Convention   by Mark Saunders

Convention



All sci-fi conventions are similar but there was something different about this one. As Graham entered the hall he immediately noticed a wide variation of styles in those attending. Along with the usual Klingons and Starfleet uniforms were Fandersons, Lensmen, Wookies, Cybermen - even what appeared to be a Mugwamp, appropriately enough sitting at a juice bar sipping something sticky looking through a straw.



Being a “hard” sci-fi afficionado Graham was not in fancy dress, so he passed unnoticed through the crowds until he approached an area dedicated to Isaac Asimov.



“Gray! Over here!”



Standing next to a display of first editions was Martin, a tall but fragile looking individual with a patchy orange growth around - mostly under - his face.



“What do you reckon? Mad isn’t it?” Martin gestured vaguely.



“Yeah, mad.” Usually Graham disapproved of frivolous dressing up, but on this scale and in such numbers the effect was impressive. He turned back to Martin.



“I didn’t realise it was going to be this big. What’s going on?”



Large signs and posters - some home made, some professional - lined the walls while beneath them stalls selling everything from inexpensive junk to rare treasures spread towards the centre of the large rectangular sports hall.



“Didn’t you read the stuff I sent you? Multicon? It’s like a gathering of the tribes...”



Graham had read only so far as necessary to ascertain there would be the possibility of adding to his almost-complete collection of Asimov first editions, and no further. Like many of those here, and most of Graham’s acquaintances, the world outside his chosen speciality was one big blind spot. Martin was an exception. Although he was not blessed with the brain of an organiser, his enthusiasm made him a sort of informational nexus through which Graham and his ilk could zero in on their chosen obsessions. He didn’t realise it, but he was a people person.



Graham tore his eyes away from a mini-skirted Trekker.



“But why? What’s the point of having everybody in the same place?”



“Well...” Martin knew what he wanted to say, but was inarticulate. “just everybody together..you know..”



Graham had a glimmering. Nobody is immune to the experience and sensations of a large crowd of like-minded individuals, especially those unused to it.



“..and there’s s’posed to be some kind of big announcement happening soon...”



Martin was usually vague, but this time it wasn’t his fault. The publicity for this event had been ubiquitous and had something for everyone in it. Original models of spaceships, rare books and videos, authentic costumes, competitions with big prizes, but running through every blurb had been a promise of something new, different, never seen before.



It had worked. Most cons are smallish and specialized, but now fans, collectors, retailers,

model makers, exhibitionists and even a few members of the general public were jammed into this vast space, many of them realizing for the first time just how big a community they belonged to. There were even a few camera crews following the more outré costumes around.



Graham became aware that the lights were dimming. The buzz of conversation increased as spotlights illuminated a raised stage at one end of the hall and retro-futuristic synthesizer music filled the air. He found himself drifting towards it along with the crowd, Martin at his side, half hypnotised by the lights, the sound, the people.



On the stage a rotund, grey individual stepped up to a silver painted lectern and addressed the crowd through a microphone.



“Welcome to Multicon”



The conversation died away. A sound system this good demanded attention. The speaker beamed.



“We are all here today because each of us have something in common.” Behind him the wall began to glow fuzzily blue, resolving into a projection of a planet - the Earth.



Everyone has seen pictures of the Earth from space, but this projection was so large, so detailed... suddenly Graham noticed the image was moving, almost imperceptibly. His eyes went to a small set of figures in the corner of the pictures. This was being broadcast in real time -from a satellite?

It must have been hot under the spotlights, for the speaker pulled out a large handkerchief and mopped his grey skin.



“I think we would all agree that humanity’s future lies beyond Earth’s atmosphere, beyond this single solar system. I am pleased to announce that the first steps towards the stars can now take place.”



There was a low collective gasp as something dark and huge occluded the corner of the screen, navigation lights blinking, tiny windows betraying the true size of the craft.



“We thought you people should be among the first to know, since everyone will, soon.”



Now the ship was fully visible, sliding inexorably into orbit, thrusters fading from brilliant white to flame yellow, dull orange.



“First contact will take place shortly.”



Graham and Martin exchanged one stunned glance and turned back to the screen.



Earth!



Graham couldn\'t wait to go there.