Loncon Overload

So that was Loncon 3, the third World SF Convention in London. Gosh, it was big, and hard on the feet – the London ExCeL venue is close on a kilometre long. This was the first Worldcon to sell over ten thousand memberships; nearly eight thousand people turned up. Were there really 5324 programme events? The numbers ran from 1003 to 5324, but that's secret code for Day 1 Item 1 to Day 5 Item 108. Still, there was a lot happening.

Robert Silverberg offered me a vital statistic: "I've calculated that George R.R. Martin's annual income exceeds my total net worth. And I am not a poor man."

My one panel appearance was "Evolution of the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction", where we editors shamelessly bragged about reaching 4.5 million words that month. The room was gratifyingly crowded despite eighteen rival attractions in the same time slot. No one hurled rotten tomatoes. That counts as a win.

Finding Charlie Stross's birthday bash and other invitation-only events was a challenge. The Long March to private party rooms went via a huge bare unused ExCeL hall and past four more such vast empty spaces, like parking bays in Iain M. Banks's General Systems Vehicles. Weaklings turned back, but Langford is made of sterner stuff when major issues (free booze) are at stake.

I remember breakfast with Christopher Priest; afternoon tea with Jo Walton; George R.R. Martin plotting horrid butchery of edibles in the fast-food arcade; being accosted by Pat Cadigan with her traditional war-cry "Langford, you dog"; spending too much; event clashes that made me miss the SFX party, though later I found our editor downing freebies at the Gollancz do. Sights in the tent-filled Fan Village hospitality area included two Tardises, the Iron Throne and a wandering Hawaiian Tiki Dalek (DO YOU LIKE PIN-A COL-A-DA?) which made it into Private Eye's friendly cartoon coverage.

The other SF Encyclopedia panel was a "Reunion" of survivors from the 1979 first edition, before I got involved: mighty critic John Clute, Malcolm Edwards of Orion/Gollancz – both Loncon guests of honour – and Peter Nicholls, who created the original SFE. At panel's end he received a long standing ovation as First Founder ... an emotional highlight of the weekend.

Having once enjoyed a free trip to a US Worldcon courtesy of the TransAtlantic Fan Fund (TAFF), I try to support the fundraising auctions and had donated three small stained-glass panels made by the late great Bob Shaw, acquired for peanuts in the 1980s. Would anyone buy them? Halfway through the auction an ashen-faced, panic-stricken auctioneer whispered: "We can't find them!"

This was my cue to run all the way from the auction room (ExCeL Level 3) to the official repository where I'd handed in the stained glass for pickup (Level 0). Then back again with the bag. Puff, gasp, is this what heart attacks feel like? Bob Shaw's creations sparked furious bidding and fetched nearly £800. I'm still boggled.

Despite widespread fears of trouble from block voting in the Hugo Awards (see my SFX 251 column), the "conspiracy" was a flop. At the ceremony, Ann Leckie's popular Ancillary Justice added the best-novel Hugo to its Clarke, Nebula and other awards; our own Charlie Stross's deeply perverse Lovecraftian unicorn story "Equoid" won as best novella, his third Hugo. The most repellently controversial nominee placed below No Award, and Hugo pundits (who shall remain nameless) sighed with relief.

Loncon ended on 18 August with a flying visit from Brian Aldiss, who had been at the first Loncon in 1957 and who turned 89 that day. At the closing ceremony, unforgettably, the entire audience serenaded him with "Happy Birthday To You".

There's more, much more, but I have only this one page.

David Langford thinks the Loncon committee did a bloody good job.