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 ConsConventions Updated: 21/01/19

Friday Saturday Sunday Monday

(Probably) Fond Farewell


Friday was cold, but not raining or snowing - the forecast was saying that snow would probably happen sometime over the weekend - so the walk from Sheffield station to the hotel would have been rather pleasant if I didn't have an overloaded bag on my back. Inevitably, I had forgotten to bring some stuff anyway, so it could have been worse. Ignoring the hotel check-in for now, I registered and made my way to the main hall through the restaurant instead of the bar (which currently looked like building and renovation work was taking place there). To my surprise, it was a small tech team (three people plus myself) and an equally small setup. On the plus side, this meant that the get-in was quick and nearly over when I turned up. On the minus side, this meant barely any equipment spares and rather awkward positioning of the tech desk right next to some double doors that doubled as a fire exit and were not particularly well insulated or draught-proof. Also on the plus side was that we had a lot of time to deal with the rather large array of problems that the equipment presented to us.

First, the desk wouldn't recognise the lamps or send signal to them. We managed to get that sorted by making sure the lamps were operating in the right "personality" ("Choleric, phlegmatic, sanguine, melancholy,") but that still didn't mean they were doing what they were told. We could turn them on and off, but not change their colour or the intensity. We made progress, and managed to get them to dim, then made further progress and got them to change colour - but lost the ability to dim them. We eventually sorted that out as well, and then we realised that the reason one of the lamps was always showing half red was not because of the screwy desk, but because the lamp itself was screwed. So, another phonecall to the equipment suppliers, and we got them to bring another lamp and another microphone cable. These arrived sometime around four, and were swiftly swapped in.

Meanwhile, I had volunteered to give a talk on character archetypes. This year, Con organistation had been less than spiffy, and so I had no advance idea of when my item was to be scheduled. I'd intended to look at the programme once I got to the Con and find out, but the fight with the tech desk so intrigued me that this completely slipped my mind. It was a quarter to three by the time I checked the programme to find that I was scheduled for two o'clock. Oops. I went to find Tlanti, the programme manager, and explain the situation to her, and she agreed to re-schedule me. Yay! I went back to the main hall to rejoin the struggle with the lighting desk.

Anyway, eventually lights were got working properly, microphones installed, guide marks placed, and so on. Just in time for the first event, a talk on the mystery of the extra/missing pony at Crickhollow. While the subject matter and body of the discussion was interesting, it was presented by someone who only really knows one way of getting information across - the dry lecture. I had volunteered my laptop for use for playing audience music and effects, so I kept myself amused at the desk by setting up a playlist for the former and creating a special folder for the latter. I also managed to generate a sorely-needed laugh. The lecturer had asked a rhetorical question (always a dangerous thing to do within my earshot) of what happened to Merry's pony when he arrived at Crickhollow ahead of Frodo after meeting him at the ferry, yet it was nowhere to be seen when Frodo arrived at Crickhollow shortly afterwards: "Eat it."

Effects and a running order for the opening ceremony were delivered in small portions, but we got something down in the end, disappeared for dinner, came back and people started further fiddling with the lighting desk to see whether we could get it cough up more secrets and actually activate some of the special powers it claimed. Partial success. By nine o'clock people were starting to arrive for the opening ceremony, which only started a few minutes late. It went smoothly, only a slight technical delay, as I was unexpectedly left in the position of having to activate both a blackout (lighting desk at far left of tech desk) and a sound effect (laptop at far right) simultaneously by myself, and I forgot I needed to double-click the effect since I couldn't quite reach the enter key. Fortunately, it was only about a half-second delay so I don't think anyone noticed. Ceremony over, that was the last thing that day in the main hall, so we powered down and secured the area, and the tech crew dispersed. After returning my laptop to my room, I found people in the bar and talked with them about writing, theatre, RPG horror stories, and house moving. Then it was bedtime.

Except, not entirely. It was Star Trek Online Anniversary Give-away week, and idiosyncracies of international timing meant that they gave away a new thing every day at 6pm, and if I wanted to grab them all (which I did), now was the only time I would have to claim that day's free gift (the opportunity to get some more in-game currency). Done. Night night. Bugger, I'd forgotten my eye mask.



Somehow, I managed to sleep well. Up and down to breakfast, no knives on the tables, so had to cut my bacon with a spoon. Finished, went through to the main hall, set up my laptop, and settled down to wait. I wasn't there long, as there was a panel I wanted to attend at eleven, how to avoid plot holes. It got moved from a tiny conference room next to the dealers' room to the secondary event room adjacent to the main hall, so those of us who had turned up there trundled over to the new place, and David Wake took us through the problems in the plot of the Doctor Who episode "Kill the Moon" (among other things). I was quite pleased to find out that I had been correct in my decision to not bother watching Star Trek: Into Darkness - having the capability to beam from Earth to Qo'onos completely negates the need for starships in the first place.

Back to the main hall for Tlanti interviewing David McIntee, long-time ConCom member, and author of several Doctor Who tie-in books (among others). Sit tight for the following interview of the Guest of Honour, Fiona Moore, author of some "unofficial" fan guides to Battlestar Galactica, The Prisoner and Blake's 7. I sneaked off shortly before the end so I could have some lunch before giving my re-scheduled talk on character archetypes. I got to the room in the closing few minutes of the previous programme item, waited for it to finish, set up as best I could without a projector, and settled down to wait. And wait. By five past, I realised no one was going to be coming, and decided that if that remained true by quarter past, I would bugger off. And that is exactly what happened, so I did. I returned to the main hall and finished my lunch, making sure to include the chocolate.

The main hall was supposed to currently be hosting the Ruler of the Universe hustings, but because of the low number of cabaret/masquerade entries, the hustings had been moved to pad out the cabaret. Okay, some quiet time. Put some music on and observe a bit more experimentation with the lighting desk before the next programme item - a Balloon Debate between representatives of pre-2000 science fiction. Only one of the shceduled representatives turned up - the dry lecturer - representing classic Penguin sci-fi, and others had to be persuaded from the audience. The Prisoner, Star Wars and Blake's 7 were eventually represented, but due to the presence of the dry lecturer, the event turned out not to be a Balloon Debate, but rather lecture on the history of Penguin sci-fi, with some interesting facts about 50's and 60's British sci-fi, Star Wars and Blake's 7 added on for flavour.

Next was a short break before the Cabaret rehearsal. No one actually rehearsed their full bit, they just handed over effects and did cue tags with us, while Tony sorted out the running order. That done, there was nothing in the main hall until the Cabaret/Masquerade/RotU Hustings at eight, so I disappeared to grab some food and so on. When I came back, things were being prepped for the Disco, so there would be minimal changeover time after the Cabaret. That sorted, there wasn't much to do until the audience started arriving. One of the Cabaret entries was someone doing a Blake's 7-themed version of the prologue to Henry V. As I had done the same piece at Redemption '17 (as all the Doctors Who up until that point), I wondered if I had started a trend. cabaret/Masquerade/RotU Hustings done, time for the disco. Audience cleared chairs, hotel rolled up the carpet that was hiding the dance floor, tech team moved the pre-prepared desk and equipment into place and wired them in, and off we went. It was great. Over the last few Redemptions, Marwen had been getting a bit stale, and the new style was very refreshing (not quite how I would have done it, though). Unfortunately, something else I had forgotten to bring was my air guitar, so I borrowed one from someone who had spares. The disco ended early when a hotel manager came in at 12.30 and insisted that the next song be the last one. Apparently there had been some confusion over applying for a late music licence or something, and we weren't able to go even until 1am. So the DJ put on an 8 minute track to finish.

STO's gift tonight was a faction-appropriate penultimate-tier ship.



I was up earlier than I had been yesterday, despite having gone to bed at twenty to three. This was partly to take advantage of the more-plentiful breakfast supplies at the earlier time, and partly becuase things started at ten o'clock in the main hall. Ugh.

It was a Balloon Debate. For those who don't know, a Balloon Debate is based on the premise that a small group (the panellists) are in the basket of a hot air balloon that is crashing, and if they throw one of themselves overboard, the rest will be saved. The debate is the panellists trying to persuade the audience to throw someone else out, and at the end the audience votes on who gets to go splat 2000 feet below. This particular debate was supposed to be Doctor Who - in other words, characters from the show would debate as to who would stay in the basket and who would get thrown out. Except no one turned up to be panellists. So, at ten past I turned the music off and got up on stage. "Hello, everybody, this is the Doctor Who Balloon Debate, my name's Rory Williams; Missy, would you like to join me here on stage?" The current Ruler of the Universe, someone cosplaying Missy, was in the audience, and she did indeed join me on stage. The crux of my argument was that I was an indispensible part of the Doctor's team, what with my cool head and medical skills, and that the TARDIS thinks I'm pretty. Missy's arguments were very in-character for a narcissistic sociopathic megalomaniac, but in the end we decided to throw the piano out. (Somehow the argument had got onto musical talents, and Missy didn't want to touch the Doctor's guitar, and she preferred to play the piano anyway.) I wish I could have seen Missy's face when I first mentioned the piano as being in the basket, it's the sort of surreal not-quite non sequiter that tends to wig out people I'm improvising opposite. Aaannyway...

Next was a piece on the philosophy of Marcus Aurelius and how it influenced science fiction, and could it help in real life. After that I headed next door for the Con feedback session. It had been announced that morning that the next Redemption would be over the August bank holiday weekend 2020, rather than the expected Feb 2021, and some people objected to that, as well as to the haphazardness of the panel organisation. Personally, I can't afford to make it to two conventions so close together (DWCon), so unless I can't get to DWCon it looks like I won't be making it to any more Redemptions. That was followed by a panel on the realisticness or otherwise of fight scenes in genre shows. Then lunch, and back to the main hall to kill time and try and scrounge up a running order etc for the Closing Ceremony. Those things achieved, I started writing this up while we waited. Closing ceremony came and went - a first for me was that I got individually thanked for Teching during all the thank-yous, not just as part of the thanks for the Tech team. Then it was tear-down, which seeing as how we had a bare minimum of kit only took half an hour. So, off to the bar for Con-paid drinks and food. I shared a bowl of chunky chips and a 12" garlic bread with another of the tech team, who shared their cheesy pizza with me. The garlic bread came with an odd yellow sauce that was a bit mustardy, a bit mayonaissey, and a lot unidentifiable, so we spent some time speculating on what exactly it could be. Food consumed, we spent some time bitching about the crappy state of the world, then eventually departed for bed, as everyone was feeling noticeably drained at the end of the weekend.

As it was the weekend, STO's gift of ships was still running.



Up early-ish again, breakfast, pack, down to the main hall, dump stuff, check out, back to the main hall, sit down to wait for the tech kit rental people to come and claim their stuff. Didn't have long to wait, helped load it all into the van, decamped to the bar, wrote more of this, left to go to the train station at noon - snow had not happened over the weekend - got various trains home, done.