Convention Review

Hispacon XXV -- Spain

Called Ishbiliya-Con 2007, the 2007 Spanish national convention, Hispacon XXV, was held in Seville on 2nd - 4th November Sue Burke reports.

This year's site for Spain's national science fiction convention may rank as the most beautiful ever. The building originally served a Morocco's pavilion for Seville's 1992 Expo: an arabesque jewel of hand-crafted mosaics, fountains, marble arches, carved woodwork and painted wall panels. After the Expo closed, the building was donated to the Three Cultures of the Mediterranean Foundation, which seeks to promote dialogue, peaceful coexistence, and cultural exchange among Mediterranean peoples.

The convention was organized jointly by the Foundation and the Spanish Association for Fantasy, Science Fiction and Horror (AEFCFT, Spanish initials). As usual, the convention focused heavily on literature, and this year's guests of honour were all authors: Guy Hasson, Israel; Rhys Hughes, Wales; and Rafael Marín, Juan Miguel Aguilera, and Javier Negrete, Spain. Also as usual, at least half the 220 participants were authors, reviewers, publishers, artists, or fan personalities.

Why "Ishbiliya-Con"? Hispacons often adopt a historic name for the city where they are held, and "Ishbiliya" was the name of Seville during its Muslim reign from 712 to 1248 A.D. Those years left the city enriched with many attractive monuments and historic neighborhoods that charm tourists and locals alike. Unfortunately the Expo grounds, now an office park, lie a bit removed from the rest of the city and amenities like bars and restaurants, and their lack was mourned by all.

Programme started on Friday morning with a lecture on fantastic elements in literature from India; the Foundation was hosting a month-long programme on Indian culture and added that to the mix. Unfortunately the Bollywood movie scheduled for later that day, Koi Mil Gaya, directed by Rajesh Roshan, didn't make it through customs in time. The convention took advantage of the pavilion's fine film theatre during the weekend to show a few popular French and Japanese works and five little-known Spanish films followed by talks with their directors: Próxima [Next] directed by Carlos Atanes; Invasión Travesti [Transvestite Invasion] directed by Jerónimo de los Santos and Francisco Cabeza; Relojes de Arena [Hourglasses] directed by Luara Alvea and José Ortuño; Cielo Sin Ángeles [Heaven Without Angels] directed by Laura Alvea and José Ortuño; and Sr. Puppe [Mr. Puppe] directed by Carlos Crespo.

A local youth organization set up a computer game room and encouraged non-gamers to try out Wii controls while hard-core gamers racked up high scores by defeating assorted monsters and scary criminals.

In addition to continual games and movies and a book-sale area, participants could chose between two panels or presentations at any given time. In 17 different slots, authors and publishers introduced new works to fans and potential new readers. Other panels examined such topics as changes in U.S. comics after September 11, the works of Stanislaw Lem, far-fetched fiction, and the future of e-books.

A welcome bag included a novel, magazine, calendar, book on Palestine, and an anthology, Ishbiliya-Con 2007, published by the Three Cultures Foundation for the convention. It contains short stories from Spain, Argentina, Turkey, Israel, Syria, Egypt, Morocco, Libya, and India, and its cover art shows flying saucers surrounding an emblematic Seville monument, a former minaret that is now a church tower.

The Foundation had promised to introduce convention-goers to works from other Mediterranean cultures, and several panels examined international themes. In particular, the Ishbiliya-Con 2007 anthologist, Darío Marimón, general coordinator of the Foundation, presented a workshop on 'Fantastic Arab stories' with Alfonso Merelo, press liaison officer of AEFCFT. Marimón proved to be both an expert on Arab literature and a fan of fantastic literature who has spent considerable time locating long-lost works. He was pleased to be able to bring some them to new readers. For example, the anthology included a chapter from the novel Blue Flood, Morocco's first science fiction novel, written in 1979 by Abdusalaam Al Baqqali, about a colony on Mars. It also included two chapters from the novel City Outside of Time by Taleb Omran of Syria: Omran organized the first conference on Arab science Fiction in June 2007.

The 2007 Ignotus Awards, Spain's equivalent to the Hugos, were presented at a dinner on Saturday night. The winners were:-
          Best novel: Juglar [Jongleur], Rafael Marín
          Best novela: 'Gel Azul' [Blue Gel], Bernardon E. Fernández
          Best short story: 'Son de Piedra' [They are Stone], Rafael Marín
          Best anthology: Axiómatico [Axiomatic], Greg Egan
          Best non-fiction book: El universo de la Ciencia-Ficción [The Universe of Science Fiction], Sergio Gaut vel Hartman
          Best article: 'Ciencia ficción, ¿qué es?' [Science Fiction, What Is It?], Alfonso Merelo
          Best audio-visual production: El laberinto del Fauno [Pan's Labyrinth], Guillermo del Toro
          Best illustration: Cover of Factor Psi, Alfonso Seijas
          Best comic: La Legion del Espacio [Space Legion], Alfredo Álamo and Fedde
          Best poetic work: 'Poe', Alfredo Álamo
          Best magazine: Vórtice en Línea
          Best foreign novel: Leyes de Mercado [Market Forces], Richard Morgan
          Best foreign story: 'Aprendiendo A Ser Yo' [Learning To Be Me], Greg Egan
          Best web site: Sitio de Ciencia Ficción

In addition, the board of AEFCFT presented the Gabriel Award to veteran author Elia Barceló to recognise 'her invaluable contributions to the genre'. She was completely surprised and delighted. She has been writing since the early 1980s and is arguably the first Spanish woman to have an SF novel published.

On Saturday afternoon, fans of the Aznar Saga, an epic series of novels by G.H. White published in the 1950s and 1970s, held their own convention within the convention, Aznarcon IX. They examined specific aspects of the saga and presented awards including the winners for the Barbara Watt Contest for short stories set within the saga. First place went to Ramón San Miguel for '¡Platos volantes!' [Flying Saucers!].

On Sunday morning, AEFCFT members met for their annual business meeting. They decided to sponsor a contest for young writers; selected this year's editors for their two annual short-story collections, one for new writers and a "best of" anthology; and voted to hold the next Hispacon in Almería, a city on Spain's south-east Mediterranean coast, in the autumn 2008.

Sue Burke

Sue Burke moved to Spain from the U.S. in 2000. She writes fiction, journalism, and poetry. More at


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