GLAD I DON’T LIVE THERE, BUT A NICE PLACE FOR A SHORT VISIT

I swore I’d never go there again. But it was a Natcon, and a large number of Eastern Staters who I hadn’t seen in years were attending, and Tehani was involved in the organisation and kept hinting at us, and Lyn wanted to go, and Thursday night was a free night, and we were up for a couple of awards….

So we went to Swancon.

Originally we had planned to attend the free night on Thursday, and one paid day– the Sunday, culminating in the award ceremony. Then we forgot to vote for the Tin Duck awards, which meant going back on the Saturday, and what the hell, seeing we were going to be there anyway we may as well pay for two days, and seeing we were going to be there for two days we may as well find a hotel to stay the night in, and soon enough, there we were, a hole the size of a couple of hundred dollars in the budget, and a whole lot more attendance at a place I was never going back to than I had originally planned.

Which turned out to be not such a bad thing, because Natcons are renowned as “writing” cons, and this one was no exception. Apart from catching up with long-lost friends like Paul Haines, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Peter Ball and Jason Nahrung, as well as again seeing the lovely Kate Eltham & Robert Hoge– two of our favourite SF people– we caught up with a raft of names we’d seen electronically but never added to our colection of flesh memories: welcome to the halls of my mind Alan Baxter, Kirstyn McDermott, Thorayia Dyer, and Lisa Hannett. Ignore the weeping and the cries for help. And a number of the panels were genuinely helpful on a writer-guy basis, with subjects such as “Writing for Money” and “Writer as Entertainer/Writer as Business Person”. Notes were made, lessons were learned, and all that jazz.

We also managed to eat way more curry in two days than a couple should– got to love the Swancon tradition of staging it in a part of Perth that is pretty much closed for Easter– and joined in a public sniffling session with video clips of the late Elisabeth Sladen, and mooched around the bar being all writerly (ie: half-cut) on outlandishly expensive Guinesses. Oh, and the books: there were books, my friends, there were many books. I would like to justify it by saying it was all about replacing the termite losses, but who am I kidding? I wasn’t going to need any excuse to pick up multiple Datlow-edited collections, never mind all the others. There were books…….

So would I do it again? No, I doubt it. A Natcon is one thing, and all the things that I enjoyed about this con were elements of a Natcon. A Natcon may be on the radar– Melbourne next year looks good, and any year Brisbane wants to hold one I bet we’ll find a way to get over. But Swancon is a different vibe. It was a nice place to visit for a day or two, but the sigh of relief as we came back over our own doorstep late on the Sunday night was genuine.

I like writers. I like writing. It’s nice to spend time with both. But that’s about it.

VALE

Sad news in the last day, with the passing of Joanna Russ. Russ was at the forefront of a new, literary breed of writers like Ursula leGuin and Samuel Delany in the 60s, who helped modernise and expand the psychology of the SF genre. Her most well-known work within the genre was undoubtedly the novel The Female Man, but for me she was never better than her Nebula-winning short When It Changed, which I first discovered in Again, Dangerous Visions, and which was one of the first signposts towards proving to me that the SF tag of “literature of ideas” could be expanded to encompass challenging, socially confronting, human ideas, rather than simply engineering notations.

Russ is often overlooked, because her output was never overly large, and unlike leGuin she did little of her work within the regular genre channels. But she was a powerful, articulate voice for the humanism of genre writing, and her finest works are still brilliant reads. She was 74.