For the past year, much of my professional time has been occupied with work connected with the organization of Eurocon 2016 here in Barcelona (hence, also known as BCon). For those of you who don’t know what a ‘con’ is, this is a convention in which fans of a particular genre meet; surely you’ve heard of San Diego’s gigantic Comic-com. Locally, I mean in Barcelona, even though they don’t call themselves a ‘con’, the Salón del Cómic and the Salón del Manga play a similar role for comic-book culture. Regarding science-fiction, fantasy and horror, the Asociación Española de Fantasía, Ciencia Ficción y Terror (http://www.aefcft.com/) runs the yearly Hispacon, actually founded in 1968 but held annually only since 1991. The Societat Catalana de Ciència-Ficció i Fantasia (http://www.sccff.cat/) has now plans to consolidate CatCon (provisional name). And, of course, the biggest planetary event of the kind involving science-fiction and fantasy is WorldCon, to be celebrated next in Helsinki, where it’ll reach its 75 edition (http://www.worldcon.fi/).
I have never really been part of fandom, for no specific reason except perhaps shyness, and I’m just a recent member of both AEFCFT and SCCFF (where I serve as board member for contacts with academia). This means that Eurocon is my first ‘con’ ever. When I first learned about it back in April 2015, I wasn’t even sure that I would attend. However, I had just interviewed by e-mail British sf and fantasy writer Richard Morgan, and when I learned that he’d be a guest of honour, I volunteered (begged on my knees…) to be his Eurocon interviewer. You can now see the interview, which went, I think, very well, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LYL_Ls3uhJo.
I soon understood back in 2015 that, leaving Morgan aside, BCon might be a good chance to get a number of my academic colleagues together and to meet others specialised in the same field. Once my proposal to interview Morgan was accepted, I burrowed my way into the organizing committee. I have been the token academic member in a team of 25 enthusiasts (Professor Pep Burillo of UPC was also part of the team, but he’s a mathematician not an sf specialist like me). The other task I have carried out, and which I have narrated here, has been the edition of a trilingual volume of Manuel de Pedrolo’s moving novel Mecanoscrit del segon origen, kindly published by the Diputació de Lleida. I was on the brink of tears throughout my speech in the Eurocon presentation, that’s how deep this book has gone into me. The handsome volume has been given to the about 750 delegates that finally attended BCon as a souvenir gift, to be disseminated in this way all over Europe.
I eventually managed to put together two vibrant round tables with international contributors, which were truly enriching: one on post-humanism and gender, another on teaching SF in the university. I think I have certainly managed to plant the seed of many future academic collaborations with these friends’ help. Besides, I found volunteers to interview two other guests of honour. Bright Meritxell Donyate interviewed top-rank Finnish author Joanna Sinisalo (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MleXTJynWw4). And my infinitely patient doctoral student, Pau Huergo, who wants to write his dissertation on Andrezj Sapkowski, got to interview the famously unmanageable Polish author; judge the hilarious result for yourself here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XuU5Z-Cn25s. Pau tells me he has not changed his mind about his thesis topic… There were other major authors invited to Eurocon, such as Rosa Montero, Albert Sánchez Piñol, Brandon Sanderson, Aliette de Bodard, Rihanna Pratchett, and you may see their interviews on YouTube, as I will have to do, for having so many interesting activities means that overlapping is inevitable…
A ‘con’ is very, very different from an academic conference: the contact between readers and authors. I have seen our guests of honour chased by many autograph hunters, which is why I have not hesitated to chase myself my admired Charlie Stross (a guest but oddly not a guest of honour). We had a tiny green room at Eurocon and you could see our authors there patiently and politely answering questions from anyone who runs a magazine, fanzine, web, blog, etc. It is very hard to be noticed by an author in this constant stream of adoring, uncritical readers, which is why I found myself compressing all I wanted to say to Stross and to Morgan in just a few minutes (discounting in Morgan’s case the interview).
So, there we are: I’ve enjoyed myself enormously throughout Eurocon and got the (brilliant!!) interview, the autographs, the Mecanoscrit volume and the academic contacts. Mission accomplished and with flying colours!! Now, please, enjoy the Eurocon videos, there is much, much to learn from all the speakers: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLqA7nRotzVciios3Q5-7__UUYeqttwDEs.
Comments are very welcome! (Thanks!) Just be warned that I check them for spam; it might take a few days for yours to be online. Follow the blog updates on Twitter: @SaraMartinUAB and download the yearly volumes from http://ddd.uab.cat/record/116328. See also: http://gent.uab.cat/saramartinalegre/. Or email me at Sara.Martin@uab.cat.