So, Alt.Fiction happened.
And it was good. No, seriously good.
While some worried about the unfortunate sandwich effect created by Eastercon and the start of the LBF, it didn’t seem to have caused too many problems: there was a great atmosphere and a good attendance (a little too good, in some cases – but more of that later).
I got to Leicester on Friday night, having met up with Will Hill, Tom Pollock and Lizzie Barrett on the way, and we collectively endured the most stressful train journey I think I’ve ever had… (a big “nul points” to the grumpy woman who caused a big fuss about her seat in our carriage) but it was fine. Honestly. Fine.
Friday evening saw a bit of socialising and an impromptu cinema trip, and then it was all about Alt.Fiction.
The 10am SFF non-fiction panel which I was on along with Tom, and Anne Perry of Pornokitsch, had a slight hiccup when our moderator was delayed – but Jared Shurin heroically stepped in with only a few minutes’ warning. It ended up being a very interesting discussion covering everything from the importance of research in fiction (and whether there’s such a thing as too much of it), to reviews and the responsibility of reviewers in how they handle issues like subtext, via steampunk, Jules Verne, hard SF, Werner Herzog and alternate histories.
As an aside, if anyone who was there wants to read the Michael Marshall Smith story I mentioned towards the end, it’s called “The Good Listener”, and you can find it here. There’s also a podcast of it here.
My next panel was “New Writers”, along with Tom Pollock (again. I like panels with him, because he uses big words and says terribly clever insightful things, so as long as he always speaks first I can just nod and sagely say, “Yeah. What Tom said….”) and Emma Newman and Vincent Holland-Keen. We were ably wrangled by Jon Weir, who was fantastic and made us all look like we knew what we were doing. No small feat, in my case.
The panels I went to were interesting: by far and away my favourite was the panel on comics which was as engaging as it was entertaining, and very good indeed. I was particularly impressed by Emma Vieceli – and even more so by her art! Her book is absolutely gorgeous, and although I’ve only just had time to flip through it I’m very much looking forward to reading it properly. You should all go out and buy it immediately.
The genre television panel was slightly frustrating in that it got very caught up in the technical aspects of programming, as opposed to discussion as viewers. I would have liked to see more debate about solid, long-running genre shows like Buffy or BSG or Supernatural or Dark Shadows (particularly the latter, given that Adam Christopher was on the panel) but was very taken with Alasdair Stuart’s ideas about “parachuting” cast members of existing shows into franchised versions in different countries.
Saturday evening involved an absolutely lovely dinner where I laughed so hard I actually cried and had a huge amount of fun, then drinks in the hotel bar, which were just the right level of noisy and silly. Sunday was a quieter day, with people drifting off to panels or towards home with the usual resolutions to do nothing but sleep for a week.
Everyone always says it’s the people who make conventions a good or bad experience, and this one doubly proved that. The whole atmosphere was so easy-going that everyone relaxed. The layout of the venue also meant that everyone was (largely) in the same space – although arguably some of the panels were in the wrong rooms: the smallest room always had more people trying to get in than could, while several of the panels in the larger rooms had relatively few attendees. Name tags would have been nice, too, as would some more volunteers to keep participants organised – but these are minor niggles and easily corrected next time around.
And yes: there will be a next time around. Alt.Fiction 2013 has already been announced; tentatively scheduled for the third weekend in May next year. It’s already in my diary…
Huge thanks, of course, go to everyone involved in organising the weekend: it was a big success, and rightly so.
And thanks to the people who made the weekend so memorable for me – in no particular order: Tom Pollock, Lizzie Barrett, Will Hill, Andrew Reid, Paul Cornell, Tom Hunter, Adam Christopher, Alasdair Stuart, Jon Weir, Nadine Holmes, Tom Fletcher, Anne Lyle, Marie O’Regan, Paul Kane and a lot more people I just know I’ve left out….