On my first day of Swancon, as I gazed in wide-eyed wonder at a wall of Doctor Who merchandise, I heard a sharp intake of breath beside me and a female voice exclaimed "OH MY GOD! SO MUCH SQUEE!!!"
That statement pretty much sums up my entire weekend.
The panels - bar one*** - were exceptional. Amongst my favourites were Alan Baxter's workshop on writing authentic fight scenes (including simulated punch-ups between participants), Nicole R Murphy's presentation on writing sex scenes (NOT including simulated sex between participants!) and a fascinating session called 'Ghosts in the Machine: AI and The Human Mind' (panel included Justina Robson and Sean Williams).
My overall favourite would have to be the Series Four Doctor Who (Hartnell and Troughton) session, which showed heaps of rare/lost footage and audio, complemented by expert commentary and behind-the-scenes info from the panel. It included an emotional video tribute to Elisabeth Sladen/Sarah Jane Smith - half the room were sobbing their hearts out by the end - and another for Nicholas Courtney/The Brigadier. There was also a wake held for Sarah Jane and The Brigadier in the public bar on Saturday night.
This is only my third Swancon, but it's obvious there is a very large and passionate Who community in Perth and each year, the Doctor Who panels/events have made the top of my favourites list. If any of the folks involved happen to be reading this, THANK YOU.
I've never been to any other sci-fi conventions, but I've seen pics and heard many stories from my interstate and international friends. What blows me away about Swancon (and, from what I can gather, sets it apart from many other cons) is just how close you can get to the 'celebrities' of our field. If you read my post about last year's Swancon, you'll remember I had a major geekgasm over casually chatting with the likes of Ian Irvine and Richard Harland, and getting blind drunk with Scott Sigler. Let's not mince words here - that was nothing short of FUCKING AWESOME.
This year I found myself on a hunt for midnight munchies with Sylvia Kelso, teased Alan Baxter at the bar, danced like a mad woman to the music of DJ Sean Williams, philosiphised about small towns and family with Ian Nichols, talked sex with Nicole R Murphy, cuddled (at the behest of a Twitter friend) Paul Kidd, dodged (without success) Ellen Datlow's camera, and took happy snaps of Justina Robson. Just to mention a few. Again... nothing short of FUCKING AWESOME! Sometimes I regret living in the small-town backwater that is Western Australia, but Swancon is NOT one of those times.
Like all things, my Swancon experience had a downside. I raised the issue, for the second year running, of the exclusion of newbies as something the committee really needs to address. I know this exclusion isn't intentional, but the tight-knit groups of regular attendees can make new people feel very unwelcome. This is my third Swancon and each time I've ended up hanging out with people from interstate or overseas, because they often feel as left out as I do. If Swancon wants to broaden its fan base and increase its numbers, something really needs to be done about the isolation felt by newbies. This year I was a little better off thanks to Twitter - I'd met some Perth peeps online (and in person at #wawonkdrinks) and one of those people went out of his way to ensure that I felt included. His kindness made all the difference. Thank you, Nick!
All in all, Swancon was - all together now - FUCKING AWESOME. Thank you to the Swancon committee, the volunteers, the guest authors, the Whovians, the Perth Twitter geeks and everyone else who made my weekend so memorable. See you next year!
*** OH. MY. GOD...the 'Dolls of Desire: Man's Unnatural Selection of the Perfect Woman' presentation. I can't even begin to tell you how furious this session made me.
I haven't read the book and, after attending that session, I have no intention of ever doing so. But if the presentation is anything to go by, the book is a study based on a COMPLETELY FALSE PREMISE. I sat there with steam coming out of my ears as this white, heterosexual man talked about what it means to be a sex worker or porn star, denied women their agency and sexual enjoyment, described men as inherently abusive control freaks, demonised 'alternative' sexual behaviours like BDSM and polyamory, and invisibilised gay, lesbian and trans* folks. I had so many things I wanted to scream about that I was struck dumb and couldn't say anything at all.
To be honest, I had planned to give a constructive critique of this presentation, but I've realised I'm still too angry to comment politely on it. I was blown away by the level of sexist, stereotypical bullshit... and anyone who knows me in the real world knows I've dealt with a shitload of sexist, stereotypical bullshit in my time.
All I can say is... as a sex positive woman, I found this session incredibly frustrating.
[Edited because I let my temper get the better of me and behaved like an outrageously rude bitch.]