a weekend of speculation

My weekend was spent in the company of funny, intelligent people who like to discuss speculative fiction. Best of all my Clarion West classmate, Julie McGalliard, and her husband Paul Carpentier turned up for two evenings. I’d met them in Galway on Thursday and guided them on a brief tour of the more interesting parts of the medieval city. They managed to squeeze in loads more sightseeing in their remaining days in Ireland, and make time to hang out with friends at Octocon.

The lacklustre organisation of the convention didn’t impinge upon me very much because I wasn’t involved in the running of the event, and from my past experiences of facilitating Octocon I appreciate the depth of work that it entails. Despite the low turnout and a laid-back approach to scheduling I had a great time. That’s because I got to catch up with friends and attend a bunch of interesting panels. Newcomers to Octocon–Alastair Reynolds, George S. Green, Peadar Ó Guilín, C.E. Murphy, and Derek Gunn–all proved to be the sort of guests you want to return. Popular regulars such as Michael Carroll, Rob Curley, Jim Hogan and Juliet E. McKenna brought their expected expertise to their respective panels. Dave Lally once again offered a wide range of viewing material for the Video Room.

Despite having plenty of unread books and comics in my house I bought more novels and graphic novels in the Dealers’ Room. It must be an act of faith in my reading ability, or perhaps it’s a sign of my lack of control around these items. I’m also always amazed that during the two days of the convention I never get the chance to spend enough time with everyone.

John Vaughan premiered his new film, ‘My Dad’, which was funded by a RTÉ Filmbase Short Film Award (a major achievement). It’s a strong piece that’s well-acted and directed. Expect to see it on television next year, and in various festivals both in Ireland and abroad. Octocon regulars have been following John’s career for a long time, and we all know he deserves success and accolades. He’s passionate about filmmaking, and never allows obstacles get in the way of his ambition. I wish him the best on all his future projects.

John also presided over the infamous Video Vault of Horror, which discusses and showcases some of the worst offal that was served up us in the sf genre during the past year. The following day James Peart organised Trailer Park, which gave us some hope for the line-up of feature films for the coming year. I understand Julian West put together another tough quiz, and presided as Quizmaster over two teams, one of which was hastily assembled. Nicholas Whyte led his group of compatriots to victory.

A friend of mine, Dave Farmer, brought over nine copies of the Fantasy anthology from the USA and donated them to the charity auction. They all sold for a generous sum, and it’s nice to think that my story “Bone Mother” is circulating among people on this side of the Atlantic. All money from the auction is going towards a research fund for Oesophageal Cancer, which has been organised by the family of Dave Stewart – a well-known Irish sf fan, con-runner, tech journalist, and wonderful person who died from the disease last year just before Octocon.

YA writer, Michael Carroll, ran the auction with his usual combination of finesse and wit. There was fierce bidding and munificent support, and overall the convention collected over €2,600. Padraig Ó Mealoid is also selling Dave’s fine collection of sf books, which should raise even more money for this excellent cause.

At the closing ceremony the new Octocon committee revealed a three-year plan for the convention, plus a desire to forge stronger ties between the three Irish conventions (P-Con and MeCon being the others), and European conventions. It’s a good sign for the future of the convention. Those of us who enjoy and attend Octocon every year wish for the convention to succeed and to bring in new people, because no convention can last if it depends solely on the loyalty of the regulars.

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