As with all great adventures, I was not ready for this one. In fact, I was in the middle of my “real” job, ferrying around school kids on my bus, when the call came from our insane editor-in-chief, Jason Tabrys.
“Can you get to North Wales tonight?” he asked.
I replied in the negative; it was just too short of notice, but said tomorrow I might be able to swing it if he needed me then. Looking back, I didn’t even ask what the assignment was, but when he says go, I say gone.
The favour was covering the SFX Weekender, a boat ride and 290 miles away in the next country over – Wales. I’d driven the route many times before over the years, but all of a sudden I had to manage it in four hours. Luckily I had a stupidly fast car at my disposal.
5:45am and I’m on the boat; 6:30am and I’m on the M3 heading north; one wrong turn, one petrol stop and I’m suddenly at Pontins Holiday Camp in Prestatyn, Wales just after 11am.
I pull up and ask a man dressed as a Power Ranger where the entrance is. Both he and his friend Super Mario look at me like I’m the extraordinary one, and point me in a direction.
Parked and unpacked, I enter and find the reception where I grab my MEDIA badge; but not before the girl behind the counter has taken my “BAM”-tattooed hand and stroked it lovingly.
“I like this,” she cooed. “You should come and have a few drinks with us after the event tonight.”
With a friendly welcome like that I had a feeling the SFX Weekender was going to be a winner. Especially when I was stopped by a tall and handsome man as I entered the convention proper.
“Do you like my t-shirt?” he asked. It read: I LIKE MY MEN GAY. I have no comment on matters further, but he was lovely and this place seemed like they were pumping pheromones into the air vents.
El Jefe wanted me to catch the Eve Myles (Torchwood) Q&A session in the main hall, but due to the randy gauntlet, my precarious time-keeping, and distance traveled, I turned up halfway through, just as Eve was reminiscing about John Barrowman’s penis.
They will sing songs of that missed moment in my life.
I stood at the back of the hall, the only space left, as Eve and Ian Berriman kept the crowd amused; the Welsh Eve clearly at ease in her home country.
Next in the hall was the sixth Doctor himself, Colin Baker. The man was lively, friendly, and engaged with the crowd at every opportunity, and many revealed themselves to be sixth Doctor fans — something slightly frowned upon by many Whovians over the years. He was a force on stage; loud, funny, and fully aware of the standing he had among some people. Many must have left the hall with their opinions changed.
Two of my boyhood heroes – John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra – were due in the hall next, so I took the time to take a wander. On my journey I met a fellow tattooed zombie-writer; Wayne Simmons. Our meeting was brief, but Wayne didn’t hit on me (he must be immune) and he has promised WeLoveCult an interview very soon. I take him at his word, as I don’t expect him to be the type to make me cry, even if he did fail to make me blush.
I returned to the hall where Wagner and Ezquerra were already hosting their Q&A session, and I was dismayed to see that the creators of Judge Dredd and Strontium Dog were playing to a half full room. The two fielded questions by all and sundry and answered only one question on the forthcoming Dredd film, such was the secrecy agreement that they had signed. All Wagner would say was that the rough cuts were looking very good, and that the actress playing Anderson was brilliant.
As the Q&A continued I realised that some well-known comic artists were in the crowd to ask the duo questions. The numbers might not have been there, but those that had learned their craft from the masters were.
A quick intermission and I found myself standing in line for lunch in front of three men my age whose conversation almost turned to blows, debating whether Spider-Man was classed as science-fiction or not.
“Of course he isn’t,” said Nerd #1. “He’s a comic book hero and doesn’t warrant sci-fi status!” So proper, so sure.
“Of course he is,” said Nerd #2. “He was bitten by a genetically modified spider, hence science-fiction!” measured and classy.
And how did this argument start? A small boy walked past in a Spider-Man outfit. Heaven forbid.
A panel had formed in the main hall again, this time debating whether us sci-fiers had won over popular culture. It was a very funny talk, moderated by Nick Setchfield (SFX) and featuring Paul Cornell (a very funny man who has written some brilliant episodes of Doctor Who), Phil Ford, Tony Lee, Sarah Pinborough (very talkative), and Toby Whitehouse (talkative and funny despite the loss of his entire Being Human UK cast).
Then came what could arguably be called “The Main Event”. Brian Blessed, which has already been covered in full detail here.
Blessed left as he entered, in a whirlwind of gusto and words, when the talk turned to the severe weather in Northern England and several people started leaving. I clearly had further to travel then 99% of the con-goers, so I readied myself to leave – but not before I’d accidentally/brilliantly stumbled upon John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra, who had just finished signing a LOT of Dredd books for fans. I timed it so well/luckily and strolled on up to them, spoke to both briefly, shook their hands, and parted ways.
The SFX Weekender was a great success, and I thoroughly enjoyed my day there… even if I did get told off by John Wagner himself for not reading 2000 AD anymore.
Special thanks to Jo Hall
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Written by Jody Ruth (@jodyneilruth)
Published writer, former on-screen zombie, hip hop DJ for the UK based Vectis Radio, driver, mad man. Jody is a tatted freak, sci-fi/horror expert, and future zombie apocalypse survivalist. You can read his work here and on the curiously named JodyNeilRuth.com More »
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