- The British form is generally smaller. This was apparently the largest since Seacon (a Worldcon) in 1987 at around 1300 people.
- The organizing committee had a great deal of empathy for attendees, arranging a great con rate at the hotel, including a buffet breakfast in the room rate, arranging a prix-fixe buffet dinner.
- British people absolutely drink beer. This is actually a huge diference, which the Brits will probably have trouble understanding: Americans generally don't drink. So American conventions tend to have a general function room, open 24 hours a day, with free munchies, coffee, tea and soda, where fans gather. Here, there was a general atrium where convention priced bheer and cider (and also OJ and water, which my poor tummy appreciated) was sold and where, like the Champs Elysee, the entire convention passed by.
- The tag line was "a convention run by fans for fans" and it really was. This was, even at this size, the coziest and friendliest convention I've been to in years. What with my stomach ailment I spent a lot of time sleeping but even so, I loved the atrium where everyone, from veriest neo to adored pro hung out, drank, and was accessible. I wil definitely go to more British cons.
The German is not much of a reader, but after listening to Charlie Stross' Guest of Honour speech, he dragged me downstairs to the Dealer's Room and bought two of his books. Stross was so funny, so dry and amusing, so absolutely in control of what he was saying and so erudite with it that it was no wonder that the German was enthralled. I wanted to buy several books as well. And, interestingly enough, it was after hearing Scalzi (different reference here), another funny and intelligent speaker at a panel at a Worldcon some years ago, that I started reading his books and recommending them.
We again braved the frigid environment of the Commonwealth room (the largest meeting room) to hear Neil Gaiman's Guest of Honour speech. Now, interestingly enough, I had liked Gaiman's work back in the Miracleman days, but didn't like his collaboration with Pratchett and had stopped reading him. Here's a link to his journal of Eastercon.
He was so wonderfully amusing and then, later on, so wonderful at reading a chapter from his new book, that I am certain that I will be buying that new book. I had already picked up a copy of Stardust (mainly because I was sad not to be able to see the movie until it comes out on DVD) and I cleverly left it in Berlin rather than bringing it with me to have it signed. But the convention kindly passed out a poster that we could use at the mass GOH signing and I was able to have that signed instead.
We also went to see Tanith Lee (another GOH) speak at two separate panels. She was one of my earliest favorites, back in my salad days, and it was a pleasure to meet others who are great fans of hers and to hear her speak. I actually discovered that she had put out a 'sequel' to one of my favorite of her books: The Silver Metal Lover which is now followed by Metallic Lover 24 years later.
An amusing incident that took place at the con: while the German and I were standing in the (long) line to have our posters signed by all the Guests of Honour, I was reading one of the (few) newsletters and noticed that there had been a case of chickenpox in the childcare facility (another sign that the convention was run well and even though I did not bring the children, a real sign that British fandom is 1. more family friendly and 2. more likely to have membership expand naturally).
I exclaimed aloud at how grateful I was that the girls had been left with the in-laws and how terrible it was that the other children had been exposed when the couple in front of us turned around and said "She's in quarantine with Grandma now, we didn't know." What are the odds that I castigate someone at a convention with 1300+ people and they are standing next to me at the time? Anyway, we all chatted for a bit and I simply said that since Thing2 is too young to have been vaccinated, and the German has not had it, I was truly glad not to have had the girls exposed. Turns out that in the UK they don't vaccinate against Varicella. I'll need to be making certain that the girls are adequately and promptly vaccinated on the CDC schedule here, I can tell.
The other thing was that even with my stomach ailments, I had the best ordinary food that I have had since we left the States. I mean, we don't eat out so much here in Berlin, and we have not been able to find a 'regular'. But just around the corner from the hotel was The Pheasant. We had a meal a day there and the one day that we had the convention buffet dinner we groaned with disappointment that we weren't eating there. We expressed our gratitude to the owner and told him that Berlin was crying out for another restaurant like his and that if he came, we would eat ther 5 times a week. The salads were so wonderful, the masalas, the quiche, the cider, the ploughman's... why isn't there anything like that here?