James McStravick describes his experience at TitanCon 2016.
I was lucky enough to attend TitanCon, which ran from the 30th of September until the 2nd of October 2016. I had never attended TitanCon before, and I was greatly looking forward to it, as not only had I always wanted to experience it for myself, but I had heard a lot of great things about it. It definitely lived up to my expectations, and much more.
Literature night (Friday 30th September)
On Literature night we were treated to superb readings from Jo Zebedee, Pat Cadigan, Jan Siegel, Ruth Frances Long, Peter F. Hamilton, Ian McDonald, Debbie (DJ) McCune, Rachel (R.B) Kelly and Laurence Donaghy. Unfortunately, Peadar Ó Guilín was unable to attend that night due to a prior commitment in London, and Laurence Donaghy kindly stepped up in his place. All of the readings the authors did were fantastic, but some of my personal favourites were those done by Jo Zebedee, Pat Cadigan, Ian McDonald and Laurence Donaghy. The authors all spoke exceptionally well, and there were some moments that had the audience roaring with laughter, sometimes due to the unintentional actions of the authors. One moment particularly stood out, when Ian McDonald spoke about baking in the nude. I thoroughly enjoyed Literature Night; at one point during the readings we had a break, which was a fantastic opportunity to chat with some of the other attendees and the authors.
Saturday 1st October
The main event kicked off at around 9:45 on Saturday morning with the opening ceremony, and we were introduced to all the authors and Game of Thrones actors. Throughout the day, I got to attend a lot of great panels held by a number of the authors, where they discussed a variety of different subjects. For me, it never once felt like the authors were discussing something they weren’t interested in, as they always had great enthusiasm about the subject at hand. The day had a large number of panels and events for people to attend, and I think there was something for everyone to enjoy, whether you were there as a Game of Thrones fan or a sci-fi/fantasy fan, or both!. During the day we also had the authors and Game of Thrones actors pitted against one another during the aptly named “TitanCon does 8 Out of 10 Cats does Countdown”. This was a great panel to watch, as it allowed you to see the two sides interact with one another and watch the hilarity ensue.
I got the opportunity to attend one of TitanCon’s combat training classes, which focused on the Chinese Broadsword. This was great to take part in as I felt it opened my mind to how wielders of this weapon move and react in combat. Unfortunately I wasn’t very good at it, as this art of combat requires a lot of footwork, which certainly isn’t my strongest point (previously failed at learning how to dance). From watching Game of Thrones myself I would say it is very similar to the water dancing technique Arya learns from Syrio. Even though I wasn’t very good at it, I still thoroughly enjoyed the class, and I thought the instructors were very friendly and knowledgeable on the techniques and stances. It was a great experience and if you ever get to the chance to take part in this at TitanCon then I would highly recommend it.
Just before the day was about to wrap up I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity by Phil Lowles to interview the lovely Kerry Ingram. This was a great experience and one I will never forget. My interview with Kerry will be published on Monday, so watch out for it!
At the end of the day, we all gathered see performances by Historical Fencing NI, Brutal Ballet and a Martial Arts Demo. The closing ceremony was then held, during which they did a prize draw raffle, where I was lucky enough to win a Game of Thrones colouring book signed by George RR Martin. Unfortunately at this point I had to leave; it had been a long day, and I was starting to feel unwell. For anyone who stayed, that wasn’t the end of the fun, as it continued on with the Lovely Beard Contest, Wits & Wagers quiz, and karaoke.
What a day! I thought the day as a whole was very well-organised and very well planned out so that attendees could get as much out of the day as possible without missing too much, especially if you wanted to attend one of the combat classes. For me personally I thought the best panel of the day was the “Modern Day Fae” panel that was attended by Jan Siegel, Ruth Frances Long, Ian McDonald, Debbie (DJ) McCune, Jo Zebedee and Peadar Ó Guilín, as the authors all had their own interesting perspectives on how the fae are used in modern books, and how someone’s perception of them can change from person to person.
Game of Thrones Coach Tour (Sunday 2nd October)
Unfortunately I was unable to attend this day due to feeling unwell but I have been told on many occasions by people I trust quite highly that this years’ event was fantastic and another great success. It seems that this has always been the case and it is always thoroughly enjoyed by anyone attends. I have also been told that in previous years that, if available, even some of the Game of Thrones cast who attend TitanCon also go on the tour with you.
I thoroughly enjoyed attending TitanCon. It’s run by a fantastic and friendly group of people that go to great depths to ensure everyone enjoys the events as much as possible. The people who attend are also very friendly, and you will never once feel out of place or lonely at an event like this. It was announced at TitanCon that they have big plans for the 2019 event that they hope to accomplish, and I wish the organisers all the best of luck in the endeavour. I hope to be able to attend TitanCon every year from here on out, but if not, I will always support them, as I feel it is a great event and one that is sorely needed for the Belfast sci-fi and fantasy community. If you ever have the chance to attend TitanCon then I would thoroughly recommend you do so.