The Game Of Thrones effect made this year’s Eastercon bigger than ever, reports Saxon Bullock
Simple rule – if you want your convention to be massive, invite George RR Martin. The annual Eastercon has always been one of the biggest examples of its type, but the presence of veteran author and Game Of Thrones creator Martin meant that this year’s 63rd con – named Olympus 2012 – sold out in advance for the first time in decades. With impressive fellow Guests of Honour Paul Cornell, Tricia Sullivan and Cory Doctorow as additional attractions, 1,400 fans descended on Heathrow’s Radisson Edwardian hotel for a crowded Easter weekend of intelligent mayhem.
Part of the challenge of Eastercon is simply trying to fit everything in. With multiple programme streams running across the weekend, there's a staggering number of items and panels, from in-depth literary discussions, interviews and readings to wackier excursions (covering everything from "Biology of the Zombie Apocalypse" to "How to knit a Dalek"). Epic fantasy was high on the agenda, with highlights including a surprise Game Of Thrones cast panel featuring John Bradley (Samwell Tarly) and Miltos Yerolemou (Syrio Forell), but there was also a big focus on gender in SF and fantasy, with panels exploring the place of women in the genre and how to make it more inclusive.
Other choices for Olympus 2012 attendees included live-roleplaying, competing in the costume masquerade (ultimately won by a brilliantly realized alien Wirrrn from 1975 Doctor Who story "The Ark In Space"), or just hanging out in the various bar areas where dozens of authors from across the SF and fantasy genres happily mingled with fans for the whole weekend.
Sunday night saw the presentation of the annual British Science Fiction Association awards, and acclaimed author Christopher Priest raised a few eyebrows by following up his recent online take-down of the 2012 Arthur C Clarke Award shortlist by scooping the award for Best Novel for The Islanders, while Paul Cornell was adorably gobsmacked to receive the Best Short Fiction award for his story "The Copenhagen Interpretation". By the end of the long weekend, stretching late into Monday, Olympus 2012 could safely be described as a massive success, showcasing exemplary guests and a well thought-out schedule, and it's certainly given next year’s Bradford-based Eastercon " Eight Squared " one hell of an act to follow.