Convention Review

The 2007 Boréal - Canada

The 24th Boréal was also the 2007 French national convention.
Alain le Bussy attended from Europe.


The 24th Boréal Congress is the annual gathering of the Quebecian SF world. The Quebecians, are French speaking - at least some sort of French, often very heavily accented so it is not always fully understandable by people coming from the Old World. But I will not try boring Anglophone readers by discussing the special - and surprising - vocabulary they often use along the saint Laurent river. The membership was somewhat above 120, of which 17 French, 3 Belgians, 1 English, some Americans and English speaking Canadians and around 90 Quebecians.

This year, Boreal was special, because it was also the 34th French Convention. In fact us French natcon regulars were little more than a handful - just four hands in fact - crossing the ocean to see Montreal and, for some a little bit more of North America. We discovered that Boreal was rather different from a traditional French con, but this year, Boreal was also different from the previous meetings, because WE were there, as it was affirmed by the event's main organiser, Jean-Louis Trudel.

J-L Trudel had obtained the use of several rooms on the 7th level of Concordia University, not far from rue Sainte Catherine, the main commercial street in Montreal. There was space enough to hold a twin-streamed programme, part of which was in English. There was also a kind of dealers room with a major local bookseller and some small press publishers. The French (and Belgian!) visitors had tables with their own wares in another room, because we brought too many books to find room enough in the main one.

There were only two drawbacks compared to the usual French cons: there was no bar but due to the generosity of Alire, the main SF publisher in Québec we were twice offered some drinks. Enough to free our tongues and enable us to discuss many topics among friends.

'Friends'... that's a perfect word to associate with this convention (not to mention most of those to which I have in the past participated), because sometimes, we were meeting people we had not seen for years, or more often people we had never met, except through their writing or by e-mail. I remember specially Esther Rochon, met in Orléans in 1993, or Norbert Spehner who reminded me that he had published one of my first stories in Requiem way back in... 1974!

The other drawback was the fact that you had to leave the Concordia at noon and seven if you wanted to survive, i.e. not die of hunger! Happily, the neighbourhood was very rich in small restaurants, with honest prices and I could try out Indian, Mexican, Louisiana, even American cooking. We even went with André-Jean bonnelli, a Corsican writer I met for the first time, to an Iranian restaurant. Delicious!

The fact that there was no bar was not necessarily bad, because the programme points were more regularly follow by a mass of people. All in all, the global memory I'll keep will be that of more 'serious' meeting than the French cons: though by 'serious' I certainly do not mean 'tedious' or 'boring'.

When I said earlier that we of the Old World brought something different, this was perceptible in the panels and debates, because the organizers made an intense use of our presence. I did not make a count for everybody, but I was personally on four panels, which is more than in any previous convention.

About the programme, lets say that the main topic - but not the only one - was uchronies, due to the presence of Eric Henriet who is a specialist of that question. ('Uchronies' being consequences of some alteration of the time stream.) I remember specially a panel where we built some uchronies with the help of those in the audience, some subjects (that we call sujets-bateaux in French) being excluded by the moderator, like saving Jesus from the Cross, or killing Hitler as an infant. We were working down-time (what could happen if there has been a change in known history) but also up-time (for instance defining historical events which could result in the Aztec sending sometime a man on the Moon).

As a summary, let's say that the three con days were very busy days, particularly if you add the two-three days before of after to discover some parts of Montreal. I cannot promise I will return to Quebec in the future, though I would like to.

Alan le Bussy

Alain le Bussy is Belgium's most prolific living SF author who is also very active in French fandom.


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