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Eastercon program

I'll be appearing at Olympus, the 2012 British Eastercon (in London) from the 6th to the 9th of April.

If you're going there, my program items are below the cut:

Our new alien masters: The markets (Friday, 3pm)

Humans no longer rule the world. Our new overlords live in the markets and are the faceless mindless algorithmic trading systems and the psychopaths chosen by corporations to run them. A discussion ...

Writers' Bloc presents: FANtasia (Saturday, 8pm)

What happens when fans find themselves in skiffy stories? Members of Edinburgh's leading spoken-word performance collective dish the dirt in their own inimitable style.

Writing The Rapture of the Nerds (Sunday, 1pm)

Cory Doctorow and Charlie Stross discuss their new collaborative novel, The Rapture of the Nerds, and how and why they came to write it.

Mass author signing (Sunday, 8pm — provisional)

From Fan to Pro (Monday, 9pm)

Fandom has always produced its fair share of authors, editors and journalists who have managed to move from the world of room parties and conventions to living the dream of being paid to work in the science fiction. How did they do this? Do they still enjoy attending conventions, and more importantly do they still think of themselves as fans?

That's a fairly light program. Which means you should have plenty of opportunities to find me at large in the dealer room, real ale bar, or fan lounge if you want to talk. See you around!



And a general note: Eastercon is sold out: they've reached their cap; the hotel is at capacity; there will be no walk-in memberships. If you want to attend, and you aren't already a member, you'd better have some pretty good leverage on the committee.

(There were people still filling in the online membership form when the link to it was removed from the website. Lucky for them, they got through.)

In a way, I'm sort of dreading it. The 2008 con at the same venue was pretty full, and I had at least one encounter on the way to a panel where I said "I'll see you later", and never did. This will be fuller. I also hope they've got a full staff roster ready.


Out of curiosity, can you say what the membership cap is? (IIRC 2008 had over 1400 attendees, so if this one's going to be bigger it's probably going to be the biggest ever UK convention that isn't also a worldcon.)


That's a nuisance, I could have actually found a reason to be in London, and fitted in a visit.


It looks like a total membership of 1372. And yes, that's less than the 1400* you mention, but the cap was running on the basis of balancing the day memberships and the full weekend ones.

There's presumably also balancing going on between adults, children and elder gods, since at least one fluff is counted in that total.

Membership was actually closed at 18:00 yesterday, with a few days of warning, and a few hours of final notice. I suspect they could have passed 1400 if there'd been more of a late burst to get in yesterday evening.

*Actual audited memberships of past conventions must surely be out there somewhere. Don't ask me where, though, I don't SMOF.


As a citizen of a country currently governed by an ex-Goldman Sachs employee without a regular election, I'm obviously very interested in the first panel. Any chance for a transcript? Thanks


JUST managed to scrape in.
I booked last week!

See you there Charlie (but not on Monday - I'm working)
Do we want a list of sccessible puibs?
I know there are not many, if any in the immediate vicinity ....


I'd like a video recording.


Don't bring your landy, there's almost always a real ale bar at the eastercon (and there certainly was one last time it was in this particular hotel).

NB: Feorag is helping to run a beer tasting on the Saturday evening.


Note: depending on definition, it may be the second largest SF con in the UK this year.

SFX Weekender 3 looks to have had Worldcon attendance rates levels last month. The difference is that SFX Weekender isn't fan-organised. On the other hand, a heck of a lot of writers went along, and the feedback I've heard was pretty good.


That's interesting. I hadn't heard of the SFX Weekenders before this one. Alas, won't be able to dip a toe in the water next year (due to a clashing GoH op that I'll be able to go public about after eastercon).


It's pretty new on the scene, and I suspect a number of the 'traditional' fans may have discounted it. Being held at a holiday camp rather than at a hotel/convention centre is one difference. That it's organised by a commercial organisation, though I suspect for visibility rather than profit, is another.

Alt.fiction in the Midlands shows another variant.


SFX is commercial, but the folks that work there almost certainly count as fans. Disclaimer- One of their editorial staff is an old school friend of mine.

I think Richard Morgan went to the last one. It's fairly heavy on Dr Who fans and the like, but they're good people and judging by the forums they are avid readers and well aware of Charlie's works.

It's held at Pontins, Camber Sands, near Rye.


For values of 'near Rye' that include Prestatyn on the North Welsh Coast(!)

Yes, they've moved. And yes, it's not like the big commercial media cons which do charge an arm and a leg for you to have your picture taken with a favoured guest. However it's not a volunteer run thing either. That's not a bad thing in many ways, as the cat herding and general burnout that fan-based con-running involves can cause friendships to be buried.


Charlie @ 8
I have FREE travelcard ....


I live in London, I have stuff to do up to Sunday evening. If I turned up on Monday hoping to meet a few friends and catch up would it be possible to get in? I'm more than willing to pay a day membership. (That said, the last couple of cons I did that to I just walked in - but I can pay and am happy to do so)


I'd suggest you ping the Registration people and see if day memberships for Monday are available. Given that some folks will be leaving early Monday to get home it might be acceptable since the advance membership closure is because of safety occupancy limits for the hotel's function space.


I am looking forward to our panel on the Alien Overlords.

I think that it will frighten the panel and the audience less, to discover that their alien masters are all too real, than to be told that these liminal beings are largely composed of Excel Spreadsheets and the chaotic emergence of cluelessness and genius that comes of too much money in an IT budget.


A little topic drift here, but do you have a good idea why British cons run smaller than American ones?

Last weekend I attended a con in the 1100-1200 range, and it's the third-biggest annual fannish event in my city. (Don't get me started on how many local fans didn't show.) You've got the advantage of generally shorter commuting distances, and the fan community seems quite active (at least for things abbreviated DW); for some reason we gather in bigger mobs to filk and wear funny clothes at each other. Over the years I've heard various rectally-yanked explanations from folks on my side of the pond, but you've got a better perspective on fandom over there.


A little topic drift here, but do you have a good idea why British cons run smaller than American ones?

Yes: the UK has one-fifth the population.

This is a general rule for fan-run SF conventions: the size is proportional to the catchment area, which in turn boils down to the population of the country it's held in unless it's an international event (like some Worldcons or the Eurocon).

To get the "American size" head-count for a British SF convention, multiply by 5. (US pop: 300 million. UK pop: 60 million.) To get the "British size" for an Irish SF convention, multiply by 10. (Irish pop: 5 million.) And so on.

For example, a typical Swedish SF convention is a success if it gets over 100 attendees -- except last year's Eurocon, which nearly hit 700 because folks travelled from all over Europe to be there.

So this eastercon is basically the equivalent of a US NASFIC getting 7000 attendees.

Note that this rule of thumb only applies to fan-organized conventions -- for-profit events or events with commercial sponsorship are an entirely different matter and don't obey the same scaling law. (For example, I gather the recent SFX WeekEnder in the UK was getting close to Worldcon size -- 4000 and up.)


I suspect there's also a greater tendency for people in the US to gather in large numbers. Political rallies. Megachurches. Sports.

In the UK, there are few really big gatherings outside entertainment (so stadium gigs and stadium sports). Even the big stadia seem to be relatively rare - there are 13 of 40,000 or more capacity in the UK, compared to roughly 150 such in the US. (Source Wikipedia)


Regarding the size of the SFX Weekender, youre hitting damn close to the mark. The number of members gorws every year and the VIP memberships tend to sell out at the previous weekend. Total attendees is indeed getting close to the 4000 mark which is both a good and a bad thing.

The pros are that there are lots of new people to meet and become friends with, not to mention the old friends from years gone by and other cons. More money means more guests, after all they have to be paid, it is their job. It becomes a highlight of the year for those who are going. Not that there is anything wrong with Eastercon, or other non-profit cons like Satellite 3 or Albacon, but it is damned good fun from my previous 3 Weekenders and it has the advantage of having the accommodation bundled in with the price.

The cons are that its Pontins. The food is woeful. The accommodation is not exactly the Ritz, but its really just some place to dump stuff and crash. The singing queues were pretty shocking last time. Even with VIP passes it was bad. The check-in queue on Thursday was unreal. 2 hours standing to get checked in is not good.

All in all, its horses for courses. I love the SFX weekender. But have never actually been to Eastercon, mostly because its hard to get the time off at that time of year. I am however hoping to get to the Worldcon 2014, as London appears to be the only bid, and has been for quite some time. And I guarantee it will cost much more than the SFX Weekender once hotels are factored in. Oh well. :(


I'm unable to do the SFX WeekEnder next year due to a prior commitment on another continent. But if it's running in 2013 I'll make an effort (barring clashes with GoH slots).


I Even the big stadia seem to be relatively rare - there are 13 of 40,000 or more capacity in the UK, compared to roughly 150 such in the US.

That's partly because British sport is more local. Compare American (gridiron) football in the USA to British football (soccer).

There are 32 teams in the NFL in the USA, and probably less than a dozen fully professional teams outside it. Many large cities don't have their own team and most games attract supporters from very wide regions. Quite different over here. The four major English football leagues have 92 teams between them, and there are probably at least thirty or forty fully professional teams in the next two levels below that. The Scottish and Irish systems are quite separate and also have professional teams - maybe thirty or more in Scotland whose total population is smaller than that of Minnesota. (the top two Welsh clubs play in the English league and the others are all semi-pro as far as I know). Apart from a few teams that have some level of national and international support, most British teams only draw fans from their own home city, or even one neighbourhood of a city.

New York has two major league football teams and no others nearer than Philadelphia. London, roughly equivalent in size, has thirteen professional football teams. Three of them - Arsenal, Chelsea and perhaps Spurs - have a national or international following and regularly get 40-50,000 supporters. The rest mainly get fans from their own neighbourhoods. Not many fans travel fifty miles to see Orient or Barnet or Brentford or Millwall. Those who travel even five or ten miles probably grew up near the stadium, or have parents who did. There are just far more teams for the fans to go round. So no wonder stadiums are smaller.

And as for Manchester... Manchester itself ( a city with roughly the population of Kansas City) has two premier League teams, Greater Manchester (population similar to Chicago or Houston) has nine teams in the top leagues and at least a couple of non-league professional sides, as well as cricket and Rugby League. Thats a lot of stadiums to fill.

Glasgow in Scotland is even smaller than Manchester but it has, I think, five fully professional teams playing once or twice a week almost all year - and another six or seven in nearby towns close enough to be considered suburbs of Glasgow. So less than a million people typically have about ten matches to choose from on a Saturday afternoon - even in footy-mad Scotland that means most crowds are going to be small, apart from Celtic and Rangers.

OK, America also has basketball and ice hockey. But we've got cricket and two kinds of rugby football as well.

To be fair, baseball is perhaps a better US comparison to football in Britain, because on the East Coast at least its the real local team sport in the US. And there are going on 300 professional baseball teams - there are a lot of minor leagues. But its still considerably fewer per head of population than in Britain. And I bet most of those minor league teams have tiny numbers of supporters attending the matches, and just the same kind of small stadiums that lower-league football teams have here.


Glasgow in Scotland is even smaller than Manchester but it has, I think,

Actually Glasgow is about 50% larger than Manchester.


I think I was thinking of Greater Manchester. Well, that's my excuse & I'm sticking to it!


As against Greater Glasgow?

(We'll titter here at the back.)


Ken Brown @ 23
most British teams only draw fans from their own home city, or even one neighbourhood of a city.

Oh dear, how does one explain to non-locals, i.e. anyone at all not from the UK, how necessary it is NOT to be ANYWHERE NEAR ground zero when the following matches are on:
1. Spurs vs. Arsenal
2. Liverpool vs. Everton
3. Milwall vs. Charlton
4, "The auld Firm": Rangers vs. Celtic
I'll get Charlie to explain the Scots/Irish/religious-sectarian bases of that last.

Ah, yes, Rugby, as opposed to football...
The first is a game for hooligans played by Gentlemen, and the latter is a game for Gentlemen, played by Thugs.
Vide, when Wembley was shut for rebuilding (hooray - pity they just couldn't leave it as rubble) International matches were played in Cardiff ...
Now, for a Rugby International, they require 120-130 police extra, but they have managed with 80.
Whhen there was a footie International all police leave for the southern half of Wales was cancelled.
Bsically, the Rugby fans drink a lot more beer, and just quietly slide down the wall (eventually) whereas the footie fans drink "Stella" or similar muck, and start fights everywhere.


13 of more than 40,000 in UK seems somewhat low, add another 4 on to get to 17 (including the new olympic one) according to wikipedia 'list of British stadiums by capacity'.

In addition to the reasons given above, i'd add that the sports franchises here are ALOT less likely to move around, so can't get the big 'city subsidised' extra size built for them. Even in London (which is a BIG city) the extra olympic stadium will almost certainly be vastly underused - 15 million people don't make 3 huge venues commercially viable.

Also once you take away the 'national' ones from the list (wembley, twickenham, london olympic, millenium, hampden, murrayfield) you're left with football teams. These play ALOT more games a year than American Football, 2-3x depending on how well they do in the various cups. If I was for some reason struck with an overwhelming desire to be very bored for 90mins I'd have ALOT of home games to choose from, so no need for loads of capacity for the occasional spectator. I'd say this argument is backed up by the fact that the ones listed above, who's events do have 'rarity value' are the bigger ones.


Also, avoid places where Brighton & Hove Albion are playing Crystal Palace. btw, general rule of thumb, teams with Albion in the name are only supported by locals.

@Greg- There's some kind of a difference between Rugby League and Rugby Union, but I'm not sure what it is. Some kind of "Gentlemen" vs. "Players" thing, I'd guess.


Rugby League was traditionally the version for professional paid players, mostly found in the northern parts of England, while Rugby Union was the determinedly amateur game. There are some differences in the details of the actual game, but it was also something of a class difference.

The professional/amateur difference has vanished. Both are played internationally.


Yup, not so long ago rugby union used to be amateurs. Farmers, fit professionals and suchlike. With it changing to professionals, the body type, size and weight etc have all increased. No doubt modern players are fitter and stronger, but there may be discussion had amongst those who follow the sport as to whether or not the game play is any better.


@Greg - I've been to 3 Millwall/Charlton matches in the last few years ;-) and some Millwall/Leeds - which are far worse. And this year I was in the away end when Millwall played at West Ham, which is as heavy as it gets in England.


This is a general rule for fan-run SF conventions: the size is proportional to the catchment area, which in turn boils down to the population of the country it's held in unless it's an international event (like some Worldcons or the Eurocon).

Yes, this. Our catchment area lies within Oregon and Washington (there are remote bits which contribute few or no attendees, plus outliers who travel far; the group who came up from Texas did it professionally), and much of the area is not terribly densely populated - although I'm sure people in the western US view 'a reasonable distance to travel' rather differently than residents of the British Isles.

I'd discounted LA in considering potential attendees, much less the east coast. Vancouver (the Canadian one), maybe. Your comment does remind me that the US is not a normally sized nation.

Good points elsewhere about sport demographics, and the reasons why smaller stadiums are built in the UK. Not directly related to SF conventions, but a telling point that the British may be less in the habit of gathering in great swarms.


Shouldn't we be getting programmes and literature and er PASSES through the post real soon now?
Admittedly my post hasn't yet arrived this morning.....


You turn up at registration, identify yourself, and get a bag full of stuff (including the program book and your membership badge) on arrival.


For those who want to know the (current) programme in advance, you can go to this link.

There is an app for it too - on both Android and Apple smartphones. Checking on mine, I see that Mike Shevdon's panel on archery is up against Charlie's "alien masters" panel. Bum.


#20 and #23 - My count gives 5 senior level soccer teams in Glasgow itself, and another 8 within 30 minutes travel. Go out to 1 hour and I make it 30some senior teams. All of these will be at least semi-professional in terms of their playing staff.

#35 - "you identify yourself", for values which mean that you tell the very nice person who's handling your registration what your real name (and possibly badge name and/or number will help depending who sorted the badges or packs) who you are and they give you your badge and pack.


Bsically, the Rugby fans drink a lot more beer, and just quietly slide down the wall (eventually) whereas the footie fans drink "Stella" or similar muck, and start fights everywhere.

On Saturday, we took the kids to the Heineken Cup quarter-finals at Murrayfield (it's the European Rugby championships; an attendance of 38000 in a 67000-seat Stadium, children everywhere). They were serving beer inside the ground, and drinks in glass bottles. There was no trouble - there were Toulouse fans sitting amongst Edinburgh fans. If you even suggested that for a football match, you'd be laughed at.

But don't get me started about Football being the vampire that (with the connivance of the newspapers and TV) sucks the life and money out of every other sport in the country. Scottish Athletics operates on an annual budget of less than the annual salary of most of the Rangers first team... My sport operates on annual budget of far less.



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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on March 28, 2012 12:20 PM.

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