Belfast Launches TitanCon

Fantasy authors, comic artists and Game of Thrones actors 'aren't the geeky things they used to be'

This weekend will see hundreds of people flocking to Belfast to take part in TitanCon, a three day celebration of all things science fiction and fantasy related.

Co-chair, Ian Lawther, explains further. ‘TitanCon is a science fiction, fantasy and gaming convention, which will take in all literary aspects of the genres, plus their role in other media - such as television shows, films, comics and tabletop wargaming’.

Logan Bruce works with Studio NI, who are (in conjunction with some other groups) responsible for bringing the event to the people of Belfast. Also treasurer of the convention, Bruce is enthusiastic about its contribution to the arts scene.

‘Studio NI have been around for seven years now, and we’ve run a number of events over that time. We work with other groups and have been building up a support network for the local arts sector, and now we’re happy to bring to Belfast our first science fiction convention’.

Unfairly, the speculative fiction genre has been known to attract derision from some closed minded critics, seeing it as a lowbrow form of art, the realm of (for want of a better term) nerds. However, Bruce is quick to rail against this negative stereotyping.

‘It’s just such a terrible generalisation. All you need to do is look at the history of speculative fiction here in Belfast alone. Would you say that Gulliver’s Travels is lowbrow? It is a fantasy novel inspired by the Cave Hill Titan. And there are countless others, not least of all C.S. Lewis, with the Narnia novels’.

Lawther agrees vehemently, stating that, ‘People only need to look to the success of Game of Thrones to see the popularity of the genre – everybody in Belfast wants to have something to do with it. Thousands of people from Northern Ireland were extras in it. Science fiction and fantasy aren’t the geeky things they used to be’.

Indeed, Game of Thrones (HBO’s smash hit sword ‘n’ sorcery series, shot in Belfast) features heavily in the Titan Con roster. Doreen Ritchie (otherwise known as Silverjaime), secretary of the convention, explains more.

‘I’m from Brotherhood Without Banners, who are a George R.R. Martin [author of the novels Games of Thrones is based on] fanclub. We have a number of actors from the television series coming over to take part in the convention – they will be doing various demonstrations, as well as taking part in discussion panels.

Furthermore, on Sunday there is a bus tour running around the locations used in the series, ending up in Castle Ward where there will be a medieval feast’.

There are also many other aspects of TitanCon to attract SF/F fans of every ilk, including appearances from local favourite authors such as T.A. Moore, Gerard Brennan and Peadar O Guilin, a speculative fiction workshop from Belfast comic writers and artists, Andy Luke and Paddy Brown - not to mention guest of honour and esteemed SF novelist, Ian McDonald.

There will also be countless other panels and demonstrations from other local writers, artists and filmmakers. Wiith such a wide diversity of events, does Lawther worry that, by appeasing the fanboys, they will alienate first timers?

‘The way we run TitanCon, the main focus is on the panels and the workshops. The panels are very easy to navigate, and the workshops will have instructors there, so it is easy to get involved.

'When it comes to the gaming side of things, there will be people running demos for first timers on how to play games – people new to conventions should still find it all quite easy.’

Ritchie agrees, placing emphasis on the communal nature of the event. ‘I think everyone’s going to have a great time, and it is worth pointing out that there has been a lot of discussion preceding it online.

'A lot of fans will be meeting together for the first time; people from as far away as America, the Philippines, Europe – it’s going to be a great get-together!’

The event kicks off on Friday September 23 as part of Culture Night, and will run all weekend. Of course, the committee is focusing on making sure the convention is a success, but, ever hard-working, they have already begun considering the next event.

‘We’ve started provisional work on next year’s committee and guests,’ explains Lawther. ‘As long as there’s not a disaster this weekend [cue lots of wood-touching], we should be full steam ahead for next year!’

‘TitanCon is also the first convention of its kind, as the Arts Council of NI have given us funding to run it. They have been very supportive – when we started TitanCon it was set up by the fans, for the fans. So with the Arts Council’s help, we have been able to keep ticket prices down as well. With this in mind, we hope we can build a great future for TitanCon’.

TitanCon opens on Culture Night at McHughs Bar. For more information about the convention go to their website.