Convention Review


The 2016 Eurocon – Barcelona, Spain

The 2016 Eurocon was held in Barcelona
4th - 6th November and was the first time Spain has hosted the event
.

 

2016 was the year of the first ever Eurocon in Spain, the first ever in Catalonia, and the first ever in Barcelona, one of my two favourite cities. Catalans being Catalans, the Convention was determinedly trilingual ~ English ~ Spanish ~ Catalan. The programme was very international and linguistically approachable. Ignoring several items in more than one language, there were 50 in English, 39 in Spanish and 6 in Catalan.

Attendance was good with over 850 attendees from 34 different nations. The Guests of Honour were also international:-
                                        Aliette de Bodard (French, but writing in English)
                                        Richard Morgan (UK)
                                        Enrique Corominas (Spain)
                                        Andrez Sapkowski (Poland)
                                        Johanna Sinisalo (Finland)
                                        Rosa Montero (Spain)
                                        Rhianna Pratchett (UK)
                                        and Fan GoH Peter Michalecsky (Hungary).

Two further guests were added prior to the con:-
                                        Albert Sanchez Pinol (Catalonia)
                                        and non-European Guest Brandon Sanderson (US).

The Con took place in a well-situated educational/cultural establishment, CCCB (Centre de Cultura Contemporania de Barcelona). The halls and rooms were fine and, unlike some Eurocon locations, there was a bar to hang out in! Food was available there and there must have been another twenty restaurants/cafes/bars within a five minute walk. The excellent Con hotel, Hotel Catalonia, was nearby. This was the location for the pre-Con Thursday night party and the Dead Dog party on the Sunday night.

 


Many of western Europe's SF community, plus others from further away, attended.

The Eurocon was also the Spanish national Convention – Hispacon with Spain's Ignotus Awards and this year Catalan's Ictineu's – so there was a lot to pack into three days.

There were seven programme streams each with items beginning 15minutes apart, i.e. 10:00am, 10:15am, 10:30am, etc. with up to four items starting at the same time. Allowing for overlaps, deciding what to go to was tricky but it was great to have so many choices.

There were a few science items including: 'Where are the Aliens (the Fermi paradox)', 'Is Venus habitable?', 'How your Brain cheats You', 'How Robot Companions will change Us', 'Beyond Jurassic Park (genetic engineering)' and 'Machines that Kill (drones)'.   There was also one item, on 'Carl Jung’s influence on science fiction', but unfortunately for some of us Brits this was in Spanish. In addition to the usual panels and interviews with guests there were items looking at science fiction in Spain, Portugal, France and the Arab world.

Barcelona itself was not forgotten, the mascot was an overweight comic dragon, obviously based on Gaudi’s work in Parc Guell, and Ian Watson led a walk discovering the city’s George Orwell connection. This was greatly oversubscribed so I gave it a miss but it was reportedly very good. Mention must also be made of Ian Watson and Cristina Rugado’s great double act at the Awards ceremony, a brilliant way to end the Convention.

The excellent main Con hotel, Hotel Catalonia, was nearby. From both it was easily walkable to Placa de Catalunya and the top of the Ramblas. The well produced 'Read Me' (programme timetable booklet) even had a map showing the location of the best bookshops for science fiction. I didn’t get to the giant Gigamesh bookshop but it was apparently well worth a visit. The goody bag included a trilingual (Catalan-Spanish-English) printing of Manuel de Pedrolo’s 1974 novella Mecanoscrit del Segon Origen [Second Origin Typescript]: this was the first publication in English of this much-reprinted Catalan classic.

This was my third visit to Barcelona, a city I like very much. Of course, I went to see Sagrada Familia again - its grown some wonderful new bits! I’d love to see a one hundred year time lapse film of its development. It even looks as if it might be finished in my lifetime.

Thankfully, the city seems to have got on top of the previously brazen pickpocketing which was such an endemic scourge. I understand that this is because the police can now use a tourist’s written statement in court without the victim having to go back to Spain to testify. Since this was never going to happen, the pickpockets had felt that they were untouchable.

Finally, thanks to the Txapela restaurant on Passaig de Gracia, I really mastered tapas. Their large paper placemat had numbered coloured pictures of fifty one different items. You just told the waiter the numbers and you could see what you would be getting. Brilliant!

Altogether, a very good con and another great visit to Barcelona.

In 2017 the Eurocon will be in Dortmund from the 16th - 18th June.

Jim Walker

 

See also over on the Spring 2017 seasonal news page items on the 2016 Eurocon and the European SF Society business meetings.

 


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