Just off the plane

So barely two or three days after getting off the plane from Taiwan, I found myself at a small local convention (Satellite 3) at Glasgow's Central hotel. This is significant to me, since the Central was the location of the very first sf convention I ever went to. It was either 1981 or 1982; I honestly can't be sure. I think it was an Albacon.

At that time, still in my mid-teens, I was living outside of Glasgow and had to train in. I only had enough money for a day-membership on the Saturday, but I came back in the next day - nothing could have stopped me - and very carefully wore the plastic membership badge I had in such a way that the bit indicating it was for the day before was hidden behind the lapel of my combat jacket.

That first con was, frankly, awesome. I think I wandered by accident into a darkened room and somehow managed to see Rocky Horror for the first time. I believe there's a book out by the author Jo Walton which revolves heavily around a Glasgow Eastercon of that period (Among Things). This is good, because as far as I'm concerned, the Glasgow Eastercons were always more awesome-erer than ones held elsewhere. And if there was one any time between 1980 and 2000, I was there.

Satellite was a much smaller con, however, with perhaps a hundred people, perhaps slightly more, all much greyer than they used to be. Some I know well, some I have never yet spoken to, even though I remember their considerably more fresh-faced incarnations from past decades. When you come down to it, it's not much more really than some people sitting chatting in a bar, or listening to each other talk in the room next door.

And yet I found myself on the Sunday afternoon struggling to leave. When I finally did, I remembered why: it's always strangely depressing stepping out of a con and back into the real world, however big or small, good or bad that con is. There's still a moment of transition and readjustment from that world to this world. There's that moment where you have to take off that plastic badge, knowing you're never going to put it on again.

Before I left, I took a look around. Even though the Central hosted many conventions in the past, it was abandoned in that respect until fairly recently, and it's been refurbished since I was last there. There's a grand ballroom, and I remember seeing Harlan Ellison making his guest of honour speech there some time in the Eighties. Norman Spinrad had done the same the year before. Ellison's speech was the first time I'd ever heard the story about the dead gopher. I used to have a tape of the speech and lost it. If anyone's got a copy, let me know.

Unfortunately, as much as it sucks to have to say it, I don't think I'll be at Eastercon this year. I'd love to - I really enjoyed the last Heathrow con, a lot more than I did the one just outside Birmingham - but  I got hammered by the taxman this time round. C'est la vie.

(Also, I swear I'll blog about Taiwan. Really, I will.)

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