One wet weekend I went up to the Discworld Convention in Manchester which had Terry Pratchett and supporting acts helping to provide a weekend of enormous entertainment.
There is no better writer of comic fantasy!
Some of you may already have heard of alt.fan.pratchett, in which case you may have heard of the L-spacer and Leo, who host lovely web pages covering the DiscWorld books. But have you seen pictures of them? Now you have...
The blond in the top piccie is the l-spacer, and the cute Dutch boy underneath is Leo. A not-so-frequent poster is BarrieR, followed by Alex the eternally harassed. The other crazy kiwi in the place was trying to get everyone at the convention to sign his book - I think he succeeded, as he seemed to have enough signatures collected to qualify for the Russian presidency ;-)
One soldier boy made it all the way from Bosnia to get to the conference, while some people managed to get there from "near" Coventry.
Emmet and Morgon (who does not want to be referred to as "mini-Emmet") formed part of the winning team in the Unseen University Challenge, seen here with pTerry.
The calender was packed full of so many events you couldn't possibly see all the ones you wanted to over the weekend. Here are a few examples of what was on offer:
Slaughterathon. The Assassins guild ran a competive examination over the weekend. You were given the name of the person you had to inhume. This resulted in lots of furtive looking people peering at everyone's name badges as they went past...
Cripple Mr. Onion. This is a rather difficult card game. Was anyone actually any good at it? It didn't really seem to be a spectator sport, but the competitors seemed interested enough.
Unseen University Challenge. This required considerable knowledge of the minutae of the discworld. The winning team played off against the celebrity team including Terry Pratchett and Stephen Briggs, and performed quite well.
Maskerade. I mention this masked ball further down this page.
Alchemy Demonstration. This involved lots of bangs, smoke and glowing lights, as various chemicals were brought into contact with each other and showed their newfound affection in rather dramatic ways. Some gymnastic activity involving a fire extinguisher was also involved on the part of the committee member in charge of Singed Hair.
And of course there were many workshops where the Celebraties present (or ardent fans) talked about various aspects of the DiscWorld, such as the underlying phyics or the translation prospects into German (without missing the humour), Greek (without getting any royalties) or American (without decent covers).
One of the highlights of the show was the Cosgrove-Hall demonstration of the progress made on the DiscWorld animated feature. The graphics were great, and the choice of voice actors was perfect. It is looking very promising.
At the Maskerade, lots of people really went to town on their designs.
The witches were a popular choice, with many women entering dressed up with pointy hats and broomsticks. A trio from the Netherlands were getting steadily off their collective trolleys with banananana daquiris. A winning Granny Weatherwax was scarey! While there was a pantomime elephant (from Moving Pictures) the two guys who dressed as Greebo the cat picked the moment he was tranformed into a somewhat human Pirate, a very sensual character choice.
And of course one of the winners was Death complete with scythe. When he failed to turn up, I suggested we perform the rite of Aske Ente, and someone else asked (a bit more clearly) for 4cc of mouse blood...
Not all the people in costume entered: I saw a female and male barbarian at the banquet who I didn't recognise from the Maskerade.
The bouncey castle was a popular place to hang out, and some alt.fan.pratchett supporters turned up there.
The Custard Bath was reserved for the organiser, Paul Rood.
Of course, Manchester itself was outside the hotel and if you dragged yourself away from the conference for a minute you could see the centre of the city.
The hotel "Sachas" was fairly reasonable although most rooms did not have any windows (making it hard for me to wake up in the morning, as the clock told the wrong time and there was no sunshine to give me a clue). The location was excellent, right in the heart of the city. A public disco formed part of the hotel, although we also had our own disco and a banqueting hall to boot. I did pick up athletes' foot at the hotel, which rather annoyed me. The heating was also up rather too high for comfort during the banquet and dancing. When I'm wearing a suit I prefer the room to be chilled, not summery.
Outside the hotel you could see the bomb damage caused to the Arndale centre by the IRA. The commercial heart of the city had been ripped out. A Big Issue vendor I talked too had been selling his magazine right outside Marks and Spencers on the day the bomb went off. He was rather grateful that the police moved him on to safety just before all hell broke loose. It was very fortunate that no-one was killed, and he thought the police acted very well. With the centre now closed, homeless people had to double up on patches in other streets in the city to make up for the lost ones.
Also in the centre I met a rather nice guy called Stewart, who unfortunately has some difficult problems. We had an interesting and lengthy conversation which resulted in me missing out on some of the closing speeches at the convention, but then I have always been terrible at being sidetracked.
I had a great time at the conference but did not really see much of the city, especially the famed nightlife. I will have to go to Manchester again to see the sights properly. The next conference is in 1998, and I look forward to going to it and having a great old time all over again!