The 2014 Eurocon – Dublin, Ireland
The 2014 Eurocon was held in one of Europe's most western
I had not been to Ireland, let alone Dublin, before so Shamrokon gave me the perfect excuse for a visit, particularly as it was the weekend after the Worldcon and therefore seen as a relaxacon for anyone working on the latter.
I arrived a day early in order to see a little of the city and I have to say I liked it. The people really are as friendly and helpful as everyone says. Definitely a place to return to. Indeed, they are bidding for the 2019 Worldcon and I hope they get it; I quite fancy a good trip to Ireland, more time in Dublin, and a Worldcon run by a friendly, helpful bunch of people.
Apart from wandering the streets and calling into shops (many of which were selling the predictable tourist tat, err, sorry, souvenirs) I took a trip round the Leprechaun Museum. I was not alone; even as I was buying my ticket a bunch of fans rolled up and we had a most enjoyable time. To call it a Museum is a bit of misnomer, it was more an Experience. It was aimed at children (a category which usually includes fans), told us a little of Irish history, more about its legends, and was generally fun.
We then wandered round the Temple Bar area which is quite compact but sadly geared these days to tourists; the pubs boasted tinned music of Irish bands playing endless jigs but it just did not feel right, or at least, not the Real Thing. Fortunately we stumbled across O’Neil’s and this is a proper Dublin pub. It was crowded (with locals), offered good food (the queue for the impressive carvery was very long), and had a wide range of beers. I have never enjoyed Guinness but have always been assured that it is much better in Ireland - you get the Real Thing. I have to admit that it was undoubtedly the best pint of Guinness I have ever had but it convinced me that, the Real Thing or not, I really do not like Guinness - I have no desire for a second one. Oh well, that is all the more for everyone else. Mind you, the locally brewed White Gypsy Blond, a weiss beer, was so good that I went back later for some more.
Being straight after the Worldcon meant that Shamrokon had a high membership as many fans, especially American, figured they might as well attend both and I heard that the membership was in the order of a thousand (though my informant was unsure whether this was in total or warm body count). The Guests of Honour were: writers Andrzej Sapkowski, Michael Carroll, and Seanan McGuire, artist Jim Fitzpatrick, and fan Ylva Spångberg. In addition there was a Ghost of Honour – J. Sheridan Le Fanu, a lifelong resident of Dublin.
The event was held in the Doubletree by Hilton hotel (known locally by its previous name, the Burlington Hotel). The great news for international visitors was that the bus service from the airport has a stop right outside (but ask the driver for the Burlington!). The hotel was large and coped very well, though the large attendance meant that many were in the overflow hotel, the Mespil, about ten minutes easy walk away.
The Doubletree’s breakfast was excellent, a really good buffet (and by the end of the con I was finding it difficult to do it justice - I was getting too full). On the Friday morning the staff were doing the usual thing of putting everyone on a table of their own, which was not exactly sociable. However the maître d’, who was very friendly and helpful, soon put a stop to that - if you had a con badge then you had to share a table with other con folk! His no nonsense approach gave many of us a chance to meet and talk to people who were new to us (and that is a Good Thing). As he said with his quiet, charming, friendly, Irish lilt “if we give you a table each, we’ll be here all day!”.
The con kicked off after lunch on Friday and ran through until early evening on Sunday, with the normal Dead Dog Party following after that. It did not end there, though, as there was an additional item on Monday morning, a visit to Le Fanu’s vault in Mount Jerome cemetery. This was followed by the Dead Dog Party Part II, a lunchtime session at the Porterhouse Central in the city centre. Personally I missed the Dead Dog Party, preferring instead to catch up on sleep, especially as I had to get the flight home the next morning.
I also missed the Opening Ceremony having walked into the city with a friend for a rather nice dinner at the Farm Restaurant (had we sussed the way the tourist guide listed things, we would have realised that they have a second restaurant only a few minutes walk from the Doubletree).
The hotel offered rooms of various and useful sizes and the programme made pretty good use of them. Although often very well attended, rarely was a room filled to overflowing. Mostly the convention was in a compact area, the main rooms being off a corridor which lead from the bar area, though a few smaller rooms were used on the next floor. At times there were as many as seven concurrent items, though mostly there were five or six to choose from.
I confess that I never got to see any of the GoHs in action though someone told me that Andrzej Sapkowski came over as being too impressed with himself. I did notice that he never attended any of the events where you would expect to see GoHs, such as the Closing Ceremony where they are traditionally thanked. On the Friday evening Seanan McGuire donned her filk hat and, with the aid of Bill and Brenda Sutton (amongst others), performed to those that were there. Unfortunately it had been a last minute idea, had missed being in the programme booklet, and consequently was not that well attended; I only found it just as they were finishing.
Being a multi-streamed programme there was, of course, much that I never got to but I managed to drop into quite a number of items. My particular favourites were those that took a light hearted look at other nations (such as 'It’s Funnier In Swedish' and 'The Truth About German Fandom') and those that dealt with scientific and technological matters (such as 'Living In A Cyberpunk World' and '3-D Printers and Copyright Law'). As usual, Charlie Stross added to everything he attended and, indeed, tended to add some needed grounding to some of the more esoteric discussions by bringing in actual facts (some of them quite obtuse or generally unheard of).
By coincidence, on the Saturday night the BBC broadcast the first episode of Doctor Who with Peter Capaldi as the Doctor. It was shown to a packed audience and despite some technical problems (such as the bad sound) it went down very well.
The Tantalus Theatre Company put on Tales From The Shrink’s Couch though for some reason it started on the half hour, meaning that many arrived too late to be let in (being live theatre, they were insistent that there should be no disturbances caused by folks wandering in and out).
I attended the ESFS (European SF Society) General Meeting where the vote was taken on the venue for 2016’s Eurocon. I found the meeting badly run in that little was explained, it being assumed that everyone already knew how it all worked. This being my first such meeting I was confused, especially about how the voting worked. (Editorial note: this is a common complaint and Eurocons might wish to make a point of having a clear direction on their website to the ESFS site and advise those wishing to attend the business meeting to carefully read the ESFS constitution and rules beforehand.) There were two bids for the 2016 Eurocon: Poland and Spain. The Polish bid's representative was asked when exactly (i.e. the actual date) they intended to hold the 2016 Eurocon and revealed, very much at the last moment, that it would be the same weekend as the 2016 Worldcon. He did not see that this was any sort of problem as he thought that Worldcon fans did not attend Eurocons and vice versa - there were some looks of disbelief from the audience, especially those that had just attended the London Worldcon. Ian Watson was amongst those representing the Barcelona bid and he did it well. In the end the vote was for Barcelona (4th-6th November 2016).
There were two aspects that I thought Shamrokon got wrong. Firstly they had decided that everything would be done on the web; this was hugely disadvantageous for those without good (or any) web access. Whilst the web is very useful, people must remember that it is only one method of communication and they must not desert the older methods - particularly given that internet access is far from universal. Brian Nisbet (co-chair) admitted to me afterwards that, although it had helped them cut costs, they now realised that it was a mistake.
Secondly, there was no planning concerning the provision of meals. Breakfast, obviously, was served in the hotels - but what about lunch or dinner? Were there any lunch or dinner arrangements with the hotel? Well, 'no' was the answer. In fact, what were the hotel’s normal arrangements and what were they intending to provide (e.g. bar meals, normal menu in the restaurant)? I asked at the con’s Ops/Information desk and there were blank looks - nobody had thought of it! Remaining unaware of what, if anything, the hotel was offering, I mostly lunched at the nearby Spar store; this had a sandwich shop and coffee bar … and the unexpected chance to sit down with other fans who were similarly opting 'out' for lunch (including a delightful interlude with Ian Watson). As for dinner, we ate out in restaurants or pubs.
My other, and very personal, complaint was the beer. As I have said above, Guinness does nothing for me (my loss!). Although the hotel had other local beers, they were uniformly frozen to death and undrinkable; I was very nearly tea-total for the weekend. Why DO hotels always think that beer should be an icy, tasteless drink? Thank goodness for the weiss beer at O’Neil’s!
All in all, I had a very pleasant weekend and enjoyed the con. It was so much smaller than the Worldcon, there were no hassles, it had an interesting programme (much of which I got to, or at least looked in on), and there were lots of very friendly people. I really do hope that Ireland host the 2019 Worldcon; if their Eurocon is anything to go by, it should be a good one!
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