The 2012 Eurocon – Zagreb, Croatia
The 2012 Eurocon was held in one of Europe's smallest
The 2012 Eurocon was held in Zagreb, Croatia, at the end of April. Called Kontakt, it was also the 34th SFeraKon, the Croatian national convention. The con actually took place in the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, a rather tired 1960's building, with the very modern Con hotel nearby. For the first evening, a party had been arranged in a local micro-brewery, with excellent beer and Croatian food.
There were 1,300 fans at the Con, including 175 from outside Croatia. Most of the usual Eurocon regulars were there, Roberto Quaglia (Italy), Frank Roger, Frank Beckers and Peter de Weerdt (Belgium), Pascal Ducommun (Switzerland), Attila Nemeth (Hungary), Wolf von Witling (resident in Italy), Imants Belogrivas (Latvia), Boris Syduk and Alexandr Vasilkovsky (Ukraine), Piotr Cholewa (Poland ) and Oleg Kolesmikov, Kiril Pleshkov and Irina Lipka (Russia) and Dave Lally, James Shields and Gareth Cavanagh (Ireland) . Then there were the Brits, Martin Hoare and Doris Panda, Bridget Wilkinson, Peter Redfarn and myself, plus a surprise appearance by Steve and Alice Lawson pushing the 2014 London Worldcon bid. There were also four Finns [A Word to the Wise: do NOT go drinking with Finns!]
The con was very well organised, with many more items in English than in Croatian! I have never been to a Eurocon with such a preponderence of English, rather than the local language, (55 items in English, 14 in both languages, and only 17 in Croatian). I presume this is because there are not enough Croatian SF fans to justify translating US and UK titles into Croatian: they just have to read them in English.
The Programme Book had 56 pages and there was an accompanying A5 book with twelve short Croatian SF stories which was available in two variants, the original Croatian, and a translated English one. There were up to seven simultaneous programme streams, with always at least two in English, plus a Gaming Room and a Reading Corner.
There was no Masquerade as such, but there was a costume competition. Many people went around dressed up all day, and attendees were given three black spots each, to be presented to their choice of costumer.
The Guests of Honour were: Croatian illustrator Darko Macan, American writer Tim Powers, and Britain's own Charlie Stross. together with fan guest Cheryl Morgan. They were all very available to the fans and seemed to have a good time.
There was no video room, but there was one film item, the Festival of Serbian Fantastic Films, presented by Jovan Ristic and Dragan Jovicevic. This was two and a half hours of Serbian SF shorts, of varying quality, but with some great script ideas. I managed to sneak in two of my own short films; they seemed to go down well.
Some of the programme items were particularly interesting, such as 'Commies in Space' (an analysis of Ian M Banks' Culture), 'Ab(w)horing Vaccuum' (the coming exploitation of space by private corporations) and 'Predigital Special Effects' (Star Wars IV, V and VI).
There was also 'Wireless Energy - Tesla Magnifiers'. This was no doubt part of the programme because in Croatia, there is a big interest in the scientist polymath Nikola Tesla; he even appears on the 100 kuna bank note. This interest is shared by the Serbs who also claim him as their own, even though he spent most of his life in America. Tesla's hubris was amazing. He proposed to build a series of stations injecting 12 million volts into the Earth, causing the Earth's magnetic field to resonate and allowing everyone to tap into the energy 'wirelessly'. J P Morgan, the Americal millionaire financier, who was funding Tesla, pulled out when he realised that there was no way to charge people for the current used! What it could have done to migrating birds, I have no idea. It seems that Environmental Impact Statements were not very big in 1900.
The European SF Society (ESFS) news included: current Chair Dave Lally, said he would not be standing again as an ESFS officer in 2013; Russian Irina Lipka is contemplating a bid for 2015 in St Petersburg; and Frank Beckers and Peter de Weerdt are considering a bid for 2016 in Antwerp.
I had been in Zagreb before in 1997 and thought it an interesting place then. In the intervening fifteen years it has completely lost the old Second World look, indeed some of the modern parts could be in Germany. The old town has been repaired and painted and, to a foreigner, looks pretty prosperous. The cathedral is wonderful and the beer is cheap. There is an excellent public transport system, with frequent trams and buses. Most of these are now modern, built in Croatia.
The Croatians have a good sense of fun, there was a wickedly affectionate cartoon of Bridget Wilkinson, Secretary of ESFS, in the Con news sheet News from Barsoom. All in all, it was an excellent Con in a very attractive city.
Also here is our Spring news page report of the 2012 Eurocon.