“Incorrect. Unicorns don’t actually have wings; you are thinking of a Pegasus”.
“Ah but you have to accept that some unicorns do have wings; wings and horns are not mutually exclusive”.
“True. But the wings are irrelevant to the definition. It’s all about the horn”.
This is the conversation I found myself party to within the first 10 minutes of arriving at Titancon, an annual Science Fiction (or “S.F.”) convention in Belfast. Armed with little more than patchy Tolkien knowledge and converse trainers, my trusty geek-urious friend Lynsey and I were attending our first ever “con”.
Feeling slightly nervous and out of place, we navigated our way through the Wellington Park Hotel, following the trail of bearded men in black t-shirts to the hive of geek-tivity on the upper floors. Whilst en-route we decided to instigate 2 games; count the beards (which ran out of steam when we got passed 50) and spot the best geek-shirt design. An early lead was taken by the lovely Dan – code name ‘Targh’- and his ‘Unicorn Power’ T-shirt which sparked the opening debate.
The theme of this particular convention was Game of Thrones, an HBO fantasy series, of which Lynsey and I were both fans. Or at least we thought we were fans until we got to the convention and met the REAL fans, most of whom could easily have the show as their special subject on master-mind.
First on the agenda was a Literature night, which consisted of a panel of S.F. authors reading passages from their latest books, followed by a set from the Hardbitten Fleabottom Swingtime Band, a folk-blues group consisting of harp, acoustic guitar, tin whistle, drum and voice. We enjoyed a rendition of the Game of Thrones theme tune, followed seamlessly by “Triffy the horny prostitute”.
Saturday brought panel after panel of guest speakers, mainly actors from Game of Thrones, authors of S.F. novels, illustrators and comic creators; all of whom were gracious and entertaining to the extent that some of the actors even decided to stay on for the whole weekend to party with us (Bran Stark, Rickon Stark and Rodrick Cassel for those who watch the show).
Then came the famous ‘cos-play’ competition (or dressing up contest to you and I). After an hour of preparing our Khaleesi and Missandei costumes, and a few pints of nerve-steadying Guinness, we emerged from the lift complete with a cloak made out of a bed sheet and some dragon eggs made from painted drawing pins. After a dramatic entrance into the room and a short skit we were ushered to the back of the stage to watch the other entrants, including an incredible dance by the ‘Sand Ladies’ and a funny skit from an entire Lannister family who looked like they had just stepped off set. We had no chance.
The votes were in, and there was a tie between 3 groups for first place. The judges were asked to withdraw to make their final decision… and… you will never guess what … well, you probably will actually… we won! Hoorah! I attempted a victory speech in Valyrian (which sounded more like a Nazi address) and wildly confessed over the microphone that this was our first convention, to a mixed response of woops and suspicious glares.
Next up was another show from the swing-time band, complete with an interesting number in which the lead singer tore off pieces of her wedding dress and poured an entire bottle of fake blood over herself before crawling round the audience, draping herself seductively on her terrified victims and smearing blood all over them. It was at this point that Lynsey and I shared a nervous ‘what-the-bloody-hell-are-we-doing-here’ glance from opposite sides of the room. We were out of our depth and there was only one cure. A Jaeger bomb.
The party went on until 4am, which made the 8am get-up for a coach tour of the Game of Thrones filming locations the next day a little challenging. After a full day tramping around the countryside, re-enacting scenes from the show, a medieval feast, fencing lessons, archery lessons and fire eating, it was sadly time to go home. We made our exit early to rapturous applause, feeling fully accepted by our new friends – an eccentric but hugely fun, warm and accepting bunch – high five-ing everybody in our path to a fabulous geek-end!
(Un)fortunately the geek puns are drying up so I will take this as my cue to sign-off until the next adventure. Now where did I put that unicycle…?