This weekend I was lucky enough to attend BristolCon 2011, a small SFF convention in the lovely city of Bristol (where I went to university). There were a few reasons for going: to see my alma mater again; to catch up with convention buddies; and of course to honour the memory of the late Colin Harvey, one of the founders of the convention, who died this August.
Sad memories aside, though, it was a fantastic little convention. The programme was packed with panels, interviews, talks and readings, and there were plenty of stalls in and around the dealers’ hall, selling everything from new and secondhand books to steampunk weaponry! The venue was also very good, and conveniently placed for both Temple Meads station and Bristol’s fine array of restaurants around the old docks.
I attended two very interesting talks. The first was by Juliet E McKenna (above), about how she worldbuilds as she goes along and how this has affected the evolution of magic in her fantasy series. We learnt about the reasoning behind her island city of wizards, how a chance comment in an introduction to her novella led to an entire trilogy about the Lescari revolution – and how the runes for aetheric magic were brainstormed with her husband one evening over a bottle of wine! We also got a preview of the cover art for her new trilogy, conceived as a triptych of characters. If you ever have the chance to catch one of Juliet’s talks, do so – she’s a great speaker and has a wealth of experience in writing fantasy.
The second talk was by Mike Shevdon, who is writing an urban fantasy series, The Courts of the Feyre, for Angry Robot and is also a keen archer. Mike brought along his collection of bows, from a fibreglass replica of the composite bows used by steppe nomads (see photo, right) to a decidedly steampunk-esque compound bow. He also showed us some film clips, the most interesting of which was the slow-motion movement of an arrow, showing how it flexes as it leaves the string, enabling it to fly straight despite the bow being in the way. Again, highly recommended for anyone wanting to improve their fantasy writing or just learn about this ancient technology.
Of course I wasn’t just a spectator this time round. In addition to a short reading, I sat on two panels: “Tricks and Tools for Writers” and “The Life-cycle of the Author”. I was a bit nervous beforehand, but the moderators made everyone feel very relaxed and ensured that all the participants got a chance to speak, so it was a very pleasant experience in the end. Both panels were recorded, so (sound quality permitting) they will hopefully be podcast at some point.
Overall I had a great time, made some more friends (and finally got to meet some online ones), so I’m looking forward to going back next year, writing schedule permitting!