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Eastercon 2013

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).

Cory Doctorow, Roz Kaveney, Emma Newman and Paul Cornell being introduced by Lee Harris
Cory Doctorow, Roz Kaveney, Emma Newman and Paul Cornell being introduced by Lee Harris

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…


Eastercon programme

I now have my programme for EightSquared, the 64th Eastercon, so I hope I’ll see some of you at the following events:

Friday, 7pm: Genre Get-Together – Fantasy (seems to be a big informal signing event)

Friday, 9pm: Panel – Underground London

Sunday, 2pm: Panel – The Changing Portrayal of Gender and Sexuality in SF & Fantasy

Monday, 11am: Panel – Selling Space

I have no idea what I’m going to say on that last one, as I know little about the space industry – I think I got involved because I do know a bit about “big science and the commercial sector” 🙂

You can see the whole schedule online at (there’s also a web app you can use on an iPhone, Android or Blackberry).

2013 Schedule

2013 is going to be a little quieter for me than 2012, but I still have a fair few events lined up so I thought I’d look ahead to the rest of the year. You know, in case you fancy catching up with me, getting a book signed or whatever!

16-17 February: PicoCon, London

PicoCon is a small convention, formerly only one day, that’s held at Imperial College in south-west London. I shall definitely be there on the Sunday in time for guest Richard Morgan’s talk, and will no doubt hang around for a good chunk of the day. I don’t have any programme events lined up, however – I’ll just be there to hang out with my SFF buddies (and get my copy of The Steel Remains signed!).

29 March – 1 April: Eastercon, Bradford

As far as I know the programme for Eastercon (aka Eight Squared) hasn’t been organised yet, but I’ll be there for the whole weekend and there’s bound to be some kind of signing event for The Merchant of Dreams – just ask at the Angry Robot stall in the dealers’ room!

13 July: Edge-Lit, Derby

Another great little convention, currently only one day but well worth attending. The Derby QUAD is a great venue, and since the con is small it’s a great place to dip your toe in the waters.

26 October: BristolCon, Bristol

Another fantastic one-day regional convention with a strong programme and a great location (I went to university in Bristol, so maybe I’m biased…). I usually do a couple of panels, and hopefully I’ll get a reading slot for The Prince of Lies.

31 October – 3 November: World Fantasy Convention, Brighton

The big convention of the year for me – fingers crossed, The Prince of Lies should be out by then, so it’s a perfect opportunity to get a signed copy fresh off the presses!

I hope to see some of you at one of these events – don’t be shy, I don’t bite! 🙂

Eastercon 2012 schedule

I’ve been awake since 4am this morning, because I made the mistake of checking my Twitter feed instead of going back to sleep. Not only was the Eastercon schedule announced late last night, but it seems they’ve put me on a panel with some bloke called George Martin…

Anyway, here’s my schedule for the weekend:

Saturday, 11am: How Pseudo Do You Like Your Medieval? with George R R Martin, Anne Perry, Kari Sperring and Jacey Bedford

Saturday, 1pm: reading, followed by book signing at the Angry Robot stall

Saturday, 7pm: Worldbuilding (when, how and how much?) with Suzanne Macleod, Robert VS Redick, Simon Spanton and Chris Wooding

Sunday, 11am: The Fantasy of William Shakespeare with Claire Brialey, Jennifer A McGowan, Erin Horakova and Grant Watson

I think after that lot I’ll be having a quiet Sunday afternoon in the bar 🙂

Late addition:

Sunday, 8pm: General signing session with other guest authors

BristolCon 2011

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.

Juliet E McKenna talks about the evolution of magic in her fantasy series
Juliet E McKenna talks about the evolution of magic in her fantasy series

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.

Mike Shevdon demonstrates a composite bow
Mike Shevdon demonstrates a composite bow

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!