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Goats! In Cloaks! [Mar. 30th, 2012|08:56 am]
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[music |Candlepark Stars: Run With me]

I never blog, unless it's to contradict myself, or I have something of interest to report. This is the latter. Just (and by just, I mean, still getting over the travel angst, which, since it involved Ryanair, and a 2:00 am drive up from Dublin, fog and chip'n'pin cardreader failure at a gas station, is considerable) back from Pyrkon, at Poznan in Poland. This is the national Polish SFF convention. It takes place in two of the buildings of Poznan World Trace Center, and caters for film, TV, manga, comics, anime, gaming, cosplay and books --the usual 21st century mix. This is it's 12th year

Last year, Pyotr, the organiser, got 4000 people through the door. This year the sun shone and there were 6,200 attendees. I'll say that again because your blink may have meant that you did not read that properly. 6,200. Paying attendees at that.

I was the foreign guest writer -- I get the feeling I may have been the first. If not, please feel free to correct. The concom are keen to do it again and to get Pyrkon to register more prominently on the international convention scene.

It was great. The sun shone, I had well attended panels, did a load of interviews and had a book signing queue that extended out of the hall. People who asked questions had read my books. Which were widely available in very handsome editions. And sure there are lots of kids running around in neko cat-ears and tails, but if even ten percent --hell, five percent, buy a book and read it, that's a load of readers. I like festival-type conventions. They get people in. There is much to be said for the fan-run con, which is meeting old friends and being together in a convivial atmosphere, but the festivals seem to get the kids in, and that's the audience that interests me. I was talking at Pyrkon about how SF has become primarily a visual medium and that the appurtenances of SF have become divorced from the spirit of SF, which is science or technology at at the core of the story, hence my little tweetburst about 'hard sf' --a term I think damages the genre because it makes it seem unapproachable, 'difficult' and overly macho, in our general anti-science culture. I disagree, but that's another post, if I can be arsed.

But Pyrkon was exciting and felt fresh and encouraged me that potential readers are still coming to the genre. Books aren't the entry drug any more. Books are the hard stuff, the crystal meth of genre. Yoyu start off on a few tokes to visual media, maybe get into costuming (very taken with one dude who had a quick think about what to go as, found a fez and a tweed jacket and hey presto! The fact that he looked like Boris Johnson made it all the more glorious) and some day someone offers you the stuff that comes wrapped up in paper (or laid out in lines on the screen of an e-reader). I do believe that books offer something no other form of the genre can. Some will reach them and be happy ever after. Some won't. That's cool. SF has become a broad church and I think that is good. (At the same tinme, I do feel that tastes within that broad church are narrowing and hardening, which is the antithesis of what reading is about. But in general, I do not feel I have lived and fought in vain.

The people were wonderful and welcoming, the organisation was excellent, I am the proud recipient of the Polish Post-Apocalyptic Babes Calendar, Team Ireland narrowly beat Team Poland at drinking, the hotel bar had a two lane skittles alley in the basement bar and the local radio in the breakfast room played hits from the 80s with so much reverb the vocalists sounded like they were at the bottom of a well; our room overlooked an old socialist era zoo, with lemurs and petting ponies and an aura of such melancholy hopefulness that made me go back and walk around every day.

Poznan has secret delights --two hundred people gathering as clockwork goats on the town hall clock butt heads twelve times at noon! The same goats featured in the posters --in cloaks. Goats in Cloaks! Goats! In Cloaks! In this town priests still wear birettas. Everyone is impossibly young and good looking (this is Poland) except for me.

Pyrkon has ambitions. I salute them and wish them every success in acheiving them. Good con, people.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: saare_snowqueen
2012-03-30 09:12 am (UTC)

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That sounds wonderful. Can I go next year? (Are you paying attention Pyrkon organisers?) Poznan is an overnight bus-ride for me - so no Ryan-miseries. Was there much programming in English?
[User Picture]From: Paweł Ausir Dembowski
2012-03-30 10:33 am (UTC)

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Unfortunately, there hasn't been much English programming to speak of so far. However, I think it would be wise of the organizers to introduce English programming next year given how the con is growing.
[User Picture]From: autopope
2012-03-30 11:57 am (UTC)

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If they do, please publicise it well in advance? I have books in print in Poland and would be happy to go, but need a bit of notice for overseas travel (my calendar tends to fill up a year in advance) ...
[User Picture]From: saare_snowqueen
2012-03-31 02:26 pm (UTC)

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I live in your (almost) northern neighbor country - Estonia. I would be interested in helping to organise the English language part of such an event. Last year Eurocon in Stockholm drew many many visitors from the UK and others who wanted program in English.

As Charlie says below - planning is everything. Let's get it going.
[User Picture]From: redbird
2012-03-30 11:39 am (UTC)

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I like the idea of books as the hard stuff. And what does a post-apocalytic babes calendar look like?
[User Picture]From: shatterstripes
2012-03-30 11:45 am (UTC)

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> about how SF has become primarily a visual medium

This has been on my mind, as I try to find a publisher for my SF comic. The "mainstream" publishers don't seem to want it because it's not superhero stuff. The "independent" publishers don't want it because they don't do "genre".

There's a hell of a lot of TV/movie SF but I feel like there's this huge void waiting to be filled in the comics space. I dunno. Maybe I just haven't found the right publisher yet. Maybe I need to screw my courage to the sticking-point and take the risk on spinning up the American equivalent of Humanoides.
[User Picture]From: Paweł Ausir Dembowski
2012-03-30 12:12 pm (UTC)

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Pyrkon is not actually the Polish national convention. Technically, that one is Polcon, which takes place in a different city every year, much like Worldcon and Eurocon. However, Pyrkon is currently much bigger than any Polcon to date.
[User Picture]From: scarlettina
2012-03-30 02:37 pm (UTC)

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Very cool, Ian. Thanks for a glimpse into a part of the community I never get to see. Nifty!
[User Picture]From: tagete
2012-04-16 06:56 pm (UTC)

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Are there news about the film on "River of Gods"? Thanks.
[User Picture]From: angels_chinese
2013-04-18 09:35 am (UTC)

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Dear Ian, that's Nikolai from Tallinn. I thought that just as your message was sent in the LJ spam, mine could go the same way (maybe because of the link inside). So I repeat it here: please send your e-mail or write me:

nikolai.nortov(a)gmail.com

And thank you! :)