EasterCon – Dysprosium 2015
Yep, that’s where you can find me this weekend. Well, most of it, anyway. Sometimes life (and work) get a teensy bit in the way…
Anyhow, I spent most of yesterday afternoon and evening at The Park Inn, Heathrow, where the Con is being held. As usual, I’d investigated options for getting there and decided to drive – it’s about 55 miles, around one and a quarter hours if the M25 is behaving itself. Which, of course, it was not.
So I arrived later than expected but hey, there was no queue at Registration by then, so what the heck? Oh, did I mention the parking? £5 a day in the hotel car park. Only there were no spaces. Lots of cars parked in positions beneath threatening signs forbidding parking, but what the hell? Unfortunately there weren’t even any of those left. Not that I would have; I like my car too much to risk having it towed away.
The overflow parking was just fine, (only £10 for 4 hours, which I didn’t think was too outrageous) but a fair walk back to the hotel. Just as well I put on sensible shoes 😉
Registration was easy to find, and fast. There was a choice of a gift mug or bar of soap (weird), and the option of one book from a stack of tempting-looking titles. I settled on the hardback ‘The Boy with the Porcelain Blade’ by Den Patrick, described (by Tom Pollock) as, ‘Locke Lamora meets Gormenghast. Stylish, witty and charmingly dark’. Sounds like fun, and the author was at the British Fantasy Convention last autumn, and seemed charming, if a little over-zealous in his desire to push his debut book (but then, who wouldn’t be?), so I thought I’d give it a go.
The programme is, for me, a bit patchy. A lot of family-friendly stuff (not my scene) and lots of readings by authors I’ve never heard of (bad me), so I found myself with a bit of time on my hands to wander the merchandise stalls. The hotel is not ideal in layout (the maps provided in the programme are not especially helpful until you actually locate the area inside the hotel they refer to), and instead of a hall for the stalls, they’ve tucked them away in side rooms, 2 or 3 stalls to a room. This makes you a little reluctant to wander in, and I know some of the stall holders are less than happy with the arrangement; perhaps not an idea to repeat?
There were, however, a couple of really great panels, and each had one of the GoH (Guest of Honour) as panellists, and boy, are they great speakers! I am so envious. I’d love to be off-the-cuff witty like that, but I’m just not, sigh.
Cryptids: A Modern Bestiary?
Before going in, I have to admit I wasn’t quite sure of the definition of a cryptid, so to assist those like myself, here is a definition:
Cryptids are animals or plants not recognized by the scientific community or thought it to be extinct but alleged by some to still be alive. Cryptids are, for the most part, creatures of myth and legend, creatures thought to be extinct but which some say may still exist, or animals thought to have have taken new evolutionary paths and evolved from previously existing creatures into new variations.
This covers such beasties as Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster (dear to my heart, what with DESPRITE MEASURES being set in the Loch Ness area), amongst other varied creatures. GoH, Seanan McGuire dominated this panel, with her past training in zoology (I think; certainly in that general field) and her passion for all things venomous. She is one funny lady, and so full of knowledge of what is going on in the world regarding rare species – awesome.
She came up with a most interesting piece of information that I will certainly be delving further into – an area of great interest to me for Science Fiction stories, like the one I’ve just written for THE WORLD AND THE STARS anthology, about gene-splicing to produce chimera. When asked what existing (non-cryptid) creature she found most interesting, she immediately pronounced it to be the Komodo dragon, not just for it’s venomous bite and deadly bacteria-laced saliva, but also for the fact that it came reproduce by parthenogenesis, but it can produce both male and female offspring by this method. In case you don’t know, parthenogenesis is a means of asexual reproduction, where young hatch from an unfertilized egg, resulting normally in only female offspring (no Y chromosome because no male input), so how the Komodo dragon produces males is, for me, a topic for further investigation.
She also supplied the little titbit, that their venom can be counteracted by rattlesnake anti-venom, as, apparently, can many poison bites. The quirky result of the use of rattlesnake venom, though, is a 5-year allergy to horses, as the stuff is cultivated using equine plasma.
Bet not many people know that!