I’ve just seen the movie Arrival, so I’m a bit confused about time past, time present, and time future. However, photos—stolen from the Facebook pages of Sergii Paltsun from the Ukraine, Ian Whates from the UK (where it rains), Joerg Ritter, and others—indicate that the first ever Eurocon in the Iberian peninsula probably did indeed happen in Barcelona on 4, 5, and 6 November 2016 in the Centre for Contemporary Culture and at a few other places in the city such as the mighty Gigamesh bookshop.
Myself, I’m not totally certain about what happened because in my dreams I carry on trying to organise things. After more than a year of full-time unpaid work on the English language programme and the Souvenir Book and foreign relations and half a dozen other things, my brain can’t stop immediately and beside I missed almost all of the programme due to being an organiser—but hey, we streamed and archived almost everything (which I don’t think an SF convention has done before, at least not to such an extent) so in a sense the Barcelona Eurocon is still continuing… which also disrupts my sense of time.
Beforehand, Cristina and I did manage to have a fairly relaxed meal at Alejo’s favourite tucked-away restaurant, La Candela, in company with my daughter Jess and her partner Kris, plus Roberto, Claude, Ana, Sofía:
Note that we’re sitting comfortably outside in the balmy early November of Barcelona. I only permitted rain twice during the Eurocon weekend, for about 10 minutes each time, to relieve pressure somewhere high in the sky.
Anyway, snapshots of what probably happened during the Eurocon… (and if creators of uncredited photos want special mention, please comment down below)…
Almost certainly we were in the CCCB:
Here’s Alejo of Gigamesh in the gateway, with Imants Belogrivs all the way from Latvia, and Radek Kot from Poland:
This certainly looks like a Dealers Room (with its busy coffee and beer bar out of sight on the left)
…where Gigamesh bookstore is very prominent, lots of bargain paperbacks in English to the right of Ramon Peña on duty. The Dealers Room also includes fan tables, such as that of the 2017 Dortmund Eurocon, here with ebullient organiser Gabi Behrend. The Dortmunder Spezial is a herb-based liqueur that tastes like Martini.
And the following year’s Eurocon will happen in Jules Verne‘s home town of Amiens in France under the name of Nemo 2018. Gosh, I seem to be a Guest there.
There was definitely an Opening Ceremony—though alternatively this might also be the Closing Ceremony—with most of our lovely Guests of Honour at the front; I spy Rosa Montero, Péter Michaleczky, Rhianna Pratchett, Johanna Sinisalo, Aliette de Bodard, Bellis—er, what are you doing in that line, Bellis? (Being enthusiastic, of course, from the Greek ‘inspired by a God’! )
To make ourselves legitimate, we displayed the European Science Fiction Society flag showing a handshake between Eastern and Western Europe (and North and South). Here is the flag back to front, held by the Director of CCCB, me, Elias Combarro, and dignitaries who kindly gave us lots of dosh.
The flag went on a pole in the Green Room beside the Reception desk, a flagpole hired for 150 Euros (inc. delivery), no expense spared, because it seems no flagpoles could just be borrowed for free from anywhere in Barcelona due to all being allegedly embedded in concrete. Here’s the flag correctly displayed (this requiring a space scientist)…
…by Juan Vallejo, brother of committee member Susana Vallejo who holds a piece of the Hubble space telescope’s solar battery panel returned from orbit scorched by naked sunlight, brought to the Eurocon by Juan and his colleague Laura Tomás who work with the European Space Agency which partnered with our Eurocon; along with redoubtable organiser Cristina Macia, and me showing due reverence. A certain Dave Lally proposed climbing on to the roofs of CCCB and of the convention hotel in search of unoccupied flagpoles and he was given carte blanche by me to do so, but inexplicably didn’t follow through—did Mr Lally not understand me approving this suicidal plan?
Beholding Mr Lally in his emerald tee-shirt reminds me surreally of the lines by his compatriot W.B.Yeats: “Wherever green is worn… A terrible beauty is born.”
Ah, a George Orwell Walking Tour appears to have happened, a guide to the chaotic events of April 1937 along the Ramblas, as detailed in our Souvenir Book—have I mentioned our 160-page, full-colour Souvenir Book yet?
Apologies that the tour was overcrowded! Being soft-hearted, I couldn’t bear to refuse last-minute pleas to join in. The survivors of the tour ended up at Las Canarias pub in the Plaça Reial, where to accompany a beer I recommended a signature snack of the Canary Islands, papas arrugás or “wrinkled potatoes” accompanied by a hot dip and a mayo dip.
Aside from our visitors from the ESA, we had a strong science thread, ranging from the Habitability of Venus through Machines That Kill and other topics to whether we realise How Your Brain Cheats You, to which the answer from Ramon Nogueras Pérez is a resounding:
While busy Surfing Spacetime, Jordi José put up this slide:
which I show because Stan Robinson is coming to CCCB in March 2017 to be interviewed by me about climate fiction in between dashing between Antarctica and Tibet, due to Stan’s subsequent novels which are collected in Green Earth.
“Is There a Southern European SF?” you may well ask. Luis Felipe Silva from Portugal, Arrate Hidalgo from Spain, Francesco Verso from Italy and Claude Lalumière from Quebec (who is very enthusiastic about the Mediterranean) try to find out, presided over by half-Greek Sheriff Bellis who demonstrates correct behaviour by bringing a pint of beer to the table with him, reminding me nostalgically (from the Greek, ‘return-home-pain’) of the way panels at British conventions traditionally used to be before water was invented. One of our Scandinavian members remarked to me that they have panels about whether there is a Northern European SF…
So many programme items which I never saw in real time! Meanwhile, in Gigamesh bookstore, awesome guards attended a book signing, one of many there and throughout the city:
Here’s the newest map of Barcelona’s ‘Friki Triangle‘ where Gigamesh and other delightful shops hang out:
Oh, here’s Big Ian again—and that fellow Lally again—along with GoH Aliette, near our Reception desk:
Aliette may be heading off for combat with Professor Adam Roberts (of Twenty Trillion Leagues Under the Sea) in the panel on “Verne Versus Wells”:
Big Ian also launched a themed anthology, Barcelona Tales, from his NewCon Press, commissioned specially for the Eurocon, with Spanish authors as well as British. Here’s Alberto Caliani from Ceuta (a small piece of Africa so far north that it’s part of Spain) along with busy Helen Sansom and Sofía Rhei (whose Small Presses Conference brokered new pan-European friendships) busily signing, as is Lisa Tuttle, represented here by her hair.
A homage to Stanisław Lem took place, 2016 being the 10th anniversary of Lem’s death. On the following panel are Spain’s expert on Lem, Salvador Bayarri, together with Wojciech Orlinski—Lem’s biographer, who wrote an excellent essay for our Souvenir Book—and our GoH Andrzej Sapkowski. Lem was also homaged at the Ateneu cultural centre and a new documentary about Lem was screened at the Filmoteca cinema where our film programme happened. Arranging our homages to Lem was good practice for climbing a mountain of treacle blindfold.
Speaking of our Souvenir Book, designed by Cisco Aristas Martínez, one of the ESFS team remarked to me that it’s the best souvenir book she ever saw, including from Worldcons. Modestly, as editor, I do not disagree! Maybe I already mentioned the Souvenir Book?
Almost finally, we had a Closing Ceremony, headed by Dr Who and tailed by Freddy Mercury. In between the video clips, Chair of the ESFS Carolina Gómez Lagerlof of Sweden announced the Eurocon Awards with a flourish of Spanish as her middle name implies. Here I pay reverence to the absent recipient of the Grand Master Award, Herbert Franke of Austria, collected by Nina Horvath, our only Austrian (although her name is actually Hungarian for “Croat”—how very pan-European!).
And the ESFS flag was duly lowered and presented to Dortmund. People from 33 countries attended our Eurocon, including from Iceland and China, Singapore and Colombia and Dubai. Oops, the Souvenir Book omits the land of Austria from its ‘List of Members by Country’! In fact there were 34 nations. How can this omission have happened, a bit ironic when the Grand Master hails from there? Maybe due to having to proof-correct and double-check at the 23rd hour and 58th minute; enough said, growl. Oh well, the final page of the Souvenir Book is devoted to Fun For The Flight Home… Colour Your Own Cthulhu—thanks to artist Autun Purser—which many members practised at poster size on an easel in the Dealers Room.
Since there’s a colouring section in the Souvenir Book, feel free to pen the word ‘Austria’ at the bottom of the list.
Why am I on my knees on at least two occasions? Could it be that I became slightly tired, thus it was easier to kneel than to resist gravity?
There isn’t enough spacetime here to mention all the other things that probably happened during the Eurocon, except that we did manage to organise a piss-up in a brewery, our Dead Dog Party in the Moritz beer-factory-gastropub. Here our Hungarian GoH Péter Michaleczky experiences the gravity of Moritz’s beer in their adjacent shop.
Oh yes, and that Souvenir Book which I seem unable to stop mentioning…