Novacon

Tagged: Community | Fan

Novacon has long been Britain's second regular Convention, held annually since 1971 in November (thus keeping it well distanced from the national Eastercon) and named for that month. It is run, or at least the organizing committee is appointed by, the Birmingham Science Fiction Group founded in 1961. Attendance at Novacon 1 in 1971 was 144; the figure has been as high as 495 in 1980, though 300 became typical, with a gradual dwindling to 200 or fewer members in the 2010s. An initial policy of alternating professional and fan guests of honour lapsed in 1978 when Anne McCaffrey rather than some prominent fanzine fan was chosen; professional guests have since been the rule, with rare additional or "special guest" exceptions. Early Novacons were held in various Birmingham city-centre hotels, with excursions to Coventry (1985-1986), Solihull (1989-1991) and Malvern (1997); the rise of Birmingham as a major centre of the conference industry made the city unaffordable for this intentionally low-key convention, which settled in Bentley, Walsall (2003-2008), and then Nottingham (2009-current). A notable and continuing Novacon tradition is the publication of an original chapbook of work (usually fiction) by the guest or guests of honour, included without extra charge as part of the membership package; the first of these was Christopher Priest's self-spoof The Making of the Lesbian Horse (1979 chap).

For many years Novacon hosted the Nova Award given for British Fanzine activity, inaugurated in 1973 as a juried award for best fanzine only: that year's winner was Peter Weston's Speculation. The award mechanism switched to popular vote of Novacon members in 1977; fanzine writer and fanzine artist categories were added in 1981. Owing to dwindling interest in the new century, the Nova Awards were discontinued in 2015, though occasional committee awards for "best fan" etc. may continue. [DRL]

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