All Sci-Fi Cons are not created equal. Some are huge, glitzy extravaganazas in gigantic conference halls. Others are clique-fests, where a small coterie meets to re-affirm its commitment to arcane canon. The best are celebrations of the genre and its fandoms, welcoming and inclusive, informal, eclectic, exuberant.
As soon as I walked into Novacon 49, I knew I was at a Convention of the Third Kind. Like a Fabergé egg, Novacon is small but perfectly formed. The programming items range from the profound to the absurd by way of the astonishing, and the audience is up for all of it. It’s a Con where you get to know everybody, and where the hanging out is as important as the panels.
I loved the art auction, where I picked up a piece by Alex Storer (the cover art for the Con’s souvenir booklet), and the book auction from which I came away with two boxes full of treasures. I loved learning about The Science of the Clangers and the nature of dark energy, reading my own stories aloud and listening to other people’s, meeting up with old friends and making new ones. I loved wandering around the dealers’ room and blowing my patrimony on books from the small press exhibitors, many of which I was seeing for the first time.
I also had a great time at the banquet (Indian cuisine, excellent), which was followed by a beer-tasting out of legend. Guests are encouraged to bring beers that they think are really good or really interesting, and everyone gets to try as many different offerings as they feel up for. BrewDog’s Tactical Nuclear Penguin is the one that stays in my mind most vividly, maybe because it was 32% proof, but there were many greats to be discovered.
A sign of a great Con is that you come away with your enthusiasms both reinforced and shifted. You remember what drew you to sci-fi in the first place, and you find new things to love. I know 2020’s Novacon, like so many other festivals, has fallen into the COVID time warp, but I can’t wait for 2021’s Novacon 50. It will be a sign that the world is healing from its wounds.