good craic

In an hour or so I’ll be departing for Maynooth, in Co. Kildare, to attend the Irish national science fiction convention, Octocon.

The convention has a fond place in my heart since I attended the first one in 1990. For a number of years I was on the committee that ran the convention, so I have plenty of anecdotes that involve truculent guests, organisational catastrophes, a plague of Star Trek fans, and hilarious conversations (usually at the bar). Irish conventions tend to be laid-back, with an emphasis on an enjoyable experience, and less attention to the hierarchies apparent in larger cons outside the country. I suspect this is why so many non-Irish guests enjoy our conventions, and come back year after year.

We’re a people that enjoy the craic. The word is pronounced like “crack”, but has nothing to do with narcotics. The craic is what happens when you get a group of people together (usually in a bar – yes, our reputation as prolific drinkers is less a stereotype and more a reality). It’s about the laughs, the conversations, the stories, the yarns, and perhaps, the dancing on the table. We don’t care if someone has written a dozen books and has a clutch of awards. Are they good craic? is our defining question. It means we want to talk to the person, and not the personality. This is a great relief to many guests at the convention, but it is a shock to others.

One thing I’ve noticed is that Irish people have highly tuned antennae for bullshit. Sure, we’ll nod, and maybe even laugh along with those who are full of excrement, but astute observers will notice the exchanged elbow pokes, glances at watches, and a string of excuses that leaves the self-involved alone with their drinks and their enforced entourage.

We are a race that love to talk, debate, and tell stories. Usually that involves a group of people, a warm and social location, and a constant supply of drinks. Which is why it’s probably wise to quit such a group after the tenth round of Guinness hits the table.

This year Octocon’s guest of honour is Charlie Stross, and I’ll be conducting the guest of honour interview on Saturday at 2pm. I’ll be on a smattering of other panels during the weekend also.

I’m rather deviant in Irish society because I don’t drink that much, but I love the craic.

At Octocon, the craic is mighty.