LuxCon 2024

Made it at last!

For those of you not up to speed with the saga, I was supposed to be a Guest of Honour at LuxCon last year. But I got COVID at Eastercon and could not go. Very kindly, they asked me back this year.

LuxCon is, of course, the annual science fiction convention of Luxembourg. Given that Luxembourg is a rather small country (it has about a fifth of the population of Wales), they can’t run to separate conventions for different types of fandom. LuxCon is all in. That means that the majority of attendees were interested only in comics, TV and movies. A significant proportion were in costume. (The cosplay contest was very good.) Girls in cat ears and boys dressed as stormtroopers were everywhere. But tucked away upstairs was one room running a literary programme in English. (I think there was also a literary programme in German, but my German is hopeless so it was hard to say.)

Surprisingly for such a small event, there were a lot of guests. In addition to myself the English language programming had Samatha Shannon and Lavie Tidhar, plus Peadar Ó Guilín who apparently turns up every year because he loves the event. There was also Eric Stillwell who has done a lot of writing and production work on Star Trek over the years. His panels were separate from ours, but he hung out with us quite a bit of the time. I was pleased to see that he was as sad as me about there being only one more season of Lower Decks.

The panels were fun. That was at least in part because I had either Lavie or Peadar on with me, and they are both very sharp and very funny. They were not on the one about female representation, but it turns out that Samantha has an excellent line in feminist ranting so that was fun too. I don’t think we managed to come up with a definition for The Weird except that it is what Jeff and Ann VanderMeer point to when they say something is Weird. I did get to talk about the history of punk rock on the xxxxpunk panel.

The other thing that they had us do was participate in a live role-playing session. Well, when I say “us”, I mean Peadar and myself. The other two chickened out. It was quite silly, though nowhere near as alcohol-fueled as I had been promised. I did, at one point, manage to save the lives of the rest of the party by summoning Lady Gaga.

Samantha, by the way, is lovely, and has legions of adoring fans. She’s just finding her way into the SF&F community having come up through self-publishing and then having a massive hit with The Priory of the Orange Tree. The girl read Olde English at Oxford, so she knows a bunch of weird stuff. If you are looking for a headline GoH, she’d be a good pick. She tells me that she’ll be at Worldcon this year so you can check her out.

I should note that the organization was a little chaotic at times. It wasn’t entirely the con’s fault. Apparently the venue withdrew some of the rooms they’d been promised at the last minute, entailing some emergency relocation of panels. Also the local bookshop pulled out the day before the con, apparently claiming that they didn’t think it would be worth their while. Samatha and Lavie were not impressed.

One good thing the con did was that the car park for the venue was full of street food trucks. It was all a bit German (or in some cases Polish), but a hot dog made with a French baguette and a German sausage, and served with Belgian fries, is far better than an American hot dog, and also very Luxembourg.

There are a couple of things I should note about Luxembourg. Firstly, all public transport is free. Whether it is a bus, a tram, or conventional rail, as long as the journey is within the country, you can just get on and off when you want. The second is that, being a very small community, the country does actually care about economic prosperity for all.

On the Sunday evening we took advantage of the free trains to travel south to the community of Belval. In past times, this was a big steel town. Parts of the huge steelworks still dominate the town. But, thanks to changes in the global economy, steel-making is no longer a viable industry in Europe. So the steelworks has closed, and the government of Luxembourg has embarked on a €450m redevelopment programme for Belval. This includes a new science campus for the University of Luxembourg, and a big concert hall. All of this is being built in and around the old steelworks, which is being treated as an art installation. I know that sounds weird, but it looks amazing.

Contrast that to South Wales where the huge steelworks and Port Talbot is closing, and the reaction in Westminster is that if a large number of Welsh people starve that will make the UK stronger and fitter.

My thanks are due to Ani, Audrey & Keren for looking after us so well, and especially to Jean for not only looking after us but also being a wonderful tour guide. On the Monday we all got a tour of the fun historic parts of Luxembourg and on Tuesday Jean and I headed across the border into Germany for a look at Augusta Treverorum, a city that was one of the capitals of the Roman Empire during the 4th Century. It was Maxen Wledig’s capital, which is a huge thing if you are Welsh. Also they had the most beautiful little bronze statue of Attis, and one of the most famous examples of flying penis Roman wind chimes.

I’m not sure that I would recommend anyone from the UK coming over for the weekend as the con is very small, and the literary part of it even smaller. But Luxembourg is a wonderful place to visit, so if you fancy a bit of conventioning with your tourism it might be a good bet.