I had a pretty dope childhood. I fought Magneto alongside the X-Men. Shared my pizza with a bunch of ninja turtles. Kamehamehaed the shit out of my brother. Yeah life was good. But despite me always having tons of friends I did all of the aforementioned activities by myself. For some strange reason I now feel the urge to listen to Eric Carmen’s ”All By Myself”…
All of this to point out that while living in Luxembourg certainly has its share of advantages, for a geek it is pretty much the lamest place to grow up in. For years I honestly believed me and my brother were the only two people in Luxembourg religiously reading every comic book and movie-related magazine we could put our hands on and worshipping the likes of George A. Romero, Clive Barker and Peter Jackson.
That was then. Fast forward to 2014 and we are about to see the first Luxembourgish convention dedicated to, well pretty much all things awesome, see the light of day. Organized by the SFFS (Science Fiction & Fantasy Society Luxembourg) the LuxCon is shaping up to be the renewal of all things geek over here in Luxembourg. The SFFS, a bunch of extremely devoted and hard-working people are trying to achieve what seemed impossible just a couple of years ago over here in good ol’ Luxembourg. We are no longer alone my friends. This group of people, this culture is growing stronger by the minute. Yes, even here in Luxembourg. Long gone are the days of walking through the valley of the shadow of death. Yes I just totally quoted Coolio.
It is with great pleasure that I give to you ladies & gentlemen the first interview published on the blog: Gérard Kraus from the Science Fiction & Fantasy Society Luxembourg.
Geekciting!: First of all thank you very much for taking the time!
Gérard Kraus: Thank you, Paulo, for dedicating some time and interest to our event.
GC!: What have been the main challenges in organizing a convention that celebrates a culture that while widely appreciated throughout the world is still very minimalistic in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg?
GK: First of all I think the culture is only widely appreciated in a certain nerd-centric perspective, it is much easier for us fans to convince ourselves that coverage is everywhere, when in reality our media consumption is much more selective, giving us the impression that it is everywhere. Mainstream media everywhere still look at our little corner of the world with mild incomprehension. It is true though that from the launch of the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, the successes of the Harry Potter franchise, and the popularity of comic book movies there is more tolerance and more eagerness to embrace the nerdy or geeky pursuits that are ours. That is overall, however, possibly more of an obstacle to the promotion of the event rather than of the organising. The latter was hampered by this being the first event of this nature that is being organised in Luxembourg, as such, not a lot of people know what you do, and they compare it to events you’ve organised before. In our case the local authorities thought that it would be an indoor LARP (live roleplaying game) because we had organised some of these with their support before. Conveying your message, then, becomes quite important, hence why we chose the ‘Festival de l’imaginaire’ description, allowing people to have at least an idea of what is going on at such an event. The other issue related to this was the need to establish connections to other groups of fans outside of Luxembourg. Since there are not a huge amount of creators (writers, painters, etc.) and people willing to just stand in front of a crowd and talk about their object of fandom or participate in discussions, we had to look across the borders to make sure that we organise a regional rather than national event (Luxembourg probably being the only country where regional means bigger than national). It was quite easy to do with our German friends, who were quick to jump on board and get the message out to their well organised networks. Belgium and France on the other hand are not very well organised, with small groups working on their own, little to no networking beyond local links. It was a bit of a struggle to reach out to fans, groups, authors and others from those countries. We did manage to get some and I’m pretty sure that, if the first edition is a success the reputation will grow to where people know about it and are more eager to attend and participate. The financial support we are receiving from the Ministry of Culture, the Service National de la Jeunesse (National Youth Service) and the National Cultural Fund are absolutely critical to our event, which of course donates the proceeds to Fondatioun Kriipskrank Kanner – a charity that helps children with cancer and their families. Knowing that there is some financial backing allows us to not worry only about balancing the books and spending each ounce of effort on finding sponsors and convincing them that investing in our event is worth it.
GC!: What are some of the highlights our readers can expect to experience during the first edition of the LuxCon?
GK: There’s a few, depending on your preferences. I think that everybody will be in awe of the 501st Legions’ and Rebel Legion’s costumes. The Belgian Imperial and Rebel costumers will be there all weekend long in Stormtrooper, Jedi and other costumes from the Star Wars saga. Their German friends will be there Saturday only, but they will bring with them excellent Darth Vader, Jango Fett, Stormtrooper and other Imperial costumes. Kids and Parents eyes alike will shine I think. Of course there’s the possibility to take photos with everybody there. Then I feel that a lot of people will be drawn by the Klingon Teacher’s presentation, learning Klingon might not be on everybody’s bucket list, but it is certainly intriguing to learn a language from a big franchise like Star Trek, that even my hairdresser knows about. The art show will be pretty fantastic as well, if you thought that Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror art could only exist in Film or Heavy Metal band posters, think again, we have a wonderful group of artists showing their very imaginative work. Then Sunday’s cosplay competition should bring out some pretty awesome outfits for everybody to see. I think one final big highlight is the retro games arcade, with old games consoles and some actual arcade machines running everything from Pong, Space Invaders and 1942 to Street Fighter and more. We’ll have over 2500 different games available from all periods of development, which should be great. Not to forget all the other great presentations, discussions, readings by our authors. Basically I feel that every event at LuxCon is going to be the highlight of the weekend for somebody.
GC!: What reasons, what criteria, do you follow when deciding if you should or should not invite a possible guest?
GK: For this first edition is was pretty much first come first served, as well as ‘will you come for free’. Budgetary constraints and the big unknown of whether people would be likely to attend, were the key parameters within which we had to plan. We also tried to get the language balance right, it would have been very easy to make it a Germano-Luxembourgish event, but we really wanted to try and make it as regionally international as we possibly could. The organising team saw little point to running an event with and for Luxembourgish creators and fans only. We are in a great spot to make it a very European event, linguistically and geographically speaking.
GC!: What would in your opinion be a dream guest list for a possible future edition of the LuxCon?
GK: Lets just see who was at San Diego Comic Con, shall we. No seriously, if the event and the concept is a success I don’t see why we should not be able to invite recognizable names from film, TV, literature and other fields to future editions of LuxCon. We reached out to some, mainly in order to see if there was interest and whether or not it was affordable (which in most cases it wasn’t). All that is well and good, but we think that it is important for a convention not to descend into a celebrity hunting marathon, it should always remain a possibility for fans to get together and have a good time, and a safe spot for the general public to come and discover fandom and find out that they are fans of something or other after all.
GC!: I can only imagine the huge amount of work surrounding this type of event. How long does it take you guys to organize an event of this scope?
GK: LuxCon, from the moment we said ‘Let’s do it!’ has taken a year to prepare. A convention has always been the goal of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Society Luxembourg, in fact it was inscribed in the very first statutes and regulations submitted for registration. Up until this time last year it was only vaguely talked about. Then, after participating in the Felicia Day and Wil Wheaton launched International Tabletop Day, we threw ourselves into the deep end, booked the space and went about looking for potential guests, partners, and more. We have taken people on board, got to know each other better through the whole thing and inevitably lost some on the way, but the team is really dedicated to this and we’ve learned a lot already from rookie convention organising mistakes. The good thing about organising an event like this today is that email, Facebook and other means of communication exist. I can only imagine how hard it must have been for the previous generations of fans who ran Saarcon 5 in Esch/Alzette in 1984. All of the former allowed us to put the word out there, and get some much-needed feedback from people interested in the hobbies. It is really nice to hear from many people how long they’ve been waiting for something like LuxCon to happen, and how excited they are to be there on that weekend.
GC!: Where do you guys see yourselves in 5 years? What goals do you aim for?
GK: We’ve not really made long-term plans yet, instead focussing on the moment, making the organisation of LuxCon as much of a learning experience for us as it should be a fun one for the people who attend. We need to assess this year’s event in the days and weeks following to see what went right, what went wrong, and identify areas that need to be adapted for future events. The most important criterion is and will be the attendance. If we see that there is genuine interest from the fans and public in Luxembourg and border regions to attend such an event and participate in the many events, then there’s no reason not to do it again. So far the echoes we get are pretty positive, if all those messages of support, interesting questions, social media likes/shares/tweets, etc. translate to actual numbers at the door, we will be very pleased to see our efforts rewarded. We already have people and groups interested in collaborating with us on future editions of LuxCon, but in the end it all depends on the amount of people showing up on the day, come rain or snow, and making the event a special one, it is a fan event, for fans, by fans after all, and one result of it should be a much tighter knit community in Luxembourg and beyond the borders.
LuxCon, the first Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Convention in Luxembourg takes place on Saturday 29th March from 10:00-01:00 and Sunday 30th March from 10:00-18:00 in centre culturel ‘Schungfabrik’ at 12, rue Pierre Schiltz in Tétange, in the South of Luxembourg. Information about the event, its programme and the participants can be found on http://www.luxcon.lu and http://www.facebook.com/luxconvention.
Thanks again guys for the interview! To all the others: See ya ugly faces at the LuxCon! Let’s make this a success!