The summary is - it was very good ! We had lots of fun, the con ran pretty well, made some new friends, and survived all the driving.
First, I think I should pop in some praise for the Con committee - they were a first-time committee, and there was doubt about whether the GoH would be able to attend until about 3 months before the Con - at which point memberships spiked up, all the way to their limit of 400 members.
Given those circumstances (and a first-time con venue, in the wilds of Penrith :) ), they delievered an excellent event.
So, winding back a bit - we started with a drive, as we're still avoiding flying (for no particular reason other than getting thoroughly sick of flying and airports while in the UK) - and we were taking too much stuff to the convention anyway (fencing gear, juggling gear, camera gear, two cases of clothes, kilt, various accessories, and a toaster).
Many years ago, we drove from Melbourne to Sydney in one day, but it took over 11 hours and completely exhausted us. This time we were breaking things up a little - first leg took us to Cooma, where we visited dalekboy and shazgirl and their adorable kids. We also had clear skies that night, so I spent a while gazing at the awesome display of stars - I always claim that we have a pretty good view of the sky in our Melbourne suburb - but it doesn't come close to the view out there. Clearly I need to spend more time outside of cities ... and buy a telescope :)
The next day (Thursday 7th) was a shorter drive, Cooma to Penrith, and that let us take a slightly more relaxed pace, and arrive at the con venue in good time. As it was, we had just enough time (after an early dinner) to join up with the pre-con expedition to an observatory.
For some reason, I was assuming that it would be further west from Penrith, somewhere in the Blue Mountains, but we actually headed in to the city, to the UWS observatory. I'm guessing that when it was built, they were "middle of nowhere", and since then, someone's grown a city around them. It was a bit cloudy, but we got good views of selected stars (e.g. Alpha Centauri), and a very good view of Saturn. I also attempted to take photos, and I did get a shape that's recognisably Saturn in a few of them - will have to edit them and post here later.
The next day was the actual start of the Con, and we duly stirred and registered and checked the place out. They had a pretty good arrangement, rooms of various sizes to cope with the different activities, and a main room big enough for pretty much everyone (this is more important for a Discworld con than most, as there are a few key events where Sir Terry will appear and almost everyone will want to be there). We caught part of a talk from Snowgum Films, which included another showing of "Run, Rincewind, Run" (look it up on Youtube, it's pretty amusing !), and some talk about the movie they've been working on for the past 8 years or so, Troll Bridge. They've reached the point where they need more money to continue, and have set up a Kickstarter project for this - I'll link to that later too. After that, we lurked a bit more, then rwrylsin needed to change and prepare for her "Philosophy of Discworld" panel (although it seemed to cover some suspiciously Roundworld topics if you ask me).
That went well, with around 40-50 people attending - and there'll be a strangely similar panel at Continuum in June, if you want to see what you missed out on.
After that, there was more changing and lurking, and another quick dinner, and back just in time to catch the Opening Ceremony ... well, except for it starting slightly late, that is. But it eventually started, the Con was opened (after 6 hours of programming), Sir Terry was welcomed, and the usual mantra ("Go To Ops") was delivered.
There was a brief break (actually, maybe that's where we grabbed dinner ? I have no idea now), and then an interview with Sir Terry, followed by a Skype interview with Bernard & Isobel Pearson, then a reading from Snuff, the upcoming Discworld novel.
On to Saturday - I think we slept in that morning, surfacing in time to catch some of the Trial of Vetinari (amusing), then the performance of a reduced version of the play of Wyrd Sisters, done by the Glenbrook Players (also well done). I have no idea what we did next, but then at 4 I was running a juggling workshop, which was well attended (especially since I left about half of my equipment at home !), and seemed to pass very quickly. After that, we hung around a bit more, then went off to change for the Gala Dinner.
The Dinner itself was very well done, and again, organised by one person who was on a convention committee for the first time. There were custom decorations for each table, place cards matching the theme, plus various entertainments through the night. Even the food was pretty good (I say that as the fussy eater who only wants meat and potatoes, not some kind of foodie :-) ). If there was anything that didn't quite work, it was the band - they were good, and played a couple of called dances for us in their first set - but that was it, their second set didn't have any further dances.
Maybe I was spoiled by my ceilidh experiences in the UK ...
We made our way to the bar after this - note that this was a public bar in the Panthers entertainment complex where the Con was held, and I think having people turn up in togas, kilt, and feegle did confuse the regulars somewhat (who were attired in t-shirts, muscles and high heels, mostly). This turned into a moderately late night for rwrylsin and a quite late night for me (around 3:30am).
I would have gone for catching up on sleep on Sunday, but rwrylsin's "Foam Sword Fencing" was on at 9am (that always seems to happen). It was probably a good thing, though, even at that time the people who came were quite energetic and maybe even a bit over-enthusiastic with their hitting (and we won't mention the guy who charged in with a LARP-type foam axe - wrong sort of foam !).
After that, we watched most of the Auction (raised over $15,000 for the Con charities !), saw another performance by Martin Person (yes, I've been earwormed by The Hedgehog Song for the past week, why do you ask ?), hung around with people, and then saw the closing ceremony. After that, there was dinner, then back to hang around for the Dead Monkey Party, where there was a bit of drinking, a spot of singing, and a few games of Werewolf, and finally to bed.
Again, we broke up the drive so that the long drive was first, then we could rest and just do a short spell to get to the destination. This time the first leg was Penrith to Bairnsdale, 750km, and expected to take just under 9 hours according to Google maps. Amazingly, that was spot on, with not too much stopping time along the way. After a pleasant evening and comfortable night in Bairnsdale staying with my relatives, we had a reasonably lazy morning and hit the road around noon, and again had a fairly relaxed drive back to Melbourne, where we quickly dropped off our luggage at home and quickly went out again to pick up the kittens. Fortunately, they were happy to see us, and apart from being a little clingy for a few days, seem unfazed by our absence.
Whew. That got longer than expected, cut tags applied.
Also, all of the above, plus rwrylsin being on-call this weekend, explains why we're not going to be at either Swancon or Eastercon this year :-)
Anyway, the summary is that Australian Discworld Conventions can be as much fun as the UK ones, and the next one is almost certainly going to be in Melbourne in 2013. You'll probably be hearing more from me about that ...