This weekend is the Labour Day long weekend in several states of Australia and in the Australian Capital Territory. This means that, for me, it’s the weekend of the Conflux science fiction weekend. It’s also a big weekend for tourists in the ACT because of Floriade, our annual flower festival. It’s also the first days of Daylight Saving. And it’s the first warm days of the season.
That’s a lot of things to happen at once and I want to go back to bed and sleep it off. Instead, it’s Sunday morning and I’m up at my usual early hour. My usual early hour, however, normally is to go to the market. Today it’s to go to work. Everything is crammed into my day today, and my thoughts for this post display that. I want to talk about six things at once. ‘Everything’ ranges from the potoroo I saw last Thursday to John Scalzi, who I’m seeing today. I’ll stick with Scalzi, this once and try not to cram too many thoughts into one post. It’s only just dawn, so this is going to be hard work. My brain is more likely to cram six thoughts in at once than to articulate elegantly.
Canberra has two conventions this weekend for science fiction fans. One is the writerly one (Conflux) and the other is the gaming one (Pheno). By international standards they’re quite small, both of them. I don’t know how many people at Pheno, but it’s taking place in a college. Conflux is being held at Gungahlin Library, which is the far end of the tramline from here, after a walk and a few kilometres of bus. I’m getting lifts today, therefore, for the public transport timetable on Sundays and public holidays is not very wonderful.
When we get to the library, things improve. Conflux is a small convention. My estimate for yesterday was that there were maybe a hundred people. There should be more today. The great thing about a small convention in my hometown is the warmth and comfort.
The guest of honour for Conflux is writer, Thoraiya Dyer. Scalzi is in Canberra for other things, and dropping in in on us today. He and I need to catch up (he edited a story of mine, these many years past and that story recently made a reappearance in Mountains of the Mind, published last year by Shooting Star) and he tends to not have a moment free, so I’ve booked in for the kaffeeklatsch. That gave me a chance to look at what else was going on.
My kaffeeklatsch was yesterday and it missed the programme due to confusion (which happens at conventions when leading committee members are ill). Because it was my home convention, then, I had one sign-up and everyone else saw us chatting and dropped in.
I suspect this is happening with all the locals who are on programme. Canberrans have a thing about committing to social events. It’s hard to get firm numbers ahead of time. Someone had sign-ups for a workshop and only one person came. Me, my workshop is my new research and it has tools that will be very handy for writers but that haven’t been taught before, so my workshop number are good. There may be more at the last minute, but I reached the minimum numbers by lunchtime yesterday.
It’s a convention for writers, but there are also fannish activities. I was on a Doctor Who panel yesterday and we talked deeply about the relationship between British history and the paths Doctor Who stories have taken, among other things.
My panel tomorrow (I’m doing a lot of things, but mostly not panels, just this once) will be on research for writers and is in an hour and a half. The rest of my day is kaffeeklatsching, celebrating foodie fandom in the dealers’ room (which is the hall outside the library proper), sitting on the table for the Canberra Speculative fiction Guild or for one of my publishers, socialising madly (for I have many friends at this convention) and handing out chocolate. This latter is a habit of mine at Australian conventions. This year’s chocolate is Belgian with my secret ingredient, and is disappearing at a massive rate.
My volunteer work throughout the convention includes raising money for fan funds, introducing people to the Australian Science Fiction Foundation and chatting about the next science fiction word convention in New Zealand. I’m taking advantage of my natural tendency to think too many thoughts at once…
And that’s my unique approach to Conflux. One of the reasons I love science fiction conventions is that they’re an accumulation of unique approaches. Whether there are a hundred of us there or ten thousand, we all see different things and understand the event from our own directions. I used to report SF conventions with a breathless excitement, because that was fashionable. These days I live so intensely when I’m there, that my reports seem more clinical. The experience is never clinical – each and every one of them is a highlight in my year. Conflux is peculiarly Canberra with its focus on books and food and people who know each other. It’s writer-central, even this year, when it’s in a far corner of the city.