I drove down on Friday morning, checked in, then went to pick watervole up from Walsall railway station. She was running a bit late so I took the opportunity to wander around the town centre. It's quite a nice one with a lot of shops and market stalls in a fairly small area. I bought a birthday card for my niece - it has a drawing of a couple of decorators and a blue police phone box, with one of them saying how great it is that some doctor has given them £50 just to paint the inside.
I went to the opening ceremony, a panel item where Steve Green interviewed Martin Tudor and Charlie Stross, then a very noisy and crowded book launch party that I escaped from after about 15 minutes. I later found out that I won some free books in the prize draw. The evening was rounded off by a late showing of a rather disappointing horror movie featuring Frankenstein's monster and Ron Jeremy(!). I think it was intended to be a parody of 50s B movies but it wasn't particularly funny.
Much of Saturday daytime was spent on the Orbital con desk. Thanks to asphodeline for looking after the desk when everyone else was in the committee meeting (the con is coming together very nicely. We're hoping to organise a site visit in early December.) I did manage to get to the GoH speech, and I'd like to say that Charlie did a fantastic job all through the con, not just on the panels he did but in socialising and generally being friendly to everyone. Maybe we should have asked him to be a guest at Orbital... Oh wait, we did! ;)
The Saturday Night at the Movies programme item was a collection of bizarre short movies from around the world. My favourite was a hilarious new take on the concept of zombie horror called Recently Deceased. After that I saw some film footage from various UK Worldcons, then nipped back to the main programme room where they'd brought in a professional magic act. I didn't feel like losing in the pub quiz again this year so I sat around in the bar for a while before watching John Carpenter's The Thing - an excellent SF horror movie which bizarrely I'd never seen before.
On Sunday I went to Peter Weston's slide show of early pulp SF magazine covers, a panel discussion about optimism and pessimism in recent literary SF and how the UK scene differs from the US, and a very interesting discussion about how SF cons have evolved in the past 70 years and where they are heading in the future. At some point I wandered into the dealers' room and came out half an hour later with a carrier bag full of books and an empty wallet.
There was a raffle. I think it might have been in aid of charity but I don't know which one (ETA: stevegreen points out that it was the RNIB's talking books project), and I had no idea what the prizes were but I bought a strip of tickets anyway. Incredibly, I won the first prize - a free membership of LX. Unfortunately I'm already a member of LX so it took a bit of negotiation to get it converted to a Novacon 2008 membership instead.
The hotel again attempted to overcharge me for the room, and apparently they did the same to major_clanger (my room-sharer), but this year I was paranoid about the bill and got it sorted out before I paid.
So, how to sum up Novacon? It has a light programme but a good sized dealers' room. It's towards the "serious literary discussion" end of the scale as cons go, but there were a few fun items too particularly on the video programme. The hotel's in a good central location right off the M6, the bedrooms are OK, the food's not brilliant, the parking is free, the internet access isn't too expensive, the bar service can be slow at times (I waited 30 minutes to be served once), and the bar layout is a bit poor (I don't like the tall stools, and it could do with some soft sound-absorbing partitions to prevent it getting too loud to talk properly). It's the kind of con you go to for a relaxed time chatting to other fans rather than running around doing as much fun stuff as you can cram into a weekend.