Octocon Memories

Octocon at 30 logo

Brief Flashes From Octocons Past:
The Royal Marine Hotel; confused civilians wondering why their Saturday cream-tea surroundings were so unusual; Terry Pratchett on a panel talking about writing with myths; Charlie Stross in the bar talking about writing with a Psion 3 (remember them?)

The Camden Court Hotel; yet more confused civilians; a golf bag “full of swords” (yeah, right) which actually turned out to BE full of swords; that unexpected Golden Blaster Creative Achievement Award; and, for the very first time in the convention’s history, Diane and me completely lost for words.

30 years is a grand start, so here’s to the next 30!

Peter Morwood, Guest of Honour 2016

Octocons tend to run together in memory… mostly (I think) due to the unfailingly good company: a constant over decades. We haven’t always been able to make it to the con; too often, work associated with what we laughably think of as Real Life has interfered. But  the friends met there, and re-met, in programming, on panels, in audiences, and (yeah) in all those con bars, have always made it the place to be in October.

So long may it wave, and (ideally) may at least thirty more years ensue. 🙂

Diane Duane, Guest of Honour 2016

Kim Newman

I first came to Octocon in 1994 because the late and much-missed Robert Holdstock was Guest of Honour and wasn’t comfortable making a speech so he asked the organisers to invite me along to interview him.  We were warmly welcomed by many friendly Irish people, including the genial James Bacon and the lovely Maura McHugh, and enjoyed a very lively, busy weekend … the year after, I signed up to return and a few days before the flight was happy to find out that the Guest of Honour was unable to fulfil the commitment, so I got promoted to the top spot and given the de luxe treatment.  I’ve been back several times, and always enjoyed myself – with many interesting or peculiar encounters that probably would be best not recorded in print.  I see also that a film based on my short story ‘Ubermensch’ won a Golden Blaster in 2010.  So that’s nice.

Kim Newman, Guest of Honour 1995

My very first Octocon was in 2015. Coming from a whole different convention background, I was amazed at the sense of community that Octocon had. Everyone was so welcoming and it didn’t take long before I felt that I was part of a family. The latter half of my year is always filled with cons and I tend to close out my con year with Octocon. Going through the doors of the convention first thing every Saturday morning always felt like coming home. Seeing the halls filled with familiar faces and having Michael Carroll tell me to slow down as I dash from room to room throughout the weekend was almost like a ritual that I looked forward to doing every year. As an immigrant, I’m not usually able to see my family during the holidays but Octocon has become some kind of a surrogate family to me and every year, I get to see them and do all kinds of wonderful things with them. Just like Christmas.

Raissa, Chair of Octocon since 2019

I attended Octocon for the first few years because of a nice coincidence.  Several members of our Fantasy and Science Fiction Society (that we founded to get money out of the College for this story of thing – still running in NUIG) worked for the same hotel chain that, at least at the time, owned the Royal Marine, so we got staff rates on staying there, which made it very cheap for us college students.
I remember one year having a room right beside the convention so we only had to fall out of bed to go (some people were disappointed we didn’t run a party, but we had done so much stuff.  
I also remember when I started to go back to Octocon after a few years away fitting in well and meeting so many people that this convention allows me to see this one time a year, in real life.
Over the years I’ve gone from being someone just awestruck with panelists to being on the panels and moderating.  And sometimes I have to pinch myself when authors greet me.
While I don’t remember it, my husband says that although we met properly heading to a LARP, the Model Shop had a stall one year at Octocon and he saw me there and that Octocon was actually our first meeting.  I don’t remember much of that time but I was probably trying to run to yet another panel.
The important rituals of the convention for me are having a sock on the needles and a highlighter and pen in my bag to work out the panels I want to go to and then block out some time to actually eat and breathe.  It’s often a difficult balancing act.  I always book time off after the convention to get my breath back!

Deirdre Thornton

I first went to an Octocon in 1991, the second one. It was just before I was due to fly back to university in Scotland and it was a whirlwind. We watched videos of new Star Trek episodes which hadn’t aired here yet, and I seem to remember Dave Lally saying it was the first glimpse of the Klingon homeworld. I won a picture in a raffle. It was very exciting but whatever happened I didn’t make another one until 2009…

In 2009, The Scroll Thief came out and we had a launch at Octocon, my first as a writer. I remember leaving on the final day, and being so tired that when I sat down to wait for the bus I realised the terrible mistake I had made. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to stand up when it came.

One of my favourite Octocon memories was in 2011 getting John Higgins to sign my copy of Watchmen while my kids, who were very little, looked on in horror because they only knew it as “the comic NO ONE is allowed to touch”. When they asked why he was WRITING on it, I explained he was did the colouring which threw them even more. “Colouring in is a job?!”

The best thing about all the Octocons I have been to is the community – the many friends I have made and continue to make.

Ruth Frances Long

From my first time walking through the doors of the Royal Marine, to logging into Discord for the 2020 convention, it’s been an amazing 30 years.
For the guts of a decade I staffed Front Desk, meeting everyone, answering every question, feeling joy at our annual family gathering. I saw the pros, the punters, the staff, all working to make a great convention year after year. There are too many stories to tell, I feel, certainly in one hundred words, but the abiding memories are ones of groups of people finding community, exploring new thoughts and having a great time.
I dearly hope that in 30 years time there are people whose first con was 2020, who feel the same joy in Irish fandom and still get to express it at Octocon.

Brian Nisbet

Octocon is always a special con for me. I was asked to come along one time around 4 years ago and I’ve never not been made to feel totally at home from the minute I walk through the door. I have amazing memories and it’s my favourite dead dog party anywhere.

Russell A Smith

Octocon is like a home away from home.  A cosy blanket you can curl up with and enjoy a book or programme with.  For fans, run by fans, with fans as traders, volunteers and panelists, Octocon remains devoted to the essence of science fiction and fantasy fandom – a close knit community where everyone is welcome, ideas are shared and discussed, and beloved stories/films/shows/comics/books are celebrated.  To me, Octocon feels like a large family that comes together once a year to celebrate together and I’m very grateful to be a part of it. 

Katherine O’Meara Reynolds

It was my first ever con. The year was 1993, the venue, The Royal Marine Hotel in Dun Laoghaire. After mis-timing the 75 bus I arrived an hour early and got roped into gopher duty, I then found myself on the ‘token Anime panel’ because… reasons. By the end of the two days I had admitted to not having read the Lord of the Rings, won some books and discovered Outland – now one of my favourite films. It’s possible I wasn’t meant there. The friend I bought my membership from assured me everything was ‘totally cool’.

Niall Kitson

My first October was in 2012. I recognised some people in the bar on Friday evening from a couple of previous Irish cons, shyly said hello, and sat down with them. And after about 10 minutes, realised with horrified delight that the ‘Liz’ I was sitting next to and chatting to, was Guest of Honour Liz Williams!

And that for me has always epitomised Octocon… the chance to sit down and talk to fellow fans, no matter how well-known and best-selling, to share our love of science fiction and fantasy and books and comics, and everything else that makes us part of fandom.

Catherine Sharp