Over the years I have been to six Eurocons, and I can say that 2002 was a good one. It was actually held in a small town 100 kilometres southeast of Prague called Chotebor (pronounced Choteyeborsh) but the organisers also laid on a three day tour of Prague and surrounding highlights for the foreign visitors.
Prague is a must-see place, and luckily I had already spent a week there because this time the tour was very rapid without much free time. However I did manage to get to see the babies. Like most large cities, Prague has a modern television tower. Theirs consists of three white circular concrete towers 150 metres high, joined by platforms at high level and topped by the aerials. What makes Prague's unique is the presence of six or seven babies crawling up or down the outside of the towers. They are about 4 metres long and 3 metres high and are just crawling up the tower as if it was the kitchen floor. It is impossible to look at them without a broad smile forming on your face.... wonderful!
By Wednesday afternoon we had arrived in Chotebor and registered. Unfortunately the foreigners, including the authors, were staying in a hotel in another small town called Havlickuv Brod, some 22 kilometres away. There was a Con bus service, reliable but infrequent, back to Chotebor and also a train service between the two towns.
The Con took place in four different buildings, but fortunately they were all within 100 metres on the same street. In fact the street was actually closed to traffic for the duration of the Con, which allowed the various Jedi and Highlanders, etc. to have sword fights whenever they wanted. There was a canteen giving out meals on production of little tickets bought through the con, the quality varied but it was all edible and cheap. The Czech organisers seemed to think it was a bit of a shambles but I couldn't see why, all the events I wanted to go to happened more or less on time, the buses ran, etc., etc. Perhaps as a veteran of Eurocon 1991 in Kracow my standards are a bit low. Anyway, everyone I spoke to seemed to be enjoying themselves.
The Con itself was simultaneously the Eurocon, Parcon (the Czech national Con) and Avalcon (the Con organised by the local science fiction club, Avalon). In addition they were running Animecon, Babylon 5 Con, Discworld Con, Gamecon, Star Trek Con and StarWars Con. Something for everyone !!
The foreign guests included George R R Martin from the USA, Robert Holdstock and Jim Burns from Great Britain, Myra Cakan from Germany, Kyril Bulycov from Russia, and Andrei Sapkowski from Poland. There were around 800 people present, including around 100 'foreigners' (i.e. non Czechs or Slovaks), mostly Poles. As well as Latvians, Hungarians, Bulgarians, Danes, etc. There were also a couple of Israelis who flirted with the idea of bidding for a future Eurocon, but, wisely in my view, didn't take it any further. (Remember Armageddoncon?) Many of the usual suspects were there, Frank Beckers from Belgium, Pascal Docummon from Switzerland, Dave Lally from Ireland, Bridget Wilkinson and, I suppose, myself, from England. Roberto Quaglia made a late appearance looking very fit.
There was a good opening ceremony and some good panels, including a talk on Asian and African SF. One disappointment was the supposed competition for Miss Eurocon. Not a swimsuit in sight, in fact most of the seven contestants wore trousers. I knew we had been over optimistic when I saw the judges, one of whom was a middle-aged witch in full black cloak and pointed hat. . It turned out that the real purpose of the competition was to find the perfect host for a Goauld larva (as in the TV series Stargate). The actual contest consisted of three rounds, to show ambition/altruism, (the 'working for World peace' question), bravery, (reaction to large rubber rat pulled out of a bag), and romance, (recite a romantic poem or sing). A no doubt worthy winner was eventually found, however the larva was administered off stage.
I caught up with some anime and some of it was really weird. I knew about the ones with prepubescent girls with big eyes and long legs saving the world and worrying about the size of their boobs, it is obvious what they are about. However there was another one which wasn't sexy at all; some very young schoolgirls were in some sort of conflict with a giant space monster which just sat on the roof of the school and made everyone else invisible. These little girls spent a lot of the time crying, apparently really distressed. This is all being watched by a load of young Czech anime fans, 95% of them men, I have no idea what they were making of it. Obviously this is a Japanese phenomenon and must make some sense within Japanese culture, but who are the target audience? .... masochistic eight year old girls? ...people who don't like eight year old girls? I don't get it. My contribution to the Discworld Con was watching the full length 'Soul Music' cartoon... much more fun!
All in all 2002 was a good Eurocon. In case you don't know already, next year it will be in Turku, Finland, and the following year in Plovdiv, Bulgaria.
Tips for tourists in Prague: we stayed in the Pension Alpin Avion, (00 420 2 6121 3145), recently modernised and quietish. It is well out of town but only 100 metres from Kacerov Metro station, and cost EUR 30 for bed and breakfast as booked through the Eurocon. There is a Science Fiction bookshop with some English titles, Krakatit, at Jungmannova 14, with attached cafe and bar.
And don't miss the babies on the tower!
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