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GENGHISCON 19 to 21 Jan 2007
Note this is not intended to be an exhaustive review, simply an overview, of some of what happened there, and some of those present.
Recemtly I attended the annual Genghiscon Convention, it was the 4th Genghiscon I'd attended (I missed the first 1 or 2 years). http://www.genghiscon.org
Genghiscon runs annually about this time of year. It is not intended to be a competitor to Perth/WA's main annual Science Fiction and Fantasy convention "SwanCon", instead Genghis is intended to be a smaller and cheaper affair. For the last several years Genghis has been held at the TRINITY accomodation and convention centre in Crawley-Nedlands. This is usually student accomodation being right across the road from the UWA campus. As such overnight accomodation is available onsite quite cheaply, and free breakfast is included. At this time of year it is almost deserted, being in between one school year and the next.
The convention facilities at Trinity are perfectly suited to holding Genghis conventions. The inner quadrangle being an open grassed lawn area of approx 2 acres. There is only one shortcoming of the Trinity centre, it would not be very wheelchair-friendly. Attendees need to be able to climb at least one flight of stairs to access several areas. The weekend of the convention the weather was perfect, not a hint of rain, and mild Summer temperatures with daytime maximums in the high 20s and low 30s*C I arrived almost an hour before the official start-time of 4 pm, on Friday afternoon. The organisers were, well, still organising, things, so I had to
wait for awhile before I could get issued with a room-key. After unloading my stuff from the car into my room, which I was pleasantly surprised had a bar fridge (most of the mid-priced rooms, do not), although the installed air conditioner was cactus. I decided NOT to ask the organisers to switch me to a spare room with a working air conditioner as the temperature was moderate and there were 2 openable windows. (I had overheard some committee members talking earlier, while I's waiting, and they had quite sensibly arranged for a number of extra rooms to be available of all 3 types, basic $40 per night, with ensuite bathroom for $55 a night, and $95 a night for a double room with tv and fridge. Note that share bathrooms and kitchens are located dotted around the upper 2 floors of the 3 storey accomodation blocks.
I checked out the timetable and also the video-room timetable. Also, yay, same as last few year, the organisers had arranged for a table to be set up, for free self service tea, coffee and milo for the duration of the 'con. Note that Genghiscon also has cold drinks and chocolates of various kinds available in the fridge with an honesty-tin for payment (and the sales of these items helps with fundraising)
Yes even though Genghis is only a small convention (approx 100 to 125 members) it has actually run a videoroom, pretty much "full-time" for the duration of the convention.Thanks to Greg Tyrie. (remember that as a fan run, not-for-profit convention, all organisers are just volunteers themselves) Some had to arrange leave from their work to organise things in advance and attend
Some years the video co-ordinator might be more a fan of Anime' or perhaps Zombies so the program tends to vary from year to year.
This year there was perhaps less Anime' than in the past, but there was quite a number of fan made films. Although "Knighthood" (a high quality Perth made, Star Wars themed fan film, was not ready for inclusion in the programme, some clips from it were included in a film detailing it's making, and this dovetailed well with two separate panel items fronted by several of the key cast and crew. (.....and yes, they really did get people highly skilled in martial arts and swords for use in this film, and the overlaid computer effects for the light-sabres is nothing short of full cinema quality special effects)
Several other fan-made films featured, some also from Perth. "Return Of The Killer Bikini Vampire Girls" was followed by the second film in the series "Killer Bikini Vampire Girls Strike Back" and made worthwhile watching. I understand a third installment is currently under way.
There were a number of classic "episode ones" shown as part of the video programme. I missed the first episode of the Swiss Army pocketknife classic "MacGyver", but I did get to see ep One of Sesame Street from 1969 (we gotta teach those American kids to grow up to be good little consumers, eh)
A documentary I hadn't seen before that turned up was Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" from last year. This was followed by a newer update piece. Later several panels followed on related subjects. "An Inconvenient Panel" and "Future Landscapes...How do we get to a future without the use of fossil fuels and without having an Apocalypse ?". Both of these panels included academic Chris Creagh (who also presented the audience participation interactive "Fiziksy Stuff" where we learnt about air pressure and water vortexes ("vortexi"?) and all sorts of other stuff.
Saturday morning was busy......after having all-one-could-eat in the student dining-room (until we'd ate all-they-bloody-well-had, and there was no more) , I made my way to the "Arthur Dent's Breakfast" talk in the panel room. Wearing a bathrobe was optional but bringing a towel was recommended. As any good galaxy ranging hitchhiker knows, "you should always know where your towel is". It was also suggested that people could bring "a pint" but I myself brought along a teapot and some hot beverage for myself, that was "almost, but not entirely, un-like tea". (Ken McCaw was ably assisted by his companion Mel and Jen Hindley was s'posed to be there fronting it as well. Sorry I can't recall for sure. Note that I couldn't be everywhere at once and so even though I made a few notes as I went, my record of this convention is not intended to be complete. Please don't be offended by names being left out of people or events)
This Panel item finished just as the "Morning Tea with Grant Stone" was getting under way. Grant is a long time friend to Perth fandom, and of the WA Science Fiction and Fantasy community and he's a respected academic on staff at Murdoch University who also works part-time presenting for local ABC TV productions. Plus free scones with jam and cream......and held right next to the free tea-and-coffee area. Golly attendance at this item was almost compulsory ! Grant kept the crowd around him amused with various anecdotes of Murdoch University's early days.
One advantage of Trinity's inner quadrangle grassed lawn area, is it gives plenty of space for various activities and demonstrations. Previous years have included archery for example, and when it's dark there's juggling and swirling of "Funky Twirly Glowy things".
Although there was no archery this year, special mention must be made of a certain Mr "Wombat" (sorry I don't know of him by any other name). He works for DARKZONE Lazergames and he kindly brought along a large chest containing more than $10,000 worth of handheld "Laser" guns. These I understand were brand new and we got to use them first. Usually Laser type shooting games require to wear a vest with sensors on the chest and back, but these were an all-in-gun unit. They used Infrared techniques, similar to a tv remote control (so safe for the eyes). Because participants were limited by the numbers of guns available, a sign-up sheet with 20 spaces, and 10 reserves rapidly filled early on Saturday. Plus, when the time for the event rolled around (being 8 pm Saturday evening) a few extra stragglers turned up awaiting any vacancies. In dim light, the range of the infrared was close to 40 metres. Note that by this time on Saturday evening the grassed lawn area was littered with a number of castle-structures constructed of large old cardboard boxes. These "castles" had been constructed as part of an earlier event, although according to a report I heard, one had been damaged slightly because "K-9" (noticed roaming around throughout the convention) had apparently pee-peed up against it earlier.
I'd put my name down in time to be one of the 20, so I got to have a go. Initially was just a free-for-all practice game set to run for 12 minutes. However even cowering in the shade of a "castle" I got hit some 20 times, going by the gun's inbuilt digital hit counter.
That was enough for me so I handed my gun back in so some of the others on the reserve list could have a go. Participants were then split into teams and a game area was designated. Play continued over a series of several games for something like 3 hours. Genghis conventions relies on the goodwill of various sponsors. Many thanks to DARKZONE for providing the loan of equipment for this event. They have 2 locations within the Perth metro area, so please support them. They also hire out equipment for parties etc
Genghis usually has one room dedicated for Panel talk-presentations and several rooms for various Gaming activities, with other gaming activities taking place elsewhere, such as on the lawn areas etc
One room had been set up permanently for use as "The Armoury" where at various times construction workshops took place, under expert instruction. Some of these activities could only cater for limited numbers due to the provision of raw materials, so sign-up sheets were available upstairs in advance. Note that even these "sign-up" type activities are all provided free by convention organisers (although they appreciate if participants can make a coin donation towards the cost of materials)
Deadly weapons made of foam rubber and cardboard which could later be used to batter an opponent to death on the quadrangle lawn, but other constructions went on also. There was a session for the construction of fantastic alien "Bead-y Critters". One workshop made foam missiles, projected from cardboard tubes by compressed air.
I'd actually signed up in advance for the session "Knotty Knots" which started with a brief presentation on different types of rope construction before moving onto various plaitting techniques and other stuff.....which unfortunately I missed, as I had a spell of not being well, so I had to leave early. After an aspirin and a quick nap in my room I came right.
There must have been a session on "Trebuchet" which I missed but I later saw one being used out on the lawn. These are the Roman type swinging catapult. The one I saw was quite impressive, being constructed of wood and something like one and a half metres tall. (actually I noticed a slight design flaw......it sat flat on the ground. Didn't they see the same tv documentary I did, awhile ago, that the latest research and recontructions have shown that ancient Trebuchet had wheels on the bottom ? and that with the wheels on the bottom and the catapult as it rolled first forwards then backwards during the firing swing actually increased it's power and range.
Now here I would like to declare that I am not a Gamer and nor have I ever been a member of the Communist Party (McCarthy-ist era reference). But there was of course many of the Games SwanCon-ers would be familiar with. Towards the end of the 'con, many games progressed to a knockout tournament status and prizes were later awarded for certain events. "Settlers of Catan" had so many players there were several sets going simultaneously, and also I saw "Terraform Battlecruiser" as I visited the Gaming rooms. "Not Tonight Josephine" was s'posed to be running and later there was some Poker, the prize "pot" being a substantial supply of chocolate bars (although I wasn't around at the right times to see either of these events).
Thanks to Rob Masters and Alicia who brought along on their bicycle-trailers huge plastic crates being their supply of games. As usual they'd sourced some brand new ones too. One, a boardgame called "BOOTLEGGERS" set in the US Depression Era obviously about illegal whiskey distilleries and drinking clubs.
Another they brought along featured real LASER beams ! Yes isn't technology just running ahead in leaps and bounds. The playing board resembled a space age looking chess set, but with a border wall around it about one inch high. Some of the pieces featured small mirrors (angled in such a way that nobody got their eyes burnt out). Each player had one preset Laserbeam. The aim being to move your peices in such a way that your Laserbeam would reflect off the mirrors and strike opponents pieces. Both this game, known variously as KHET or DEFLEXION and the Bootleggers boardgame garnered much interest amongst those present. There was also a presence of several of the "Looney Labs" card based gaming systems, as well as various diced based games I did not recognise.
Although "I am not a Gamer" in enjoy experiencing a range of activities at 'cons. I signed up for the Beginners "D+D" (they had arranged for 2 groups of upto 5 players each) plus we had an experienced "DM" (Dungeon Master) who used one of the basic Dungeons and Dragon texts. Before we knew it 3 hours had elapsed and several of us were too tired to continue as by then it was 1 am. Remember gotta get up early for that free breakfast on Sunday morning too.
There was a handful of late night panels and activities which were rated for "18+" only, although I myself didn't attend any of these. The VideoRoom ran until 4 am, before taking a break and resuming at 8 am. Even though the numbers attending in the video room fluctuated, I'd recommend future Genghiscons and other mini-conventions do still run a videoroom, even if only part-time. The Minions had set up some 48 chairs but the most people I ever saw, when I went in there to watch something screening, was about a dozen.
"Minions" are of course the volunteer helpers. Just other convention goers who help out the organising committee and do some basic chores like running messages, setting up chairs and re-stocking the various snackfoods, cold drinks and chocolates for sale in the fridge. They get paid Millions of dollars, well no, but almost. They get paid for giving up some of their convention time in "minion" dollars which can be exchanged for cold drinks and snacks etc (some other conventions may have other names for their volunteer helpers, such as "stewards")
Note that one reason why Genghis Conventions Inc. are able to run such a cheap convention every January is because the organisers and Minions work tirelessly throughout the year on various fundraising activities, such as Quiz Nights and organised movie screenings. Thanks folks. A 3 day convention for just $25 is such excellent value (extra charge applies for those wanting the onsite overnight student accomodation)
Thanks also must go to others who helped support the convention in one way or another. "FANTASTIC PLANET" had a stall set up all day Saturday and Sunday. Their normal location being a shop located in SHAFTO Lane, just a short walk westwards of Perth's central city Hay St Mall, so please give them your support when you're looking to buy Science Fiction and Fantasy books. At the convention their stall was ably staffed by Elaine Kemp (an experienced editor in her own right) and internationally published horror author Stephen Dedman. The shop has a website, sorry I don't have their exact url handy, but they'd be easy enough to find
Saturday evening was the, now a tradition for Genghiscons, free Barbecue (as Trinity has a suitable BBQ area.) Last year just one of the picnic table and chair units was available for use, being mounted correctly into the ground, the other 3 units in that BBQ courtyard area lying upside down and useless, and a danger to skin your shins on as you try to navigate past them. Well obviously TRINTY building management set a fire under their maintenance-handyman, as this year, a whole *two* table and chair sets were available for use, with just 2 left lying wasted and useless, upside down, as obstacles on the ground. If Trinity is again used for next year's Genghiscon, then at this rate, I look forward to one more set being available by then ! (Hey note my correct spelling of "barbecue" quite a rarity nowadays. People don't seem to know that you only use a "Q" if the word is abbreviated into letters)
Note that ANIME, the Japanese style of cartooning, is quite popular and this overlaps into COS-PLAY. Some fans dress up as their favourite characters. There were a number of panel presentations relating to Anime and CosPlay, and some Anime items did turn up in the videoroom. Note that at the AGM meeting, held on Sunday, a new committee of volunteer organisers was voted in for next year, and with more Ainme and CosPlay fans on next year's committee, these areas will probably be even more catered for in future. A number of people were circulating throughout the 'con in full costume and I understand there was to be a display of some kind at some stage, although I missed that. There was an official photographer, so photos were taken where people consented and those are likely to end up perhaps on the Genghiscon official site ( http://www.genghiscon.org ) I understand that we have Jen McCutcheon and Sarah O'Keefe to thank for a number of CosPlay related items. Sorry I don't know these folks personally. Nor do I know Lily Evans who may have run a Military CosPlay event, but unfortunately I managed to miss this too. For a small convention there really is just so much going on all the time, one's bound to miss stuff.
I's hoping to attend at the ORIGAMI audience participation interactive panel item, fronted by Wez Lamont. Unfortunately by the time I got there from, somewhere else, I was very very late and didn't want to interupt the others, so I just watched quietly for awhile at a discreet distance. Later I saw intricate little paper animal creations dotted around the place, so they'd obviously all had a successful fun time.
One room had a video Game system connected upto a family sized tv screen and various folks rotated through that room almost constantly. Sorry I'm not into those kinds of games so can't be more specific. Genghiscon also ran some competitions. Their, now regular, colouring in and Logo-art drawing competitons and this year also they had a "Marching Song" competition. where folks were supposed to come up with something that would inspire Hordes of Invaders to follow Genghis wherever he went.
Mmm, you were allowed to draw on exisitng material. I didn't enter but thought about the mercenary warrior chant from the DORSAI trilogy of books (by some big author, I forget, maybe PJ Farmer ?), it's been some 25+ years since I read it, but from memory it goes.....
Dorsai, ask not, now or ever Where, to war your banners go, Anarch's Legions all surround us Strike, and do not count the blow
For a tune, it fits perfectly with the old movie theme from "Exodus"
Note I do not know who ultimately won the marching song, or any of the other competitions or tournaments. I left a little before the very end of the convention on Sunday (as I wanted to get home before dark, and did not want to stay over in Perth another night). So I missed the auction and prize presentation small ceremony at the end of the 'con. (again thanks to sponsors like EMPIRE TOYS and QUALITY COMICS who provided prizes) The winners names will likely also be posted up on the Genghis website, when their volunteer "web-monkey" (yep that's what they call 'em) gets around to updating the site.
Yeah, right lucky too, just as I was entering my sideroad, about 3 km from home, just as darkness was falling, 2 big kangaroos hopped right across the road in front of me. I keep my speed down to about 60 kmh on this piece of road as the road is narrow and the native bush comes right upto the edge in places. I've only crashed into a kangaroo once and that was enough, they can do almost as much damage to your car as those darned Deer that keep running in front of Yanks in country areas !
Well that's all folks, Genghiscon is over for another year, and a great time was had by all I'm sure. Thanks to all who helped organise it. See you again sometime in late January in 2008
Catherine Jemma Central Wheatbelt Western Australia
"Save the Cheerleader, Save the World" .....HEROES ep 5 Oct 2006
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