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Blog: A Conference In Cologne

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Thursday morning began for me at the truly APPALLING hour of 5am, for LO! I had a plane to catch, to the wonderful German city of COLOGNE, where I was to attend a conference about comics fandom.

All right, it wasn't JUST to attend a conference, it was ALSO to have a weekend there with The Kolsch In My Glass, who was coming a day later. We had taken a bit of a RISK booking it, as at time of booking the UK was meant to be leaving the EU while we were there, so there was a good chance we'd have some HEFTY delays, or even NO PLANES AT ALL, on the way back. Still, Cologne is a nice place to be stuck, and the aforesaid Clauses In My Contract had LONG predicted there would be no Brexit anyway, so we took the chance. NOTE: she is usually right about this sort of thing!

My journey went SUPER SMOOTHLY - I got the high speed to St Pancras, the tube to Paddington, then the Heathrow Express to the airport, which was all FAST, if not CHEAP! I only had hand luggage, so it took 10 seconds to check-in with a machine, and I found myself through security with an HOUR to spare! The plane was not full, possibly due to more cautious people than us NOT booking, so I got a whole ROW to myself (so even had a NAP!) and then I walked straight off the plane onto a train, and was in Actual Cologne less than an hour later. It was amazing!

It was all so PEASY that I had time to pop to the hotel and drop my bag off before getting a U-Bahn to the conference at Cologne University, where I FINALLY got a bit lost finding my way round campus. I popped into a building and a VERY helpful German gave me a MAP. Germans are GRATE!

The first day of the conference itself was dead interesting, with a FASCINATING session about The Gift Economy (the idea that fans share their work with each other for free for the love of their subject matter) and how that is disappearing, to be replaced by PLATFORMS (e.g. Patreon) which allow fans to pay each other for what they're doing. There was also one about nostalgia and "anti-fandom" and then a keynote which pretty much brought all the THORTS of the day together.

I also saw some RABBITS sitting on a mound in the middle of the campus. We don't have THAT at UAL!

It was dead good, but it didn't finish until 8.30pm, by which point I was KNACKERED, so decided to head home. I got to the tram stop to see nobody waiting and a message going across the message boards, which I used Google Translate to discover said "No trams from here". I then used MAPS to walk home, and discovered that there'd been an accident up the way, so it was all shut. "Thank GOODNESS for Smartphones" I thought as I stomped along, although WEIRDLY my route took me to the area round the hotel that The Validators stopped in for Popfest last year, so for the second half of the route I knew where I was!!

The next day dawned MUCH later as I was KNACKERED. The first session was a meeting of an academic society, to which we were all invited but which I felt I could probably miss without worrying too much (and also without forcing people to speak English!). The second was about Gender which is officially an Interesting Topic but a) not vastly relevant to My Research Interests b) something I'd been to several times before and c) not as appealing as a much needed LIE IN an hotel breakfast.

So it was that I left the hotel at a very leisurely 1pm to stroll down to the University, taking a slight diversion to see The Blue Shell, site of last year's COlogne PopFest, as I went. I arrived at the venue at 1.35pm to discover that the afternoon session, which was meant to begin at 2pm, had already started. One does not wish to reinforce national stereotypes, but surely only in Germany would an academic conference session start EARLY!

There were two REALLY interesting talks in this bit (and one not so interesting one), about FASHION and then HIP HOP. The former used Chris Claremont's run on the X-Men to talk about the meanings of costumes, uniforms, dressing, visual systems, othering, and narrative use of clothing. In other words, a whole lot of FASCINATING things I had never really understood/thought of before. The latter basically explained why Hip Hop is a) the way it is b) a superhero narrative, and CRIKEY it was compelling, to the extent that when the speaker said "Grandmaster Flash" (as an example of Hip Hop artists giving themselves superhero-like stage names) I had to suppress an "AHA!" It also VERY MUCH convinced me that the Doctor Doom really IS a hip hop character - the poor beginnings, the oppression, the personal injury, the rising up against his enemies, the fights, the regrets, and especially the castle and visible signs of success. Move over Noah Hawley, I feel a SCREENPLAY coming on!

As everything finished I did manage to actually SPEAK to a couple of people (very brave) before heading off to the hotel and then to the railway station, where I was just in time to meet The Times On My Timetable, freshly arrived from the UK. She too had had a whole row of seats to herself on the plan - we both realised that this might have been because hardly anybody else in the UK had advance booked seats on what was meant to be Brexit Day!

We trundled off through the streets of Cologne and, again thanks to Google Maps on my phone, found Heumarkt and the very same pub where The Validators had first sat last year. The Beer In My Glass was VERY impressed by the system of bringing many small beers to your table, and we did indeed enjoy MANY small beers, all while discussing how BRILLIANT the Germans are. I reckon that we should put the whole March To Leave on a plane/high speed train to Cologne for the weekend, then they would happily agree that these are people we very much SHOULD be in a club with!

posted 1/4/2019 by MJ Hibbett

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