wanted to, and you'd always have time to get from one item to the next (even if they were in different hotels). However, it also meant that you couldn't go anywhere to eat a proper meal without skipping an item. Maybe it would be better to have longer breaks for lunch/dinner, e.g. an hour?
When I checked in, the event organisers gave me a bag full of stuff. This included a printed copy of the program, a free novel (The Final Evolution), my pass (a credit card sized piece of card to hang around my neck on a lanyard), a metal badge (Kickstarter reward), and a chart to tick off which events I'd attended (part of a game).
The original plan was that we'd all get pre-printed name badges; the later update was that we'd get blank badges to write our own names on. Either of those would be fine by me. They said that we didn't need to use our real names, and I think that it does make it easier to start talking to strangers. I later discovered (on Sunday) that we were supposed to write our names in the space at the bottom of the pass. I hadn't done that, and I didn't notice other people doing it, although that may just be because the pass hung fairly low down (below the rib cage) whereas name badges/stickers would normally be up on the chest.
The chart was a nice idea, but I don't think it worked out very well. In theory, there was supposed to be a stamp next to the door in each room, so you'd use that to mark off the corresponding space on the chart (to show which track you'd just been to). However, I didn't see those stamps at any of the events I went to, and the people running the events didn't mention them. There were prizes available for people who got the most marks in a line, but the people collecting charts on Sunday said that they'd only received 2 entries (with 3 prizes available). So, I assume that the stamps must have been around, but I don't think I was the only person who missed seeing them.
I was running a bit late on Friday, so I missed the afternoon sessions and just went to a couple in the evening after I'd checked in.
(Track: For Science!.)
I was a bit nervous about this talk before I went in, mainly because I didn't know what it was going to involve. Would it be like watching Rocky Horror where the presenter does a straw-poll survey to see what kind of sex the audience have been having lately? Still, I try to push my boundaries now and then.
As it turned out, I needn't have worried, because it was a fairly standard format: a presentation with Q&A at the end. The main problem was that the room didn't have enough seats for everyone. The room itself had plenty of space, but only half of it had seating, so the rest of us had to sit on the floor or stand at the back, and we couldn't see the projector screen very well. Fortunately the slides are online, so I've now had a look at them.
One of the interesting slides was a map of human sexuality, by Franklin Veaux. This includes "the Land of Mundania" (a little island on its own), and the presenter said that it's not a good idea to form reverse cliques. In other words, following the "charmed circle" may be bad (by saying that anyone who does weird stuff has a psychological disorder) but sneering at "vanilla" people is also bad. I recently read a Subnormality comic, which has a similar approach: Weird. ("There are people who haven't had sex yet and people who've had sex eight times this week and you can't tell them apart because they're equally kind and well-adjusted and happy.")
More generally, I think the main thing I got out of the talk was to be sceptical about the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual): it sounds as if they've had a few dubious ideas about what counts as a disorder. I'm no expert on the topic, but I have a personal interest in Asperger's Syndrome; according to the Guardian the latest edition (DSM V) has got rid of that as a diagnosis, and merged it into the general autistic spectrum.
The other thing I learnt is what people mean by "pansexual". The theory is that there are more than 2 genders, so "bisexual" is the wrong term to use. According to the program, the presenter (Dr Meg Barker) is "the lead author of The Bisexuality Report, which informs UK policy and practice around bisexuality", so I'm surprised that they would reject the concept. Again, though, I'm no expert on this topic.
When we got to the scheduled end time, the presenter was still taking questions, with no indication of how much longer the session would last. A few people started leaving at this point; I didn't want to be rude by disrupting the session, but I didn't want to stick around for too long either. As it turned out, they wrapped things up about 5 minutes later. Still, I think that's a useful tip for people running events like this: keep an eye on the clock. If the room isn't being used for anything else and people want to hang around a bit longer then that's fine by me, but at least give everyone else a chance to leave en masse rather than in dribs and drabs.
It Is Rocket Science
This was stand-up comedy based around the space program, by Helen Keen. It was very funny, so I highly recommend going to watch her perform elsewhere if you get the chance. She was very energetic, and she did a good job of engaging the audience. I learnt a few things too, so I'll keep an ear out for her next series on Radio 4.
The only downside was another shortage of chairs. The room was set up with some people sitting around tables, and the rest of us had to stand; we couldn't sit on the floor, because we wouldn't have been able to see the projector screen (an important part of the show). As with the previous event, there was plenty of space for everyone to fit into the room, but most of the space was left empty.
The hotel booking included an all you can eat buffet breakfast, which is a good way to start the day. Initially the staff were asking people for room numbers and directing people to appropriate tables, but they eventually gave up on that and just said "Everyone from the convention go into that part of the restaurant and help yourselves."
Planning ahead for the day, I made a conscious effort to avoid things that I could do outside the con. For instance, there was a screening of Judge Minty (a fanfic film based on Judge Dredd); I've heard good things about it, and I'd like to see it, but I can do that at home. Similarly, there was a screening of The Wild Hunt (a horror film set at a LARP event). I saw the trailer recently, and I thought it was quite clever at first (juxtaposing how LARPers are really acting with the world they're trying to portray); not particularly flattering, but I can live with that. However, when a group of men assaulted a woman (not just pretending) I thought "No." Granted, I'm new to the hobby, but there's no way that would happen at any of the events I've attended. I probably ought to watch the film at some point, just so that I'll have an informed opinion, but that can wait until later.
The Future Of Technology and Society
This was a panel discussion with Charles Stross, Cory Doctorow, and Dr Lilian Edwards. I've read a few of Charlie Stross' blog posts, although I haven't been able to keep up with them in my RSS feed. I've heard of Cory Doctorow (mainly through xkcd strips) but I haven't read any of his stuff before. I mainly went to this because Helen Keen was moderating it, and I enjoyed her stand-up; I hate to say it, but I think she's better suited to performing.
Following a trend, there weren't enough seats for everyone, so I sat on the floor. (Again, there was plenty of space in the room, just not enough chairs.) Oddly, one guy sitting in the front row spent the first half of the talk fiddling with his phone; this must have been obvious to the panelists (which seems rude) and he was in my view when I looked at them so it was equally obvious to me. If you're going to do something like that, I'd suggest sitting at the back of the room where it will be less obvious.
Anyway, there were some interesting ideas, and I think the panel gave some fairly balanced views when they talked about the possible ubiquity of surveillance technology. E.g. if you have something like Google Glasses (a camera recording everything you see) to build a Life Log, you could later find out "What was the name of that person I spoke to last Thursday?" That may be a bad thing if you're worried about surveillance (Orwell's "Big Brother" future) but it may also be a good thing if you're elderly and suffering from dementia. Lilian Edwards also suggested that writing to your MP about issues may not have much effect, but your MEP is more likely to be receptive, so I'll try that in future.
Live Action Muggle Quidditch
This is obviously based on the game from Harry Potter, and I believe there have been some computer game adaptations. However, this is a live action version. I heard about this a few years ago, and my initial reaction was that it just looked a bit stupid: people were running around with broomsticks between their legs pretending to fly. However, I dismissed LARP for similar reasons, and I've enjoyed that, so I figured that I ought to at least take a look at this, particularly since I was already in the building.
They ran 2 items, and each item included 3 games, so each game was about 15 minutes long; that allowed a bit of extra time for picking teams, explaining the rules, etc. The BBC have a video (Quidditch for Muggles) which covers the basics pretty well. You can also read the full rules on the International Quidditch Association site, although I think they simplified it a bit for us.
Comparing it to the books/films, you have the same teams (3 chasers, 2 beaters, 1 keeper, 1 seeker). The quaffle (scoring ball) is a basketball, and the bludgers (hitting balls) are dodgeballs; the beaters don't have sticks, they just throw the bludgers by hand. The snitch is a tennis ball in a sock, tucked into the back of someone's shorts; the snitch runner doesn't have a broomstick, which gives him a speed advantage over the seekers.
The scoring is a bit different to the Harry Potter version: you still get 10 points for each hoop, but only 30 for catching the snitch (rather than 150). I think that's better, because it makes the game more balanced, rather than saying the seeker makes everything else irrelevant. (That was nicely parodied in Sluggy Freelance's "Torg Potter" stories: 1st year and 2nd year.) Meanwhile, the seekers were allowed to act as extra keepers until the snitch came into play, so that they didn't get bored twiddling their thumbs.
In the Potterverse, people actually get injured by the bludgers. In our version, the dodgeballs didn't hurt at all, so it was similar to LARP: you need to "take your hits" rather than carrying on. If you get hit by a bludger, you need to "dismount" (take the broomstick out from between your legs), go back to your hoops, then rejoin the game. This led to a bit of confusion during my game: I was keeper, and I went about halfway up the "pitch" (hotel room) with the quaffle. I shouted out "Chaser" but nobody from my team replied. I then saw someone with the relevant colour coded headband, so I chucked the ball over to him. As the ball was in the air, he then said "I'm out", i.e. he was going back to the hoops, so the ball just dropped onto the ground and the other team took possession. D'oh! I had considered going up to the far end myself, but I didn't want to leave our hoops unattended; in hindsight, it might have been worth it.
There wasn't any dress code for this, but trousers are probably better than a dress; after one of the games, someone said: "Everyone in this room has now seen my pants." It's not really an issue when you're running around, but there were a few times when several of us wound up sprawled on the floor, e.g. when we were all lunging for the quaffle. When we all grabbed hold at once, we then had to rely on our beaters to come along and bean the opposite team with bludgers so that they'd have to let go of the ball they were holding.
At the end of the match, my team ... came second. (Ok, we lost.) Still, I enjoyed the game, and I'd like to do it again, although I don't think I could commit to a weekly training session. Mind you, I think I may do better in a different position; probably not seeker, but maybe chaser or beater. If anyone is interested, you can view a map of British teams on the Quidditch UK site.
When I checked in at the hotel, the person on duty at the desk asked me what I was most looking forward to, and I said the swordplay workshop. I liked the Quidditch session more than the previous events where I'd sat around listening to other people talk, maybe because I was more actively involved. More generally, I think it's interesting that my tastes have changed a bit over time. When I was at school, I wasn't particularly athletic; I'd much rather sit inside and play a computer game. Nowadays, I have a few computer games that I've bought and not played (or only played once), whereas I'm far more likely to do outdoor activities (e.g. cycling/swimming). Even then, I've tended to enter competitions on a solo basis rather than doing team sports. If I ever get competent on my unicycle, maybe I should give unicycle hockey a go?
In terms of facilities, this took place in the same room as the Helen Keen's comedy session. So, the lack of chairs was an advantage here, because they were all cleared over to the side to make room for the "pitch". However, it would probably work better in a larger room (e.g. a basketball court) or outdoors.
In Conversation with Chris Barrie
This took place in a cinema (hotel basement) so there were plenty of seats available. It was a pleasant enough session: Jane Killick did a good job of interviewing him and handling questions from the audience. At the same time, there wasn't any lasting impact. It felt a bit like eating a whole packet of chocolate biscuits rather than a more substantial meal. That's not a criticism of the people involved, because I don't think there's anything they could (or should) have done differently. Really, it was similar to a DVD extra, where we could reminisce about our favourite episodes or scenes.
Star Trek Writers Panel
This was in the same room as the first panel ("The Future Of Technology and Society") with the same number of chairs, but this time there was plenty of space: there were only about 20 people in the room. That's probably a bit disappointing for the authors who'd turned up, but it did lend itself to a more informal atmosphere. I'm not bang up to date with the Trek novels, but I've read several of the "relaunch" books (set after the various TV series ended), including novels by the authors on the panel: Una McCormack, David A. McIntee, John Medany, and James Swallow. So, I enjoyed this session, and I've added a few more books to my "to read" list.
There were also some interesting points about the recent Star Trek films. Since the characters explicitly stated that they're in an alternate reality, that means that the "Prime" universe is still intact, so Pocket are planning to keep publishing novels there for as long as people keep buying them. Apparently they aren't allowed to publish any original novels set in the rebooted universe; they can only do movie adaptations.
Although I've complained about the seating, this does demonstrate that the organisers are in a difficult position, because the number of people in the audience can vary so wildly. One of the authors said that it probably depends on what other events are happening at the same time.
Reunification: Star Trek vs Star Wars
I wasn't originally planning to go to this, but it had 2 of the people from the earlier Trek panel (David A. McIntee and James Swallow) and they deliberately avoided talking too much about the reboot films in that panel to save the discussion for this. As it turned out, it was ok, but it stuck fairly closely to the topic (which is fair enough) i.e. there was a lot of Star Wars discussion. The end result was that most of us were cautiously optimistic about the new films.
(Track: My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.)
Before the Star Trek/Star Wars session started, we ran out of chairs, so a few of us went down the corridor to borrow some from another room. On our way there, we went past the "Brony" room. I know that the show's adult fanbase have a bit of a bad reputation on the internet, e.g. they're often used as the punchline for jokes (a bit like furries). Personally, I've never seen an episode, although I did like one of the songs I saw on YouTube (The Art of the Dress). When I saw this track on the website, the main thing that struck me was that it all seemed to be about the fandom rather than the actual TV series. They basically seemed to be saying: "Please come and see us, we're not that weird, honest!" whereas other tracks had panel discussions about the characters or politics within a particular series. Failing that, an obvious approach would be to show episodes, so that they could attract new fans to the series. I don't know what the copyright issues would be there, but I have seen video rooms at other conventions, typically as somewhere that people can wander in and out if they need to kill time between events; for instance, the last con I went to at the Radisson showed the "Captain Proton" episode of Star Trek: Voyager.
Still, when we went past on our chair hunt, someone else said "They're very friendly, and they have cupcakes." Well, you know, when you put it like that it would be rude not to say hello... The other event finished a bit early, so I dropped in on the Bronies for the end of their event. I initially loitered in the doorway, then sat down. One comment first: despite the "Bro" part of their nickname, I'd say that it was a 50:50 split between genders there. (Well, that's assuming that you accept the concept of binary gender; if you don't, I'm open to suggestions on how to describe the demographics in a situation like this.) The discussion was a bit like a balloon debate, where everyone had picked a particular fandom to evangelise for. None of them had picked My Little Pony, possibly because that would be too obvious. I joined in as a late entry with Knightmare, and when they asked for a representative quote I chose "Sidestep to your left" (as immortalised here); that got a good reception from the others. Since I came in at the end, the event finished soon afterwards, but I have to say that they seemed like a decent bunch, so I don't think they deserve all the flak they get.
Speaking of furries, a couple of people dropped in at the Brony event wearing full-body bat outfits (fursuits). I saw 2 people wandering around earlier in the day in fox fursuits, so I don't know whether this was the same duo in different clothing or different people. There wasn't a specific fur track going on, but some people did cosplay over the weekend. I'd say a significant minority: I didn't stand out wearing normal clothes (and I got a couple of compliments on my T-shirts) but the people in costume weren't alone either.
Diffusion Of The Dead: Mathematically Modelling the Zombie Apocalypse
(Track: For Science!.)
This was entertaining, but I didn't learn much. It did remind me how much calculus I've forgotten so I ought to revise that sometime (if only to help my nephews with their homework). The general point is that this wasn't really about zombies: the same principles apply to a bird flu epidemic or red/grey squirrels. This is the alternative approach to my MSc project (simulating a beehive), i.e. the presenter used equations and probability to predict what would happen rather than tracking individual objects.
This was in the same room as "Future Sex" (with no extra chairs), but this time I found a free seat. There were other people standing at the back, though.
This event finished at 21:45, and after that I went back to my room. There was another event slot (22:15-23:30), e.g. erotic fiction reading, but none of the items particularly interested me. However, I later noticed that there was a double event going on from 20:30-23:30: a Rock Band session (the 4-player version of Guitar Hero). I assume that this was a drop-in event, where people would take it in turns to play, so it wouldn't have been a problem for me to join in halfway through. Ah well, never mind: that's a useful reminder that I need to plan my schedule more carefully rather than just picking items from "What's up next?"
Writing For Marvel
This was an interview with Kieron Gillen; I missed the start because I was chatting to a couple of friends at breakfast, but what I saw was very interesting. This was in the same room as the Star Trek writers panel, and it also had a fairly low turnout, which was a pity. I don't think I've actually read any of the comics he's written, but I certainly want to after this, particularly his Journey into Mystery series (featuring a more ambivalent Loki). He also had some interesting thoughts on Namor: (paraphrased) "The guy walks around in his pants all day and he's still completely self-assured."
Water Dancing with Syrio Forel. Just so.
This was a workshop which needed to be pre-booked separately (an extra £20) but it was well worth the money. Syrio Forel is a character from Game of Thrones, which I haven't actually read/watched yet (it's on my "to do" list), and the actor who plays him (Miltos Yerolemou) turned up to teach us how to use swords. My goal was to learn some useful skills which would help me survive a bit longer in LARP combat.
The advance instructions said that we should wear loose fitting clothing (no jeans!) so I took along my LARP trousers. If I'd planned ahead a bit better then I would have worn a LARP shirt too (rather than a T-shirt) but never mind.
He issued us all with wooden daggers in sheaths, and we spread out around the room. We then had to close our eyes and practice drawing/sheathing the daggers as quietly as possible. The next lesson was the "on guard" position. I've heard people shout that in swashbuckling films, when both fighters have their swords up and pointed vaguely towards each other, but the instruction here was more specific: you are trying to intimidate the other person, so that you can win the fight before it even starts. So, point the tip of the sword towards their eyes or throat, look them in the eye, and convey as much intensity as possible. Since I'm right-handed, I'll stand with my right-foot further forward. For LARP purposes, we can't stab anyone with swords (we only swing the blades sideways) and I wouldn't aim for those locations even if the weapon was stab-safe. However, I think I can still adopt the basic principle.
After that, we didn't use the daggers again, but he did sign them for us at the end of the session, i.e. these are ours to keep:
(The ink ran a bit, but I think it says "Fear cuts deeper than swords", which is a quote from Game of Thrones. That presumably fits in with the idea of intimidation.)
We then paired up and practiced some moves using 2 fingers to represent a sword. The idea was for us to work out our own routine of 2-3 moves: we'd take it in turns to make a move (lunging forward and aiming for a specific location), then the other person would have to parry (keeping their elbow against their body) and move into a counter-attack. We rehearsed this routine several times, so we each knew which attacks were coming, but we'd act as if we didn't know until it happened. Our wrists were a bit sore from all the parrying by the end of this!
Next, he brought each pair up to the front in turn, while the rest of us watched. That pair were then given (lent) big wooden swords to use. These could be used 1- or 2-handed, but when it was my turn I had to use 2 hands to control it properly. I'm not sure of the length, but it was significantly heavier than the LARP swords I've used. I also have a metal sword at home (a replica of a Viking longsword) and I think that weighs about the same as the wooden sword, probably because it's a bit shorter. One effect of this is momentum: once you start swinging the sword, if the person ducks then you will keep going, leaving yourself open for counter-attack. In LARP we always aim to pull our blows (even with the lighter swords), but from a roleplay point of view I ought to remember this. It was less of an issue when I only had a dagger (since that would still be pretty light even if it was metal), but I want to play fair when I'm using a sword. As a related point, you can use your opponent's momentum against them: rather than blocking the blow, see whether you can get "inside" it and then keep pushing their sword the way it was already going.
If I do need to block a sword then it's best to do it near the hilt of both swords. That way, it's less likely that the tip of one sword will slide off the other blade. After that, I can push their sword away, which would give me a brief window of opportunity to counter-attack before they can get their sword back up.
My initial attack involved stabbing the other guy's stomach, and Miltos commented that it's very hard to block that. (This is probably why knights use(d) shields.) Again, I can't do that with a sword at LARP, but Curious Pastimes are now allowing stab-safe spears, so I've ordered one of them and I'll try that move when I'm monstering.
In real life, people could end a fight with a single killing blow. It's a bit different at CP, where some people can take multiple hits per location. As a general tip, I should always look for the shortest distance from where my sword is now to a good target. E.g. if they've parried and my sword is pointing to their feet, maybe I could bring it up their side and aim for the neck? Again, that's discouraged at CP but there are other valid targets.
Anyway, this was the highlight of the convention for me, so I'm very glad I went along. Miltos said that he might try running some similar workshops on his own (outside conventions); I've "Liked" his Facebook page so that I'll hopefully hear any news on that.
Social Gaming with the Haberdashery Collective
(Track: Social gaming.)
A friend recommended this, and it was a lot of fun. Some of the events at the convention were restricted to adults based on their content (e.g. sex/violence); this was restricted to 16+ because they didn't want adults to feel self-conscious about playing silly games, so I think that a lot of these would work equally well at a child's birthday party.
* Lemon Jousting. I was issued with a lemon to balance on my defence spoon, and a separate attack spoon. The objective was to knock off other people's lemons while keeping mine on the spoon. Towards the end of 1 game I wound up in a 3-way stand-off. It was a bit like a Tarantino film. Only with lemons.
* Blindfold Nerf. They started with 4 players, then 8, then 12. Initially everyone was standing up (blindfolded), with 4 Nerf darts and a small pistol. We all got spun around, so we had to track other people by listening carefully. This in turn meant that each time you made a noise (e.g. the clicking from firing your gun) it was advisable to move somewhere else. Meanwhile, we had to feel around on the floor to get darts. One person tried rolling over each time she fired, and that worked pretty well.
* Potato/Sangrea. Another blindfold game: everyone has to move around inside a playing area (walled off by spectators) with bubblewrap and paper scattered over the floor (so that it will make a noise if you tread on it). One person was designated "Sangrea" and everyone else was a potato. If you bumped into someone then you had to whisper who you were. If 2 potatoes met, that was fine, and they'd continue on their way. If a potato met Sangrea then the potato would die, and they encouraged us to do this as loudly/horribly as possible rather than just taking off the blindfold and walking away.
* Ninja! Everyone stood in a circle, so that we couldn't quite reach each other with outstretched arms (i.e. our fingertips didn't touch). Then we all adopted our best ninja position. After that, we took it in turns to make a single graceful move. The objective was to tap someone else on the back of the hand, which would knock them out of the game. If someone attacked you then you could also make a single move. However, at the end of your turn (or your attacker's turn) you'd be frozen, so you'd have to hold whatever position you got into. I got knocked out quite quickly because I forgot to dodge when someone attacked me. (I know that sounds amazingly stupid, but it was the start of the game and I was flustered!) Later on, the refs had to clarify that strikes only count against the back of the hand, not the front. High fiving is not ninja...
The organisers (The Haberdashery Collective) run a similar event at a London pub once a month (usually the second Sunday), so I intend to go along to those; the next one is on 8th September. The people running the games wore rather nifty bowler hats, presumably because of their name.
The sword fighting and social gaming were both done in the same room as Quidditch, so the lack of chairs worked well again here.
The Armoury: making cosplay armour
This isn't quite what I was expecting: it didn't have anything to do with chain (aka chainmail), it was all about making plate armour, e.g. for an Iron Man suit. However, it was interesting, and I'm sorry that I missed their other talks. I'd say that this was similar to a TED talk, of general interest to "crafty" people. The presenters were very open with their advice, including tips and tricks that they'd had to find out by trial and error. I don't think I'll apply any of this knowledge in the foreseeable future, but I'm glad I went.
This was in the same room as the Star Trek/Star Wars talk the previous day, and there was just enough room for everyone to squeeze in and get a seat.
Science Fact or Science Fiction? Exploring the science in classic sci-fi films
(Track: For Science!.)
This was a bit like a live version of a Cracked article, i.e. he went through a list of films offering opinions. (Personally, I'm not sure whether they all counted as "classic" films, e.g. Deep Impact.) The best bits were when he went off-topic, e.g. talking about all the asteroids around the sun. When he mentioned the Robonaut on the International Space Station, he said that it currently only has a torso, but it will get legs later. Someone asked why it would need legs in free fall, which made me think of quaddies from Bujold's novels; a second set of arms would be far more sensible. I think that's really what I'd like to see more of at events like this: weird ideas that make sense when you think about them.
This was in the same room as "Future Sex" and "Diffusion of the Dead", i.e. only half-full of chairs. I had to stand for the first section, then I grabbed a free chair when someone left.
This was supposed to run from 20:30-21:45, but I missed the first half hour while I went out to get some food. Fortunately, I was still in time to catch the last 1h30m. (It carried on for a lot longer than scheduled.) Basically, there was a guy sitting at the piano playing familiar tunes while everyone else stood around to sing along. This was fun, although a few extra print-outs of the lyrics would have been useful. There are some other options for this, e.g. projecting the words onto a big screen for everyone to see, but people were dismantling all the equipment in the room while we were doing this, so I think they deliberately wanted a low-tech solution.
Anyway, the pianist did a really good job, and I think he sight-read a few pieces; I might be able to play some of them, but only with a lot of practice in advance. There was a slight hiccup with "Little Shop of Horrors": it turned out that he was playing the stage version, whereas we all knew the film version, so our tunes didn't quite match. Still, no matter: we just abandoned that, and moved onto another piece. Some of these weren't really sci-fi (however you define the term), e.g. "Don't stop believing", but that's fine by me.
As I say, I enjoyed the event. People were friendly, and I caught up with some friends who I haven't seen in a while, but I didn't make any new friends there. That's not realy a problem, but I have actually got to know a lot more people through LARPing.
This event will run again in 2014 (8th - 10th August), and they're selling tickets now. The price is currently £70 (similar to the Kickstarter price of £65), but that's due to go up in September. I don't know what the final price will be, but it cost £100 this year if you turned up on the door. So, if you want to go next year, it would make sense to buy your ticket in the next 2 weeks. I'll probably go again, although it may be a busy month, with Loncon 3 (14th-18th August) and then LARP (21st-25th August) coming soon after, so I don't think I'll be able to do all 3 events.