Sunday, 5 February 2012

SFX Weekender: Series 3 2012

I tend to remember in snapshots so this is a collection, if you like, or windows into my SFX weekend. Quick explanation: I'm a geek but a tech/digital geek, my other half is the sci-fi/fantasy fan boy of the two of us. However, after this weekend, I'm not so sure that's still the case.

Brian Blessed

I have never seen Flash Gordon, I didn't see his Everest programme. But somehow, this loud proud Yorkshire man managed to keep my undivided attention for an hour which involved Pavarotti impressions, the expected Gordon's ALIVE echoing through the 'shed' and the massive laugh. In fact the laugh and the voice and the singing are so voluminous that you get a sense he's larger than he is so when he said he'd climbed Everest I sort of boggled a bit. Turns out, he's all beard - he's quite skinny under there. And so he should be because as he explained in his Q & A masterfully unguided by poor old Jordan Filey (who eventually simply gave up trying to stem the stream of consciousness emitting from Brian's mouth and just let him get on with it), he's 1st reserve to go up on the ISS.


'Sick of this getting old thing, you're only as old as you are' he says. Well, quite. Had to leave early due to snow warnings and needing to get back to 3,000 waif and stray animals and for a centrifuge training session this morning. He left us with words echoing in our ears which I have to paraphrase as I can't remember the exact words 'you are all unique and you all have one thing which you are brilliant at, excel at. Find that thing and live the adventure and don't let the bastards get you down'.

Did we win?

A panel ably hosted by Paul Cornell (I think) about whether sci-fi/fantasy is now so mainstream we don't need to push any more for its acceptance in the UK.

The discussion was fascinating but I wanted to say something to the panel but failed on the bravery roll so here it is. Yes Dr Who contributed to it though I also agree it is now a 'family' show rather than being terrifying. Yes I agree Russell T Davies is a genius and he did the right thing in almost introducing sci-fi by stealth. But that's not where the tipping point came from, I don't think. I think it came from a period of time where almost every single person on a carriage back in the early 2000's had a certain hardback book open. Where almost everyone I knew had read or was reading Harry Potter and where for the first time in as long as I can remember, people queued at midnight for a book. Just a book. A bit of paper with some words printed on it.

That tube carriage reflected the demographic of this weekend. All ages, predominantly white but not all, and equal gender split. I believe the most important demographic swing of recent years when it comes to sci-fi/fantasy is the gender shift. I remember a time when it was seen as a predominantly bloke thing to read sci-fi/fantasy or to watch sci-fi/fantasy films. Not any more. The viewing figures for Being Human are what they are, the viewing figures for Dr Who are what they are, the success of the X Files was what it was because of it's fundamental  ability to appeal to both genders. We're half the population, we're half the income and you finally gave us something we could believe in, becomes fans of, love and adore.

You gave us New Who. And it was the gateway drug for me and a whole tonne of other girls too. So thank you, for that, but please understand this too. Don't ignore us. Ask us on to panels, ask us to contribute. And finally, read this lovely post from my friend Julie and understand this: how much money has that one woman spent on sci-fi and fantasy in her life? Keep all of us new girls and you're coffers will indeed be bulging. It's worth it in the long run because keep us engaged, keep us interested and give us something to talk about and spend money on and we'll be with you for a long old time.

Eve Myles

Funny, inspiring, humble and gives good interview - such a lovely lovely lady. Well okay pints of wine indicate perhaps not a lady but you know...

Just a minute

Involved verbal sparring of such epic proportions between China Meiville and Joe Abercrombie that half of us got left behind and the other half just sat open jawed. Paul Cornell coralled with aplomb and much humour and...I don't laugh much. I have a slightly silly but also leftfield since of humour and I was eye leaking at some points from laughing so damn much. It was childish, intellectual, silly and random and summed the weekend up perfectly. Simply epic.

The other bits

Pontins. Well, it's Pontins. If you're expecting luxury, you're in the wrong place, go stay in a static caravan or a cottage. You can't beat it for staggering distance back from the fun though and once we'd worked out how the heating worked, we were dry and warm if not a bit sore from the sofabed. Yes, it smelt for a while but once it had dried out it got better, and the logistics of checking in and the signing queues aside, the space worked really well. There were bottlenecks on the Friday but that seemed to reduce on the Saturday. There weren't enough seats but there simply wasn't enough space to add more. Pat Sharpe can't DJ for toffee but can for pretty girls which was a bit uncomfortable in places. I think dancing girls might need to cross with increased female attendance in future - the complaints and mutterings where more this year than last.

The food was dire, the queue for it more so. There really weren't enough staff and all of this I lay at the door of Pontins themselves and not the SFX team because they also host Hard Rock Hell there who eat and drink the same amount as us geeks do and it was nowhere near this bad when we went to that event.

The maps discussion was circular and badly moderated but turned out okay in the end. We didn't get a single autograph all weekend but we didn't much mind. We sucked at the Blastermind quiz but enjoyed it immensely anyway and the Awards ceremony excelled past years for the brilliant acceptance videos (but I also think that surely next year more stars are going to have to make the effort and actually turn up because it's actually getting insulting now that people wont). The production from the SFX lot is getting better every year and as per every other year their responses to tweets and questions were patient and helpful.

All in all I enjoyed this weekender much more than last. There was more 'intellectual' discussion perhaps, more passion and fire, more entertaining interviewees? I don't know. I loved that the chalet locations meant we didn't hear thumping music until 3am. I loved that the sunrise was beautiful. I loved the costumes and the friendliness. I loved being invisible to a lot of people, I loved the random acts of kindness. I loved the feeling of being able to just be silly and geeky and childish and it not being remotely frowned on.

My only complaint, really seriously only complaint?

Wi-fi. Seriously, really seriously, can you lot sort a wi-fi booster or something for next year or bring your own?


  1. Lovely post and agree with you on almost every point apart from "surely next year more stars are going to have to make the effort and actually turn up because it's actually getting insulting now that people wont". There's no obligation on their part to show up and given the number of awards which are handed out at different ceremonies throughout the years it's not practical to attend them all anyway.

  2. I think perhaps more people will want to as the event grows in size and profile. The acceptance videos from 'bigger' names were new this year, which is a good sign.