Redemption (convention)/2003 Con Reports
|Fandom:||Blake's 7, Babylon 5, others|
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Below are some fans' comments and observations after attending the 2003 con.
Some Topics Discussed
- Man of Iron and turkey reads
- various slash panels, one about the "evolution of slash"
- the Guests of Honor: Tanith Lee, Damian London, Chris Boucher
- the disco and the Ruler of the Universe competition
- the Freedom City room party
Links to Some 2003 Con Reports
- Debra's Con Report, Archived version
- Anna Simpson's Con Report, Archived version
- Leia Fee's Con Report, Archived version
- Chris Blenkarn's Con Report, Archived version
- Helen Brunton's Con Report, Archived version
- Dan Tilley's Con Report, Archived version
- Damian London's Con Report, Archived version
Other Full Con Reports
Arrive at hotel. HRH Princess Anne, in purple velvet, busy organising things, like Rabbit in A A Milne. Actually she introduces self as "Judith Proctor". Am sure this is a pseud. Two people cannot look and sound that alike. Obviously HRH wouldn't want it known that she went to cons. Bad for image. Seems extremely efficient and very jolly.
Ditto slightly manic-looking gent with wispy hair called Steve Rogerson. Funny name for wispy hair. This may not be a pseud.
Meet Marian, who has small herd of bear in luggage. One of them is mine!!!! Jump up and down with excitement. Wander off to do unpacking, wishing I could volunteer to do Marian's unpacking instead. Marian's Berr Avon speaks! She has him implanted with a clip of Avon's voice from Sand, saying "I am the dominant male". Awww........
Sit around in atrium wondering who everyone is. No name badges yet. Lots of leather and studs and some odder stuff. Some French businessmen edge off looking slightly worried. Will probably go home and tell amis "Guess what these English do for fun at weekends?"
Meet several people I know by email - Sally, Val, Julia - none of whom looks remotely as I expected. Steve and HRH buzzing about all evening, generally in three places at once. HRH still very jolly.
Marian unpacks!!! Kerr Bear is mine!!! Fall instantly in love.
Executrix here in spirit - Anna hands out FC badges inscribed with E'trix slogan: "We are all in the stars but some of us are looking at the gutter". Kerr Bear meets Anna's Toreth Bear but both are well behaved. Princess Anne has Blake bear, who came to dinner last night with HRH and family. Commander Tim Laurence does not look at all as I expected.
Batch of con badges have gone missing. In meantime, I go about with one proclaiming my name to be Temporary Badge. Has nice ring to it; may adopt as pseud.
Panel on terrorism constantly interrupted by persons looking for owner of mysterious suitcase. Some seem agitated, but HRH still jolly. Do not know what happened to it in end. Probably blown up in controlled explosion.
Volunteer as steward. Not that I can challenge anyone, but am holding Kerr Bear who has large gun and may carry more credibility.
Go to best attended event so far: reading of stunning work of art called Man of Iron. Audience helpless on floor in face of genius. Have learned many things:
Evil Overlords spend a lot of time in bubble baths
Electric robots don't work in water
Tarrant is stupid enough to commandeer the party's only gun from the ship's acknowledged sharpshooter. (Hang on, I believe that....)
Favourite lines, as far as memory serves:
"Even Servalan is shocked at your perverted excesses (*pardon?*)
(Tarrant): "All right Vila, you're on top. Make the most of it."
Did not make last one up. Honest. You couldn't make any of it up.
Go to party where everyone has great time talking but hardly drinks. Have not stayed so sober in years. Think it is because sobriety is only way they can stay up this late.
Visit zine library, ensconce self in front of table with notice reading "Unutterable Filth" (oh all right, "Adults Only") and spend happy hour reading "Bend Me, Shape Me". Sidle out glancing shiftily about and feeling urge to button up mac. Not wearing mac. Ah well.
Listen to Chris Boucher, aka God, explaining how writers constantly f****d about by incompetent corporate prats. First time in days my workplace has come to mind...
Go to panel on recognising life forms: find that no two scientists think alike and would still be debating whether something was a life form while it jumped up and down shouting "I'm a life form!". Apparently Sims are alive. I knew that.
God comes back for workshop and laments some more. Also gives v good advice. Quotes Denis Nordern on writing as a profession: "The hours aren't bad and there's no heavy lifting." This is true. Workshop slightly disrupted when God goes to loo and gets lost on way back.
Slash panel. Nice man called Mark explains various things and apologises for saying "f***" HRH explains cheerily that it is impossible to shock anyone here. Mark describes some positions for doing things in and briefly gets down on floor to demonstrate to HRH, who is surprised but even jollier.
Fancy dress competition. Cannot help thinking it pointless since odder clothes in audience than on stage. Mundane wanders into bar and realises not the best night to wear leather coat.... Disco starts, and everyone wishing to preserve hearing heads for next room. Lots of chat, some of it clean. Self and friend attempt to explain to lone man at table why Ken Doherty is sexy. Communications fail.
SundayHave to go home. Bugger. 
If I had made a list in advance of what I thought would be Tanith Lee's first words to me, "Oh, it's you" would not have been on it. So if I ever prophetize, don't trust me.
Redemption '03 has been an absolutely amazing convention. It's certainly the most enjoyable one I've been to, ever. I didn't really expect that. When I signed up for it, it was mostly to go see a bunch of friends over a weekend. None of the guests looked all that interesting. Well, of course, Chris Boucher is if not the God of Scriptwriting then at least a major saint, but he's got a way of speaking that I find tiresome to listen to. Mike Collins I'd never heard of. Damian London I'd seen as a minor character on Babylon 5 (the Centauri Regent, if you didn't know). So, basically, I more or less expected to listen to a few talks and panels with Chris and spend the rest of the time in the bar with friends.
Boy, was I wrong.
What a question.
Tanith Lee has been one of my three or four favourite writers for about twenty years now. She's the only one who's been among my favourites for all that time. I answered Steve's question in the resoundingly positive and started looking forward to Redemption quite a bit more. Time passed, we got there (after a tiresome trip from Heathrow to Ashford, but let's not dwell on that), checked in, registered, unpacked and all that. Then, the convention started out with a panel that I think was supposed to be about what the Centauri were like as a race. One of the participants was Damian London. Since not all that many friends had shown up yet, we went to it. Might as well get a look at one of the guests, you know?
Pretty soon the panel degenerated into The Damian London Show. That was not a bad thing. Oooh boy-ee was it not. The guy is absolutely incredible.
Damian London has worked in the American movie industry since the early 1950s. He's been an active member of the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences (you know, the people who award the Oscars?) for 37 years. He's seen everything, met everyone and done the lot. He's got stories, I tell you. No, wait. That's not emphatic enough. He's got STORIES. He used to hang out with Martin Landau and James Dean (they were the same age and got into movies around the same time). He was instrumental in bringing Rutger Hauer to the USA. He worked with Gene Kelly.
But those stories came later, mostly. At that panel he mostly talked about how he came to be involved with Babylon 5 and about things that happened when he was working there. And he doesn't just have a lot of stories to tell, he knows how to tell them really, really well. The one hour alloted for the panel vanished in an instant, and we walked out of there quite determined to attend a lot more of the things involving Damian.
The next thing I remember attending was the reading of "Man of Iron", the script that Paul Darrow wrote for Blake's 7. It's not a bad script. It's an atrocious script. The audience nearly fell off their chairs laughing at parts that was probably meant to be dramatic and exciting. Not to mention the probably not intentional slashbait in it ("TARRANT: For once you are on top, Vila. Enjoy it while it lasts."). Oh, and it uses pump-action shotguns a lot. In B7. In a script written by an actor who'd been making it for three years.
Then there was the Freedom City room party. It got sort of spread out in time, since various people kept dropping off to attend programme items and such. Which was a good thing, if you ask me, since it meant that I could actually hear what people tried to say to me and it was possible to breathe the air. I talked to a couple of people whom I hadn't met in years or ever, and I accidentally participated in Snowgrouse's B7 Pictionary. Eventually I left and joined my sleeping wife.
The second day dawned, involving the one program item I'd been getting increasingly nervous about since January. The interview. Me and my wife up on the main hall stage with Tanith Lee, and us responsible for entertaining all the people in the audience. We'd written down a whole bunch of questions that that we hoped would be interesting both for Tanith and the audience, but there was no way we could really know what she would like to talk about. What if she said "No, I don't want to talk about Blake's 7, ask something else"? What if she answered all the questions in monosyllables? Full of trepidation I dressed up a bit and made sure to be there in plenty of time (which was no sacrifice at all, since the preceding programme item in the main hall was Damian London's GoH speech (and talk about tough acts to follow...)).
"Oh, hi," the ever energetic Judith Proctor said when we got up and approached the stage. "Have you been introduced to Tanith?"
"No," we said, since we hadn't. We'd seen her in a panel, but hadn't tried to talk to her. I mean, she was Tanith Lee! Surely mere mortals like us couldn't bother famous people like her?
"Ok," Judith said. "Let's do that then."
We walked over to where Tanith was standing. Judith caught her attention and pointed at us.
"These are the people who are going to interview you," she said.
Tanith Lee looked at us. "Oh, it's you," she said.
If you didn't already know that, I can tell you that it is possible for a sentence to be so unexpected that you can't figure out what it means. By the time it had sunk in what she actually said, I'd already wibbled something incoherent and shook her hand.
The interview went well. Very well, actually. Tanith was quite keen to tell us about her memories of B7 and her involvement with it. She told us about how she came to write for the series, which characters she liked the most, about becoming friends with Jackie Pearce, about what she would've liked to do if the series hadn't been canceled, about her Doctor Who scripts that never got anywhere and a lot of other things. And since we couldn't see the audience at all because of the strong lights pointed at us, I wasn't even nervous. There's a big difference between being quite sure that people are paying attention to you and actually knowing it.
"Can I buy the two of you a drink?" Tanith said when the interview was over.
Would you have turned her down?
We ended up not seeing more than a minute or two of Chris Boucher's GoH interview. We sat out in the bar chatting with Tanith and her husband John (who is very tall, easily a foot taller than Tanith) until she had to rush off to get a bit of lunch before her next scheduled appearance.
I don't really remember what we did the rest of the afternoon. We attended the odd panel, talked with people we mostly know from the mailing lists and generally floated around having a good time. Towards early evening the programme items petered out, leaving a whole in the schedule where people could have dinner before the cabaret and masquerade, and where the people actually performing in the cabaret and masquerade could prepare for it. I and the wife decided to have a quick bit of dinner in the hotel restaurant. Coincidence had it that there were a couple of free seats next to Tanith and John, who waved us over. Since there was no way my ego would let me turn down that, we joined them. The four of us were almost finished when disaster struck, for very pleasant values of disaster. Damian appeared, alone, to eat something. He was promptly invited to join us, and did so.
We never made it to the cabaret or the masquerade. We sat in the dining hall for three and a half hours, talking to Tanith, John and Damian (although, to be honest, mostly we all listened to Damian). For a few milliseconds when I noticed that the cabaret was about to start I considered mentioning it and possibly getting people to leave. But... The cabaret was probably pretty like the one at Redemption '01 and the one that will be on Redemption '05, while dinner with those people is unlikely to happen again any time soon. I shut up and stayed, and I don't regret it in the slightest. I had an absolutely great evening, first in the dining room and later in the bar outside the main hall (turned disco for the night) with my wife, Tanith, John and various other people who ambled by. Eventually, though, it had to end.
Sunday... What the smeg did I do on Sunday? We got up a bit late, and spent the morning mostly talking to people. At noon we listened to Damian explain how the Oscar awards are actually awarded (he should know, he's been doing it for 37 years!). Surprisingly, they go to serious lengths to keep the process fair. After that was the hustings for the Ruler of the Universe election, an item that is always entertaining to watch. This year, some baddie from Stargate SG1 got killed on stage and couldn't stand in the election since it would take several episodes for him to regenerate. Anyway... That passed, we voted and strolled by the signing session. I got Chris Boucher's second Star Cops novel signed by him, and Tanith signed the first one of her books I ever bought for me (it's a copy of Death's Master that I bought back in 1986 or so, and had brought to the con just to try to get it signed). My wife got a signed photograph of Damian London, and are planning to give it to the ex-co-worker who once gave her a signed photo of a very scantily clad Claudia Christian.
A number of chats later, it was time for the closing ceremony. And it came much too soon, it felt like I'd just got to the con. The guests held little speeches and claimed to have had a great time. I don't think they were lying, they all seemed to enjoy themselves greatly. Chris Boucher even claimed to feel slightly better about the human species after the con. The result of the Ruler of the Universe election was announced (the 6th Doctor, who ran on a platform of promising not to do a damn thing). Lots of people were thanked. The results of lots of more or less silly competitions were announced. You know, all the usual stuff.
And then all that was left was the end. We sat out in the central part of the hotel chatting and drinking until midnightish. Tanith didn't want to go home, she said, and the way she kept delaying actually leaving I tend to believe that she meant it.
Monday morning we got up, had another huge English breakfast (I love those, and if I wasn't too lazy to cook them at home I'd be a lot fatter than I am). We hugged people good bye, promised Damian to try to get Judith Proctor a Nobel Prize For Being Judith and then we left.Heathrow still sucks. 
Could another show be made with terrorists as heroes? This interesting question was answered within minutes of the panel's start: Yes. However, this panel was inventively enlivened by members of the committee rushing in and demanding names, warning of an imminent hotel evacuation, and telling a tale of an abandoned plain brown leather briefcase. Towards the end of the panel Ambassador Mollari came in, removed the jug of water from the panellist's table, took it to the back of the room, and drank deep from it. Clearly a moment of crisis: the Ambassador never drinks... water. The panelists wanted to know whether the person who left the briefcase was a terrorist or a hero: it turned out to be merely some daft fan who'd forgotten the rule about never leaving luggage unattended if you (a) want to remain popular and (b) want it back. (An unsung member of the hotel staff eventually simply opened the briefcase, thus establishing definitively that it did not contain a bomb. At this point Ambassador Mollari decided she needed a drink. Of water.)
In a dentist's waiting room this lunchtime, I came across a quote in a letter to Time from a Sheryl Rieling, in Aylett, Virginia, US: "If you attack civilians for political reasons, you should be treated as a terrorist. The worthiness of the cause should be irrelevant. Attacking civilian targets is cowardice." The US and the UK have been attacking Iraqi civilians since 1991, by various means, and yet still manage to present themselves for most of that time as the heroes. This is not yet another anti-war tangent: those present at the panel, including the Americans (one of whom had arrived at 2:02pm, fresh off the plane) were more interested in discussing present-day justifications for terrorism: Avon and I did our best to bring the panel back on topic sporadically, though Avon's claims that she had done what she did out of the best idealistic motives were questioned by others on the panel, who recalled Avon's role as pragmatic profitseeker more clearly than Avon did. Well, it has been 22 years since Gauda Prime. (Curiously enough, my dentist (who normally enrages me during dental investigations by telling me all his right-wing views about the death penalty and war, on the sensible basis that it's better for me to be angry and thinking what I'll say once he's done than for me to lie there trembling with fear: I am mildly phobic about going to the dentist) startled me by pointing out, during a one-sided discussion about the war on Iraq this lunchtime, that whatever else you could say about the September 11 hijackers, the 19 of them had real courage to do what they did.)
It was a good discussion, and a great start to the con. I further celebrated by wandering through the dealer's room, where I had resolved to spend little time and less cash, and bought The Endless Farce, by Predatrix and Another Lady. After all, I already have the sequel. So it didn't really count as "buying zines". Which I'd promised myself I wasn't going to do.
At 6pm I went off to play "Apples for Apples" with Judith Proctor, taking a side-route to go back via my room (on the ground floor this year). My room-mate was there and we met for the first time: she was about my age, a non-smoker, and moderately dull. (I imagine, if she's writing a con-report, she's probably saying similiar things about me.) She was also planning to go to "Apples for Apples", so I hung about chatting while she fixed her make-up and nail varnish, and we went there together. (As it turns out, I missed what sounds like a terrific fannish event: the public reading/performance of "Man of Iron", Paul Darrow's attempt at writing an episode script for fourth-season Blake's 7. I noticed it in the programme guide but didn't recognise any of the names doing the reading, or register that it was by Paul Darrow.)
I went to the opening ceremony at 8pm, and comprehended for the first time that the GoH listed on the flyers and in the PRs and the programme, Damian London, was the actor who had played the Centauri Regent in Babylon 5. (They showed clips. I remembered the spooky, slightly crazed, dangerous and pathetic Regent vividly. I just never remembered the name of the actor who played him.) I took part in Judith Proctor's favourite ice-breaker game, where you run around asking people if they are wearing black underwear or if they're con virgins.
After the opening ceremony, there was a panel on Why do women like m/m stories? which as usual got no one answer, though thank God the old standard answer which used to get trotted out every time that question was asked has, apparently, vanished from the world. (It was: "Women who write slash stories fancy both men and like to imagine them both together so that there is no other woman as rival.") I offered my current favourite theory, which has the merit of being pointlessly circular: some women, regardless of sexuality, are simply hard-wired to appreciate two men together, as some men, regardless of sexuality, are hardwired to appreciate two women together. (Marilyn Hacker originated it, but I like it.) And immediately after that, the first panel on The Evolution of Slash.
It was my idea. Back at Eastercon last year, on Jersey, at the Redemption brainstorming meeting, I suggested there ought to be more slash panels this year - three at least, I offered, since there had been so many fans turned up to the one and only slash panel at Redemption in 2001. There was some dissension, but Judith Proctor thoughtfully wrote down my suggestion of three panels, Friday night, Saturday night, Sunday night, on the evolution of slash - from one true pairing in the 1970s, through the development of a gay sensibility in the 1980s, to the impact of the Internet in the 1990s. So I can't complain when I got landed with being the sole panellist on all three. Indeed, I didn't and don't complain. I was just terrified - not that no one would turn up (since then I could just have packed up and gone to bed) but that I would dry up, or there would be a horrible ghastly silence, or that someone would get upset and start shouting, or or or or or. Etc.
It went very well, though. Small at first, but then more people came in, including Richard, who is not a slash fan but came to many slash panels - he's partnered with msmanna, who is a slash fan. Richard asked good and interesting non-slash fan questions.
The discussion made it clear that OTP (One True Pairing) is a way into slash for many people even now, because until you develop a "trained slash eye" (as one woman put it) you see only what you have to see.
I talked about how as a 17-year-old gay activist I had identified the yearning towards a OTP that transcends sexuality and gender (a pairing of two straight men, effectively) as homophobia, though I had mellowed since - particularly on discovering that for some people, two straight men bonking like bunnies is their favourite kink. Others talked about using the OTP - the transcendent pair - as a way of making sense of the series (Avon/Blake in Blake's 7, for example).
The panel got recorded on minidisc by one attendee who had to go to the Freedom City party, which also started at 10pm. I hope they'll make the transcript available: I think it could be good.
After that I went to the Freedom City party, had tea, ate crisps and a flapjack, and read Man of Iron - to myself at first, and then out loud by insistence because I could not stop snickering and the people sitting next to me wanted to know which bits I was laughing at. I still think it would have been better if Avon had landed in the arch-villain's bubblebath. Thereafter anyone who had been at the Freedom City party could get a laugh from any other attendee merely by raising their arm with a cry of "Gaydor!" or by comments such as "He is taking quite a beating" or "pump action shotgun". I was given the copy of the script I had read from, and it is truly awfully hilarious. I could almost feel sorry for Paul Darrow: I doubt he knows that his 1981 effort at script writing is being turkey'd 22 years on by happy fen. (But I do admit that if I were ever at a con with him, I might try to get him to autograph it.)
Coffee (and a stolen croissant from breakfast) later, I came back up to Romney and went to the Writing collaborations panel. I have myself committed collaboration more than once, but in my opinion unless you are very lucky in your writing partner, a collaboration really works only if one person has ultimate control over the story. And I am too egotistical to let anyone else be that one. But discovered that Sebastian had let Nova take one of her long-unfinished stories and finish it in her style. Instantly thought of "Cataclysm", the Avon/Vila story that I have been dying to have Sebastian finish for at least eighteen years. Want, want, want!
I stayed on for Realism in slash. Judith Proctor had located a lesbian, a bi man, and a straight woman to be panellists, and another bi man in the audience was also an interesting contributor, According to both men in the room, the classic slash sex moment of entering with one finger, then two fingers, then (sometimes) three, filling the asshole with lube before fucking, is something that no man either of them knows enjoys. (I wondered where I'd got it from, and realised when I got home that my source was John Preston's and Aaron Travis's porn: both of them usually lube the asshole rather than the dick. Come to that, so does Pat Califa.) Both men said they couldn't imagine even enjoying fingers to prepare for anal sex: slather lots of lube on the erect cock, and use that.
The con committee had thunk up a truly helpful variation on the badge/programme guide problem: our badges were laminated cards hung round our necks, and on the back of the card was a sticker with the day, time, location and title of all of the badge name's programme items. So I knew I had a panel next door in Chartwell, on Moving characters to different universes (B7 in the age of Napoleon). I'd just assumed that this was a particularly ludicrous example of what you might do, but I got there and discovered that my partner panellist (Jem, dressed as Travis) was on the panel because he was an expert on the Napoleonic wars, and evidently we were going to discuss just that. I resisted for a while, but went with the flow, and between us and the rest of the panellists, including the soon-to-be-infamous pinkdormouse, we workshopped a pretty good TV series: Blake a late-18th century rebel, shipped off to Botany Bay on the London, with a bunch of thieves, pirates, and smugglers: an iron-clad Korean ship, adrift and crewless except for a bald dwarf named Orac and a Zen Buddhist monk, just happens to drift by the London and is taken over by the mutinous prisoners and re-named the Liberator. They sail off to the West Indies and foment a slave rebellion: in this series, Blake is black. Someone should definitely write this! (Edit: and pinkdormouse says she's going to!)
Evolution of slash part two: Realism in slash.
I'd wanted this panel called Evolving a gay sensibility. The concommittee had changed it. It was more muddled than the first panel, I felt, though some interesting things still got said. (msmanna was out of her skull, mind. Girl, the trick is not mixing your drinks...)
One problem was that thanks to the absence of Kathy, I was the only fan present who had got into slash in the 1980s (late 1983, if we're being precise) - in fact, a significant minority of the fans present hadn't discovered slash till the Noughties. Therefore, no one else could either recall, or disagree with, my recollection of the 1980s as a period when slash evolved from the ultra-straight OTP, WNGWJLEO, to writing slash as two gay (or bi) men bonking. At midnight we went off to the bar, and I tried a Bailey's latte (thank you, Richard) which proved interesting: the Baileys and the steamed milk seemed to cancel the effect of the caffeine. The latte was served with two finger biscuits, and I got a cheap laugh by lifting up the packet and observing "Only two fingers?" I didn't eat them: I'd already had two flapjacks at the B7/Napoleonic era panel...Had a minor confrontation with bar staff over the musak playing loudly in the background, making it hard to have a conversation. The senior bartender said that other people had asked for the musak to be playing, and I glanced round the bar, didn't see a single mundane, and said that I seriously doubted it. If I ever run a convention (not that I'm planning it, no, no, no) I must remember to tell the hotel that fans would seriously rather not have music on in the bar. At all. Fans come to the bar to talk, and they don't care if they overhear (or are overheard by) other fans: if they had anything confidential to say, they'd be somewhere else.