Never been much of a writer myself but just thought I would throw a few words at the page to explain my introduction into Science Fiction.
In August 2001 I was invited by a friend, Jonathan Cowie, to join him on a trip to Romania for a Science Fiction Convention. Jonathan had been involved with several SF organisations in the past and was, and is still, Editor of the Concatenation website and member of the Phoenicians SF club. Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time, I had never been to Romania before so I I eagerly agreed.
We arrived at Bucharest Airport to be met by Antuza and Silviu. These were friend sof Jonathans from Timisoara and soon to be good friends of mine. We located our driver and were driven some hundreds of kilometres to Megadia, a small town about 25km from Constanta. A journey I thought would never end, it took hours and hours.
We booked into our hotel, with its own football stadium, unpacked our bags and then we were of again, this time to 'the island'. After another hours drive, this time in the comfort of a car instead of the earlier minibus, we arrived at the banks of the Danube. In the distance, cloaked in darkenes, was a small island, in in the foreground, also cloaked in darknes was a small boat.
The boat was to be our 'carriage' to a mystical land. We clambered down the muddy bank stepping apprehensively into the boat. The boatman pushed off into the darkness. Once out into the Danube he then pulled on the string to start the engine. I think I would have preferred that he had tried this before we shoved off! My thoughts turned immediately to the fact that we were now adrift in a very dark, very large, very busy river in a very, very small boat with no lights.
The engine started and we were off into the darkness. No need for my panic, within minutes we were tying up on the island. There was loud music, fairy lights and a welcoming comittee.
The set up on the island 'Atlantykron' came as possibly one of the bigget surprises of my life. At first sight just hundreds of friendly people living in tents on a small chunk of land surrounded by the beautiful River Danube. This in itself was a pleasant enough thought but I was soon shown a few of the other delights.
One of the large tents contained several computers with interenet access via a satellite link. I couldn't resisit it, you can imagine my messages home:- " here I am on an idylic island in the middle of the Danube, sending emails via a satellite"
The next big tent we came across had a selction of scientific experiments set up and then we walked on to the lecture theatre area. This was a large open air space with a set of about 20 televison screens stacked up and joined up as one big screen, a presentation area with camera to project onto the screens complete with microphones and a suitable sound system. All of this and the experts on Science and Science Fiction to give the presentations, honestly well beyond my expectations. We spent many of our late afternoons and evenings here, eating, drinking, talking and listening to presentations on a wide variety of subjects. I met with Scientists and SF Authors from all over the world, it was wonderful.
During the daytime another of Jonathan's friends arranged trips out into the country to see the sights and even a couple of boat trips on the Danube. We also spent a couple of days in Constanta, on the Black Sea.
At the end of the holiday we returned to Bucharest and spent the night before catching the plane home the next afternoon. Whist in the Capital during the day Silviu showed me the city, the bullet holes from the revolution, the buildings where it all happened and a few convenient bars where we could sit and relax with a beer and a snack. It was around 42 degrees so these made very welcome little breaks. On our final evening in Romania we held a dinner in the hotel with various invited guests, including Joe Halderman and Roberto Quaglia. Alexandru Mironov, former Minister for Sport and Youth, had rung my room earlier in the day to apologise for not being able to make the evening. (At the time I wondered what the chances were of one of our Government Ministers making a similar call to an unknown SF fan, I am still wondereing.)
This last evening was a perfect finish to a perfect 10 days. All in all this was probably one of the best holidays of my life and an excellent introduction to SF and the people who live it and write it.
After a bit of shopping the following morning we set off for the airport and home.
It was during this holiday that I 'volunteered to be webmaster for the Concatenation site. The combination of this role and the people I met on the trip also kicked off my interest in SF, an interest strong enough to have me eagerly awaiting my next trip, The 2nd International Week of Science and Science Fiction 19th - 25th May 2003 in Timisoara, Romania. Details of this convention can be found on the Science and SF Concatenation along with SF News, Convention news and many SF related Fiction and Non - Fiction book reviews