Andromeda One

Spent a delightful Saturday at Andromeda One – a brand new baby con, run by the indefatigable Theresa Derwin. Who almost certainly cloned herself to get it all done.

For a one-day con it managed to pack in an extraordinary amount – workshops, kaffeeklatsches, and panels galore, covering small press publishing, gender/race/disability in fandom, steampunk, zombies, urban fantasy and SF, among others.

I would have liked to get to more panels. It’s a depressing and unexpected side effect of being a guest that you can’t go to all the interesting stuff that’s on while you’re doing something you’ve actually been booked for. As it was I attended one panel while frantically filling in signing-sheets and trying to rustle as little as possible, like someone eating wrapped sweets at the cinema. It was a good panel, too, on technology and prediction in SF, which sparked some intense discussion in the pub later. What I did get to was generally interesting and well-moderated and I also had some great conversations in between dashing hither and yon.

I was on a panel on tropes in Urban Fantasy, which (aptly enough) led down some fascinating alleyways, and a round-table on race/gender/disability barriers in fandom, which, while not managing to solve all the problems (that would have been pretty impressive) opened up the discussion in useful ways.

I was also on my first ever Just a Minute.  This was no less terrifying for being run by the entirely delightful Paul Cornell, especially when your opponents are the brilliant Jaine Fenn (that gal has a wicked hand on the imaginary buzzer) and a madly gesticulating Jacey Bedford, and you get sudden random insect subjects from Adrian Tchaikovsky, who is practically a giant bee in human form. It all resulted in a hysterical stew, with chocolate-filled locusts and evil wombles thrown in. The audience might have been throwing actual chocolate-filled locusts and evil wombles by the end of it, I was too far gone in hyperventilating overload to notice. It was, in a weird and panicky way, fun. I have just about stopped shaking.

The Custard Factory where the con took place is colourfully repurposed industrial architecture with some amazing artwork –  a giant green man (wearing a box. A window box, in this case), a fantastic 14ft bronze dragon (I’m not sure of the actual measurements, I was going to say ‘life-size’ only, yeah, dragon), and a startled bright orange squid.  Oh, and there’s a really good Nigerian restaurant called Jeun. (Brand new, so there’s not much on their website but an email address). Spicy, yummy, fresh – and huge portions. If you live nearby I’d book now before they’re full up every night.

On a practical note the con space could have done with a central meeting place/bar, better accessibility and possibly a map, but it all seemed to work OK – there was a pleasant nearby pub and the bar at the con hotel, the Paragon, was a good place to end the evening.

Ah, the Paragon. A truly astonishing piece of Victoriana which, entirely unsurprisingly, used to be a lunatic asylum. Vast façade of blood-coloured brick, adorned with Hound of the Baskerville-esque gargoyles, and the occasional small but definite tree growing out of the brickwork. Inside, a lot of walls painted Institutional Green (a rather disturbing homage to its former purpose), drips, leaks, and strange whooshes and burblings that one can only hope came from elderly plumbing. There were also, apparently, phantom footprints burned (yes, burned – one wonders exactly who was stepping out of that shower) into the carpet of at least one room. I rather hope the con itself will be held there next year. Luxurious it wasn’t – intriguing it definitely is.

Adromeda was well worth it, and it was a delightful experience to be at such a very small con, where you actually get a chance to speak to most of the attendees.  I suspect, given the energy and commitment of the organisers, it won’t stay that way for long.

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