EUROCON 1994 at Timisoara
Testimony of Roberto Quaglia
Translation by Ciara Shanahan
|From the 26th to the 29th of may 1994 the Eurocon took
place at Timisoara, the annual European science fiction convention.
We may immediately say that which occurred was something out of the ordinary. Guests of honour at the gathering included John Brunner, Herbert Franke, Joe Haldeman, Moebius, Norman Spinrad, Peter Cuczka. Special guests include Jack Cohen, Jonathan Cowie, Gay Haldeman, Bridget Wilkinson, Lee Wood and Yours Truly, like the others enticed by the promise of complete reimbursements of their costs.
Already the nutriated ranks of the foreign guests tells you that what has taken place is not a low key Eurocon.
There were people coming from Austria, Bulgaria, England, Finland, France, Holland, Hungary, Ireland, Swizerland, Turkey, Ukraine, USA. I was the only Italian, together with my friend and assistant Max Morando.
The absence of the Czechs, the Slovaks, the Polish and the Germans was to be particularly noticed, for in the past years they'd always joined Eurocon in a great number. A chance case or a modest act of snobbism on the behalf of the Romanians?
It was a great convention in many senses. Norman Spinrad in his final speech, during the gala evening, said that this was the most outstanding science fiction convention in which he had participated. I don't know if you know Norman Spinrad. What I know of him, he is not the type to mention this for courtesy.
The organisation appeared at times a little shaky but a great capability to improvise overwhelmed this deficiency. Remarkable was the care of the organisers to provide for everyone of the guests of honour and for every foreign group a charming young lady who functioned as assistant/translator/tourist guide. A useful initiative which moreover made all foreigners feel very welcome. The traditional Romanian hospitality was distinctly confirmed. The theme of the convention was "BUILDING EUROPE". A serious theme, referring to the imminent future which directly regards all of us. A theme very relevant to the ideals of science fiction, more than the even though formally valuable ravings of mediaeval myths in SF, that many of us have to repeatedly put on with in many contexts.
For three mornings this was discussed as the official theme, in large - at least initially - in the overflowing national opera theatre, and the intellectual level of the guests always allowed for interesting and lively conversation, which was therefore for once saved from the high entropy of all those commonplace speakers who stop short of ideas.
The participation of Romanians in the convention was elevating, in my estimate, several hundreds, (I don't know official figures), mainly very young people.
Extraordinary, from our viewpoint, was the attendance of the Romanian mass media at the convention. At the orders of the cameramen, with the journalists at the ready (or viceversa), they snapped up images and interviews to publicise to the entire nation.
There is a very important reason for the basis of all this attention. In Romania SF is more popular than in almost all other European countries, and perhaps world-wide. Radio and television offer regular appointments with the world of SF, and treating it with the competence deserved they promote its diffusion with great selectivity. Utmost merit should be assigned to Alexandru Mironov, minister of the Romanian republic and strong supporter of the diffusion and development of SF in Romania. Together with Mihai Bădescu, he personally organises a SF transmission on television every Sunday afternoon.
The house honours were read by Mircea Oprita, writer, editor, president of the ARSFAN (Romanian SF Association), let alone being a person of great kindness/gentility (and he also speaks elegant Italian).
Numerous Romanian writers and personalities were present other than those already cited Mironov and Bădescu, we must not forget Jon Hobana, Romulous Barbulescu, George Anania, Florin Munteanu, Stefan Ghidoveanu, Silviu Genescu, Valentin Nicolau, Tudor E. Besuan, Cornel Secu, Mihai Gramescu, Mihaela Muraru-Mândrea. The focal point of the convention was the prestigious Teatrul National sited right in the central square of the city. There facing the Opera Theatre, in the middle of the great pedestrian square, a stage was rigged for a long transmission, solely of the convention, for national Romanian television. Opposite in the great square, on the Saturday evening, in the ambience of the Eurocon, a notable exhibition of "Laser Theatre", an electronic music concert, laser show and fireworks display took place. A crowd of tens of thousands gathered to witness the spectacle/show. (something of this type was never seen at a Eurocon).
The Eurocon offered nutrients also for the more demanding minds. The Romanian scientist Florin Munteanu held a brilliant conference on the difference between intuition and imagination. The English scientist Jack Cohen ventured reduction of the actual frontiers of knowledge in his conference "the collapse of chaos". Scientifically interesting also the contributions of Jonathan Cowie and Herbert Franke.
Discreet, but not fanatical, was the showing of artworks with a SF theme. Outstanding were the numerous tales of Moebius.
Tony Chester produced an amusing theatrical representation in which he managed to involve Norman Spinrad, N. Lee Wood, J. Cohen and B. Wilkinson.
The ritual of the "Masquerade", very popular in the Anglo-Saxon conventions, was interpreted by the Romanians with a vitality and imagination that managed to crack my natural profound aversion towards this kind of triviality. Deprived of money which allows one to dress in the traditional mode, they aptly provided with use of the imagination, allowing for truly insane + original cross-dressing in certain cases. All was clarified by an evening of dancing held in the entrance of the Opera Theatre, in which they succeeded to involve Brunner and Spinrad and their wives, made up by a team of girls armed with silver papers, streamers and sequins.
A Bulgarian party based on liquids and solids of pleasurable edibility announced their candidature to host the 1996 Eurocon. Ireland was then proposed for 1997. We must however keep in mind Holland, which last year showed the intention to host one of the next editions. Helped also by the scarcity of competition, Romania snapped up nearly all available ESFS (European SF Association) awards. Nemira won the award destined for the best publisher. Jurnalul SF won that for the best magazine. Cornel Secu that for the best promoter.
What more than anything else made great this edition of Eurocon one cannot express. It was the atmosphere felt along the winding path of the convention, an atmosphere of enthusiasm, of importance. A profound sense of importance for SF, in Romania more than any other place, a conscious will to face the future, with a clear mind and a heart full of the optimism's passion.
Ah, forgetting two very important things. The first: there was everywhere a swarm of young girls of extreme value. The second: we had repeatedly to sink in the sweet sea of a wine able to turn pale the Picolit (Very Good Italian Vine). And finally... as in every perfect symphony which is to be respected, even an offtune note suits (this is not absolutely true but let us pretend it is so): at my request which I consider normal, that the organisation should keep its promises of reimbursement of travel expenses included in their formal invitation, with a perfect smile of ordinance regularly printed on his face, the chief organiser Cornel Secu answered confusedly, pretending an improbable amnesia. What a pity. But nothing and nobody is perfect.
I must nevertheless add about that the part regarding lodgings and food the promise has been dignifiably maintained.
(c) 1994 Roberto Quaglia