The weekend after unCONventional we headed off to Continuum 8: Craftonomicon, Australia’s National SF Convention. At most conventions there’s usually a member or three knitting, crocheting, drawing or doing some other form of creative passtime so a theme of craft isn’t as odd as it might sound to non-crafters. You only have to look at how many knitting patterns there are for science fiction, fantasy and horror inspired projects to see that there’s a lot of crossover interest. Craft is in my blood – you name a craft and the chances are someone in my family has tried it – so I’d been looking forward to (and preparing for) this con for months.
The first indication I had that the theme was going to be embraced with relish was at my first panel on Friday: “Crafty Characters”, in which Tansy Rayner Roberts, Jo Spurrier and I were panelists. We discussed our favourite books containing characters who practised handcrafts, the stereotypes that abound, and more. Jo spun yarn throughout the panel, Tansy quilted and I wove, while audience members crocheted and knitted. The only down side was I found it a little bit more challenging to moderate and weave at the same time.
A few hours later I had my second panel. Deborah Biancotti moderated Louise Cusack, Gillian Polack and I as we talked about “Writing Different Genders, Sexualities & Cultures” with a full room of audience members. The discussion was very interesting though one hour was definitely not long enough to fully cover the subject – or subjects as each of those mentioned in the title would have needed more than an hour to really get our teeth into it.
After a lovely dinner in the hotel restaurant we headed to “Spicks & Speculations”, a inspired by the game show, with sf author George Ivanoff quizzing the contestants. Much hilarity and obscure trivia followed. (And I actually remembered I had a camera.)
Saturday began for me with hauling a whole lot of stuff into the hotel for the activities I’d prepared. First up was a workshop I ran called “Con Bag Craft”. The idea was to use simple bookbinding techniques to turn the bits and pieces in the con bag that you don’t want into something useful. We made a notebook and booklet:
I’d also brought along t-shirts so that we could refashion them into ‘emergency’ backpacks if there was time. We only had an hour, which was just enough for the bookbinding, but the workshop ended at lunch time and the workshopees were keen to stay and try it. So we spent the next two hours snipping and tying, getting the bags almost finished. We had a bit of fun with it, and later one of the workshopees proudly showed me her finished bag. Here’s a not-particulary-good photo of mine:
After a rest and a much-needed bite to eat, I then headed to my next panel: “Playing God – a guide for beginners”, moderated with style by Michael Pryor. Alison Goodman, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Louise Cusack and I talked about our approach to world building, revealing diverse approaches but with a unifying theme of research, research, research. Then it was time for dinner, this time with the lovely Aussie fantasy author Jane Routely, and an evening chatting in the bar.
Sunday began with another panel of craftiness, “Crafts in Space”. Tansy Rayner Roberts guided another fabulous discussion, this time on what kinds of recreational creativity might be explored by future, galaxy-exploring crafters. My fellow panelists, Lyn McConchie, Sarah Lee Parker and I joined the audience in a fascinating discussion that made life as a space traveller sound much less tedious and sterile.
After a quick lunch, it was time to head to the Craft Market. Not just to check out all the fabulous items for sale by creative fans, but to set up for my weaving demonstration. I brought in the materials and pre-warped looms to show six weaving methods, including the popular Ashford Knitters Loom with a project set up for people to try weaving on. Fellow fan and crafter, Emma Wearmouth, set up her spinning wheel and spent the afternoon showing how it is done. We had a lot of interest and plenty of people tried out weaving – perhaps even a few might even take it up. I do wish I had photos, but I was much too busy to stop and take any. I did manage to get a couple of breaks to check out the other tables, and bought a belt bag and a necklace:
I needed a good long rest after that, emerging for another dinner in the hotel followed by the Award Ceremony – Ditmars, Chronos, and many more. Afterwards everyone headed for the bar for much celebrating, which led to a late night pizza and cake run:
On the Monday I finally got to be an audience member in some panels. First up was “Independent Publishing & Speculative Fiction”. The effect of digital publishing was the main topic, which was well and sensibly covered. After lunch I saw “The Awards Debarcle” in which everyone was very fair and no fights broke out, followed by “Let’s Traumatise the Kiddies”, about kids tv shows of the past, which I suspect didn’t quite turn out the way it was meant to but was entertaining nevertheless.
And finally it was time for the closing ceremony. We headed home then. I was exhausted, but for the best reasons: two back-to-back fabulous, interesting, fun conventions run and attended by wonderful people.