Swancon, Ditmars and a darn fine time

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Swancon, the annual get-together of Aussie spec fic fans held in Perth — usually at Easter — doubled as the country’s national science fiction convention — the 50th — this year. It’s a four-hour flight from Melbourne and worth every frequent flyer mile.

This year’s convention was held in the Hyatt and the venue was a good slab of the reason the con went so well — chiefly, the foyer, which offered a raised lounge encircling a non-functioning fountain featuring elephants, lions and a Cleopatra’s needle aimed like a rocket at the lofty atrium roof. The foyer also had a bar which featured a Hyatt-priced drinks list and some of the most harried bar staff I’ve ever had the pleasure of waiting to be served by. Honestly, if you’re a hotel hosting an SF convention, you need to heed the warnings about our thirst levels. Sure, some folks wander around dressed as giant chipmunks (I’m told it was a raccoon, but I truly believe it was a chipmunk, or possibly a squirrel: just he or she was in disguise because it was masquerade night), but we do like a drink when we haven’t seen each other for so darn long. Especially our pals in the west, who have churned out 36 Swancons so far but don’t get to come east anywhere near as often as they should. (That four hours can be a costly trip.)

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The beauty of the foyer was that it provided a natural gathering place. I’m not sure the various bridal parties, holidaying families and Eastering businessman appreciated the confluence, but I thought it was grand: here was the perfect alternative panel of writerly types drawn from all around the country, and overseas (very happy to hear that Glenda Larke has designs on returning to her native West!).

The guests were Sean Williams, Justina Robson and Ellen Datlow — Sean and Ellen are always great value and Justina proved so engaging I bought her book — Lila Black has been “tortured and magic-scarred by elves, rebuilt by humans into a half-robot, part-AI, nuclear-fuelled walking arsenal”, and that’s just part of the blurb for Selling Out.

Some organised highlights included the delayed appearance of the Paul Haines collection The Last Days of Kali Yuga, a gorgeously produced title from Brimstone Press; Paul’s reading of a new story proved a very emotional moment.

Another enjoyable launch was the Ticonderoga Publications double — More Scary Kisses and Dead Red Heart — in which I’ve got some yarns. The launch also marked 15 years for TP — not a bad achievement at all!

There were panels of interest covering the craft of writing, the business of writing and all manner of stuff relating to fandom and movies and conventions.

We ate far too much curry — Anzac Day and Easter combined to keep sleepy Perth very snoozy indeed — but the curry at the little place across the road was damn fine and they did a respectable breakfast as well, bless their holiday-defying work ethic.

There was a masquerade ball — it went off, I was told, and there was a most excellent Japanese lantern girl costume and a ginormous lizard and Little Red Riding Hood and the aforementioned squirrel-in-disguise — but I was late back from the dinner hunt and, you know, there was a great impromptu panel being conducted in the foyer at the time… followed by a room party! Yes, the sound proofing at the Hyatt meant we could squeeze 20 people into a room and spill chips and some truly, um, intriguing confectionary puddings around the place.

Cat Sparks has posted her Swancon photos

There was also awesomeness at the Ditmar awards — fan-nominated and voted on by members of the natcons — which started with the decoration of mighty pillars in the auditorium as rocket ships and finished at the last announcement. I’ve listed them below, but draw attention to my wife’s win for her short story, ‘She Said’ (a tie with the inimitable Cat Sparks!), and the special awards (not listed below) won by Paul Collins (A Bertram Chandler) and Lucy Sussex (Peter McNamara award) and Anita Bell (the Norma K Hemming award for her novel, Diamond Eyes).

Shaun Tan and Andrew Ruhemann must be reeling — a Ditmar on top of their Oscar for The Lost Thing!

But most of all, the best thing about Swancon was the people: my buddies from Brisbane — I miss you guys! — and all over the place, all coming together to congratulate and commiserate and enjoy the camaraderie of those who value imagination as one of the most prized of human faculties.

DITMAR AWARDS

Best Novel: Power and Majesty, Tansy Rayner Roberts (HarperVoyager)
Best Novella or Novelette: ‘The Company Articles of Edward Teach’, Thoraiya Dyer (Twelfth Planet Press)
Best Short Story (tie): ‘All the Love in the World’, Cat Sparks (Sprawl, Twelfth Planet Press) and ‘She Said’, Kirstyn McDermott (Scenes From the Second Storey, Morrigan Books)
Best Collected Work: Sprawl, Alisa Krasnostein, ed. (Twelfth Planet Press)
Best Artwork: ‘The Lost Thing’ short film (Passion Pictures) Andrew Ruhemann & Shaun Tan
Best Fan Writer: Alexandra Pierce, for body of work including reviews at Australian Speculative Fiction in Focus (Twelfth Planet Press)
Best Fan Artist: Amanda Rainey, for Swancon 36 logo
Best Fan Publication in Any Medium: Galactic Suburbia podcast, Alisa Krasnostein, Tansy Rayer Roberts, & Alex Pierce (Twelfth Planet Press)
Best Achievement: Alisa Krasnostein, Kathryn Linge, Rachel Holkner, Alexandra Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts, & Tehani Wessely, Snapshot 2010
Best New Talent: Thoraiya Dyer
William Atheling Jr Award for Criticism or Review: Tansy Rayner Roberts, for ‘A Modern Woman’s Guide to Classic Who’

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