Redemption (convention)/2001 Con Reports
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Redemption was a Blake's 7, Babylon 5, and general SFF media science fiction series of cons.
Below are some fans' comments and observations after attending the 2001 con.
Some Topics Discussed
- Guests: Gareth Thomas, Andy Lane, Michael Sheard & David Walsh
- realism in slash panel
- Wobblevision version of 'Shadow'
- costume/fancy dress
- Ruler of the Universe competition
- Gareth Thomas' Shakespeare reading
- panel: Blake's Trial
- a much-talked about panel: the slash debate
- turkey readings
Links to Some 2001 Con Reports
- Redemption '01 - Kathryn Andersen, Archived version
- Redemption '01 - Richard Proctor, Archived version
- Redemption '01 - Steve Kilbane, Archived version
- Redemption '01 - Alison Page, Archived version
- Redemption '01 - Chris Blenkarn, Archived version
- Redemption '01 - Kat Woods, Archived version
- Redemption '01 - Nicola Collie, Archived version
- Redemption '01 - Daniel Tilley, Archived version
Other Full Con Reports
Redemption. It's so good, don't even try it once. Here I am, back in my miraculously unburgled (but very cold) house, suffering terribly from con comedown, so I thought I'd try my hand at one of them there con reports.
This was my first ever convention, and it was fantastic. I fear it may have spoiled me for every other con. Everyone was lovely, and the event was extremely well-organized. So there was always either something to do, or some people to talk to in the bar - the real problem was that usually it was both. It was great to meet so many fans I knew from the list and put faces to names (or faces to pseuds, in some cases [[[Predatrix|Pred!]]]). I came away just regretting I hadn't had enough time to talk to everyone.
But that damn committee had come up with such a good range of panels and events that I couldn't just spend all my time in the bar, and I'm glad I went to those too - I came away with an aching brain from all sorts of new ideas and insights from a huge variety of fan views. And aching sides from laughing so much. And an aching head from too much beer & too little sleep on Sunday night. (rather misguidedly stayed up till 3am attempting to drunkenly explain the poststructuralist critique of science to Tavia and Neil. Oops. Memo to self: don't do that again. Or if you must, don't stamp your foot.)
Gareth was there, and seemed on very good form, but alas I didn't go to any of his events (he dropped in on the "realism in slash" debate briefly, bless him, although it meant I was too inhibited by his presence to ask David Walsh about deep-throating, so you won't be seeing any of *that* in an Ika story) so someone else will have to report on those. [I see Pred has, and now I'm wishing I'd made it to the Shakespeare reading...] As usual (or so I'm told) he was around in the bar at almost all times, but I was too shy to talk to him ("Hello, Mr Thomas, you don't know me but a character you played 20 years ago is my imaginary boyfriend..."). Bah. Maybe in '03. When it seems that ... wait for it... CHRIS BOUCHER!!!! will be there!!!!!! And I will be far too paralysed with shyness to go anywhere near him either. Sigh.
Michael Sheard was also extremely good value for money. I don't think any of us who were there for the live-action Shadow wobblevision will forget the sight of him pouncing on Cally and devouring the moondisks ("flying saucer" sweets) from her comatose body in a hurry. Much as we might like to. ; )
There were wonderful costumes (I was in heaven and it was full of Avons! And Centauri, and Seven of Nine with a newborn baby, and Servalans, and Traves, and Klingons, Borg, Captain Scarlett, Ares, Xena...) and some great performances in balloon debates, Ruler of the Universe hustings, etc - particularly, I thought, from Londo and G'Kar, ie Lesley Rhodes and David McIntee - who were married, in character, by Judith Proctor during the cabaret, having married IRL that morning at the register office. Which did my romantic and Londo-and-G'Kar- loving heart the world of good. Also I love the idea of being married by Judith.
Not so many B7 characters were actually 'acted' - though I did miss the B7 balloon debate on Friday night, for some reason, which would have been the best place to see 'em. I actually can't remember what I was doing on Friday night. I think I was in the bar. Anyway, not so many B7 characters, apart of course from David Walsh's Servalan (who won Ruler of the Universe again), who was given a fair run for her money this year by Fran and Nicola Collie (who came second in the Fancy Dress for a rather marvellous little black number which she'd made *that afternoon* in the chaos costuming session).
Travis showed up to 'my' trial, rather confusingly wearing a Travis I costume but claiming to have been dismissed the Service. He wasn't the most credible of witnesses, and between that and Pat C's & Morrigan's passionate and well- researched defence, we KICKED THEIR ARSE. Now I'm a free man as well as an honest one - or I will be after my appointment with the mind-wipers.... er, Federation-accredited psychologists.
The cabaret on Saturday night was lots of fun, although sadly Vila's Royal Mounties weren't able to perform. We got a glimpse of their red fur outfits the next day, though, and I can tell we missed a treat. Fifitrix and Ares God Of War (whose real name temporarily escapes me, sorry) did a couple of marvellous filks, including a very sad Pressure Point one to the tune of Wonderwall. Una, Alison, Iain and (??? Matthew??? - sorry, I met about a million new people and I suck at names at the best of times) did a brilliant B7/Big Brother sketch which had me nearly crying with laughter - the TV producers discussing the Central Control "challenge" ("with monkey bars!") was a little treat, as was "This week I'm going to have to nominate Vila because he doesn't pull his weight..." Plenty of (mostly Centauri) dancing girls, too, and a nice lip-synch by Servalan/David Walsh to "Money Money Money".
After that first reference to the monkey bars, the con was increasingly monkey-oriented, since for some reason the bar staff were selling pints of monkeys (little plastic ones). Anyone with glasses or suitable hairstyles ended up laden with monkeys. I'm not quite sure what was going on there, but I have hundreds of the little critters in my handbag.
I bought lots of zines and read a couple of them on the train on the way home, and they were all storming. Special mentions for the moment to Una for "The Last Days of Roj Blake" (I *did* like it, Una! Particularly the Cally bits. And Morrigan had to take 10 minutes of the train journey recovering from it. I probably should have done, since I was most upset, but there was so much more fic calling to me...), Penny for "The Killer of Dole Nu Lin" (which alone is worth the money for ttba, it's just extraordinary), Hafren for "Fetch" (you *bastard*, Hafren!), and Pred for... being Pred.
At one exhaustion-fuelled point Emma, Morrigan and I were discussing the possibility of organising a B7 fic writing con, with brainstorming, writing games, challenges and everyone having to produce something by the end of the weekend. Having been to Redemption I am far too daunted to imagine doing anything on such a large scale, but a small-scale overnight event at someone's house might work. Someday.
The slash debate was very interesting, and once time had run out the majority of us went off to another room to continue it. I guess if there was a conclusion it was that slash is all things to all fen: whether it's a way of putting gay relationships on telly despite the Beeb's reluctance to do so, or a way of circulating not-for-profit porn among fans, or (Neil's position) a sex- as-metaphor way of extending and exploring the dynamics between major characters - or even *within* major characters (Peter's point about A/Se - and to some extent Blake|A/B as "dark mirror" relationships, where slash explores the choices each character has made that differentiate him from the other partner). There was a nice lad there whose name I've forgotten who started writing his first A/B at the con - and has already come up against their famed reluctance to have sex with each other just to suit the writer's plot needs!
Kathryn Andersen bravely stood (sat) in the anti-slash position: the trouble with her being the only anti-slash person there (maybe apart from Neil, but he didn't say much against it) was that she doesn't like slash - even a passing "gen" reference to two men being lovers - because she believes homosexuality is morally wrong on religious grounds. It struck me that in order to be consistent she must also have a hard time reading gen stories which focus on murder, adultery (Anna/Avon), het sex outside marriage, violent resistance, theft, embezzlement (and indeed shellfish eating, wearing garments woven of two types of cloth, etc)... but in the interests of preventing the debate turning into a Kathryn-bash I was silent.
These con reports are harder to do than you'd think! I find myself with little more to say other than: It was nice. I liked it. The committee, stewards, tech team & hotel staff have my undying gratitude: it was obvious how much work and love must have gone into creating such a complicated, smooth-running monstrous beastie of a convention.Love, Ika 
It all seems like a good idea when you say, 'Hey, let's put on a show!'
It also seems like a good idea when you say, 'Yeah, I'll do that panel, Steve.'
Matthew and I are rehearsing our lines for the cabaret sketch. I can't remember a word of any of my first set of exchanges, which means I'm going to stuff up Alison's cues. We're fretting about the final scene, which doesn't quite work, and has someone scripted in to start the clapping so that people will know we've finished: [RACHEL leads rapturous applause from OMNES]. Going for a gag about lawyers seems to solve some problems, so we stick that in, send it round to our fellow performers, and call it a night.
Iain and Rachel arrive just before midday to whisk me away zines and all, but first we need to print off a copy of the route to the hotel. Iain goes into my office for the first time, and sees the ranks upon ranks of armed penguins which line my cavernous subterranean headquarters. The expletive which follows is unprintable on either family or not-so-family orientated lists. I ply him with extra-nuclear-strength coffee and it seems to calm him down.
First stop is the costume-hire shop where Rachel and I had spent a happy Saturday morning last month choosing Fab Gear for the glam rock disco. Resisting the lure of the 'Instant Vicar' packs, we have chosen clothes - and, more importantly, boots - that will make the head of any casual passerby explode with envy. The woman in the hire shop mentions that she just hired out a Darth Vader and a Klingon outfit. We wonder if we'll see them over the weekend.
Sterling driving gets us down to Ashford by about 4pm. Register; and, as I'm standing at reception to check in, I get tapped on the shoulder. It's Neil. 'D'you know,' he says - and please bear in mind that this is the first time we've seen each other in two years - 'In profile, your nose looks disturbingly like a beak.' From then on, there can be no mercy.
Plotting a barbaric revenge, I head off to set up the zine library. The short walk from reception, down the boulevard, and up the stairs to the library room takes a long time for the splendid reason that I keep on seeing familiar faces, and also getting introduced to new faces with familiar names.
I unpack the zine library with Morrigan who has, incredibly generously, carried over a vast number of zines from the US for the library. The bag that she carries in is vast and unbelievably heavy. The library would have been nothing without Morrigan's generosity, and many, many thanks to her for this, and then staying to set up.
She has also very kindly brought over 'Trust, Like the Soul' - a story by Jean Lorrah which I have been trying to track down for nearly 11 years, and also mentions that she has seen it in the dealers' room. Mental note is made.
As we are unpacking, a number of people drop by. Kathryn brings a copy of 'Staked Blake', and someone brings a set of Babylon 5 novels which look like a remarkable read (sadly, I don't get a chance to do anything other than flip through them, and didn't jot down the title - if anyone has any details, let me know off list). It was great to have more than B7 zines at the library this time round.
Set up complete, I adjourn to the bar, then Matthew and Ian arrive, and we spend the evening moving from opening ceremony, to pub quiz, to Freedom City party (many thanks to Rita for her hospitality). Eventually we settle in the bar. People are dropping in and out all evening, and I do believe Neil accepts a detention from Mr Bronson. Ika's Travis costume is simply gorgeous. I'm in the bar till the wee small hours, but decide around 2.30am that perhaps it's time for a bit of shut eye. Busy day tomorrow.
My first stop after breakfast is the first panel that I'm involved with, with Steve Rogerson and Rita d'Orac: 'B7 - the radio plays: Canon or bull?' I fight the good fight against canonicity hard, and Pat C. and I form an impromptu alliance against blind acceptance of corporate authority. Alas, we lose on technicalities.
I plan to spend the next hour preparing for my next panel, but it's much more congenial to take my preparation down to the bar... End up spending the next hour chatting, of course.
Next up is the panel I've been dreading most: 'Blake: Terrorist or Freedom Fighter'. I agreed to take part in this ages ago. Then I had the good sense, about a month ago, to ask who the other panellists were. Steve revealed they were Judith and Gareth Thomas, since when I have been plagued by visions of a nightmare recreation of my short-lived and disastrous career in the school debating society. Added to which, on the day, I realize we will be on the stage in the main hall, with lights, microphones and, I fear, the distracting sound of a small gallows being erected behind me.
Just before, in the bar, Judith and I also persuade Pat C. to take part, and she is just fabulous. She and Judith get some good debate going, and I give it my best shot (I'm not a natural speaker even when I'm prepared up to the hilt - and even then I've been a bit shaky since I got slow-roasted giving a paper at a conference two years ago - and this is almost completely ad hoc). I end up enjoying myself, thanks to Pat's terrific points - which can't fail but make me interested in discussing the issues - and also the audience's interesting and varied contributions. But I am glad when it's over - if only because it means I can go on to Iain's panel and ask him tough questions, just like he's been asking me tough questions.
Iain's panel on performance in B7 and B5 is excellent - well-prepared and informative. Several people have commented already, and I just want to add how much I enjoyed Rob and Alison's Avon and Blake. It was fascinating to watch a quintessential Avon and Blake scene delivered by a man and a woman, which I thought really change the dynamics. I offer when Iain asks for more volunteers, and then kick myself when I remember that we had been discussing his use of Anna's death scene for this panel, and this was bound to be what we'd get. Eternal credit to Calle for taking on Anna's part, because I wouldn't like to trust myself - three times - to stage-falling in a tiny space onto someone half my height.
Back to Iain and Rachel's room afterwards, where we spend an hour rehearsing the sketch. Ian and Rachel are still laughing at (most) gags even after multiple viewings, which is very cheering. This will be our last full rehearsal before the actual show; we don't want to do the full sketch at the dress rehearsal which follows since our secret gag might get loose, and we just check out lighting and technical details of where we can get the chairs we need for the sketch. Matthew and Iain do most of the boring sitting around here, god bless them.
I go to the telepathy panel, which is being run by Alison, Rachel, and Nik Whitehead. We hear all sorts of interesting perspectives, although I confess to being pretty sceptical about the whole thing. Rachel's readings are wonderful, and Alison asks whether what we think is psychic power is really intuition (my own belief). We continue this discussion with Calle after the panel, and it's fascinating to hear how other people experience intuition in their own lives.
On to the 'Political Systems in SF' panel. Alison opens up the discussion by mentioning utopias, and we run with that as a theme for most of the session. Iain also ensures at the outset that people don't get onto party politics, which means we can enjoy a lively and (mostly) intelligent discussion. Only marring features were, as Iain said, a persistent vein of anti-Americanism and, just as we were about to end, a sudden outburst from one attendee. But on the whole, the debate was challenging, well-informed, and conducted with mutual respect and cordiality.
We head off for dinner (although Alison has gone on to run another panel - I don't know how she managed it), and then Matthew and I decide to crash out for a bit before the performance. This means I get to see the hotel room for almost an hour, probably the lengthiest period of (awake) time I spend in there.
Then it's crunch time. We reconvene in the bar, ply ourselves with drinks, then head off to the main hall. First, the fancy dress. Special mention here to the chaos costuming entry from Nicola and Fi, a stunning Servalan dress which deservedly wins prizes in both the chaos and general costuming categories. It's astonishing that Fi made it in a couple of hours that afternoon, and Nicola performs her part like a star. David Walsh beware! My own other favourite in the fancy dress was Jem Ward as Herr Flick.
I'm very nervous indeed at this point, so apologies to anyone I forget in the cabaret. My own highlights were Fifi and Steve Kilbane filking; Kat and Anne Wells dancing (these people were persuaded into performing on the day, so particular kudos); Iain and Servie strutting their stuff...
And then we're on. The first bit is the exchange between myself and Alison; it goes smoothly, and it gets the laughs we want. It's going good. Then it's my bit of monologue with the Big Brother gag. If people don't laugh - we're doomed.
They laugh. From then on it's all systems go. Iain and Matthew camp it up superbly like the pair of shameless tarts they are. They're just so funny when they get going. Then Alison's bit about Gan is *electric*: she performs it so well, and plays the audience perfectly. They're all three bloody brilliant. Just afterwards we are able to spring Iain's birthday cake on him.
Then into our frocks for the disco. Rachel is a goddess, and I am her platform-booted goblin of evil. Alison is fab in long black dress, gloves, wig and feather boa. Rob, as Frank N Furter, is Just Plain Scary. Michael Sheard, not content with massacring the moondiscs in the evening's Wobblevision version of 'Shadow', goes on to conduct Bohemian Rhapsody. Mr Bloody Bronson. The man is mad.
Around 2am I am starting to crash, but am lured onto the dance floor again by 'Love Shack'. When I come out again, the keys and Matthew have gone, but a half bottle of Laphroig is still there. I take the chance that he has not been kidnapped and has instead just gone to bed (despite the puzzling presence of the Laphroig), and head off myself. On the way back to the room I pose - with a half bottle of Laphroig - for a Photo That I Shall Surely Regret.
I've had about a minute's sleep, but my body is telling me that's just fine, and can we get back to the convention, please? Stuffed with danish pastries, I head off for the Trial of Roj Blake. Ika and her defence team (Pat and Morrigan) are simply *majestic*. Kudos to Jem Ward, as Travis, who, I understand, hadn't known he was doing this panel until just beforehand, and manages quite a very funny few off-the-cuff comments. Servalan issues threats throughout the proceedings, and it is particularly amusing to watch the judge and the prosecution plotting throughout. But how could we not acquit Blake after such stirring speeches? Only four hard-hearted individuals vote against him - but Blake is held over for psychiatric treatments. Very B7, although I'm sure we can break Ika free.
Next, I find myself trapped in a world of INTJs... It's a panel on space stations. The various panellists (Iain, and two others whose names I didn't catch) know their stuff very well, and the attendees are remarkably well-informed. Not being terribly 'sciencey', I am surprised to find myself very engrossed.
I pop into the dealers' room where, as Morrigan said, 'Trust, Like The Soul' is on sale. Hoorah! I also pick up Horizon 22. This, with my tribber's copy of TTBA, should keep me busy for a few days. (I'm gutted, incidentally, that I didn't pick up a copy of 'Steve and Paula Go Down the Pub' - Steve, put me down for a copy for when I next see you.)
I say goodbye to Matthew and Ian, have a spot of lunch, then head off to the panel on the proposed TV movie. Tanja does a terrifically professional job chairing this discussion. Neil and Deborah Rose give opposing 'no' and 'yes' views. It's fascinating to hear the different visions of what a movie could be, but there is a general belief that we will get none of these from the current proposal.
Sadly, I miss the fan fiction writing workshop as I have to go and pack up the zine library. I'd love to hear some reports from this. Zines all packed up, I take the bag out to Iain and Rachel's car (they're very kindly dragging them back to Cambridge for me while I stay on till the Monday), and then say goodbye to my shiny purple platform boots (with stars), which have to go back to the costume hire shop <sob>
The closing ceremony involves the first showing of the B7 movie... OK, it's a film made using the models from the chaos modelling sessions. This movie is a Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. I pray to god that somehow copies or pictures from it will emerge so that you can all marvel. The model of the Liberator is just *extraordinary*. And then there is the fantastic news that Chris Boucher will be a guest at Redemption 2003. I am still singing praises to high heaven.
I have to close up the zine library, so I rush in very late for my panel on wobbly sets, and Nicola and Fifi are already doing sterling work. It's a relaxed, fun panel; a great way to wind down after all the intense sessions that have taken up most of the weekend. Most interesting to hear the comments of someone's son who had just started watching that he didn't see the wobbly sets, and it wouldn't matter if he could.
I go on to the slash debate, and this is a very impressive occasion. Kudos to all the panel (Kathryn, Neil, Predatrix, and Judith) for conducting themselves with grace and mutual respect, and for the attendees for holding an informed debate. Only one participant seems to be operating in a different continuum from the rest of us, stamping her foot and storming out of the room when we are discussing child abuse and its treatment as a subject in fan fiction. As Pred shrewdly points out, you can see why the Federation chose that crime to blacken Blake's name.
I duck into the continuation of the slash panel, but am feeling rather tired, and move into the bar. It proves incredibly difficult to get rid of the half bottle of Laphroig, but eventually Tavia is persuaded that if she doesn't take it, it's going down the plughole. Much as I want to keep on talking in the bar, I have to go to bed around 12.30am; I read a little bit of 'Trust, Like The Soul', and am dead to the world within the hour.
Slept well, breakfasted well, and then a long series of goodbyes. Harriet has woken up to be greeted with the news that, just as they have gone to press, Don Bradman has died. Fortunately, the printers have had the sense to hold off until speaking to the editorial team, and the situation is under control.
I'm delighted to learn from Morrigan that the hotel are packaging up her zines and mailing them back to the US for her, and that her bag back will be considerably lighter.
I spend the morning saying goodbye to people, then the taxis arrive to take a bunch of us to the station. We send people off on different trains, and one by one people disappear. Three of us reach Cambridge station mid-afternoon, tired but very happy.
I had a wonderful time, of course. I do wish I'd had more time to talk to people, but it serves me right for rushing around so much and then crashing out so early on the Sunday. I've been jaded about B7 for a little while now, and all you fantastic, creative, intelligent people have fired my enthusiasm back to normal (i.e. insane) levels once again.So, despite the gut-wrenchingly awful nerves the conclusion has to be that putting on a show and doing a bunch of panels are without a doubt one of the best ways of spending a weekend. Thank god for the committee and all their hard work. 
Much running about screaming. Much painful carrying of box of 30 'zines down steps and escalators and through crowded trains: only one person stopped to help, London is like that. Started con with a streaming cold.
Staggered in about 2 or 3 pm. Considered going to the Brave Young & Handsome panel and sitting in the back row singing Tarrant Is A Tit, but decided not in good enough shape to fight off lynch mob. Handed box of 30 copies of my 'zine (Erogenous Zine, a collection of pure filth, see elsewhere on Judith's website when it's updated) to Richard, who told me I should charge more money for it. Bowed to expertise of experienced 'zinepubbing house, and agreed.
Went to Sainsbury's, involving trampling gloomily over a large cotoneaster, because the side gate was locked. On way back, trampled back the same way and *then* discovered gate had been opened. Why do these things always happen to me?
Spent long time reading new 'zine collection (mostly gen, unfortunately. Do I have to write all the filth myself?) Loved what I read of FS3--unfortunately had read most of the best bits myself as had beta-read some of them.
Got forced to eat something, felt less crumpled. Missed (but wanted to listen to) filking. Stood in the bar with Ika doing her Travis impression. Am lost in admiration that she could do such a convincing lazeron destroyer with a cheap rolled-up bit of pencil-case stuck onto a ring, but am forced to admit that due to special effects budget of about 50p, b7 was probably much the same. She was meant to be T2 but not fat enough. I couldn't tell the difference because I'm hopeless at picking out small differences between costumes (one small chest-flap of black leather or something, I think. She did, however, do a game attempt at a Travis impression by putting her hands on her hips and bellowing "Crimmos!" Luckily, there weren't any. I dread to think what a bunch of armed crimmos could do to a crowded bar.
Made a short visit to the room party, which didn't enjoy tremendously as I didn't want to eat the nice food as had streaming cold, and the room was smaller than the party. Was surprised to see Calle detached from his Lyst, and asked him if he had written an analogue of himself in Perl to keep things in hand, but he says it runs itself nowadays. Must do. Quite a lot of it was there when I came back. Not everything stops for cons (not even my cold did).
Went to 'zine launch, stark dumbstruck by genius of other people. Am still kicking self that did not manage to pick up one of the few copies of Chris's 'zine (parodies). Will have to pay postage now. Asked her why she didn't schlep 30 copies across London like me, but she was unable because wounded in production process (paper cuts? thermal burn like Julia? The mind boggles).
Went to sleep at midnight, when Julia could pry me loose from reading Cheeseboard, which isn't icky at all, just fannish.
The formidable brains of the Lyst, and me, were all sitting at the same table. Could have learned vast amount about science, birdwatching, etc if brain had been switched on. Breakfasts are wonderful (apart from the fact that no large institution can make proper scrambled egg), so had large plateful of cooked breakfast followed by pain au chocolate and coffee. Very civilised.
Went to panel on Science in SF, which was interesting when comprehensible. Actual astrophysicist-type people did point out that although a lot of the science is complete bollocks, ideas can later come under the aegis of science from being crackpot ideas (quantum physics is apparently full of this, also cf plate tectonics, but note some things (cold fusion?) have remained bollocks. Neil made the excellent point that it's down to what the individual viewer knows: he can be thrown right out of the willing-suspension-of-disbelief if the wrong bird chirps, for example.
Went to panel on clichés, run by Chris B and someone else, in which we had the easy task of picking up all tvsf clichés and rolling them into a big ball. Have forgotten most of these as forgot to take notes, which saved the world any attempt to create such a dreadful series.
Had banana butties for lunch (ask Julia. It was her idea).
Later on, went to "When I'm an evil overlord" workshop. Mentioned some of the ones I could remember from the Evil Overlord list: everyone seems to think that the top of the list should be "explains things to hero while setting up terrible tortures for him, although I do like "will keep average five-year-old child as adviser, and any flaws in my plan which he or she can spot will be eliminated". Several people mentioned wear-and-tear on minions, and why are they so stupid, but of course Evil Overlords don't dare have clever minions, who will rush to take their place. Evil Overlords should also exterminate every member of the hero's family, otherwise they will take on a blood oath to revenge him. But then the life of an Evil Overlord is not easy. Has anyone else seen a BBC2 comedy called Big Train, which contained a running skit about Ming the Merciless's home life? Ming, complete with sharp black beard, sharp collar points and long red robes, is shown at home in a semi in Finchley, phoning the office to make sure the executions are going all right, and morosely running a hoover over the lounge and trying to discourage door-to-door salesmen. I find this strangely persuasive, but maybe it's just me.
Poor Tavia was finding it a struggle to eat in the hotel restaurant because, like the Palace Cook in Lancre (Discworld reference), the chef was more at home with preparing roast haunch of something bloody than any other cooking. She went out to Sainsbury's, and I investigated the roast haunch of something.
Went to Fancy Dress and Cabaret. Two belly-dancing acts, one Turkish and one Egyptian, a Centauri married couple, "Borg to be Wild", Servalan (David Walsh) miming Money Money Money (complete with throwing paper, unfortunately *not* £10 notes) and I Will Survive, Servalan (Nicola Collie) looking *unbelievably convincing* in a chaos costume, Herr Flick from Allo Allo (don't know who) making amusing adlibs about the Gestapo having bugged all our rooms: 've know vot you haff been doing, and vith whom--or vith vot." My favourite was the utterly utterly wonderful Reduced Blake's 7 Company, complete with ratings-predatory producers on one side of the stage, managing a surrealistic cross between Blake's 7 and Big Brother. This was hysterical, particularly when Blake (Alison Page) voted Gan out and then ranted: "I thought you'd send him *home.* To his *family*. You BASTARDS--you made a fucking wall fall on him". Oh, and they made Moloch out of two rubber gloves, which had a surprising resemblance to the original. Unless I'm getting the day wrong, this was followed by a birthday cake for Iain, whose birthday it was, with a Fannish Wedding between Lesley (dressed as Londo Mollari) and David McIntee (dressed as G'Kar), complete with Fannish Creation Myth ably presented by Judith.
Went to Gareth's Shakespeare reading. Am amazed by his range and power, and melt in a puddle (no, not that way particularly) before the man's formidable natural charm. While trying to find a particular speech by Falstaff which he'd used for his first audition piece, he did a love sonnet (think it was "When in disgrace with fortune & men's eyes", but not sure), Richard III being villainous, some of Polonius being sententious to his son, Oberon roaring at his wife and then being perfectly courteous to his servant, Othello wooing Desdemona, and some King Henry or other old and weary and totally unable to get to bloody sleep when he's quite sure the meanest souls in the kingdom can sleep even when they ought not to. And he never found the Falstaff bit, and it was still bloody wonderful. Less seriously, while he was hunting through pages he managed a constant flow of amusing anecdotes (I liked the bit about Olivier as Richard III walking across the stage and changing the foot he limped on as he turned to walk back, so he was always limping on the downstage foot). This overran, not that I'm complaining.
Went to the Slash Turkey Read, run by Jane Carnall. Some godawful early BUART, with some lovely terrible bits, by an author who had an obsession with unconvincing physical descriptives. One of the rapists is "granite-faced", another "stern-faced" and yet another "grey-haired" and so on. There was also one bit of dialogue where poor Toothy asks his cellmate why he's watching him, and gets "You remind me of my ex-girlfriend" -- quickly followed by rape. The poor boy appears to be mostly worried about bad fashion throughout. Boggle. Don't think we got as far as the end, but probably One Damn Rape After Another.
Dropped in on the filking, where Kathy had a Zander songbook (if you have not heard of the multitalented Zander Nyrond, try http://www.nyrond.co.uk/hazard2.htm for a hysterically funny list of possible hazard warnings on a large and confusing spaceship, or http://www.nyrond.co.uk/naming.htm for an equally hysterical list of possible names for smaller spaceships, or http://www.nyrond.co.uk/lyrics.htm for some of his excellent Britfilk). Did best to join in singing of filk of Danny Deever about Danny Bennett from Tom Holt's books (very *very* funny if you've read those. Entitled: "You can't keep a good man down--and this one's pretty buoyant too". It's on the website. If you know the Fish tune and the Kipling poem, it's even better). Also a cracking good serious filk of Hope Eyrie (fandom's anthem, if there is one), after NASA became less ambitious, entitled "Hope? Eerie!". To my complete surprise, managed to remember enough of the tune of "The Market At Mos Eisley" to sing it, even though have only heard it once.
Staggered into bed at 2 am, trying to find right bed and not wake up roommate whom I do not know that intimately. Could not help thinking this is wonderful idea for story where B doesn't know A that intimately but will by end of story. By end of con, have hashed this out as a collab with roommate who happens to be my beta reader.
Not enough sleep, but more or less adequate. At breakfast, Julia was geeking cameras with Calle and Jenny; after breakfast she went to David & Leslie's wedding breakfast (not to eat but take photos).
Late morning, went to excellent panel of Blake's Trial if he'd had one instead of being shot, with Ika as Blake (surprisingly convincing without the figure, the hair or the...ahem) and Jem something as Travis, and David Walsh in The Role He Had Made His Own, although he came in late because of Eyelash Problems. On Blake's side were two excellent attorneys, ably portrayed by Morrigan and a black woman whose name I didn't catch. (This was the only panel I managed to remember to take notes at, so it's a rather fuller report).
The defendant was asked to remove his gun, and replied, "It doesn't work. I just keep it to do my hair." Attorney commented, the prisoner has a right to reasonable standards of hair care. After a minor squabble about whether Blake was guilty of mutiny or piracy, the prosecution was introduced. On the appearance of Space Commander Travis, Blake stated: "I was sure I'd killed him!" The Adjudicator was not sure if this counted as threatening behaviour or not.
Defence attorneys made an excellent job of giving Travis a hard time about war crimes & his own suspiciously terroristic escape in a commandeered ship--"to say nothing of the betrayal of all humanity, which hasn't happened yet".
Travis, who seemed to have made far less preparation than the defendant, replied pitiably that he had "not watched the videos recently"--whatever that might mean.
The defence attorney led Blake through his past history: "I was tortured, and what is in common parlance "mindwiped" by a combination of drugs and flashing lights", he admitted.
Later, on Atlay: "I do not recall very well, there was some sort of oscillating tone... no, actually, I remember it very well. We were told to lay down our weapons or be shot--some of us were shot anyway."
On being asked, What makes you think you are qualified to speak for ordinary people?" Blake replied, "Perhaps because I have occasionally been known to speak to them when they are not under large doses of suppressant drugs."
Blake was finally voted not guilty by a large majority (all but four), but since the Arbiter stated the defendant was mentally incompetent and unfit to plead, he was to be placed under psychiatric care. Which is a very b7 conclusion. Kudos to Ika for her splendid ad-libbing!
In the afternoon, went to Costume panel. Am struck dumb by Julia's encyclopaedic knowledge, and determined to rewatch Aftermath and Star One for those all important Avon-drool moments.
Then went to the Alien Sex workshop, run by Londo (Leslie) and G'Kar (David McIntee). Londo put on her penis (I've always wanted to write that), and I said "Well, where are the other five, then?" and she said "If you think I'm going to get five rubber snakes covered with stockings, you have another think coming". Among the more serious points in the discussion, G'Kar stated that although mutual pleasure would probably be possible among lots of different races, they probably couldn't interbreed, although the original Star Trek started about right by explicitly saying that Spock was the result of some fairly heavy genetic engineering rather than just random sex.
Went to panel on Wobbly Sets (any b7 fan may fairly be considered an expert). I said, it's much easier to bear the _London_ wobbling, because it's meant to be an awful old crate with a badly-tuned engine, and someone else came up with a splendid hypothesis that the _Liberator_ translates kinetic energy into power and uses it to flush the loos. Points for ingenuity, that man!
At seven o'clock, went to be part of the panel on The Slash Debate, although hardly managed to get a word in edgeways. This was a very, *very* good panel in terms of the ratio of rationality to flamage. If it wasn't for some Prat dressed in Pink coming in and soapboxing on paedophilia for three seconds before running off in an ecstasy of manufactured outrage, it would have been perfect. I find it very difficult to get into the head of somebody like Kathyrn Andersen, whose views are fairly diametrically opposed to mine on slash, but am very impressed that she can respect the views of others and hold a rational argument. Bright flashes of insight kept happening: someone (think he's a gay DW fan, can't remember the name) suggested that maybe the A/Se relationship is a 'dark mirror' in which Avon can see what he *might* have been if things had been different, which certainly struck Judith, among others. I had a moment of insight when I used the Prat dressed in Pink as an excellent illustration of what had been done to Blake: people who react to any mention of child-abuse by frothing at the mouth rather than thinking make it very easy to use smear tactics. I'm sure there were more insights I've forgotten, but it was such a lovely panel when I'd been dreading it all weekend because I'd forgotten my asbestos trousers.
Went to the filking and sang myself hoarse. Admired anew the lyrics of Ladies from Hades (anyone who can rhyme 'alien' and 'sesquipidalien' is my kind of person), and various other things including Battle-Hymn of The Andromedan Republic. Incautiously ad-libbed: "Dedicated to the Andromedan warfleet over there"--and pointed to the results of the Chaos Modelling Workshop (ships and guns made out of yoghurt pots and so on look remarkably like it), and thus have only myself to blame for the resultant parade of filkers holding aloft "the Andromedan warfleet" and marching downstairs singing (or croaking): "Glory glory to amoebas/Destroy humanity!"
Spent rest of evening in the bar with Ika, Emma Peel and Morrigan (and the DW fans whose names I don't know). Great fun. Emma is about to do a 'zine entitled I, Mutoid (major kudos for the Asimov joke), and I, for my sins, have been roped in to write an A/B romance that will also somehow manage to be a mutoid story. Actually sounds quite interesting.Felt quite sad to go home as was wonderful event altogether. 
The Hedgehog Report: Friday dawned, a convention beckoned, but living a mere 30 miles away I was in no great hurry. Unhurried enough, indeed, to pick up the Patricia Cornwell I'd acquired from the library the day before. I'll just read a couple of chapters, I told myself. It was only 10 am. So I did that, then a couple more. Then another. No, I thought, this will not do, I have a convention to go to. I must pack. So ten minutes later, having packed, I was back at the Cornwell, and stayed there for at least another hundred pages. Eventually, as 2 pm loomed, I put it down with awesome self-discipline, grabbed my coat and sauntered off to the station.
Less than two hours later, I was back in the Ashford International. Was it really two whole years since I'd last been there? Found Deborah Rose sitting in the lobby, waiting to greet new arrivals. "So you got the right Ashford this time?" I asked, because she is the one who hiked out all the way to Ashford, Middlesex for the '99 bash. I also noticed a diminutive form shuffling suspiciously around the check-in desk. A Red-Crested McCormack's Penguin, if I wasn't mistaken. And yes, her nose does look very, very beaklike.
Getting my priorities right, I dumped my bag in the room I'd been allocated, which looked uncannily like the room I'd had the last time only this one had an ashtray in it, and promptly left the hotel with a pair of binoculars round my neck. There's a nice little wood about five minutes down the lane which I always visit at Ashford cons. The perfect place to see teenagers roaring around on scabby old motorbikes, scaring all the birds away. Then back to the hotel via the Sainsburys next door. By now people were really starting to arrive, though they still seemed thin on the ground. I asked where I could hand in some bits and pieces for the Chaos Modelling sessions, off-cuts and other bits I'd scrounged from the reject bins at work. Try Ops, I was told, so I went to Ops, where Judith Proctor launched herself from a computer terminal to give me a big hug. Then she realised it was only me. Anyway, she seemed to like my modelling bits, so I left them in Ops, after explaining which bag contained the childsafe bits and which one might be a bit dodgy (I get a bit overparanoid about such things, since safety is obviously a major concern at work when making toys and things).
The bar was now open. Hurrah! I'm not normally one for the booze, but I make an exception for cons. People arriving all the time, mostly old faces (including the inevitable horde that you see every time but never ever find out who they are). I set out to intimidate as many as possible. Pat Carter appeared, and I cursed Sainsburys for not stocking Penguin bars, for I'd hoped to greet her with one of these. The Opening Ceremony was now imminent, so down to the main hall, where we lurked at a table near the back. One by one the guests filed on stage, saying their obligatory few words into the microphone, followed by the obligatory round of applause. Last up was Gareth Thomas. "I'M A PROFESSIONAL ACTOR," he boomed. "I DON'T NEED A MICROPHONE!"
After the mixer games (which not many people seemed to play) we stayed in the main hall for the pub quiz. Louise Rutter appointed herself captain of our table, pressganging any passer-by who might know something about Babylon 5 (for none of the rest of us did). There were 30 questions in all - 10 on B7 (which we got right, all of them), 10 on Bab5 (where we didn't do quite so well), and 10 on other stuff like Dr Who and Harry Potter (!?) where we didn't exactly cover ourselves in glory either. We ended up with a meagre 20 out of 30, somewhat behind a table in the middle of the hall who claimed 26. Or was it 25? Never mind, they still won. No, hang on, it was only 24. I left, because We Had Lost, and I'm a sore loser. It was just a bit of fun anyway, and the taking part was all that mattered, and who did those bastards think they were, not that I'm bitter or twisted or anything. Anyway, I hadn't intimidated enough people yet.
Back to the bar, then, for that's what cons are really all about, which is chatting with people about almost anything but B7. Good to meet some new faces as well as old friends. As usual, fellow Lysters in the flesh look nothing like the way I'd imagined them. I intimidated Jacqueline Thijsen, who promptly intimidated me. I picked my words with care, lest I found myself joining the goldfish in the fountain. There was Alison and Tavia and Susan and Morrigan and Iain and others I can't remember, just as I can't remember what we talked about but I know it was well past 3 am by the time I staggered off to bed. Oh, and a little pressie from Pat - *two* Patricia Cornwell's, which I swore I wouldn't look at in my not entirely sober state. Well, I wouldn't look at them that much. Just a chapter or two, y'know.
Amazingly, I was up for breakfast by 9 am, but with a splitting head and a queasy feeling in places I didn't want to think about. Con or not, I pledged to go easy on the lager from now on. No time to go birding, despite the outrageously pleasant weather outside (this was my 5th con, and the first four had been marked by some the vilest weather the British climate can muster), since I was doing a panel on science in science fiction with Andy Lane, who I had never met. (I presumed he wasn't the Andy Lane who is crap at fixing the machines where I work.) It took about ten seconds, or was it two, to establish that Andy knew far, far more about science than I ever will, so clearly I was going to have to co-host this panel with my usual fallback strategy, ie bullshit like crazy and hope the audience take over. They did, or at least seemed to, but as is usual with panels that I've hosted my mind was burning too fiercely in an endeavour to not look like a total prat for me to remember anything that was said.
An hour at the bar, sticking strictly to Pepsi, and then the Blake: Terrorist or Freedom Fighter debate. This was in the main hall, with Gareth, Una, Judith and a hastily press-ganged Pat Carter. Barely minutes earlier Una had been in the bar with me, hastily scribbling down flimsy apologies for thoughts. I suggested that the Freedom Fighter/Terrorist dichotomy was a false one, since freedom is an objective whilst terrorism is a strategy. "Ooh yes, I'll use that one," she said, pencil flailing in her flipper. But she didn't, so I had to raise it myself. I'm not sure if this was before or after Gareth asked to check on one minor point, namely what this Star One thingy was.
One audience member who spoke up vociferously for Blake was an overseas attendee who I took to be Spanish. Not so much a bad guess as a bloody awful one since she turned out to be Bulgarian, and was in fact none other than the Lyst's own Hellen. And true to form, looked absolutely nothing like the way I'd imagined she would. From the main hall to one of the video rooms, which Iain had purloined for his workshop on performances in B7/Bab5, of which much has already been said. This was perhaps the most memorable session of the whole con, perhaps because it involved more than merely talk.
The Zine Publishing workshop looked like it might be a bit of a struggle, since Tavia and I were on our own until Judith suddenly materialised to save us. Or me, at any rate, since Tavia had a very smart looking zine to flash around and illustrate some of the practicalities of formatting and layouting. Judith, of course, is an old hand at this game, and could answer any question with ease as well as throw up issues out of the blue if things started feeling a bit slack.
I skipped David Walsh's panel on Realism In Slash, because I'd seen it the previous time (when I'd been impressed by David's candid handling of the subject and he'd been a bit impressed that I'd turned up at all. "Why did you come?" he'd asked me in the bar later. The correct answer should of course have been, "Steady on, David, it wasn't that exciting," but typically I only thought of that keenly honed retort about three months later). If I'd known Gareth was going to be there this time I might have paid a second visit, though.
Political Systems in SF: This time I wasn't the only bullshitter on the panel, all four of us were at it, though maybe not as blatantly as me. I was impressed by the turnout (the room was packed), but can't remember much about the discussion, which somehow never seemed to flag. I don't recall any of the anti-American rhetoric that others have cited, though there were some rather barbed comments about Star Trek. Is that what people meant? You don't slag off ST because it's American, you slag it off because it's Trek and hence crap by default. Or something.
The splitting head I'd carried since breakfast hadn't gone away in all this time, if anything it was worse. Quick trip to Sainsburys for some paracetamol, and then I considered the unthinkable - going to bed while the con was in full swing. Actually, this wasn't a bad idea. It perked me up a bit, cleared my headache, and left me with enough energy to intimidate people well into the small hours. Long enough, anyway, to catch Una on her way back from the Glam Rock disco. I had come equipped with my digital camera and I wasn't afraid to use it. Una's fate is now sealed.
Highlight of the morning had to be the Trial of Roj Blake. Pat and Morrigan had bravely chosen to defend the indefensible (Ika with a scrap of underlay draped on her head), while the prosecution seemed to be relying on brute force and ignorance. More fool them. Jem Ward, aka Travis was the first witness, taking his chair while insisting that it was "all an illusion". Pat ripped into him with a ferocity that had me carefully eyeing up the door. A quick exit might prove prudent. Morrigan more sedately packed an awful lot of words into an amazingly short period of time without a single scrap of guff, claiming that the Federation had effectively declared war on its own citizens, thus legitimising Blake's campaign. The prosecution (sorry, don't know his name) feebly pointed out that Blake had sort of half acknowledged that he might have vaguely admitted to having been mentally incompetent at some time or other and was therefore guilty as hell. The jury didn't agree.
The B7 Movie panel was a lively one, ably hosted by Tanja Kinkel who did amazingly well for anyone, let alone a non-native English speaker. My own great contribution to this debate was a possible title for a sequel - Blake's 7 II: The Wrath of Jenna. Various scenarios were tossed around - would we want a straight carry on from 'Blake'? (No.) Who should be in it? (Surprisingly, there was a lot of support for having none of the original characters, not even Avon.) One suggestion, Tanja's I think, that really took me by surprise was the idea of setting it alongside the events of the original series, as a parallel bunch of characters wandering around at the same time as Blake et al. There might even have been talk of remaking the original series with a brand new cast. We ended up with a show of hands: Would or should a new film or series be regarded as canon? Yes. And would it be any good? Probably not. (But what I really want to know is, who was that bloke who suddenly marched up from the back of the room and plonked himself on the panel? And having done that, why didn't he say anything? Strange.)
The Great Slash Debate: Yet again I had wangled my way (or more properly been wangled by Judith) onto a panel for which I wasn't really all that qualified. Down in the bar, Jane Carnall put me on the rack. I didn't like slash, I didn't read slash, so what the hell did I think I was doing? Good question. But by putting me on the rack she gave me the answer I needed. With Predatrix as pro-slash, Kathryn as the anti corner, and Judith keeping them apart, I was there to ask two questions. What gets written, why is it written, and who wri - *three* questions. In other words, I was to be the Spanish Inquisition. Not that I got to don my red cardinal's hat, since the debate was fast and furious, with Judith having to keep the more loquacious contributors in check to make sure everyone had their fair turn. Whilst not quite as memorable as Iain's performance workshop, this was for me the very best session of the con. With one notable exception, everyone behaved remarkably over this traditionally inflammatory subject. Kathryn bravely explained her religious objections to slash without getting howled down by an angry mob, and the overall level of discussion was intelligent, informed, and although things got a bit lively at times it never turned angry or bitter. It was agreed, I think, that reading a gay subtext into character interactions is a highly personal thing that works for some but not for others, and simply agreeing on that without rancour is a tribute to those who took part. Indeed, once our allotted 90 minutes was up we adjourned to another room to continue the debate, under the impromptu chairmanship of David Walsh, and continued for more than an hour. Predictably it never actually reached any conclusions (eventually drifting towards some of Steve Rogerson's more bizarre pairings), but that's not the point of these discussions. Simply hearing the different points of view was what mattered.
Normally I hate Mondays. The con is dead, cremated overnight, its ashes scattered beneath the feet of mundanes who have taken over 'our' hotel. But not this time. There are enough people still around to talk to. Morrigan needs some luggage hauled out to the car park. Like, 70 pounds of zines. Guess which mug gets lumbered with that job? Lots of goodbyes, to Pat, Tavia, Morrigan, Steve, Kathryn, Julia and Judith (who gives me another hug, so she still hasn't twigged who I am). Finally it's time to go, sharing a cab with Susan because we're both going to the station. I pay the fare to make sure she owes me a drink next time. Some traditions can't be abandoned. A mix up with the lifts, an embarrassing faux pas known as Forgetting To Buy A Ticket, and I'm off, with only Patricia Cornwell for company, and a sad but somehow satisfying (not to mention alliterative) sense of having properly said goodbye to a wonderful convention.All together now - Aaaahhh! 
Friday seems so long ago... When we arrived at the hotel, it was hard to believe that it was two years since the last time. In 99, Rachel and I had only been together a few months and she was rather apprehensive about spending a weekend with some vaguely-imagined gaggle of weirdos. Now we're married, and she'd been looking forward to this con ever since the last one, at which she became an instant convert to fandom. Detailed planning of outfits had been going on for months, I kid you not.
Anyway, we checked in, picked up our packs of goodies and went off to the room to get tarted up. We were in the same corridor as last time, but on the other side. I found this terribly baffling.
I spent much of the evening in the bar, blethering away with an ever-changing vortex of old and new friends, catching up with the gossip, indulging in shamelessly opinionated rants about creaky old sci-fi shows and generally having a great time. After three pints or so I thought it would be wise to have a burger to line the old stomach: this took considerably longer to arrive than I had anticipated, which was doubtless the reason for my subsequent slight tipsiness.
The opening ceremony is hazy in my mind. Hazier still is the Freedom City party: my only vivid memory of that happy occasion is of insisting to Calle at some length that our cabaret sketch would be the finest comic creation in history. Maybe I should go into publicity.
Saturday dawned as Saturdays do. This was going to be a busy day. I dragged my sweating carcass out of bed in time for Neil Faulkner and Andy Lane's panel on 'How much science do we want in science fiction.' This was an interesting discussion: inconclusive, as such discussions always are, but some illuminating points were raised by the panellists and the audience. (I'm not sure 'audience' is the right word for such active participants, but it will have to do until I think of a better one.)
Next up was 'Why we love villains'. Rob Clother was fronting this, and I didn't envy him. The main hall really isn't suited to this kind of discussion: it's too big for the audience to join in without microphones, and the panel can't see the crowd. Furthermore, Rob's co-panellists didn't show up for quite some time -- and when they did, it became a curious double-act with Michael Sheard passing round a microphone in the crowd, in between thespy rambles, while Rob posed various questions about drama and reality from the stage. In spite of all these slings and arrows it was a thought-provoking hour, with a lot of good contributions from Rob, Michael and the audience.
Next up was 'Blake: terrorist or freedom fighter' with Una, Judith, Pat and Gareth. I've always considered this a rather uninteresting question, but fortunately the panel ended up talking about more interesting issues anyway, so that was all right. This particular debate was very diverse: a lot of the examples of real-life political struggles were brought up by audience members who seemed to be speaking from personal experience, and this combined well with Una and Pat's more analytical arguments. Gareth's most relevant contribution was his insider's view of how Blake regarded himself, and what was really driving his character -- and he provided the most comic moment when he remarked that this 'Star One' that everyone was going on about must clearly be something pretty important.
I skipped out early, as I had to prepare my workshop on 'Performance lessons we can learn from B5 and B7'. I was very unsure about how this would turn out, but thankfully it seemed to go well. I enjoyed it, anyway, and learned one or two things in the course of the hour. Thanks to Alison, Rob, Una and Calle, who volunteered to perform some scenes and really helped to illustrate some of the acting issues involved, and to everyone else who took part. Thanks also to Steve: I had caused him a bit of hassle because I was being terribly picky about what sort of room I wanted, but he came up trumps.
By this time I was pretty knackered, but there was no chance of a respite. There was a sketch to rehearse! In true Blake's 7 style we had a page of last-minute script changes to rehearse on the very day of performance, so Una, Matthew, Alison and I went to my room for an hour's work, with Rachel and Ian dispensing tea and constructive criticism. The performance involved much swearing and throwing of furniture: I later had to assure David Walsh (who was in the next room) that Rachel and I weren't having a domestic.
Alison and Una had Things to Do, so Matthew and I had to represent the group at the cabaret rehearsal. Being a technical rehearsal, this involved the performers standing around for two hours then spending a few seconds wandering about on stage. Dreadfully tedious, but necessary. David Walsh tried with moderate success to teach me some basic dance moves for the evening. As we were doing this I noticed that the stage was in sections, and hoped he wouldn't get a stiletto heel trapped in the floor during the dance.
Mission accomplished, we went to the 'Political systems in SF' panel which Neil, Una, Alison and myself were running. This was a packed and occasionally fraught affair. We had done little preparation, but frankly that was just as well: it became clear that any discussion was going to have a momentum of its own that the panellists could do little to influence. There was a good discussion of utopias in SF, which went into all sides of the issue in some depth. However -- and I guess we should have forseen this danger -- the present-day real world did encroach on the discussion a bit too much. In particular, I was disturbed and embarrassed by the bursts of thoughtless anti-Americanism that kept bubbling up from the audience. My attempts to divert this were entirely ineffective, and I apologise to any Americans in the audience for that failure. Fortunately, there was no aggressive ranting from anyone involved until about 6 o'clock, when the panel was due to finish anyway.
After this, we had a bite to eat (and were pleasantly surprised by the food in the carvery), then I had a bit of a lie down before heading to the cabaret.
The fancy dress -- sorry, masquerade -- was impressive. Every time I see one of these the standard seems to be higher. I was a little disturbed by just how effective Nicola Collie was as Servalan, I must say.
In the cabaret itself, Steve Kilbane and Fi did a couple of excellent songs -- Fi, you have a terrific voice. There was a fair bit of dancing as well: Kat acquitted herself with great style and panache as one of Londo's dancing girls. There was some belly-dancing of the scantily-clad variety, but by that time I was too busy worrying about our sketch. After all these panels my voice really was shot to hell, and I was quietly doing vocal exercises in an attempt to recover it.
Then we were on. Matthew, Una and Alison were great, and the audience reaction was very positive. Great fun.
After this, the good Mr Walsh got me up to dance. Cruel fate stuck one of his stiletto heels into the stage, just as I had feared, but we had a good time regardless.
Then -- much to my surprise -- Rachel came up to the front bearing a large chocolate cake, complete with candle. Chris O'Shea announced that it was my birthday, and I was back on stage again to have 'Happy Birthday' sung to me by more people than have ever done so in the past 28 years. I was really touched by this. Thanks, all of you.
When all the cabaret fun was over, it was time for people to get glammed up for the disco. Our room became a hive of girly activity, as Rachel and Una got into their Abba gear, Alison got into her wig and feather boa, Rob was put into his fishnets and Rachel did everyone's makeup. I, of course, went to the bar, then to Gareth's Shakespeare session. This was absolutely packed, and very enjoyable.Gareth read some of his favourite passages, interspersed with some chat about Shakespeare and about performance. All the readings were powerful, and in particular his reading of the 'To be or not to be' soliloquy was the best I've heard it done. He really is rather a good actor, you know.
Then down to the disco, by now in full swing. Rachel and Una were as goddesses in their sparkly platform boots and flamboyant mini-dresses. I danced for a bit, than retreated to the bar to discuss with Matthew our mutual closet dislike of 'Bohemian Rhapsody'.
I crashed out shortly afterwards -- it had been a long and tiring day.
Sunday was somewhat calmer. We had a long lie, a spot of brekkie, then packed our things. I had only one duty on Sunday, which was a panel about the science of space habitats entitled 'A world of spinning steel'. I was a bit apprehensive about this, not knowing the other panellists, but it turned out to be really good fun. The discussion was wide-ranging, touching on all aspects of space travel, past, present and future, and the audience brought at least as much knowledge and intelligent inquiry to the proceedings as the panellists did.
After that, a quiet wind-down to the closing ceremony. As well as the things I had expected -- final announcements, raffle, and so on -- there was a short film that had been made during the con. This involved the spacecraft from the chaos modelling workshop doing battle, assisted by shaky wires and a cloth backdrop, with inserted performances by various congoers, and an impromtu soundtrack provided by the vocal talents of Mr Spock. This was quite simply the best thing I have ever seen in my life.And that brought our con to an end. Rachel and I said a few last farewells then set off home. It was an extremely good con -- tiring at times, but you get out what you put in. There were lots of people that I was glad to see again, and a few that I met in person for the first time. Thanks to all of them for being part of such a great weekend, and thanks especially to Judith, Steve and the rest of the committee for all their hard work. I'm already looking forward to Redemption 03. 
Liked reading the con reports so much, I decided to write one.
For me it started nearly two years ago at Eastercon 1999 when we decided to do another one. Skipping to the Thursday before the con, when I'd acquired so much stuff to take down that public transport was out of the question, so my next-door neighbour kindly drove me to Ashford. I spent the journey explaining what it was all about and we even started talking about slash, which she'd never heard off but was amused to hear about. BBC Radio Kent rang me on route and arranged to do a telephone interview with me about the con at 8.10 Saturday morning. Aaargh!
Got to the hotel early Thursday afternoon and found the hotel had me down for a suite. No thanks I said, I want a normal room near Ops and that was sorted for me. Bumped into Michael Sheard and Gareth Thomas before going into town for something to eat. Popped into the Kentish Express offices and they said they'd try to get a reporter down over the weekend.
As the evening arrived, more people started arriving volunteering to help get things set up. However, due to others arriving later than expected with the badge parts and about half the stuff for the con packs, we didn't get any badge making done and only got the stuff I'd brought with me into the con packs.
Friday dawned and we got badge making and con packing teams to work. Tech gear arrived and everything seemed to be going smoothly, if somewhat hectically. Then we discovered that the walkie talkies for ops had gone to the wrong Ashford - they never did make it. Then we ran out of badge parts, which is why some on Friday had temporary passes. Eddie arranged for more parts to be couriered to us and they arrived Saturday morning. We then got hit by a double whammy on the video programme. We couldn't get the video and TV sets to work together so much time was spent running back and forth between tech people and the main hall and the video rooms - we could have done with those walkie talkies. The second problem was that the compilation four-hour block tapes of the video programme had been left behind and so we ended up using the original videos. Slight snag, we didn't have the B7 ones, but thankfully there was a full set in the auction and we used those. Apart from Sunday evening when they'd already been sold - sorry Rita and others who wanted to watch B7 then.
The rest of Friday afternoon is a bit of a blur up to getting things ready for the opening ceremony. I was a bit nervous this time for some reason and I can't really remember much about it apart from introducing Laurie and Steve K as Drazi War leaders.
Friday night and off to the the Freedom City room party (thanks Rita for hosting this) and I got an ace pic of Nicola Collie and Nickey Barnard, which will eventually appear on my web site. Had a brief break to go to tyhe new-zine launch party as Paula and I had our publication out, the proceeds of which kept us in drinks most of the weekend. Kathryn Andersen also showed one of the four copies of Staked Blake that exists (a Buffy Blakes 7 crossover zine) and Judith agreed to print a proper run for her, which pleased me as I have a story in it. This launch party replaced the Friday night turkey reading, cancelled for two Redemptions in a row - third time lucky in 03 hopefully.
Saturday morning and I was up in time to be interviewed reasonably coherently by BBC Radio Kent. Probably a good plan as I was on a panel at 10am on the B7 radio plays with Una and Rita (first time I've ever seen Rita that early at a con). The question was were they canon or bull and we decided both. While this was happening, Lesley and David were getting married somewhere in Ashford. I then spent an hour on the registration desk and got ready for taking 03 registrations before nipping off to the bring and buy sale, the official launch of our zine, though Richard had been selling some in the dealers room already. Flogged a few other bits and pieces in the sale too and donated left overs to Judith's Oxfam stall - couldn't be bothered taking them back.
Photographer turned up from the Kentish Express or Messenger, can't remember which. Took him round to photo various things and people. Hopefully something will appear, especially as a reporter rang me up afterwards to ask about stuff to go with the pictures. Then got junk from my room for the chaos modelling and turned into a Klingon for the Drazi challenge. Didn't stay in costume for long but I can't for the life of me remember if I got changed out of the costume before or after the panel I was on about Farscape and Lexx with Alison and Calle. I became a Centauri for the cabaret (thanks Nickey for doing my hair) - much cooler costume - and was once again astonished by the high quality of the fan entries, with a special mention to the Reduced Blake's 7 Company - excellent, no other word for it. Got changed again into my Rocky Horror jacket for the evening disco, though I spent more time in the bar than the disco, playing Wobblevision and the like. We did Shadow and to my shame I couldn't remember hardly anything about the episode - must rewatch it soon. The funniest moment was Michael Sheard eating moon discs - I hope someone captured that on camera.
I then spent a bit of time in the slash turkey reading, though I avoided reading any myself. Gareth popped in briefly and left with the words "Remember in prison your anus is never your own".
Sunday dawned and Ashford was covered in snow, so we immediately announced extra Drazi points for completed snowmen. Purples did well here making a snowman, snowdalek and snowpacman. Greens stayed in the warm. I helped move chaos models from one room to another ready for the filming. Then I helped Mike hide tribbles for the Tribble Hunt. We had to move a couple of items around when we discovered the filming was overrunning, but the result was well worth it when we watched it in the closing ceremony. Managed to juggle working on the reg desk, helping the auction, sorting the Drazi points and another panel, this time on how other shows treat telepaths with Rebecca and Kathryn.
Sunday afternoon and I was a scrutineer on the Florida style ruler of the universe election, during which time Rita tormented me for a whole hour as she tried to cheat. Debra and I then took the votes away for counting and discovered everyone had cheated with clearly photocopied ballot papers. David Walsh even put his room charge card in the box as a bribe. Closing ceremony now and I announced the purples and David Walsh had won again and gave out lots of prizes, then back to registration to take the final 03 registrations - we sold over 50 for a con in two years time, amazing. The special offer for early bookers lasts till the end of March, hint, hint. Missed the stewards party as a result.
Went to the slash debate. Someone suggested a sex with colostomy bag story and half the room turned to look at me. Humph! Have I got a reputation or what? This overran and continued for a while in another room. I ended up in bed at midnight (early for me at a con) totally exhausted.
Monday morning and realised my plan to take the train home as I'd have less to carry was a bad one. Much too much still for public transport. A bit of sorting out and Gaspo John agreed to give me a lift home - ta. Hugs and goodbyes in reception and it was all over. Thanks to everyone who came and helped and all the rest. I had a ball.
My only regret is I didn't have enough time to talk to some of the people who were there who I hadn't seen for a long time.cheers 
The train ride to Ashford was pretty uneventful, and from the station I took a taxi to the hotel. The reports about the hotel on the Redemption site aren't exaggerated. It really is very beautiful. I first went to the Redemption registration desk to get my name badge and programme booklet, and then checked in to the hotel. Where I got quite a kick out of being told by the receptionist that my accent was really very good. <preen>
Well, up to my room where I dumped my bags and didn't even bother to unpack, as the programme book said that there was a panel about SF weaponry going on that very minute. I asked around to find it and was told by a slightly exasperated steward that there was a map in the programme book, but was shown where it was anyway. Hey, I didn't have time to look through the whole damn book, there was too much interesting stuff going on all the time.
When I got in, the panel was already in full swing, with four panelists having a great time discussing all sorts of weaponry with the audience. My favorite moment was when Judith's son (don't remember his first name, but it wasn't Kelvin) asked about what kind of weapons the Shadow vessels in B5 would use, since they're supposed to be organic. The consensus of the panel was that they farted plasma and loaded up by eating beans. Hee.
Next was "Brave, young and handsome, three reasons to dislike Tarrant." Rita d'Orac headed the faction against Tarrant, while commander Fifitrix of the Tarrant Nostra was valiantly defending her handsome hero. The audience had a great time teasing her by saying that Tarrant didn't have a brain to speak of (Fifi seemed to be enjoying the teasing, it really was just in fun), and Fifi was grinning at most of it, while bravely keeping up the good fight. We all agreed that he had great teeth, which seemed to please her.
After that I was knackered, so I went up to my room to unpack and lie down for a bit. I ran into Judith on my way up there. She was wearing sandals this time (the convention reports of other conventions always have her going around barefoot, but this time only her sons did that). After a cheerful but brief (she was already looking quite haggard and busy) talk, I went on to my room, only to bump into Una. We hugged (Una is very huggable :-) ), and talked, but she had to go up to the zine library to get it opened up on time.
So I finally reached my room, did some of the usual moving in stuff (unpacking a bit, laying out costume for next day, finding out I forgot toothbrush) and rested a bit. That's when I discovered the only less than sterling quality of the hotel: the beds were too damn short. My bed was only two centimeters longer than I am. Oh, well, they made up for it with everything else. I decided to go keep Una company in the zine library, and ran right into Ivan, the steward master. "Oh, hi," he said, "did you get your assignment yet?" I vaguely remembered having told Judith that I'd be willing to do a little stewarding, but since there hadn't been an answer to that, I thought they didn't need me. I told this to Ivan. "Oops," he said, "tiny mistake. Things have been kinda hectic on our end." And off he went. Two minutes later he was back with my stewarding schedule. It turned out that I was on duty right away, guarding the entrance to the video room against unauthorized hotel guests with a fierce scowl as my primary weapon. In practice that meant spending an hour watching a B5 episode with the junior Proctor as my only companion. Much more fun, IMO, than guarding the zine library. At the end of my first stewarding stint, Spike strode by. Wow. He really, really looked like the real one. I decided right there and then to vote for him as ruler of the universe. And then I continued to drool a little. It almost made up for the ongoing lack of Buffy on Dutch TV.
After that I had an hour and a half to kill before having to attend the steward's meeting, so I decided to get something to eat. Only, the hotel restaurant wasn't open yet. Oh, right, them bloody foreigners don't start eating until eight, instead of two hours earlier like normal people. <ahem>. At that point I ran into Judith again and plaintively asked her where I could refuel. "That's all explained in the booklet you got when you registered," she said. I guiltily remembered having browsed through that until I found the schedule for that day and ignoring the rest of it so I could laze about on my bed. But Judith, bless her heart, did point me to the bar, where I could get a jacket potato with baked beans. Truly the food of the gods.
When I'd gotten my much needed fuel, Una called me over to join her and a group of lystians. After the recognition fest, I concentrated on eating my food and trying to participate in the conversation. What with all the background noise, that was pretty difficult, and especially Iain had to repeat himself all the time. That might be because I'm not really used to the Scottish accent, which is a shame, because I really like it. They ought to use it far more often on TV, so that I can get used to it. Maybe they could put in a rule that all chief engineers have to have a Scottish accent. I'd like to hear B'Elanna Torres use one. I wonder who'd have to have speak Scottish in B7 then, Avon or Zen.
I had to hurry to get to the Steward's meeting in time, and found that the room was packed. Ivan and Sascha (the other steward master) welcomed us and thanked us for being willing to spend our time to help them. I thought of just one hour spent quite comfortably in a video room and felt a bit guilty, but I still liked being there. They told us that we weren't actual guards, but simply there to help. If there were any problems that couldn't be solved with a friendly word and a smile, we should call them. They also told us quite sternly that if we saw someone walking around with weapons, such as bat'telhs, we weren't allowed to test the safety of those weapons by trying them out on the owner. Some stewards seemed quite disappointed about that...
After that I went to the opening ceremony. I had to go up to my room first, and by the time I got to the Main room, it was already dark and I couldn't see anyone I could recognize. So I just sat on the first free chair I could find and decided to go look for them after the opening ceremony. That was great fun, especially when 'Sheridan' dropped dead and Gareth suggested that David Walsh should give him the kiss of life. 'Sheridan' suddenly didn't seem all that dead anymore and was quickly removed from the stage.
Then David started giving out bits of paper for the mixer game. We were supposed to walk around and find twenty different people who were, for instance, wearing trainers or celebrating their birthday that month. By then I was tired again, so I stayed at the table and just signed my name on a few participant's pages. Judith tried to get me to walk around, too, but I was too tired for that. I still had lots of fun and met several people, which had after all been the purpose of the game.
Then was the pub quiz. David Walsh read out the questions, and one of us wrote them down. She had great trouble keeping up with him. And then we found out that we shouldn't have been writing down the questions, but only the answers. Oops. And we would have known quite a few answers, too. Oh, well. BTW, we all agreed that the number of Dax hosts should have been ten, not nine. I think they forgot about the episode where the Dax symbiont was stolen for a few hours. So we were feeling very smug about knowing better about this than the organization. Hee.
That just about finished it for the official part. I wandered around the room a bit to see if I could catch up with anyone I knew, but then decided I was too tired for more socializing. That's when I ran into someone who recognized my name. "Ooh, I've read your story." I grew about four inches and asked her, "Did you like it?" "Oh, I don't remember which story it was," she said, taking away about six inches, "but I read Staked Blake and I liked all three stories." That put back about three inches of my length, so all in all I still felt better than before. Oh wow, a fan! Of sorts. Well, it's better than nothing, ok?
After that I went back to my room and despite the short bed fell asleep almost immediately, a sure sign that I was drained. So what, it had been a great day. And two more wonderful days lay ahead of me. I'm pretty sure I fell asleep with a smile on my face.
The next morning I spent some time getting into costume. This wasn't very hard, since it was basically a ST undershirt and ST-Voy science jacket. But I spent about 15 minutes putting spots on my face with an eye pencil, trying to look like a Trill. In case you're wondering, I did manage to brush my teeth, since the hotel had kindly provided me with a toothbrush set. Told you it was a great hotel! BTW, I think it was Harriet who later asked me the traditional question. In case you're wondering, the answer was "just under the collar."
Anyway, then I went off to get my teeth dirty again. Breakfast was in the brasserie which was called Mistral, so I liked it right away. My good intentions about a healthy breakfast evaporated when I saw all the wonderfully sweet stuff they had lying around there. I stacked my plate with tooth decay specials and made my way through the breakfast crowd, looking for familiar faces and studiously ignoring the few sniggering mundanes. Philistines...
The first face I recognized was Judith's, so I went over to her table. Michael Sheard was holding court in the middle of that table, eating in between numerous stories. I found myself sitting next to the lady who'd been writing down the questions the previous evening. Then I heard Judith use Kathryn's name. I asked her which one was Kathryn and then waved at her enthusiastically. She waved back, asking: "erm, who'm I waving at?" Judith told her and then her waving turned more enthusiastic. She told me I'd have to sign her copy of Staked Blake, making me feel very authorial. All in all breakfast turned out to be as much fun as the panels. BTW, Richard took my picture there, which you can find on Judith's site, under the redemption reports. Just in case you're curious what I look like. Health claims will not be accepted. As it turns out, Calle also took my picture during that day, but I don't remember him doing that, the sneaky bastard.
After breakfast I went to the front desk to get my next hour of stewarding duty moved and get my badge. I saw Kathryn again and for the first time had the opportunity to see her minbari costume in its full glory. I personally think that hers was better than the one that won, especially the headpiece, but forgot to give her my votes. Oops.
Well, time for the next panel, called "how much science do we want in SF?" It was hosted by Neil Faulkner and Andy Lane, and the consensus seemed to be that science didn't have to be plausible, as long as it was consistent. There was one chap who remarked that quite a few scientific breakthroughs had been made because the scientists in question had grown up watching Star Trek, and wanted to see if maybe all that wonderful stuff was possible. When the panel was over, I introduced myself to Neil. He's not nearly as intimidating IRL as he seems to be on the lyst...
Then I had an hour off, which I spent browsing through the zines that were on sale in the dealers room. I spent an irresponsible amount of money there (holding back only because I wanted to be able to eat more than just breakfast) and then went off to the next panel: "Blake, Terrorist or freedom fighter." The discussion was quite interesting and Gareth Thomas came up with some interesting insights, only slightly held back by a total lack of memory about this Star One thingy. Hmm, maybe he'd been conditioned to forget that, too...
I had to walk out then despite an interesting sounding panel that Iain would host (about performance lessons, which later turned out to be one of the most interesting panels, hell and damn) because I was tired again. So up to my room I went, to lie down for a while. That turned out to be pretty much it for my ability to concentrate that afternoon. I tried to attend the telepathy panel a while later, but had to leave again. I spent some time just sitting alone in the lobby, looking at the costumes. Which was quite fun, too. I walked around a little, spending some more time in the dealers room and sometimes talking to people. Unfortunately, my next stewarding job turned out to be when the fancy dress and cabaret started (my own fault for not paying attention to the schedule when I asked to have my hour of stewarding moved), so I missed most of that, but the time was still well spent, first talking to Hellen, and then later trying to figure out which movies went with which tag line, since one of the other stewards had actually gone around trying to find all the tag lines that had been hung up around the hotel. The line "Nice planet, we'll take it" was pretty easy to attribute to Mars Attacks, but most of them were a bit more difficult than that. The four of us spent about an hour having fun with that. After that I got to the fancy dress just in time to see the winners announced. The little baby that won slept through the whole thing, but since it was only six weeks old, that was only natural.
I was briefly tempted to attend Gareth Thomas' Shakespeare reading, but decided that I was too wrung out to deal with what was certain to be a packed room, so I just went to sleep instead.
Which brings us to Sunday. I was pretty late at breakfast, so I didn't see a lot of familiar faces there. I was about to go up to my room again, when Kathryn and I got shanghaied by Steve Rogerson, who needed some people to move the starship models from the zine library. Later on I also tried to help Judith with the auction, but since I was no longer capable of independent thought, I wasn't much help. Judith must have noticed this and helped me out with just giving me simple stuff to do, such as asking the folks at the front desk to announce the start of the auction.
I then went off to "A world of spinning steel", about creating artificial gravity by spinning the station, as they did in B5. There were quite a lot of people there who actually knew how this sort of thing would work. To my great surprise, it turned out that if the station was big enough, it would have some pretty nasty weather inside. Hmm, interesting.
I went off to give Spike my vote for ruler of the universe, and then sat down in the main hall to listen to Michael Sheard reminisce. He asked us to keep the questions a bit decent, giving the example of another panel he'd been in with two actresses, who'd been asked what the color of their underwear was. According to Michael, both actresses had responded by looking into their blouses and quite nicely answering the question. Well, after that story it seemed only natural to ask Michael what the color of his underwear was...
Gareth came in near the end of Michael's talk, carrying his customary two pints of beer. He and Michael started to swap stories and teasing each other. For instance, when Gareth asked Michael to hold the audience a little while longer, because he had to go pee, Michael cheerfully told us: "He's an old man, he can't hold it up any more." Gareth did a nicely theatrical insulted look and left. Shortly after that I had to leave, too, on account of being too tired again, and walked into Gareth on my way out. He opened the door to the main hall and boomed "I knew you couldn't hold an audience." <g>
Well, after that all that was left to do was count down until it was time to leave. I managed to see about ten minutes of the closing ceremony, which wasn't nearly enough for my taste, and then my taxi was there. <sigh>
It had been extremely tiring, but also a lot of fun. I liked meeting all those lystians most of all. Next time I'm definitely going there again, and since I should be over the being overworked thing by then, it'll probably be even more fun. I've already decided that I'm going to stay until monday next time, so that I won't have to miss the closing ceremony or the interesting panels that come after it. Also, I hope to be fit enough to go to the Freedom City party.Well, that's it, then. Hope I haven't made you all yawn uncontrollably. 
- ^ Redemption '01 - Ika, Archived version
- ^ Redemption '01 - Una, Archived version
- ^ Redemption '01 - Predatrix, Archived version
- ^ Redemption '01 - The Hedgehog Report, Archived version
- ^ Redemption '01 - Iain Coleman, Archived version
- ^ Redemption '01 - Steve Rogerson, Archived version
- ^ Redemption '01 - Jacqueline Thijsen (long), Archived version