SFX WEEKENDER: Well, Most of it…
Posted by wedgedoc on February 11, 2012
This weekend and a bit (Thursday 02 February 2012 to Sunday 05 February 2012) saw a horde of like-minded geek-folk descend upon the unsuspecting coastal town of Prestatyn. The SFX Weekender is now in it’s third year but this was it’s first time at Prestatyn.
So close to the place where I grew up, I couldn’t NOT go this year and sharing with the GS boys was a bonus. How did I find this weekend of geekery? (drove along the A55 and turned off, as it happens)
Read on to find out!
Friday Night – Quiz, Photographs and Drinks
We arrived at Prestatyn Pontins (Which from the direction we approached was un-signposted) at around 18:15 on the Friday. This, of course meant that we had missed many of the fantastic panels that were on and I had missed my opportunity to meet Sylvester McCoy. It took a while to locate our chalet – partly because our Key-bearer had checked in earlier then wandered off to a hotel with the Geeky Girls Love Sci-Fi.
Once he’d turned up, we then circled the one-way system a few times, before abandoning the car in what I deemed was “close enough” to the chalet.After a quick drink and a freshen up, we headed to the bar to meet fellow Syndicate Members and get hold of our badges for the Seek The Geek competition (Did you find us all?) and then it was the quiz. This quickly devolved into a Syndicate grudge-match as our two teams battled it out to eventually come out with a draw at 67 points apiece. I still maintain this means as a whole, we won the quiz. No one else agreed. It was shortly after the quiz when I was first spotted for the seek the geek competition.
In hindsight, clustering together as we caught up was possibly not the most effective strategy! The rest of the night was spent drinking with good company and posing for photographs and signatures – which was bizarre! Barry pointed out he’d never seen me drink as much and be so relaxed while out which I think is testament to the great vibes and atmosphere that is present at the Weekender. While wandering about on the evening, I met the coolest Doctor Horrible ever.
Despite not being in costume (I had on my ever-present Tenth Doctor coat), he was happy to get a Doctor-Doctor photo which he was gathering at the con. Great idea – a themed photo album. I met up with him on the Saturday and had a further chat. By this point he’d managed to get a photo with all 11 female Doctors, amongst others. As with many people at the show, his costume was amazing – this is one of the places that SFX Weekender really shone for me. If you wanted to dress up, you did. If not, you didn’t. No-one made you feel bad either way and I didn’t feel out-of place in either situation.
Saturday – Panelicious
Panels started at 10:00 on Saturday which gave us all a bit of time to recover without missing anything. I went to my first one at 11:00 which was an interesting char about Urban Fantasy with writers Ben Aaronovitch, Paul Cornell, Benedict Jacka, Stacia Kane and Sam Stone.
I don’t think I’ve actually read anything that in my head was specifically Urban Fantasy, seeing it mainly as a TV phenomenon and it was interesting to get the panels views on what Urban Fantasy is and whether or not it is a sub-genre within Fantasy or is itself a meta-genre which contains smaller facets.
This panel was a great start to the day for me and managed to pique my interest in a genre that I’d not really considered dipping into before.Next, I hightailed it over to the other panel venue for a Q and A session with Sixth Doctor, Colin Baker. A quick side note here. I thought the venue was well laid out on the whole. There were two main rooms, with a trading area (and Pontins’ amusement Arcade) between, with the pub right by one of the venues.
There were three bars (including the pub’s) which means no-one was ever far from the tipple of their preference. The only downside was the lack of “sign posts” between the locations. Once you got the hang of it, there was no issue, but I did stumble about lost for a little while on Saturday morning.
Colin Baker was a power-house. He carried the audience with a mix of charm, ebuliance and wit that it was hard (if not impossible) not to be infected by. He discussed his acting career in general as well as his time on Doctor Who and doing the Big Finish audio plays, for which his Doctor is (to me) undoubtably the star attraction.
Next, I swiftly meandered back across the venue for the Ready, Steady, Flash! short-fiction competition in which Tony Lee, Paul Cornell, Stacia Kane and Juliet E McKenna all had to write a short-story on a topic provided by the host in five minutes. There were three rounds of this with topics of “The Old Gods”, “Zombies in Prestatyn” and (an audience suggestion) “Unicorn Sandwiches”. This panel proved to be great fun … once the stories were read out.
I think there needed to be more as the writing went on, as the host’s stories didn’t quite make the time fly. I think the highlight of the panel was Tony’s Zombies of Prestatyn poem. I’m sure he’ll post it on his own blog at some point soon. That and Stacia Kane’s unique take on a Unicorn Sandwich. My brain melted.
Like some sort of Cornell-Obsessed stalker (By the way – a round of applause for both Paul and Tony who were powerhouses of panels this year. I don’t think the guys stopped all weekend) I skittered back across for the “Did We Win” panel. Has our Genre(s) conquered the mainstream? Paul, Tony, Toby Whithouse, Phil Ford and Sarah Pinborough were the panellists this time round. The debate ranged on and opinions varied.
It seemed that until Geek-stuff airs at prime-time on mainstream TV, some feel it has not won out. For some panellists, it seemed that they required their own genre (Horror) to be mainstream. Personally, I don’t think Horror ever SHOULD be mainstream. If it is … then there’s something wrong with society.
SFX Awards and the Maskerade Ball
I left the main venues at that point to return to the chalet for a power-rest, some food and what turned out to be one of the best conversations of the weekend with Dave and Barry the founders of Geek Syndicate. From there, it was a change into my Simon Tam (Firefly) costume then off to the SFX Awards and Maskerade Ball.
The awards were hosted by Robert Rankin who made the most marvellous entrance imaginable at the head of an army of Storm-Troopers. The downside to the awards was that the seating was arranged as a theatre – so there was no easy way to get up for a drink or the loo and they felt more formal than perhaps should have been the case.
The awards themselves were received in good grace (mainly by video message) and the finest being by Stan Lee, for the biggest disappointment of the year. This disappointment was his NON-cameo in X-Men First Class. The main highlight of the awards was Brian Aldiss receiving his Outstanding Literary Contribution award in person and receiving a much deserved standing ovation.
I was disappointed with the Masquerade Ball. Actually, that’s a lie. I was disappointed with myself. One: My camera died meaning I missed out on getting photographs of the awesomeness that was the costumes present. Two: at 00:40, I developed severe Back and Stomach Ache and had to retreat, prematurely ending the night.
I did manage to catch some of Craig Charles’ DJ set, and even I got to the dance floor. With my “Mass Effect” dance, apparantly… Which brings me to the stars of the show. The attendees. Seriously, the quality of a lot of these costumes was just amazing and again, there was no sense of division between the costumed and the regular joes. The atmosphere was superb.
While there were a couple of things that could be improved on for next year, I have to say that this Weekender was an awesome first one for me personally. Meeting up with the GS Team and friends from other conventions is always a joy. On top of that, add some superb panels and a great crowd and I think this event was a contender for show of the year 2012 for me personally.
GS Reporter: WedgeDoc