My First Continuum (by Liz, aged 30)

Not only my first Continuum, but only my second fan-run convention!  (The first was Aussiecon 4 back in 2010, and I missed half of that because I had to go to my mother’s wedding.)

Needless to say, I was a tiny bit nervous, especially as my first continuum also involved my first, second and third panels, and while I knew a bunch of people on the committee, I knew they’d be busy, you know, running a convention and wouldn’t have much time for holding my hand while I went into social anxiety mode.

(I did spend a fair amount of time lurking around registration, being awkward.  Sorry/thank you for putting up with me.)

Lessons I learned:

1. Stay in the hotel.

Since I live in a nearby suburb and my tram home goes right past the venue, I didn’t see any need to stay in the hotel.

WRONG.

The problem with having rheumatoid arthritis is that I don’t have a great deal of physical stamina.  (I skipped last year’s Continuum because I knew I was on the edge of a bad flare-up and would need the long weekend for sleeping.)  I wound up going home early on Saturday afternoon, missing the Doctor Who and Game of Thrones panels AND the Maskobalo because I just couldn’t keep my eyes open.

(I should say that Emilly invited me to use her room for a nap, but I had a full face of make-up on and no way to remove it, or to replace it after my nap.  And so performative femininity claims another head!)

Lesson for the future: staying at the venue means not having to choose between panels and sleeping during the day.

2.  People come to panels and, like, ask questions and stuff!

My very first panel, with Emilly and Skud, was an introduction to fanvids.  We had a vid show, organised roughly by theme, and we had some brief introductory comments for each theme.

But then there were people in the audience!  And they asked questions and had comments and debated whether or not a vid fit the theme we suggested!  It was great!  But also scary!

So if you’re picturing your very first panel, and what you’re seeing is yourself and a select group of other people pouring wisdom into the minds of a silent and attentive audience — well, good luck with that.

3.  Book people are, like, really nice.

My first panel involved me and a bunch of friends talking about and showing fanworks, which is well within my comfort zone.

My second panel was called The End of the World is Just the Beginning, and dealt with dystopic futures in YA fiction.  And on this panel were two YA librarians (Emilly and Sue Ann Barber), the CEO of the Queensland Writers Centre (Kate Eltham, who is also a writer), and a YA novelist (Michael Pryor).

And, um, me.

Now, back in the good old days I worked at Borders Carlton (RIP), where I could generally be found lurking in the children and YA section.  Before that I worked for Angus & Robertson for a few years, and before that I was a library assistant.

(Back then there was this odd book kicking around the YA section.  It had quite an interesting cover, and a couple of the librarians swore it was amazing, so we always had it on face-out shelves.  But for some reason we couldn’t pay teen patrons to borrow it.  It was called Twilight, by an unknown first-time author named Stephenie Meyer, and it looked like this:

Now, I did not love Twilight when I finally read it, but I really like this cover.  Yes, it’s distorted and doesn’t really say much about the novel, but it depicts a female character WITH A FACE.  And I really, really hate faceless women on book covers.)

Anyway, I’ve digressed, but the point is, I was mostly there as a fan, and at first I was quite nervous that I’d be either dead weight or obnoxious.

Well, there was the lesson: book people are lovely, and the other panelists set me at my ease.  And what followed was a really interesting conversation about the difference between post-apocalyptic versus dystopic societies (is there a difference?  I say yes, but I’m a pedant), and the features that distinguish adult from YA dystopias (emphasis on character, I think we agreed, was a stronger feature in YA).

We also talked about the way dystopias reflect the society in which they were written — the nuclear holocausts of the ’50s and ’80s, the financial and economic collapses of the 21st century.  Why are dystopias currently so popular with teen readers?  I suggested that most teens these days are too young to have clear memories of the world before 9/11 and the War on Terror.  Michael talked about the British “cosy catastrophes” of John Wyndham and John Christopher, where the world has ended and the survivors are mostly middle class.  (This covers Terry Nation also, it occurs to me now.)

Someone in the audience asked if the 1930s — also a fairly grim time in modern history — spawned any dystopic fiction for teens — or, indeed, any kind of sci-fi aimed at a younger audience.  And no one could think of any!  Though pop culture was very different back then, and advertising gurus had yet to invent the teenager.  There’s Brave New World, of course, and Orwell, but are they aimed at young readers?

I think I was the one who pointed out that the “big” genres for young readers then were adventure stories and boarding school novels.  However, I was not the person who instantly suggested we need a panel for boarding school series.  I just endorsed it heartily.

And because there were two librarians on the panel, I walked out with a list of books to read:

  • The Crossing – Mandy Hager
  • Grimsdon – Deborah Abela
  • Nightpeople – Anthony Eaton
  • Ashes – Ilsa Bick
  • Across the Universe – Beth Reavis

4.  NAPS ARE PRETTY GREAT.

I slept for three hours on Saturday afternoon, okay?  Then I stayed home from the Maskobalo and watched Gosford Park with my BFFs instead.

5.  Award Ceremonies:  More Exciting Than You Thought!

For one thing, I won third prize in the Continuum short story competition for my story “Sketch the Sun”, and suddenly I was up on stage having to give a speech.  AWKS.

But it was a really enjoyable evening, with lots of people I’ve heard of but don’t know getting awards for things they’ve created.  That whole concept is a bit amazing to me, I’ve got to say.  Hosts Ian Mond and Kirstyn McDermott did a lovely job.

Also, it’s my new goal in life to win the Norma K Hemming award for “excellence in the exploration of themes of race, gender, sexuality, class and disability in science fiction”.  Not only because that would be a real honour, but because the trophy is glass engraved with a beautiful squid.  (Or is that just for 2012?  SAY IT’S NOT SO!)

6.  Talking About YA Is Still Great.

My third panel was called Beyond Paranormal Romance in YA Speculative Fiction, and this time I was the only non-author!  But fellow panelists Kelly Link, Michael Pryor (again) and Sue Bursztynski were all greatand the panel basically turned into “YA novels we think are pretty ace, regardless of genre”, which was fun.  (I had feared it would turn into some kind of “BUT WHAT WILL THE BOYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYS READ?!?” but that was neatly avoided.

Books I recommended, but then, I’ll recommend these any day:

  • Legend – Marie Lu (Amie Kaufman, in the audience, went and got my hopes up by telling me the sequel is already out, but she was unfortunately mistaken, and now I have to wait, like, SEVEN MONTHS!)
  • How We Fell – Megan Crewe
  • The Queen’s Thief series – Megan Whalen Turner
  • Feed – M T Anderson

And I’m sure there was much more, but suddenly there was the closing ceremony, and once again I had to speak in public, this time assisting to announce Continuum 9.  Which I’m already getting excited about, as I’m doing programming.  I’ve also decided to give myself the title of Official Tram Artist of Continuum 9, and you can see examples of my, hah, art at our Tumblr.

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4 comments
  1. I went to my first con a couple weeks ago and man, I definitely learned to appreciate the mid-afternoon, in-between panel nap!

    • lizbarr said:

      NANAS4LIEF

  2. Hmmm, now you make me want to go to the next Continuum.
    And, yes, staying at the hotel is a must for those with limited energy.

    • lizbarr said:

      You should come next year! One of the guests is Waris Hussein, who directed “An Unearthly Child” and “Marco Polo”.

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