Q: What do you get if you put together 6000+ SFF fans, a bunch of outstanding organisers and a great venue? A: CONvergence, a regional convention that’s been running in Minnesota for the past 16 years (and hopefully will continue for many more).
I first heard about CONvergence back in 2012 from then-Angry Robot editor Lee Harris, and as I have a number of writer friends in the Midwest it seemed like the perfect choice for my next US convention. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to go in 2013, but I was determined to make it this year – and I’m very glad I did. Read more
I received my full schedule yesterday for LonCon3 (aka WorldCon 2014), and it’s pretty busy! Since it’s such a large convention, I’ve included locations so that you have a better chance of finding me – all my events are at the ExCel. Read more
This morning I got a nice surprise in my inbox: details of my schedule for CONvergence in Minnesota! I have two panels, one fairly serious, the other…not so much
Saturday 5th July
10pm Loki Can Rule Me Any Day – an exploration of side characters who have become fan favourites
11.30pm Science of Sex It’s a necessary biological function – what more can we say about it?
I winced a bit when I saw how late they were, but hopefully I’ll still be operating somewhat on UK time so it will only feel like early evening. I hope to see some of you there – if you want a book signed, just ask! (Preferably not when I’m eating/in the loo/otherwise busy…)
After a certain amount of umming and ahhing, I’ve finally locked down my convention schedule for 2014. It’s a busy one, mostly because there are so many awesome cons around and I don’t want to miss out!
N.B. Panels and other events will be confirmed nearer the time.
The World Fantasy Convention came to the UK this year for the first time in a couple of decades, and expectations were high, especially since US authors were coming over to meet fans, promote their latest books or just see a bit of the UK alongside their convention schedule. Given that I registered back in 2011 when tickets first went on sale, you can imagine I was pretty excited by the time November came around! Read more
Nine Worlds Geekfest is a brand-new convention that was launched earlier this year via Kickstarter. I was one of those sponsors, because a) it looked like a cool event and b) I knew I wasn’t going to be able to attend WorldCon in Texas, which left my summer looking rather empty. I’m very glad I did so, as it turned out to be a fantastic weekend. Read more
On Saturday I was a guest at Edge-Lit 2, an SFF literary convention held in Derby. I’d been to the previous year’s event and also to an iteration of AltFiction that was held at the same venue, so I was really looking forward to it.
Whilst I only did one panel this year, it was momentous in that it was my first time moderating. Luckily I already knew most of the panelists (see names in photo), so that helped to make it a more relaxing experience. I had sensibly prepared some notes beforehand (OK, at 11pm the night before, when I couldn’t sleep for nerves/excitement!), so it wasn’t difficult to get the ball rolling. Read more
I’m a bit later with this report than intended, mostly because I had so much fun at Eastercon I was too exhausted to process it!
This was my third Eastercon, and whilst last year’s was memorable for very personal reasons, this year was pretty good too. I’d been a bit doubtful about the location, as the convention venue was mainly a conference centre and had few bedrooms, meaning most people had to stay in city centre hotels about two miles away, but a constant flow of free minibuses meant that this was only a minor inconvenience. A bigger problem, as with Birmingham, was the lack of good places to eat within easy walking distance; the conference centre provided a relatively inexpensive buffet at lunchtime and in the evening, but the food was about the quality you expect from cheap mass catering. Fortunately we found a US-style diner over the road, where the food was excellent (though the service was very slow). However, enough about logistics – what about the convention itself?
There was a good selection of panels and of course the traditional Saturday evening live screening of the latest Doctor Who episode, complete with bags of jelly-babies (and a few technical glitches, so I’ll probably watch it again on catchup TV). A great new addition to the programme was the “genre get-togethers”, which were a series of informal book-signing-and-mingling-with-the-authors sessions. This was also an opportunity for authors (or their publishers) to give away books to interested readers, rather than putting them into goodie-bags at random only to be thrown away. Angry Robot kindly supplied me with a box of The Alchemist of Souls, so I was able to give some away at the get-together and the rest soon disappeared from the “free books” table on Sunday!
I was on three panels, the best of which was probably “The Changing Portrayal of Gender and Sexuality in SFF”, which moderator Penny Hill turned into a cozier discussion format than the usual “five people behind a table” panel, with lots of contributions from the audience. I also went to a couple of other panels: one on non-Western SFF, and a flash fiction contest featuring my friend and fellow Angry Roboteer Emma Newman (below).
Emma won the contest, and my side of the room won the quiz that Lee had put together to keep the audience entertained during the writing, so our plan for world domination continues apace. Also, it appears that I know more Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang lyrics than the average SF geek, which is maybe not something to boast about!
The non-Western SFF panel also gave me an excuse to talk to Stephane Marsan from Bragelonne, a French SFF publishing house, and we ended up having a long chat in the bar about Asterix, European children’s TV in the 70s (remember the Czech Mole cartoon?), and Kenneth Branagh’s Othello (filmed in Italy, with French actress Irene Jacob as Desdemona). It wasn’t all networking, though; mostly I just hung out with old friends from previous conventions (Sarah Newton, Emma Newman, Mike Shevdon, Adrian Faulkner, et al) and made new ones, or at least met people I already knew online (e.g. Brian Turner from SFF Chronicles). It was a lot of fun as always, if exhausting, and I’m now I’m really looking forward to the rest of my conventions this year, especially World Fantasy in Brighton.
Now, I really must go and sign up for Eastercon 2014…
I had planned to do a proper report on PicoCon, which I attended last weekend, but since I was unable to go on Saturday it felt a bit unfair to judge the whole event by the second day. So instead I’m going to give an entirely subjective and informal account of my day there, followed by a bit of news about EightSquared aka EasterCon 2013.
PicoCon is a small but long-standing SFF convention based at Imperial College, London. Traditionally it’s been a one-day event, but this year the organisers decided to extend it to two days. As with most such arrangements, the second day tends to be the quieter of the two, and since that was the day I attended, there wasn’t a lot happening that I wanted to go to. In fact, to be honest the main reason I went was because Richard Morgan was a guest of honour (see my review of The Steel Remains), and as far as I’m aware he doesn’t attend many conventions so it was a rare opportunity to meet him.
The morning kicked off at 10.30am with a talk by Morgan – and as a result I had to be pretty damned early in order to get a train into London, a tube to South Kensington and then locate the registration desk and lecture theatre. Thankfully this mission was accomplished, and I arrived in plenty of time. The talk itself was very entertaining: Morgan began with a reading from his forthcoming novel The Dark Defiles (the third in the A Land Fit for Heroes series) – thankfully spoiler-free, since I haven’t yet read The Cold Commands! Afterwards he solicited questions from the audience and we got a lot of insight into his writing process – he admitted he has serious trouble planning novels, which was rather comforting! – and his attitude to violence. I haven’t really digested all of the latter yet, but the gist of it is that he sees humans as innately violent and hardwired to be suspicious of strangers, but considers that to be a poor excuse for actual violent/racist/sexist behaviour.
After the talk he did an informal signing in the seating area outside the lecture theatre, which turned into a long chat with us fans, including fellow writers Michela D’Orlando and James Buckley whom I’d met at previous conventions. As a result I didn’t get my hardback copy of The Cold Commands signed before he went to lunch, so I attended another panel he was on in the early afternoon (a general discussion about SFF by writers and editors) and then hung out with him and the others until it was time to go home.
All in all it was a pretty good day, and my only complaint would be that the bar was an awful long way from the lecture theatres, which reduced socialising options a good deal.
I don’t have a lot of details at this stage, except that I’m reliably informed I’ve already been pencilled in for at least one panel (on cities in SFF) and probably several, so it’ll be another busy working convention for me. I shall be at the convention all weekend (around midday Friday to midday Monday), so I hope to see you there!