Most members of Satellite 4 will have been to previous Eastercons (some as many as 50 thereof!). However, for others, this may be your first Eastercon, or even your first science fiction convention. Congratulations and welcome! This section is mainly aimed at you. You will find information here that will help you to get orientated and find your feet quickly, so as to get on with the important business of enjoying the Con. We also include some information that may be of interest to more seasoned con-goers.
Eastercon is the colloquial name for the annual British National Science Fiction Convention, and is the largest regular SF convention in the UK. It is so called because it traditionally takes place over the Easter Bank Holiday weekend. Like the Olympics, Eastercon is awarded by competitive bid. Members of an Eastercon vote on which committee will host the convention in two year’s time. As a result, Eastercon moves around the UK depending on where the successful committees choose to hold the event.
For more details see the Eastercon wiki.
An SF Con ("Con" = convention) is a meeting of people interested in SF, usually with an emphasis on literary aspects, although topics such as media SF (TV and movies) and space science often play an important part. The formal part of the convention consists of a programme of events. Smaller conventions may have just one stream of programming but larger ones will have several streams running in parallel.
In addition, there will often be an art show and auction; a dealers’ room where you can buy books, jewellery, and other items with an SF or fantasy theme; and a games room. There will be one or more bars, often featuring real ale, and ample room for fans to sit around and renew old acquaintances or make new friends.
SF conventions are traditionally run on a not-for-profit basis by committees of fan volunteers, who will give up literally hundreds of hours of their own time to make the event as enjoyable as possible. Any profits generated are usually donated to charity, or used as ‘seed’ funding for future conventions. This is in contrast to the large professional conventions such as Collectormania etc which are run for profit and generally have an emphasis on actors rather than writers.
Many different kinds of item will be included in a typical Eastercon programme. There will be talks where an individual — who may be a guest or a fan — gives a lecture presentation on a particular theme. We have panels where four or five people discuss an issue, overseen by a Moderator, who will normally invite the audience to contribute to the debate at some point. Workshops are generally ‘hands-on’ and allow fans to try out something new - perhaps something energetic, like Scottish Country Dancing, or ‘crafty’, like mask-making. Quizzes come in different guises, including ‘Pub Quiz’ style and variants on popular TV and radio formats. There may also be tasting sessions, and ‘kaffeklatches’ with the Guests of Honour (usually with limited spaces available — so you have to sign up in advance).
Evening events include set-pieces such as the British Science Fiction Association Award Ceremony, and other major events such as a Masquerade, Cabaret or Costume Ball. Sometimes fans will perform a specially written play with an SF theme (either a comic parody or a serious piece). There will typically also be a ceilidh and disco. The final evening of the convention sees the Dead Dog Party. This is a tradition were those still standing get together to talk about the weekend’s events over a drink. It’s also fertile ground for ideas for future conventions: many an Eastercon bid has been born at a previous con’s Dead Dog Party!
Most conventions have at least one Guest of Honour (GoH). These are prominent writers, artists and (at larger conventions) fans, who the committee wish to honour because of their major contribution to the world of SF. Scientists are also sometimes invited to be GoH, but actor guests at Eastercon-type conventions are rare.
In terms of formal duties, a GoH can be expected to give talks or readings, be available to sign their books or pictures at specified times, and participate in panel items on programme. Many conventions also organise ‘kaffeklatches’ where a small group of fans have the opportunity to meet a GoH over a cup of coffee and discuss their work in depth.
However, as well as participating in programme, many guests like to become involved in other aspects of convention life. You may typically find them sitting in the bar, chatting away, and in general entertaining the fans with their presence. Remember that most GoH’s were once fans themselves (some still are!). So please don't think of them as being unapproachable. If you want to spend some time with this author or that artist, look for a time when they are at ease, talking with other fans, and politely insinuate yourself into the conversation, just as you would with anyone else. Having a normal conversation with a guest is far more fulfilling (on both sides) than gushing about how much you love their work before running off in embarrassment.
On the other hand, if a GoH is clearly very busy, perhaps preparing for an imminent programme item, or obviously doesn’t want to be disturbed at a particular moment, please be considerate and try to catch up with them later in the convention.
Volunteer! Every convention needs helpers (colloquially known as "gophers" because they go-fer things!) to make the event run smoothly. Duties range from general stewarding, to helping the committee, to fetching drinks for programme participants. You can gopher for as long or as short a time as you wish. You can also volunteer to be part of the convention programme. If you have a suggestion for a programme item, or would like to participate in one that's already been announced, e-mail the convention at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will consider it for inclusion.
By no means. At events devoted to particular TV series you are likely to see people dressed as their favourite character, but this is less common at mainstream SF conventions. When fans wear costumes in the general convention area these are called ‘Hall Costumes’. Rather than being commercially available, these costumes will generally be created from the designers’ own imagination – perhaps inspired by a particular novel or other SF or fantasy source – and frequently involve very high quality workmanship. There will often also be a special costume event called a Masquerade at which participants model their own designs on stage, rather like a fashion show, or a Costume Ball where fans are encouraged – but not obliged – to dress up.
Yes indeed! You can pay at the door for one day's membership. This allows you entry to all convention area for that day, including the dealer's room, art show and convention bar. Day membership also entitles you to attend the evening events for that day — so great value!
Satellite 4 is aimed mainly at adult fans, but children are welcome provided that anyone under the age of 16 is accompanied by a responsible adult who is also a member of the convention.
Infant membership is for the very young (under 5 years old at the time of the convention). Infant members must be closely supervised by their parent or guardian at all times.
Child membership is available from 5 to 11 years old. Child members should be accompanied by their parent or guardian at all times.
Mindful that children develop at different rates, we are willing to offer child ‘upgrades’ if requested by a parent or guardian on the day of the convention. This means that if, for example, your child is 11 and you consider them mature enough to move freely round the convention, then you may upgrade them from child to junior membership. Note however that the convention reserves the right to downgrade their membership to that appropriate to their age (without refund), if the child does not behave appropriately or is disruptive.
Junior membership is available from 12 to 17 years old. Junior members remain the responsibility of their parent or guardian, but may move freely round the convention and attend programme items independently (provided these are not rated as suitable for over 18’s only).
Fans who are 16 or 17 years old may attend the convention unaccompanied, but they will be treated as adult members and charged the Unwaged membership rate.