On September 26, The Land of Madmen, Australia’s inaugural Wheel of Time convention, took place in Sydney. Russell Dady, a member of the Land of Madmen staff, has written up a convention report for all of the fans who were unable to make it!
The inaugural 2015 Land of Madmen con was small but almost perfectly formed. Although there were nearly as many organisers as there were guests, a great time was had by all, and everyone is very much looking forward to next year.
Those of us on the organising committee arrived from across the country at 8 a.m. to set up. For those of you who, like me, had forgotten there is an eight o’clock in the morning, there is, and apparently it’s possible to decorate a small venue adequately at that time in the morning. And it was a great venue for a con of this size—a room about the size of a basketball court with an optional divider in the centre, which we put across so we could run both panels and workshops at the same time.
Of course, that divider also allowed us to put up posters:
We had the boys in the workshop and the girls in the panels, because it’s the Wheel of Time, so why not? In addition to those, however, we also had an awesome Banner of Light and Dragon Banner made by the incomparable Eleanor Chandler-Temple especially for the con:
Yes, those are individual scales and yes, they are hand-stitched. She’s crazy. But then I’d know, I married her.
Doors opened just after nine, and we got our first guests shortly thereafter. Panels and workshops started at 10. In our lack of experience, we may have made a mistake in scheduling the two at the same time, but the group was happy to divide into two, and those who were interested headed into what we termed the Seeker’s Room for the panel. Plus, I got to play with the microphone.
Our first panel discussed leadership in the Wheel of Time, led by our guest of honour and WOT fandom superstar Linda Taglieri, with occasionally helpful assistance from myself. Not only did we discuss the examples of competent and incompetent leadership, but we also were able to examine in more detail those who were just meh in their leadership abilities. It was an interesting and amusing discussion conducted in a roundtable fashion by Linda (who for some reason did not want to use the microphone).
Meanwhile, the other half of the group headed into the Weaver’s Room (great names, Eleanor!) for the Painting the Pattern session hosted by Nyn Blueajah, with her own artwork on display. By the way, thanks to the incomparable Ariel Burgess for providing the posters you can see above Nyn’s art in the following shot—we had five in total, and they really helped us look the part.
After a short break, we were back for more with Linda’s panel on the characters’ biggest mistakes in the series and the first part of the chainmaille workshop led by Amanda Harper. At around this point, we also got out first walk-in guests, a couple who had come all the way from Melbourne after seeing an article on Tor.com. We were delighted to welcome them, and everyone soon got stuck into what interested them.
By this point I was having far too much fun with the microphone, so Linda let me be on the panel again, on the condition that I switch it off. As we all know, some of the characters in the series make nothing but mistakes, and so it was great to be able to go through and consider things from a new perspective: For instance, while we all know Elayne’s never seen a trap she hasn’t walked into, we also discussed the fact that the series’ master villain, the Dark One himself, makes more than his share of mistakes leading to his imprisonment.
It was then time for lunch, so as much as I loved that microphone, I decided I also liked food and headed out with the group to Burwood for dinner. I was also tasked with finding something for Eleanor to eat, as she was still in costume. (Did I mention there were costumes? I’ll come to that in a bit.)
It was then time for the final panel of the day, while the chainmaille makers continued making chainmaille. Including poor Brian, who had only been given permission to come if he came back with a bracelet. I don’t think he quite finished it, but Amanda was happy to sell him the tools to do so—lucky she had spares!
Our final panel was my personal favourite: We got to discuss the real-world influences on the series, from mythology to X-Men comics. (Yes, X-Men comics. Ask me about my Logain=Wolverine theory sometime.) We went into some real depth with this one, plucking the depths of Linda’s considerable knowledge about the series, history, mythology, and everything in between. We even got into some comparative discussion with other fantasy works and how Jordan seems to draw on more sources than almost anyone else in the Wheel of Time.
We then had the costume parade, so those who had made the effort to come in cosplay lined up outside:
No, wait, those are Linda’s dolls. It’s difficult to tell sometimes. Ahem. As I was saying, those who had made the effort to dress up lined up outside—and then it started to rain, so they lined up back inside.
Linda and the rest of the organising committee judged the costumes. Despite my insistence that my wife’s costume was clearly the best, she resisted the temptation to vote for herself, and eventually it was decided that the most impressive cosplay was Gino Aintoquia as Rand al’Thor, complete with an excellent Callandor, which he graciously passed around for everyone to examine.
Seriously, that is a nice sword. Well, technically it isn’t (a sword).
Finally, we arrived at the climax of the event: the reading of an excerpt from the upcoming Wheel of Time Companion, graciously provided by Tor and Team Jordan. In actual fact, we had four excerpts: the entries on Linda and her husband Frank in their WOT guises as Lind and Frask Taglien, innkeepers of The Great Gathering at the Black Tower; the entry on the Land of Madmen (hey, that’s us!); and, finally, the longest and most interesting entry, Tam al’Thor.
I’m not going to betray the confidence of Tor and Team Jordan by providing details on what was included in these entries, but it should suffice to say that secrets were revealed (I never would have believed that about Linda!), and I think the Companion will be an invaluable addition to any fan’s Wheel of Time collection.
We rounded out the day at the venue proper by moving the trivia competition, once again devised by Amanda, up the schedule. Some of those questions were hard, but the inclusion of chocolate for clever or amusing answers was a well-regarded move. While Linda declined to participate (it would have been totally unfair, she’s Linda Taglieri—13th Depository’s Linda Taglieri!), she did confess to me that she wouldn’t have got 30 out of 30, which was a comfort to me as I only got 14 and a half.
We decided to hide in the venue until our booking ran out, as it was raining quite heavily by this point. When we finally had cleaned up and got everything out, it was back into Burwood for dinner, which all but two of our guests and organisers were able to attend, at Cafe d’Or. The food was delicious, and a good time was had by everyone. There was even a sa’sara demonstration by some professional dancers at the restaurant as the evening wore on!
The first Australian Wheel of Time convention may not have had the bustle of JordanCon or the profile of Worldcon, but it was a great way to get an event off to a start in a country that has more than its share of WOT fans. We will be back next year, and hopefully the year after that, bigger and better each time.
Photos courtesy of Russell Dady