Reports from @Contact2016 #Contact2016: Summary

 

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Taking place in downtown Brisbane from March 25 to 28, Contact2016, the 55th Australian National Speculative Fiction Convention, was community-run and operated like clockwork. It connected all sorts of industry leaders, professional and emerging writers, artists, reviewers and fans/readers through their love of speculative fiction. It was a wildly intelligent conversation as well as celebration of fantasy, science fiction, horror and other sub-genres for all age levels, in books, comics, games, film, television and other mediums.

I attended a total of 21 panels in four days, including two where I spoke as a panelist. Unfortunately I did not get to participate in the workshops, the Kaffeeklatsch (where one joins a Guest of Honour “for an intimate chat over a brew”), the Write On (for the night owls), the Art Race (“the perfect way to unwind and relax”), or the Easter Egg Hunt. Neither was I present at the Aurealis Awards Ceremony, the Ditmar Awards, the convention banquet (themed “To Infinity and Beyond”), or the Masquerade (I was going to dress up as Sadako Yamamura from the 1998 Japanese horror film Ring). Still, what I learned from the good people at the 21 panels was much more than I am able to digest. I can only try my best to represent some essence of it in words.

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As a newcomer to fandom, I found the people here funny, friendly and extremely helpful. Be they renowned cultural leaders, international and national bestselling authors, passionate book reviewers, general fans/readers or emerging/aspiring writers, everyone was open-minded, easy-going, very straightforward and absolutely honest with each other. They were happy to share their love for speculative fiction, lessons learned from writing and publishing, their inspirations, ideals and goals, and even their prejudices and private jokes. There was a sense of community there, where everybody was equal. It was and obviously has always been a big family.

I found the Con’s Code of Conduct highly amusing. Indeed, I have never encountered anything like this in academic conferences and trade shows. All participants were requested to “have fun responsibly” and enjoy the bar “as respectfully as possible”. We were also asked, repeatedly, to respect other people and their property. These principles have always been such a fundamental and natural part of our civil society that I felt it strange for the Con organisers to point them out. Perhaps this is because in similar events overseas, fans often become too excited upon meeting their favourite celebrities to remember how to behave properly.

Another eye-opener was the Con’s Weapons Policy. Props, especially prop weapons, were welcome, but no metal was allowed. No real, training or replica weapons of any kind should be used; and no props or prop weapons more than one metre long, either. All toys and prop firearms required an orange tip, which could be removed for photos. All projectiles were forbidden, even for toy weapons. Finally, no powder charges (like caps for cap guns) or flammable fuel (liquid or gas) should be used.

In short, it is lucky that if I did get to dress up as Sadako Yamamura, the only weapon I could have used would be a terrifying evil look. (Mind you, I would have had to find a TV set to crawl out from.)

All in all, Con going is a fascinating experience, and I would certainly love to be able to participate in future Cons in other Australian cities, such as Swancon in Perth, Conflux in Canberra and, of course, the forthcoming Continuum 12 in Melbourne (themed “Stranger Than Fiction”), which will take place from June 10 to 13. Friendship, like one’s passion for writing and reading, is addictive. I certainly would like to grab every opportunity to let my imagination soar.

 

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