And just two weeks after a lovely Fantasycon weekend comes Octocon, the national science fiction convention of Ireland! Now giant conventions are not my thing at all — I stopped in at DragonCon a couple of years ago to meet some friends for dinner and drinks and while that part of it was delightful, it was pretty much the definition of everything that does not appeal to me in a con. But Octocon is small even by my small-con standards. I suppose such a small con, one with many participants who have been attending together from its earliest days, could fall into clique-y and unwelcoming mode but I can assure you that the complete opposite is true. Octocon is fun, immensely friendly, very low-key, very social, and book (and comic) focused. And it’s in a terrific location (the Camden Court Hotel on Camden Street in Dublin, where it will be held next year as well).
British novelist Liz Williams was a lovely guest of honor. I’ve only read one of her novels, Nine Layers of Sky, but I’ve long thought she had an interesting background and perspective on things, and enjoyed her GOH interview. Another thing I like about Octocon is that it’s distinctively Irish, in that it draws upon and promotes local writers and artists as its guests, and so the remainder of the guest list consisted of a good mix of Ireland-based authors, filmmakers, and comics creators.
And they let me do a couple of panels as well! It’s a lot of fun doing panels at Octocon; for the ones I was on, at least, there was lively audience participation along with the contributions of the panelists, but it was the right kind of audience participation if you know what I mean, the kind that shows people as engaged with and thinking about the topic.
I was ambivalent about superheroes on “Summer of Superheroes,” which was specifically about film and the
glut large number of superhero movies released these days. The panel itself turned out to be really fun, thanks to my enthusiastic fellow panelists and good comments from the audience. And “I Love the Books But Why Won’t the Author Stop Talking?” was a particularly lively and interesting-to-me discussion because I am extremely passionate on the necessity of separating the artist from the work (while also admitting one simply does run up against personal, knee-jerk biases that can’t always be shaken off so easily). My fellow panelist Maura McHugh opened with a quote from Oscar Wilde that expresses very well my feelings on the issue: “There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written or badly written. That is all.”
At the end of the weekend someone asked me what I thought of Octocon. I said, “It’s a very Irish con.” Asked what I meant by that, I said, “It’s kind of grassroots and doing its own thing and not really giving a fuck for how anybody else would do it.” The person I was speaking to said, “Be sure to say that when you write about it.” So now I have.