Science fiction in Ireland – James reports from Octocon
Even though I finished work at 5.30AM in London on a mild autumnal Saturday morning, within a few hours I was in the Camden Court Hotel in Dublin’s city centre, amongst friends and fans at Octocon. The enthusiasm and excitement then carried me through until I hit the sheets at 4.30AM on Sunday morning, fed by the energy of the convention, dancing well past midnight and imbibing great cheer.
This year’s committee is youthful, bucking a trend with similar conventions in the UK, and possess a dynamism that brought together a nice programme, good fun social elements and of course overall a very enjoyable convention. The Guests of Honour, Diane Duaine and Peter Morward and Rhianna Pratchett, allowed much ground to be covered and attracted great audiences. With over two hundred people in attendance, the five-stream programme was busy.
(Above: CE Murphy rocking the Agent Carter look and James in Winter Soldier garb at Octocon; below: Peadar Ó Guilín buying a book from Brian Showers)
The dealers’ room was in many ways the epitome of the convention. Brian Showers, who manages Swan River Press, organised the room. It was well curated and pleasant – a boutique of concessions with a decent variety of wares of all sorts on sale. The bar and hotel lounge were continually in use, with chats, discussions and of course people meeting up and reacquainting themselves with friends. While it was pleasant for me to meet well over a dozen US-based fans at the con, I was pleased to see them making new friends here in Ireland.
There are many things that are unique to Octocon. The convention hosts the Irish National Science Fiction Film Awards, also known as the Golden Blasters, which were awarded over the weekend. In addition to being considered by a panel of judges for the Best Film and Best Screenplay categories, the Best Film nominees are also shown to members, who get to cast a vote as part of the ‘audience award’ category.
Octocon also welcomes many guests who give their time and energy in support of the convention. Some twenty-two guests were on the slate this year, including Michael Carroll, whose stories have appeared in thirty four issues of 2000AD and this year’s Judge Dredd Megazine; Ashley McCook, who writes YA fantasy/paranormal fiction; CE Murphy, who is releasing five books this year and Peadar Ó Guilín, who also just released The Call in the US and Europe. The list continues; it is eclectic and interesting and allows a variety of voices to be heard.
(Above: Tony Roche, clutching Merry Marvel Fanzine, with James and Brian Nisbet; below: Peter Morwood, Fionnuala Murphy, Russell A. Smith and Peadar Ó GuilÍn talking in a panel at Octocon)
Most of all, I love the laughter, which there is a lot of, amongst discussions – heated or hushed – in the bar and the many nice corners of the large lounge. It was good to have pals and fans urging me to watch Dark Matter, Luke Cage (or more of it) and never ever, under any circumstances watch the fifth season of Babylon 5. These conversations are never mild discussions; passions are always high. I was also impressed that a number of people had read the forthcoming The Last Days of New Paris (out in February from Picador) and China Mieville was being discussed. Of course, he was once a GOH, so for some there is a closer connection (expect a report on the book from myself and Joe in the near future).
(James Shields, Janet O’Sullivan, Raissa Perez, Esther MacCallum-Stewart and Vanessa May)
The Dublin 2019 bid continues apace, and we knew that activities at Octocon would be key to the first Irish Worldcon. There were many meetings, as well as a public Coffee, Tea and Cakes meet and greet, where many of the bid committee were on hand to answer questions. The Irish promotions team met and worked and, as if that was not enough, Pat Maher – the 2016 Octocon chair – also facilitated a room for a Dublin 2019 committee meeting on the Monday after the convention, reflecting the enthusiasm and demonstrating the commitment and co-operation that will help the bid win. I was especially surprised when Professor Tony Roche turned up, hoping to be able to offer help with the convention, as he published the first comic fanzine in Europe in 1968 in Dublin.
Next year’s convention is on from the 6th to the 8th of October 2017, and Dan and Nik Vincent-Abnett will be the Guests of Honour. I enjoyed chatting with next year’s chair, Janet O’Sullivan, about opportunities and hopes for next year. Sunday night came around much too quickly, because I didn’t really want the weekend to come to a halt.