At the Edge of the Empire

Bridget Wilkinson checks out Portugal's first SF convention

Bridget Wilkinson co-ordinates Fans Across the World. Lives in London, and regularly attends the London Circle (the 1960s version of which was immortalised in Arthur Clarke's Tales from the White Hart -- of course this was long before Bridget turned up on the scene...)

At the Edge of the Empire was the first Science Fiction convention/conference to be held in Portugal. Held in the seaside resort of Cascais, near to Lisbon, in late September at the end of the summer holiday season. The convention's focus was the town theatre, recently restored, where lectures and panels were held from the morning through to the evening, with extended meal breaks in-between. Two marquees on the main square down by the seashore held book stalls, a cybercafe (sans cafe), a role playing games workshop run by the local SF importers, Magic (the card game) sessions also run by the importers, videos, Manga, and other items.

Unlike most SF conventions I have ever met, entrance appeared to be free. The meeting was sponsored by the local council and the dealers. Certainly the Magic traders seemed to be very pleased with business, and were talking about increasing their sponsorship for a future event. The meeting had been initiated by the local council, interested in attracting visitors to Cascais in the dog end of the holiday season, and with members interested in SF. As far as I could ascertain all parties were satisfied.

Guests included Brian Aldiss, Charles Brown, Christopher Priest, David Pringle, Joan Vinge and Joe Haldeman, while there were attendees from all over Europe explaining the situation for SF in their own countries.

The Portuguese seemed to believe that they had unique problems, being at the edge of Europe as they are. They were somewhat astonished to find that these problems were shared by most non-anglophone countries, and in some (e.g. Germany) they were actually worse. Such problems included: getting their best authors translated from Portuguese, keeping things in print, and maintaining the publication of good SF. Despite their fears they seemed to have done quite well at most of these, although the recent death of their best editor means that somebody else will have to in some way fill his shoes. Still, at least they will have the advantage of a good example. As for their authors, they produced a dual language anthology to show some of their best to the rest of the world.

All in all an interesting event and, I hope, the first of many.

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