page 3 of the beautiful SwanCon 17 Souvenir Book is titled ‘Imaginings: A Preface’, written by Jeremy G Byrne, Programme Book Co-Editor. It starts with an epigraph attributed to ‘The Welcome Mat’:
“And all I see as I look through these years
Is ten thousand people with the same ideas
I don’t believe in half measures. It strikes me as particularly pointless to expend time and energy on a project if one doesn’t intends that it be the best it can. That philosophy has driven us, in the development of The Festival of the Imagination, to strive for something a little different. We could have chosen to simply organise and run a good convention; that would have sufficed. Instead, we chose to attempt far more. We planned a series of events to accompany the convention, and we planned far more development of the individual components that went to make up a “standard” convention than had been attempted before, at least in the small world of WA SF Cons. Whether this will be perceived as entirely successful remained to be seen, but the indications as of this writing are that things have gone well. How true that turns out to be is in many ways dependent on you, for only if the Festival has been worthwhile for its attendees will it have accomplished anything.
The symbolism of the cover of this book might not be apparent to some, and perhaps begs explanation. The choice of design was very deliberate. The colours we picked are green and gold; their connection to the Australian theme of the Conference is obvious, and is intended to be so. We feel that Australia has a strong endemic science fiction, currently in ascendancy, and that this should be recognised. This is neither parochial nor particularly patriotic; it’s simply recognising talent and quality where it exists. You’ll notice a dominant Australian content to this book; not simply science fictional, but local. It’s time, we feel, that more attention be shown it.
The choice of cover stock included consideration of the fact that it is recycled paper. Environmental consciousness is a facet of modern life, whether one is fanatical or indifferent. We live on the crest of a wave that’s sweeping into the future, and little things like this are constant reminders. How much attention was paid even five years ago to the use of recycled paper? Now, for example, certain local government departments are preparing to convert exclusively to its use, despite a cost disadvantage. Our choice is perhaps a token gesture (especially considering the terrible toll the production of this book alone has taken on the world’s paper supplies), but important nevertheless.
The illustration we have used as the centrepiece for the cover is of the floating city from Hiyao Miyasaki’s stunningly beautiful Tenku no Shiro: Laputa (“Laputa: Castle in the Sky”), and so has an obvious connection with the visual subgenre features at SwanCon 17, which is Japanese Animation or Anime. Yet it is far more appropriate than simply that for a couple of reasons. Firstly, Laputa is not a Japanese invention, but is taken directly from Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, a classic piece of early science fiction (albeit heavily political and pointed social commentary besides). The idea of a utopian city which travels the globe, hovering above the oceans, suspended by the “magic” of magnetism and reachable only by air or during the brief periods when it descends to the surface is a marvellously imaginative and compelling one, and thus appropriate to a Convention which seeks to promote “the imagination”. Secondly though, the development of the story in Miyasaki’s film includes the crumbling, the decay of this flying island to little more than the citadel above the vast lodestone at its heart, tenuously held together by the roots of a gigantic tree. This magical place is dying, rapidly passing beyond salvation, desperately in need of renewal.
Perhaps the allusion is cynical. Perhaps it’s not really justified. Certainly it is pessimistic, but it does contain the seed of optimism. The tiny sprout on the back cover, the final word in this book if you will, is perhaps a better expression of our feelings. Criticism, even “constructive” criticism, is often simply damaging if unaccompanied by suggestion and contribution. It’s not my intention to be smugly critical in a po-faced and self-serious manner, nor to hijack a Festival publication for a swathe of trite and egoistic blathering, but more to try to promote reflection. The quote that opens this piece may seem just a little despairing, but its’ not meant simply to damn. Imagination and reflection are keys to both creation and renewal, and we’ve tried to foster both through the Festival. I feel (platitudinously, perhaps) that hope springs eternal and, with careful nurturing, so will achievement. Perhaps this Festival will have contributed to that hope. If so, it will have been enough.