Australian Discworld Convention, 9-11 February 2007
(Cross posted from my journal)
Wow, what a weekend it's been. The Convention was awesome, the best I've ever been to...
but then again, it was also my first Convention :)
To summarise: WOW.
To expand a bit: I'll go through what *I* did at the Con, and my comments on various
bits and pieces, and my perspective is by no means the only one.
The Nullus Anxietas website is http://www.ausdwcon.org
The Nullus Anxietas Photo site is http://www.flickr.com/groups/nullus_anxietas
In the beginning, there was the word. And the word was "Hey, you!"
FRIDAY FEBRUARY 9 I arrived at the Carlton Crest hotel at about 10.30am, checked
in, didn't have my room straight away (it wasn't ready), so sat down in the
lounge and waited. Registration for the Con wasn't until 12, so a little time
was killed, and then I wandered around seeing where everything was. In the end,
I did a little bit of help with the setup (stuffing bags) and then we started
lining up for registering. Yep, got the Gala Dinner ticket, got my name badge
(ooh, I'm a panelist) and my showbag full of goodies.
Off to the Volunteer's Guild - turns out they were looking for extra volunteers
to act as crowd control/timekeepers on sessions, not extra info for people who'd
already volunteered. No worries. Already had set up what I was helping with, so
I didn't take on too many extra responsibilities, and spent the time reading through
the Con booklet laughing at all the many little bits and pieces.
Went to check if my room was ready - it was! Ok, so move in, unpack suitcase, have
a little lie down :) Ok, up and at them again... back to the Con!
Future of Discworld - our speculation session. I came in, found a seat, and discovered
a few people in front of me talking to a bald, bearded gentleman with a hat and an
English accent, kindly pointing out that this session had stipulated "No Terry Pratchetts".
Terry then of course graciously - with a bit of a pretend huff - excused himself,
and we started speculating wildly - Will Carrot and Angua have puppies? Which character
will die? Will we ever see Esk and Simon again? Interesting stuff to see what people
think could happen.
Next up I had arranged a private rehearsal of our Pyramids script reading - myself
and 9 volunteers who I hadn't met in person before. Erm... make that 8. Robbie had
unfortunately got some medical issue with is vocal chords and had called me ahead of time
to say he may not, then later would not, be able to participate in the script reading,
as it probably wasn't good for his health. A big thankyou to Nick who stepped into the
role of Dios with an hour of warning before the rehearsal and did a tremendous job.
The rehearsal went well, and everyone seemed to be able to get through their parts OK,
even if Nick stumbled over the repeatedly long utterances of "His Greatness Teppicymon
XXVIII, Lord of the Heavens, Charioteer of the Sun, etc etc..."
By the time we finished, there was still time for a bit of a wander, and it appeared
that Terry was 'holding court' in the Mended Drum - well, basically, he was sitting there
with a large crowd around him, and he was talking. Boy, can this man talk! About anything
and everything, and it's never boring :)
Next up - Pratchett vs Rowling. Toni was running this session, being involved in both
fan circles and doing a PhD on something to do with the psychology of fandom, and it
was interesting to hear the ravidness of both sides of this divide. To be honest, I'm
a mad Discworld fan, and I've read the Harry Potter books, but they are "ok" and not
super brilliant... in my opinion, of course. In the end, the whole stink about whether
Terry is jealous of Rowling's success was put to death by the man himself - Terry
stood up on stage and explained where a lot of the furor arose - some shoddy Journalism in the
Times in an article about Rowling (and how she didn't think she wrote fantasy) and
Terry's subsequent letter to the editor attacking the shoddy journalist and *not*
Rowling. After all, they both have big piles of money they can swim in.
At six o'clock, every night, Sam Vimes reads "Where's My Cow?" to his son, young Sam. So did
we. Kerry read through the story and a few random volunteers and myself sat up the front
providing the voices for the 'human' bits. After doing all the ones in the book (Foul Ole Ron,
Coffin Henry, CMOT Dibbler, Sergeant Detritus, Lord Vetinari, etc.) we kind of went freeform,
with the four of us up the front quoting a line and the audience guessing which character we
were - and beyond that, the audience started throwing out lines of their own. It worked quite
well, and was a good bit of fun!
AND NOW, THE CLEARING OF THE THROAT
We watched a short video presentation - "Run, Rincewind, Run" - by the Snowgum Films team -
culminating in Rincewind accidentally zapping himself into another world... ours! He finds
himself in Melbourne, spent a while running around some of the great Melbourne landmarks, and
ends up at the Carlton Crest, and then rushes into the auditorium! After screaming loudly, he
grabbed a glass of water, drank it all, took a deep breath, and then screamed again. Then he
did the same with a carafe of water. Then he discovers a book up the front - The Last Continent.
He flips through, makes appropriate gasps at all the horror he's been put through, then finds
the author photograph. Looking at the picture and the people in the audience carefully, he
eventually finds Terry - looks him up and down - and says "You BASTARD". And then runs out!
Abso-fricking-lutely hilarious. Well done to all involved in that presentation.
Welcome messages from Pat and Terry, huzzah, we've all begun :)
Our first virtual guest is Stephen Briggs. A few video hiccoughs leaves us purely with Stephen's
voice and a great lot of info is imparted about Stephen's experience with Discworld Theatre, and
also all the other stuff he's done - the Companion, Diaries, Maps, Audio Books, and just about
everything else as "Chronicler of Discworld". Great stuff.
Now we're off to Trivia. I walk up to a random table, and ask the man there - Michael - if I can
join his team, as I don't really know anyone. He says sure - turns out it's mostly his family, plus
a few friends Lisa and Colin. Well I think they're glad I picked them - we won :) I apologise to
all others there, I just knew the answers to almost everything! The only ones we got wrong were:
- in which book did Vimes last drink alcohol? (Men At Arms, we wrote Feet of Clay. We remembered
the scene right, but picked the wrong book). And What is Undecided Adrian's surname? (He was present
at the Con, but not near our table, so we didn't know...) I've already pledged to run next Con's
trivia session, just simply because it prevents me from winning :)
Now we were waiting for Terry's Bedtime Stories. A whole bunch of people in their pyjamas with
teddy bears... and not much happening. Eventually it's discovered that Terry is still a bit
jet lagged and has fallen asleep. So the Bedtime stories have been moved to tomorrow night, and
Late Night Lust Objects moved here. I'm quite tired at this point and am not really interested
in the aforementioned session, so off to bed for me.
SATURDAY FEBRUARY 10
Up, shower, breakfast, Thud. Before the main sessions start this morning, I figure I can
get in a quick game of Thud - Ben is there without a challenger so I say "hey, want a game?"
I tried using the strategy that I worked out with my friends when I first bought a Thud
set - there's good techniques for both Trolls and Dwarfs, but unfortunately, too many
mistakes means Ben wipes the floor with me. I'm down to four dwarfs by the end of round 1 and
Ben hasn't lost ANY trolls. What happened there? Second round, I do manage to wipe out
a lot of dwarfs, but also lose four of my trolls, so even this way I am still completely
defeated. Oh well, it's obvious my strategy doesn't work against someone who actually knows
how to play properly!
At 10 o'clock a small group of about 8 of us have the benefit for a private coffee & chat
with Terry - we won the competition after all. It's quite pleasant, and people have interesting
things to ask - but the session became a lot less private as people wandered past, saw Terry
in the Lancre Dungeon, and popped in to listen. We covered such topics as Death, Gender inequality,
and Terry's research techniques. After an hour I still haven't managed to squeeze in a question
I wanted to ask - but it wasn't where the conversation was going, so it could wait.
Next up I manage to catch half of Bernard Pearson's interview - he's a very funny man, great
to hear him chat about the Clarecraft models, the UU cut out book, the stamps, and the soon-to-be
Ankh-Morporkian money to be released about the same time as the book "Making Money".
Now Terry has an interview conducted by Daniel Knight. I'd managed to have a quick chat to Daniel
just before hand and told him the question I didn't get to ask that morning - what sort of music
does Terry listen to while he's working? - and Daniel very kindly managed to slip that into the
interview! Some tidbits of info here which I can't quite remember. Making Money is the next
book, coming out later this year. After this, it seems probable that Terry is working on "Nation",
as he mentioned it several times and that he'd already written 5000 words for 'the next book',
and that he can see "Nation" as a movie in his head, he just has to write it down. No mention
at all of Unseen Academicals, and the next Tiffany Aching book, I Shall Wear Midnight, will still
happen but not just yet.
Next up is the Undead Thespians Society - the Theatre panel, in which I am participating. A small
crowd in the audience, but they happily listened to us rabbit on about the various plays we've been
involved in and tricks of the trade, such as staging, lighting vs sets, costumes, a good balance
of fans vs actors in the cast, adapating a book into a playscrip, and other bits and pieces. Not
too many questions from the audience, but the three of us could talk about anything anyway, so that
wasn't a problem.
Back to the audience now - Daniel Knight and a small team from Snowgum Films have come along to show
us how things are progressing with the short film of Troll Bridge. We were treated with a teaser
trailer (soon to be up on http://www.snowgumfilms.com ) and a whole heap of bits and pieces of
behind the scenes footage and discussion from the actors, fight coordinator, 'gore' makeup artist,
and Daniel, the writer/director/producer. Great stuff. Have suggested to Daniel that if/when he
wants to revisit Terry's work in short film (after Troll Bridge is finished, of course), that Final
Reward is a good short story that is quite cinematic. Have to remember to send him a copy :)
As we come out - wow, what a long signing queue. I guess that's where everyone was. I figure I can't
be bothered waiting today, I'll try tomorrow, and I head off down to the Lancre Dungeon.
SIGNIFICANT QUEST - yep, there's still room at the table for me, great! This is a Discworld board game
designed by Grombek, where the players are the various Gods of the Disc, and the aim is to collect
believers, and smite or convert the believers of other players! If you have no believers, then you're
a Small God and can quite easily be squished! It is a fun and well planned game, I do hope Grombek
will be able to share it with a lot more fans in the near future. We played for almost 2 hours with
about 10 players, and just so the game wouldn't have to be continued the next day, I caused the
Apocralypse with Ronnie Soak, who also has the benefit of randomly distributing everyone's existing
cards so that in the end, NOBODY won! (which of course means, we all did)
I had a break then - and went back to my room to get into costume for the evening. It's a pity, really,
because I missed Wossnames which was apparently a riot! (i.e. a good fun time, not a big pile of people with
Detritus on the top reading the Riot act).
At six o'clock, every night, Sam Vimes reads "Where's My Cow?" to his son, young Sam. So did
we. Tonight I wasn't up the front, so the book was read through entirely, and then at the insistince of
some audience members, the free form improv quoting started up again anyway. Well at least noone's
embarrased to yell 'Crivens!' or 'BurSAR!' at the top of their voice :)
By six thirty, we had a spontanous Mob formation in Sator Square, where everyone showed off their fantastic
costumes. A whole bunch of great photos can be seen at the Nullus Anxietas Flickr site, so check em out!
Nothing was mentioned about a costume competition all night, which seemed a bit weird, but it was kind of
like the Witch Trials. Everyone knew that the Death of Rats had won, it was just a competition to see
who was going to come second. (If you don't get that reference, have a read of the short story "The Sea
and Little Fishes" in the Legends anthology).
The Gala Dinner happened next, with a nice little folky backing band, and some decent dinner conversation.
I didn't know anyone at my table to begin with, but that didn't matter, we chatted abotu all sorts of things
anyway. I was lucky to share a table with the REAL Sandra Battye (as featured in Night Watch) and Undecided
Adrian (Going Postal) who came all the way from the UK and have been involved in Discworld Conventions since
the beginning - which is why they've been lucky enough to become characters on Discworld too!
After the dinner, we all moved back to the Great Hall for Take 2 of Terry's Bedtime Stories. He ended up
reading us an hour and a half of extracts from "Making Money" before the laptop battery died, leaving us
all in suspense until the book is published. Just like Going Postal, Moist von Lipwig is coerced into
taking charge of running the Ankh-Morpork mint, and we managed to meet a few of the new characters that
populate this place - Mr Bent, Mrs Lavish and her dog Mr Fusspot, the Shed People, and Hubert who runs the Gloopah.
When this was over, the late night sessions - including Filking - were abandoned, and it was bed time for me.
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 12
First up in the morning - an interview with Jack Cohen. Ian Stewart unfortunately had to pull out, but Jack
was quite entertaining - he had a lot of great stuff to say about Science in general, and the Science of
Discworld books (including that there are vague plans for a fourth, but not much has been written just yet,
so it may still be a while away).
Then Part 2 of Daniel Knight's interview with Terry - a lot of great bits of insight here - where certain
bits of inspiration comes from, Terry wielding an air axe whilst acting out Vimes' bezerker scene in Thud,
Where Terry stores his reference books on his 'estate', and the rebuilding of the stables, the Dinosaur
Footprint mafia working in a quarry, and his cat Genghis and the invisible fence.
Immediately after this, we read out the first act of Pyramids. Once again, a small audience, but it appeared
to be well received. Well, nobody yelled 'Boo!', but the laughter was kind of quiet. Maybe people were hanging
on our every word? No big problems and perhaps some people will journey across to Adelaide for the full
production in May ( www.unseen.com.au )
After this, I lined up in the HUGE signing queue, I wanted to get my Pyramids script signed, plus the other
books I had just happened to bring with me - Once More with Footnotes and Where's My Cow? I guess once again
the small audience for the Pyramids reading could be put down to everyone wanting to have their books signed...
It took quite a while to get to the head of the queue, so I ate my lunch (well, snacks) while waiting, and
chatted to Robbie who I hadn't met in person until then, despite the fact that we spoke on the phone when
he called me to tell me he couldn't do the script reading. Terry very kindly signed all my books and the script,
(despite Ben, ahead of me in the line, giving him Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone to sign - he didn't),
and we were all gifted with a few teeth - props from the Hogfather telemovie. That's cool and unexpected, but
Terry did bring over a huge bag of them, so there was enough for everyone.
After this I managed to catch the tail end of the Anxietas Continous panel - working out what we might do
next time, and finding out if anyone is willing to follow in Pat's footsteps. I volunteered (on paper) to
help with Trivia plus the theatrical based sessions (as done this time) but I doubt I'd be able to do too
much more as I live in the wrong city! :) (Any Con will most likely be Melbourne or Sydney, which makes sense.
It'd be nice to hold one in Adelaide, but I don't know enough fans here who could make up a reliable committee,
plus I have plenty of other things in life to keep me busy)
Then it was Fair Go Dibbler's Charity Auction (honest) - a huge range of great items up for auction, of course
the best pieces I wasn't even going to bid on, being too large or too expensive. I ended up getting an old
SF book, and old SF short story collection, and a Pyramids t-shirt. Well, it all goes to the Orang-utans, so
that's good. Some absolutely amazing artwork from Sarah and Abee was on sale, and luckily it did go for some
good money. The auction took two and a half hours, so we were running late for The Apocralypse, but after
a whole bunch of thanks were given out to the volunteers, committee, and Terry and Guests, it was all over!
I collected my auction winnings, and then dumped everything in my room and headed down to the bar where
everyone else was - and a night of sitting, talking, drinking and eating actually allowed me to meet a whole
bunch of new people I didn't get the time to talk to over the weekend. I retired at midnight, (yeah, I know,
soft, but some of us turn into pumpkins) and slept the sleep of the just, or the just asleep.
SESSIONS I'M SORRY I MISSED
There was just so much on, it was impossible to get to everything. After hearing from other people, I am
really sorry I didn't get to see:
- The Unfinished Spelling Errors of Bolkein, a musical parody of Lord of the Rings by Martin Pearson. Martin
sang one or two songs impromptu for us in the bar on Sunday night, and he's a great guy, so I bought his CD
and will listen to it soon to see what I missed. Definitely a man to see whatever show he's doing.
- Colin Smythe's interview
- Music with Filks In - this didn't end up happening, but I'm sure with a bit more planning in future, we could fit
it in anywhere.
- Mort and Wyrd Sisters play performances - there just wasn't time to sit for 2 hours seeing a play!
(I have seen both before in other productions, plus have performed in Mort as well... so I guess missing them
wasn't too bad for me. But a lot of people who'd never seen a Discworld play before really enjoyed them,
what with the raucous laughter we overheard)
- The Great Debate
So, wow, that was great. Let's hope there's another one, soon.
(Rumour says it may be October 2008. The idea is that the next Con is held at the same time that Transworld has
arranged a signing tour for Terry... because then they pay for the flights, which means more money in the Con
budget for other things!)
A huge thankyou to Pat, Ben, Kerry, Mark, Suzie, Melanie, Erica, Tess, Tania, Paul, Adrian and Nathan. You've
done a tremendous amount of work for other people's enjoyment - and I know that being in charge of an event
means you rarely have time to enjoy it yourself (been there done that) so it's great that you are all so
selfless to do this for us. Next time, may the stress be less, and the help be greater.
And of course, a big thanks to Terry Pratchett, who's given a great group of people something wonderful to
be obsessed about, so that we can join together in an event like this and find there's lots of people who
get our jokes and don't think we're *that* weird.