Logo designed by Kevin Clarke (1981)
It's funny, the things that stick in your mind.  While I was talking to a Dr Who fan at the Microcon SF convention in Exeter last weekend, I mentioned that the first Dr Who story I'd ever watched was one set on a jungle planet where descendants of the the crew from a crashed spaceship have formed two primitive tribes - and my long term memory suddenly supplied me with the information that these tribes were called the Tesh and the Sevateem (The 'technicians' and the 'survey team', you see...).  What on earth made me store that scrap of information for three and a half decades, I wonder, and what far more useful bits have I forgotten because it was taking up valuable chunks of my memory?

There was quite a lot of Who-ishness at Microcon, mainly because one of the guests was Nick Walters, author of several Dr Who books, and another was the delightfully actressy Anneka Wills, who once played 'Polly', an assistant to William Hartnell's original doctor.  My knowledge of (and interest in) the series is a bit patchy, but both  Nick and Anneka were charming, and it was good to hear them talk.

SF journalist Steve Green set things rolling on saturday morning with a selection of short films from the Delta Film Awards .  My favourite is a tense and sinister piece of Irish horror/surrealism called HATCH: I can't say anything about it without spoiling it, but it's well worth a look.  Steve also introduced me to some Star Wars parodies which I've not seen before: Pink Five is the story of one of the other pilots in the Rebel Alliance, and is funny and cleverly done.

Returning for his third visit to Microcon was Jasper Fforde, author of The Thursday Next books, the Nursery Crimes series and the children's book The Last Dragonslayer.  I read The Eyre Affair, the first Thursday Next adventure, in the run-up to the convention.  I wasn't expecting to like it, because I'd heard a little bit about the series and it sounded to me as if it would be full of in-jokes for the English Lit. crowd. And I suppose it is a bit, in that it's set in a parallel world where literature is as popular as football or pop music is in ours, and features whole scenes which take place within the texts of Wordsworth's Daffodils and Charlotte Bronté's Jane Eyre.  But that's just one facet of a very rich and funny book, and the literary jokes should be accessible to anyone as the books and authors mentioned are cleverly explained for anyone who doesn't know them.   It took me a chapter or two to get used to the tone, but I was soon swept along by the story, which is rather an ingenious one.  The playfulness of it all, the sheer number of ideas flying around, and the way each is followed to its illogical conclusion, put me in mind of Douglas Adams, although I think Jasper Fforde is a better writer.  The talk he gave about his life and career was equally entertaining, and left me eager to read more of his work.

Saturday night concluded with cryptozoologist Richard Freeman telling us about his expeditions to Sumatra in search of the mysterious, ape-like creature which locals call the Orang-Pendek.  I try to be sceptical about everything, so I was prepared to be unimpressed by this account of near misses, half-glimpsed creatures and cameras which didn't work at the key moment, but Richard is another excellent speaker, and as he described the sheer size of Sumatra and the denseness of its forests it became clear that it would be perfectly possible for animals unknown to science still to be hiding there.  An interesting, thought-provoking account.  I did try doing a drawing of Richard Freeman, but I'm a bit out of practice and he came out looking like a James Bond villain...

After that most people repaired to the nearby pub called the Imperial for food and a quiz (no questions about the Tesh or the Sevateem, sadly).  The Imperial is part of the Wetherspoon's chain, but a rather posh part: it has an orangery with a huge window like a cobweb designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, which taken from a mansion which used to stand on the site now occupied by the University. (Thanks to Bristolcon's Cheryl Morgan for that bit of local history: her Great Aunt Harriet had her wedding reception at the Imperial.  But I don't think it was a Wetherspoon's in those days.)

Sadly I had to leave at lunchtime on the Sunday, and didn't get to see the presentation by legendary space and science fiction artist David A. Hardy.  It was a pleasure to meet him though, and I did come home with a copy of his book Hardyware. 

Also a pleasure to meet were Harry, Obbie and Cecily, who had seen on this blog that I'd be at Microcon, and came to find me and have their copies of the Mortal Engines and Fever Crumb books signed.  (To be honest, I don't think Cecily has got around to reading Mortal Engines yet, but it was very good to see her anyway.)  I asked their dad to take this picture of us, and Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson sneaked in as well.

Like all the best cons and festivals, Microcon got me listening to speakers I wouldn't have gone to see otherwise, and learning things I didn't know I didn't know.  I'll certainly return as part of the audience in future years, and it's whetted my appetite for BristolCon in October. (I was planning to go to Eastercon as well, but sadly other commitments mean I won't be able to.)

Many thanks to Exeter University Science Fiction Society for inviting me along and providing my accommodation, and to all the people I met there for being such good company.