Notes from a Newbie - My First Discworld Convention
This article was written in 2014. Please also see "A Newbie's Guide To Discworld Conventions".
I read my first Pratchett Book about 10 years ago (The Amazing Maurice) but did not read, or listen to, as the case may be, to the next for about 5 years (the audio book of Mort). I am one of those fans that re-reads material, watches the movies, and tries to share my passion, but I am probably not Terry's most obsessive fan. Hell, I'm not even in the top 10,000 - but Sir Terry's literary genius, his great sense of humour, and his wonderful characters struck a chord with me and I wanted to meet others that appreciated him just as much as I did.
I jumped online to check if there were any Pratchett social groups in Brisbane (there weren't) but instead I found the Pratchett forum in the UK and to my delight an upcoming convention in Australia! So it was with slight trepidation but huge eagerness, that I attended my first ever Discworld Convention - Nullus Anxietas IV in Melbourne in 2013.
My husband is not really a Discworld fan so I decided to go to the Melbourne convention on my own. I had been to a few other sci-fi/fantasy conventions, and a couple of pop culture expos before, so I thought I knew what to expect. However, nothing prepared me for the slightly other-worldly, fantastic and unforgettable experience that I had at Nullus Anxietas IV.
Hint: Don't worry about being alone, different, new, too old, or too young. I saw a number of older fans, some teens and even a family of 5 that all dressed up as members of the Watch!
Compared to the larger, commercial conventions, Nullus Anxietas IV was small, but made the biggest impact in my life. It was run by passionate volunteers, supported by small and local businesses, and even had a few Discworld representatives visiting from the UK.
Hint: Do this!
It's a great way to find out what the weekend will be like and lets you connect to the people you might see there. The Australian Discworld Convention organisers are a great group and, unlike some of the other convention types I have met, are non-judgemental and really welcoming to newbies.
During the day there are a variety of games, performances, activities, panels, and heaps of stuff to see, do, or learn.
Hint: Check at the Ops desk each morning if things have been cancelled or rooms changed so you don't miss out on anything.
I spent most of my time in the games room (be sure to give Significant Quest a go), creating an instrument for the talent show, and just hanging out with the regulars and organisers.
Hint: Make sure you find out when Werewolf is being played because it's a great way to get to know everyone and is heaps of fun!
The Aussie conventions also usually have evening events such as a big dress up gala dinner (it costs extra but is worth it!), quiz night (my team "won" the wooden spoon!) and a cosplay and/or talent competition.
It was these 'formal' events that really show you the passion, enthusiasm, and commitment of the organisers and the attendees. Everyone who was there, whether a casual day visitor or devoted fan, always seemed to have a smile on their face. The weekend's activities were well organised and varied while at the same time keeping things casual and fun for the uninitiated like me. Nullus Anxietas was a place where adults could have fun - they could dress up, talk to strangers, play silly games, and just take the weekend off from the rest of their lives.
The highlights of my visit included: Sir Terry and Rob joining us on Skype for an hour, the fun I had at and after the Gala Dinner, and that I finally got my hands on a 2012 Terry Pratchett promotional book bag. Oh and I mustn't forget singing 'Rosie!' with the other Seamstresses and playing my fantastic handmade instrument in front of Lord Vetinari himself at the Fourecks Factor.
However - the best part of attending the Discworld Convention was the people I met. I can't say enough about how welcomed I felt. I had not met ANY of them before, and yet when I arrived and started to chat, play games, and share a few drinks, it felt like we were all long lost friends.
I would especially like to thank Beth (Head Seamstress) and Danny (Quiz master Extraordinaire) who explained how the Guild Games worked, how the board games worked, and generally told me where and when to be to get the most out of my too-short stay in the world of Terry Pratchett.
It was people like Beth, Danny and the other Melbourne, Sydney, and Adelaide regulars that shared their time, their meals, and their enthusiasm with me that prompted me to start my own Terry Pratchett social group, the Pratchett Partisans, in Brisbane. Since the convention, I have been to Adelaide to attend a fantastic quiz night organised by the City of Small Gods, and I am planning a trip to Sydney to visit all the Pratchett folk there too.
My time at the convention helped me realise that the best way to experience what you love is with others who also love it. I look forward to 2015 when I can do it all again at Nullus Anxietas V and I hope to see YOU there too.