You say Pyrkon, and numbers immediately start being thrown around. It’s the Polish convention that had 15 000 members last year. No, 25 000! Or was it 30 000? You can check and recheck different sources, but it does not matter. The numbers sound so incredible, it really makes no difference. You can’t help doubting. It’s one of those things where you simply have to see for yourself. I saw. And I have never been so happy to be part of programming! This time, it saved me from spending a few hours in a line.
The first thing you notice about Pyrkon – other than the huge amount of fans that gather here – is the masks. This con may be a lot of things, but first and foremost, it is a festival of fannish masks and costumes. We came into the festival with the car, to unload all our stuff and set up the SFeraKon stand in the Fan Village. Getting out of the car, we walked straight into – Maleficent. Hand made, intricate and very, very impressive. Photos away!
I must admit, I did wonder why so many of Pyrkon photos – I have been following the con online since 2013, while I was planning to visit – focused on the costumes. Now I understand. It’s not that there are so many, there are more than quite a few. It’s not that they are exquisitely made and stunning, they are that, too. It’s the overall atmosphere of the con, the catching enthusiasm of the fans wearing them that makes you become part of this great feeling. Since you cannot magic a full costume into being right then and there, you want to take photos.
As an SF fan and con-runner, I exist in a world where, by virtue of these interests, I am strange. Remaining strange well into my thirties while still into the “immature”, I think it’s safe to say I’m not too susceptible to peer pressure. Yet, by the end of the first day in Poznan, I was regretting bitterly I had no costume to play with and even considering cosplaying at SFeraKon! So, yes, the enthusiasm of fans at Pyrkon is catching!
The program book lists our stand as SFeraKon. But, in reality, we are promoting so much more than a Croatian convention. Pyrkon has a raffle system in place and we put together gift packages that contained goodies like the special English issue of Parsek, the famous Zagreb licitar heart and gifts from various cons and bid, such as tattoos from the Helsinki in 2017, a T-shirt from the Dublin in 2019 bid, the Terry Pratchett calendar donated by Dysprosium, art by Nela Dunato and fridge magnets from the NZin2020 bid.
Panels are panels everywhere one goes and the one on short fiction I went to, featuring Pyrkon GoHs Joe Haldeman and Ted Chiang, turned out to be more about writing than about short fiction in general. Somehow, I keep wanting to hear famous writers’ opinions on themes, motives and tropes in the genre. I end up hearing about the writing process. I had to wonder why since there was the Architects and Gardeners panel in the evening, with the same panelists plus Jasper Fforde, and that one was explicitly about the writing process. I went to it only to see what Jasper Fforde was like and was pleased to find out I liked him as much as I liked Thursday Next.
The first ever Fan Funds Talk at a Polish convention went well, considering that it was a last-minute replacement for another, more popular programming item. Nina Horvath, the current TAFF delegate joined me to talk about her experience of having just won the race. She described how the trip planning was going and how much she was learning about fan culture even at this early stage. I may have found a Polish GUFF candidate, which, if this works out, would make me very happy.
We ended the evening with a dinner and a chat with some of the organizers who told us that 17 000 people entered the huge Poznan International Fair that is Pyrkon’s venue but that they expect many more tomorrow. Having spent the day among the throngs of fans, I am inclined to stop doubting their numbers.