In less than two weeks, I’m heading to Melbourne for Continuum 9, a speculative fiction convention. It will be my third Australian spec fic event this year (I also attended Conflux, this year’s Natcon, in Canberra in April, and the Aurealis Awards last in mid-May), which is pretty exciting, especially considering I only made it to one for the entire of 2012 (the Aurealis Awards), and I might yet make it to another, GenreCon in Brisbane in October!
You’ve not heard of Continuum? What about Swancon (Western Australia’s annual convention)? Or Conflux (in Canberra)? If we’re lucky in Australia, we usually get two to three fan-run conventions a year, which average 200-400 members, depending on location. The Natcon usually garners the most interest, and is hosted by a different convention city each year. There have been less frequent or one-off conventions in Hobart (Thylacon), Adelaide (Conjecture) and Brisbane (Conjure), but Melbourne (which also has an occasional Convergence, run by a different fan-group to Continuum), Perth and Canberra have been the most prolific, in the past decade or so. Sydney hasn’t hosted a Natcon in over 20 years! (come on, Sydney fans, take one for the team!).
Events such as SupaNova and Oz Comic Con get a lot of publicity, with their big name media guests, cheap entry fees and massive numbers. Continuum and its cousins receive far less fanfare, and tend towards literary guests (Natcon international guests of honour in the past couple of decades have included Anne McCaffrey, Harlan Ellison, George R. R Martin, Michael Whelan, Terry Pratchett, Robert Jordan, Kim Stanley Robinson, Neil Gaiman, Connie Willis, Robin Hobb, Robert Silverberg, Anne Bishop, Cory Doctorow, Julie E. Czerneda, Ellen Datlow, Justina Robson, Kelly Link and Nalo Hopkinson – you may have heard of some of them…). But I would rather attend one of the smaller, volunteer-run conventions over a huge media one any day.
Why? Simply put, conventions of Continuum are much more friendly – you have an opportunity to meet people, indulge in conversations, and frequently, hang out with the guests on a really informal level. The membership fee might be higher than SupaNova, but it’s generally all-inclusive, with Masquerade Balls, Awards events and Guest of Honour speeches mainstays of the programming, alongside widely varied programming and plenty of time to chat with friends new and old.
I’ve been attending these sorts of events since 2002; there is a big group of people I consider good friends, and a number of people I work with, who I almost exclusively only see at conventions. Of course, with social networking I get to interact with them much more regularly, but nothing beats the face to face reality! I always come home from conventions buzzing with creative drive, spawned from a weekend of engagement with creative types from all over Australia (and beyond), germinating new projects and the seeds of future ideas for weeks to follow. If you’re a fan of science fiction and fantasy in all its incarnations (writing, reading, publishing, tv, film, books, anime, cosplay, the works!), I recommend checking out one of the local events – they’re great!
Tehani Wessely is an editor, publisher, teacher librarian and mum, not always in that order. You can find her on Twitter at @editormum75 or at fablecroft.com.au