Eastercon Glossary for the convention newbie

As Eastercon is this weekend, I thought I’d do my bit for “paying it forward” and assemble a glossary of terms for the convention newbie.

It can all seem a bit much on your first visit to a con; these are the basic salient points I’ve picked up in the few short years I’ve been attending them.


Alcohol — popular/quasi-ubiquitous social lubricant.

Ale, Real — subspecies of Alcohol. Deceptively powerful; tread lightly if inexperienced.

Badges — everyone gets one, signifies membership of the con. Initial Newbie feelings of foolishness over wearing what may seem to be a glorified name-tag soon evaporate once you’ve had some Alcohol and forgotten the name of the new friend you’re currently talking to.

Bar — if you’re meant to meet someone but you can’t remember where, there is a good place to look. Even if they’re not there, Alcohol will be; also high incidences of Rambling Conversation/Arguments.

Committee — the foolhardy brave and hard-working people who volunteered to create, organise and run the con. If you [are introduced to]/[stumble over] a member of the Committee, thank them effusively and buy them a drink. They will invariably deserve it.

Dealer’s Room — initially populated by people who will be slightly disconsolate about having shelled out a lot of money for an insufficient space, but who over the course of four days will become immensely happy at having emptied your pockets and their boxes of stock simultaneously. Some con-goers have claimed it is possible to attend a con and not buy anything from the Dealer’s Room; no one believes these people.

Drinking Game — a game that involves drinking. May be connected (however loosely) to sf-nal themes, e.g. Blake’s Seven drinking game, wherein (allegedly) one has to keep drinking until the program becomes watchable; this is essentially a race against the clock, as the bar will have to close at some point.

Ellison, Doing An — committing behaviour with which most people cannot get away with, and which those who can almost certainly shouldn’t. Basically – if they’re not your own, don’t touch them without being asked.

Fen — plural of fan; also a regional geographical feature of Norfolk.

Filk — discovering too much about this early on could quite possibly put you off cons forever, or make you an instant convert. Your mileage may vary. This phenomena is statistically likely to intersect with Hair, Facial.

Gopher — there can never be too many of these; see Volunteering.

Guests of Honour — famous people whose names you’ve seen on book spines and television credit rolls. Will appear on Panels and at other events … sometimes the Bar, also.

Hair, Facial — very popular among older male Fen; comes in a sometimes astonishing variety of styles and colours.

Internet — increasingly popular and useful consensual hallucination, used in the planning and running of (and waffling about) cons and — probably, thanks to free wi-fi this year — in the settling/termination of Rambling Conversation/Arguments.

Jokes — omnipresent, multilayered, sometimes inexplicable even to their creators. Just laugh anyway; it’s good for your health.

Keys, Room — losing these is not recommended. However, acquiring someone else’s may be considered a great success in the right circumstances.

Lecture, George Hay Memorial — lecture given by a genuine science-y type person on a (usually) genuine science-y type subject. Generally very interesting, though this year there is another event occurring at the same time that you may wish to consider attending instead. Ahem.

Literature Stream — Panels and events about books and stuff.

Masquerade — in no other event will you find such vast potential for simultaneous horror, humour and spectacle … excepting possibly the sort of events where unusual mushrooms are popular.

Media Stream — Panels and events about telly and stuff.

Newbie, Being A — not something to worry about, although it may all seem a bit much at first. Syndrome curable by Volunteering … and/or joining in with a Rambling Conversation/Argument.

Ops — The emergent controlling sentience-nexus of the con, and a place to head if you need help. The people here may well be stressed, so be nice to them. The people here may be Smofs, so be nice to them. The place to go for Badges and Volunteering.

Panels — talking-head type events with an informal talk-show/debate structure. Not to be mistaken for Rambling Conversation/Arguments (although may devolve into one, and quite possibly emerged from one that occurred the year before).

Quizzes — often based loosely around popular Radio 2 formats with an sf-nal theme. Warning: some Rambling Conversation/Arguments may [emerge from]/[be mistaken for] Quizzes; some Quizzes may [emerge from]/[be mistaken for] Rambling Conversation/Arguments.

Rambling Conversation/Argument — could be about anything, though sf-nal topics dominate statistically. Almost as omnipresent as Alcohol; some scholars suggest a locational correlation in these phenomena, but rarely stay focused on their research for long.

Room Party — much like any other party, only taking place inside a con hotel room; Scandinavian variety noted as being particularly legendary.

Seven, Blake’s — seriously, why?

Smofs — you may see one of these, or even a number at once, but you’ll never be sure. Not to be confused with the little blue guys with white hats … unless you’ve been to a Scandinavian Room Party.

Third Row Fandom — is watching you masturbate.

Turbulence — Met Office predicting lots of it in the Heathrow air traffic region; possibly in connection with large pockets of hot air generated by Orbital panellists and/or Rambling Conversation/Arguments.

Underwear — be sure to take sufficient for the whole weekend. Unless you never wear any, of course.

V — UK sf TV show whose retrospective popularity, though strange, is infinitely more explicable than that of Blake’s Seven.

Volunteering — there’s a lot of organising, lifting’n’shifting, child wrangling and fetch’n’carry work to be done at a con; why not pitch in and help by becoming a Gopher? Great way to meet other Fen (and sometimes Guests of Honour) and make Smofs happy.

Who, Doctor — the scheduling is not fortuitous this year, much to the disappointment of the Media Stream. Buying Paul Cornell enough drinks might lead to impromptu plot-point denouements, however. Or something equally funny. 

Xenu — this really isn’t our fault at all; don’t let journalists tell you otherwise.

Yeti — appearance of genuine cryptozoologicals in the Heathrow region is highly improbable; be sure to double-check (politely) that you haven’t in fact spotted an example of Hair, Facial – especially if you have been consuming Alcohol in the vicinity of Filk.

Zaphod Beeblebear — you’ll know it when you see it.


[ Please note that the author will not be held legally or ethically responsible for any social faux pas committed as a result of reading this document, and that if you find yourself being offended by anything contained within it, it’s almost certainly meant as a joke.

Except the Blake’s Seven stuff. That really is rubbish, I’m afraid. 😉 ]

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