Picocon (so named because it is fairly small) is a science fiction and fantasy convention run annually by the Imperial College Science Fiction and Fantasy and Gothic Horror Society (ICSF). It’s designed to be handy for students and fans based in the London area, but in practice quite a few people seem to travel long distances in order to attend, and come back year after year.
I was the first act on the Saturday, and since the theme of this year’s con was ‘duality’ I decided to focus upon Cuckoo Song, and held forth about doppelgangers, doubles and changelings.
I was followed by the fearsomely eloquent Cory Doctorow, who talked about digital securiy, cryptography, surveillance and ways that one might lose personal control in a world based upon the Internet of Things. It was a fascinating talk and very entertaining.
Picocon’s fearless agents had hunted down some particularly reprehensible examples of tawdry merchandise. Such items were then paraded before the attendees, who could bid to save or condemn them (all money to charity). Those objects deemed irredeemably ugly or tacky were ceremonially frozen using liquid nitrogen and then smashed with a sledgehammer. Very satisfying.
In the afternoon I appeared on a panel with Cory, discussing dystopias, the benefits or dangers of writing groups, audience avatars, writing YA and how to be a subversive aunt/uncle.
On the Sunday, the guests of honour were Kari Sperring and Ian McDonald. As it happened, their speeches worked well as a pair (which fitted the theme of duality). Kari’s talk was about new ways of regarding history, challenging the accounts written by the ‘winners’, and avoiding mindless repetition of the dominant narrative when writing historical fiction. Ian’s speech was about new ways of regarding the future, the Long Now Foundation, and their desire to move away from mankind’s disastrous short-termism.
Both talks were very interesting, and their panel in the afternoon covered a lot of ground, including gender and the emergence of fictional futures shaped by cultures that weren’t American or European.
All in all, Picocon is a warm, friendly, welcoming convention, and they look after their Guests of Honour very well. Many thanks to Stephen Ingram and the other organisers. Thanks in particular to Noor Mulheron for chaperoning me throughout the con, and making sure that I was fed and watered and didn’t fall down any holes.