The first Eurocon with its very own proto space elevator...
The utilitarian hybrid of Guests of Honour ( Brian Aldiss, Diane Duane, Harry Harrison, Sam Lundwall, Roger MacBride Allen, Peter Morwood, Terry Pratchett, and Ian Watson ) and committee organization (the German way) provided a firm foundation for the last of the 1990s Eurocons. Consequently, the addition of a sprinkle of international panellists: John Clute, Stephen Baxter, Joseph Nesvadba, Jurgen Marzi, Robert Sigl, Michael Habeck and yours truly was almost superfluous.
However, unlike most SF conventions, the experience of which is only marginally influenced by the venue, the 610 strong Trinity was housed in The Harenberg Conference Centre whose architecture not only resonated SF tropes but challenged the very psyche of some. The main convention concourse was at the bottom of a five-floor canyon that was bridged at every level by a gangway guarded only by navel-high railings. These not only provided somewhere from which to hang the national flags, of those European (and US) fans and pros present (with the exception of Scotland), but an excellent view of the comings and goings below unless, that is, you were prone to vertigo. For such unfortunates (of which there were a number) the 5th floor crossing to the bistro became an experience almost of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade proportions.
Then there was the space elevator! For while one side of the roofed canyon was a paltry five floors, the other was 18 high. It was here, at one of Dortmund’s highest points, with the town and surrounding countryside spread out below, that the specialist programmes and kaffeklatsches were held. (In fact the distant view to the NE of the Ruhr’s last iron works flaming away was itself reminiscent of Bladerunner.) To ascend such cool alpine heights, fans were whisked up by four high-speed, completely glass-sided, elevators attached to the towers’ sides. Apparently, the organisers informed us, that at an earlier convention Brian Stableford found these space-elevator rides a little overwhelming and so used the emergency, internal (hence windowless), firemen’s lift. (This was not unmanly, his wife reportedly commented, as ‘butch firemen use it’.) Trinity’s own greatest elevation casualty was Peter Morwood. During the 18th floor Gala Dinner for guests, organisers and sponsoring members, Peter had occasion to want to divest himself of his metabolised beer. Finding the 18th floor facilities occupied he decided to use those just one floor below. Rather than using the space-elevator for such a short hop, he decided to take the stairs. Unfortunately the Harenburg’s stair-well doors did not provide re-admittance. So he had to walk down all of 20 flights to the lower basement before he could exit to re-enter the building and then, breathless, re-ascend to the 18th. Fortunately by then one of the facilities had since become vacant. Rarely has the dilation of a human sphincter generated such relief.
The convention itself began with a bilingual opening ceremony which included Harry Harrison and Brian Aldiss receiving their Nebula pins. The programme consisted of the usual heady mix of items of science fact and fiction, chat, lecture, and audio-visual presentations that western con-goers expect. Of note was one item on the new helium 100 tonne cargo lifter Germany is building; indeed one fan had brought his own mini ‘fandom observer’ zeppelin which was radio controlled up and down the central canyon. The programme was roughly 45% English, 45% German and 10% bi-lingual. Those who could speak both German and English clearly got the most out of such a segregationalist menu, but irrespective of this there was the bar...
For those Locus readers who yet to be attracted to the Eurocon adventure (language barriers can be intimidating), be reassured that the bar provides yet another way to communicate. Many fans are willing to translate, though the fun can really start when attempting to converse in a tongue that for none present is their first language. Such exercises are, of course, important rehearsals for ‘first contact’: they are not problematic, but entertaining challenges, with each concept or joke successfully conveyed a triumph to be celebrated with German beer. One consequence of which is that as the evening progresses the time between such triumphs dilates in an almost Einsteinian way. The Astron Hotel bar was the principal late night venue for such activities. Indeed its dedicated staff received a certificate of gratitude and cuddly toys courtesy of Wolf von Witling (Sweden) from those regularly there till the 3.30am closing time.
Trinity’s success was undoubtedly a fitting end to a largely memorable run of nineties Eurocons. These have been diverse offerings, from the gargantuan Worldcon combinations of the Netherlands and Britain, through to the inspirational Timisoara Romanian 1994 gathering and its Rock concert cum firework display involving the whole town (making it the World’s largest single convention programme item). For those wanting to experience fandom in far-flung lands there will be Eurocons in: 2000 Tricity (Poland) www.gkf.3miasto.pl; and EuRocon 2001 (Romania), SocRaTeE Foundation, Str Victor Eftimiu 2 4, Sector 1, Bucharest, Romania. However it is probably best to communicate by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Jonathan Cowie is a UK scientist (science policy analyst, publisher and science writer) and a long-standing Eurocon veteran and editor of the Eurocon Award-winning Concatenation fanzine. His Trinity presentations included: The Biology of Astronomy; Alien Intelligence; and Climate Change in the 21st Century. A version of this article has appeared in Locus.
The 1999 Eurocon Awards went to:-
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