FantastiCon Hull

FantastiCon. Hull’s (first) SFF Convention.

Well, it’s the first that I know of.

A young Jedi decided to take on R2D2 with a lightsaber at Hull’s first “SFF” con. R2 was unarmed, but stood his ground valiantly. That wasn’t all.

Kickerstarter funders had early access, but for others the fun started with a Dr Who panel and a nosey at the various books on offer. Muffins really do sell books, just in case you were wondering.

The main feature of the convention was the launch of the Elite: Dangerous  fiction being published by local press Fantastic. Elite: Dangerous is a kickstarted video game that has now spawned novelisation and pen-and-paper RPG arms. Each author funded their licence by a Kickstarter campaign. Novel plots ranged from Kate Russell’s Mostly Harmless, featuring a female main character to the grit and grunge of mercenary exploits.*

One of the novels Elite novels launched.
One of the novels Elite novels launched.

Fan fiction gets a lot of bad press,  unfairly in many cases, more about that elsewhere.

It was (as expected) primarily a gamer event with a fiction launch in support of the Elite novels published by Fantastic Book Publishing. You could try the game out on the Oculus Rift a virtual reality headset. A revolutionary piece of technology offering an amazing view and interaction within the game world that has applications beyond gaming.

I like my games, but that annoying first person feature messes with my motion sickness. It limits the enjoyment. As I’d missed the Oculus Rift at Nine Worlds I was keen to get my hands on it to see if this problem would remain.

Remember the Wii? The whole get up get active style of gaming it brought to us? The Oculus Rift is allowing game developers to experiment with the next step using a headset, a joystick and of course a computer. Not a gaming computer, might I add. Avoiding all the tech speak, very basically the software works on a run-of-the-mill laptop like mine.

This is totally immersive gaming. The real world becomes the digital. Space in this case, all around you and I was told before I tried it: “Don’t forget to look behind you!” the advice along gave me an idea of the ‘in game’ experience.  The headset is pretty much forgotten the moment you start playing despite its appearance. Presented with an array of buttons that would impress a pilot, naturally I was shot to pieces within seconds, and I couldn’t tell if my motionsickness issues were resolved. There’s always next time. I hear the headset won’t be all that expensive (as gaming tech goes) when it comes to mass market.For those of you that prefer dice to video games, you could have tried your hand at the ‘traditional RPG’ game, also set in the same Elite story world.

Back at the convention proper – after dodging the Dalek that was all about exterminating Iron Man – I discovered a little local talent.

Humber City.
Humber City. An intriguing Scifi Crime Drama set in future Hull. Click to see their Facebook page!

Humber City is an interesting television SciFi Crime drama. It is still searching for a network to call home, but with any luck we can see it all soon.

The cosplayers made a good showing too. Alas, my camera died so I couldn’t catch all the time spent sticking and sewing.

There's an Assemble pun here somewhere.
There’s an ‘Assemble’ pun here somewhere.

Cosplay at any SFF event will range right across the genre, and FantastiCon was no different. Comic book mutants mingled with video game heroes and anime cat-girls. The winners got to take home cute trophies.

Kudos to the vendors. Especially Oh Japan – love the t-shirts, the monumental enthusiasm and the fact that he knew the difference between an Autobot and a Decepticon. Very important that.

It was great to have something in the home town and not have to spend hours on various forms of public transport. So a 2015 FantastiCon? Bigger? Better, beyond the video games? Who knows? I’d love to see the organisers incorporate some of the notions and policies used at other cons if they host this again next year. Some more local talent too as I know there is plenty. 2017 is coming after all.


* Gollancz also offers Elite: Dangerous, just in case you want more!