Novacon 50


Novacon and Me

Novacon 29 GoH: Ian Stewart

Ian Stewart

According to my badge collection I’ve been to ten Novacons. They were all great fun, but three stand out. In 1990 Jack Cohen was GoH at Novacon 20. We’d first met up a few months earlier, in a pub in Kenilworth, and he invited me along for a day. In the bar at lunch, Jack suddenly said “There’s Terry!” Pratchett, of course, attending not as a speaker but as a fan, despite already being ultra famous. Jack introduced us, we had lunch together, and enjoyed each other’s company. Jack and I visited Terry whenever we were passing his home; once he stuffed the boot of my car with carnivorous plants for my wife Avril, a keen gardener.

Some years later, during either Novacon 25 or 26 — not sure which —we decided to spring ourselves from the convention hotel and ended up at a Mongolian restaurant in, of all places, Dudley. There, over a glass or several of wine, the first Science of Discworld book began to struggle into the light of day. Though it took six months to deal with Terry’s offhand remark: “There’s no science in Discworld, only magic and narrative imperative.” We finally realised we could put the science inside Roundworld, and Roundworld inside Discworld: job done.

In 1999, at Novacon 29, it was my turn to be GoH. Jack was there, and — as one does, or at least as Jack did — he brought two corn snakes with him, each about a foot long. They were harmless, but had brightly coloured stripes and looked highly venomous. (Biologists call this Batesian mimicry. Wikipedia it.) One escaped, disappeared into the sofa in Jack’s hotel room, and was never seen again. He told the manager, who closed the room. I occasionally have fantasies of a giant corn snake wriggling through the hidden cavities of the Britannia Hotel, devouring baby dragons, fire lizards, and the odd elephant. This would explain why there are no baby dragons, fire lizards, or elephants between the floors of the Britannia hotel, of course.