AFTER THE ADVENTURE OF EUROCON 2008 IN MOSCOW, THIS YEAR IT WAS THE OFF-SEASON GLAMOUR OF ITALY.
Eurocon 2009 took place in the spa town of Fiuggi, some 50 kilometres miles south east of Rome in the four star Hotel Ambasciatori. From Roma Termini, one catches the Naples train to Anagni-Fiuggi station, then a dedicated bus link for the 10 kilometres up into the hills to Fiuggi. Sadly, the narrow gauge railway that used to provide this link disappeared long ago, although the Fiuggi station is still used by the buses. Fiuggi is actually two towns, the modern Fiuggi Fonte, the spa town with the hotels, and, a bus ride above it, Fiuggi Citta. This is the old ridge top town with tiny alleys and stairs perched high above the valley. The town walls have all gone but you can see what a strong position it had. Fiuggi Fonte has more hotels per square kilometre than anywhere outside Brighton, but at the end of March, when we were there, most of them were closed. Once the place gets going in summer it must be heaving with people.
The facilities in the hotel were excellent, with amazing amounts of food. The Con ran on a full board basis, which meant breakfast, then two four course meals per day (with unlimited free wine). I put on three pounds!
Eurocon was running in parallel with Italcon, the Italian national SF convention, and Deepcon, the Italian national media convention. There were 270 attendees, more than the previous year, and more than twenty countries represented. These included Italy, the UK, Ireland, Spain, Germany, Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden, Russia, Ukraine, Lithuania, Estonia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Croatia, Greece, Romania, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, France, Switzerland and the USA. Most of the usual suspects from the UK turned up: Bridget Wilkinson, Martin Hoare, Angela Goodfellow, Dave Lally, Vince Docherty, Peter Redfarn and myself.
There were no less than twelve guests, the six on the media side included the glamorous Marina Sirtis (Deanna Troi in Star Trek: Next Generation). The others were the Americans: Lolita Fatjo (Next Generation); Max Grodenchik (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine); Janet Nemecek (Voyager); Larry Nemecek (Star Trek); and the Australian Anthony Simcoe (Ka D’Argo in Farscape). All of these are Anglophone (English language) shows, if there are Italian equivalents perhaps they were not exotic enough to be invited.
The literature guests included Britain’s own Ian Watson. The others were the Italian writer, Guiseppe Lippi, the Russian, Sergei Lukyanenko, author of Night Watch, and the Americans, Bruce Sterling and Mary Turzillo. Science was represented by the writer Geoffrey Landis from NASA, who actually works with the two Mars Rovers. He gave a detailed talk on these amazing machines, still travelling 1800 Martian days after the end of their guaranteed design life!
Dave Lally gave a tribute to the recently deceased Patrick McGoohan, including an episode of Danger Man and of course The Prisoner. There was a thought provoking talk by a Russian (Andrei Sanregre) who described Soviet Russian research into the spiritual effectiveness of icons. There are apparently day active icons (most effective 2pm to 4pm) and night active icons (most effective 9pm to 12pm). The type depends on when and in what conditions they were painted, and the key is apparently ultra violet radiation which has amazing properties. I wish I had followed this up, as it was just weird enough to be true. (See the Eurocon 2009 website for more details).
The inimitable Roberto Quaglia, who spookily looked five years younger from Friday to Saturday by shaving his head, was there with Ian Watson, for their mainland European launch of their jointly written book The Beloved of My Beloved (collection of shorts). Definitely not the sort of book you would want your mother to see you reading.
Unusually, the Con started at 4 o’clock on the Thursday, with interesting sounding items, which unfortunately I missed, and finished at 4 o’clock on the Sunday. The organisation of the Con was impressive, most items in the programme happened and there were plenty in English or translated. A full-scale Dr Who police box (!) backed the registration desk and I was impressed with the way that my name badge had all my prepaid meal tickets tucked into the back. The Con was organised by the club Deep Space One and there was obviously a big team behind it, but great credit must go to Flora Stagliano and Silvana Varlec who seemed to be everywhere sorting things out.
As a Eurocon regular I would say this was a good one, though small by the standards of some I have been to. Basically a single stream convention, (two on the Friday), there was a greater emphasis on media than usual, and why not! As a lasting souvenir of Italy I learned to appreciate espresso coffee, though not in the proper Italian fashion of standing at the café counter drinking it very fast and rushing out.
After the Con I had two days in Rome with Ian Watson, Roberto Quaglia and Paolo Cingolani (a film director and scriptwriter), my first visit to this amazing city. I do not recommend driving there! I used to think Keighley (Yorkshire) had a parking problem – in Rome, if you see an empty roadside space you park, then think why do I need to be in this part of town!?
In the centre, Rome is a Victorian city built round a baroque city built round a medieval city built round a Roman city. Everywhere are different ages, and they have trams and a Metro! My must-see sight in Rome was the Pantheon, which did not disappoint. It is a huge round building, now a church, where you can stand under a complete roof of Roman concrete which has been there for two thousand years!
Originally published on The Science Fact & Science Fiction Concatenation. All rights reserved.