Octocon 2021 – or My Study is in Ireland

Teletubbies embodying classic horror films, authors falling for their villains over their protagonists, and a list of dinosaurs that would have had 10 year old Nathan more excited that if he’d had nothing but snakes and red cordial for a week. After my local speculative fiction convention, Conflux, was cancelled thanks to the pandemic, Octocon proved a more than apt alternative. Weird in the best ways, full of wonderful people, and the opportunity to meet/fan-out over amazing authors. How much better can a weekend in Ireland get?

Well, for one, it could actually be in Ireland. Not that I have anything against it being online, which was the only reason I could attend, but because I really want to go to Ireland one day. But, like how my study became Wellington for CoNZealand last year, this weekend it was Ireland as far as I was concerned.

Octocon’s other great attraction – apart from books and Irishness – was that it was free. Which meant that it was a pretty easy decision to sign up once Conflux was canned. I didn’t regret it either. It’s back to in-person next year, but if you have a chance, I highly recommend attending. Great content, great people, and as a result, I had a great time.

Panels

I didn’t attend as many as I thought I would, to be honest. In my defence, I was was nocturnal though. Starting around 7-8pm Australian time, through to about 6-7am took its toll. Coffee helped. So did the engaging content, with my favourite happening on the final day.

For anyone who hasn’t read or met Kaaron Warren, you’ll be hard pressed to find a more entertaining (or award-winning) Australian horror writer. So when I saw she was on a panel about reboots, I had to attend. Friends, she did not disappoint. The entire panel was asked about what and how they would reboot, given the chance. After teasing with a creepified version of Mr Squiggle or Liftoff (like it needed to be creepier), be got. . .Teletubbies.

Like this one needs to be any creepier

But not as we knew them. Instead, each was twisted transformed to match a classic Horror movie trope. Slasher, pre-colour, psychological, or the grotesque maybe. I can’t remember exactly; all I recallis the idea of kids being lured to watch the television bellies of these foul creatures, only to be sucked inside to be fed on like some kind of It spinoff.

There were other reboots discussed too – a Truman Show/The Professionals mashup, the Mystic Knights of Tir Na Nog, and others too. But the Teletubbies one got me. I don’t think there’s any beating that.

Another favourite was a villains focused panel. I love a good villain, and it turns out I’m far from alone. The panel is probably worth its own post all on its own, but that’ll be another time. For now, I’ll just give the main takeaway (from a writer’s perspective); it is a disservice to the reader as much as the character not to make them as well rounded as the hero. And the point of the writer is the reader (thanks Dan Abnett for that one).

On the topic of Dan Abnett. . .

Authors

Peadar Ó Guilín described the world of Warhammer 40k as ‘just shades of bad guys’ (all in good humour), and he’s not far from the truth. Yet as one of the most recognisable Black Library authors, Dan Abnett is far more pleasant than the universe his characters inhabit. I will admit, as a former player of Chaos, his books are generally about blasting my guys to pieces. But I’ll gladly put that to one side to listen to his advice. I was lucky enough to hear several of Dan’s panels and attend a reading. He was also kind enough to provide some advice on writing for branded universes, like Warhammer. Even without an in-depth knowledge of lore (which still helps), Dan mentioned that tone was the important part. As long as an author got that right , they were in with a chance. Unrelated, the Black Library has a call for submissions, if anyone is interested.

Another that I definately didn’t fan-out and embarrass myself over was Aliette de Bodard. I’ve loved her work in the Xuya since I first read The Tea Master and the Detective, and it was an absolute highlight to meet her, even if not quite in person.

DINOSAURS!

Sean ‘The Dino Guy’ Markey’s presentation was everything a 10 yo Nathan would have dreamed about going to. With Jurassic World Dominion just around the corner, Sean went through all the facts and fiction of the dinosaurs presented in the trailer, with a slight detour into a T-Rex vs Giganatosaurus. Now, as probably surprises no-one, I was a massive dino-kid when I was in primary school. I had magazines, models, and took in every bit of info I could about them. Jurassic Park is still one of my favourite movies, and this talk instantly had me back in the mindset of that kid that gave classes to younger grades on all the different types that used to walk the Earth.

But after a whirlwind trip to to the other side of the world/my study, and working off a nocturnal routine for a couple days, I did eventually have to come home. It was a great trip, but work beckoned and some kind of semi-normal sleep structure was probably in order too. I doubt I’ll get to the next Octocon; aside from the travel expenses, its the weekend as my local con and the rest of the committee may be a little annoyed if I choose another con over our own. Plus I really want to see the old crowd there again. But I’m grateful my friend suggested Octocon this year, and I’m glad I took her suggestion. I’m tired, and probably mistyping every second word without realising, but it was absolutley worth it.

By the time it ended, I only had two questions:

  1. How long can I sleep in>? and,

2. Is 34 too late to become a paleontologist?

~Nathan

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