conventions

All Un-Quiet on the Western Front

The last time I was heard from, I was about to venture up to EdgeLit 2 in Derby, wasn’t I? Did you think you’d lost me? No such luck…

EdgeLit was fun and very, very hot indeed. I got to hang out with some of my lovely writer-friends, which was brilliant, and I really enjoyed the panel on urban fantasy’s popularity, which covered everything from Buffy as the archetypal “kick-ass” female character (and the fact that she works as such because she has flaws: she may be able to put a vampire through a wall, but she still gets grounded…) to the perception that urban fantasy and paranormal romance are the same thing – and where that came from. For what it’s worth, I strongly believe that they are separate sub-genres with a hefty amount of cross-over in both directions – but that doesn’t necessarily mean that one has to contain the other. But maybe that’s just me. Moving on.

Anyone who follows me on Twitter or Facebook will probably know about the racing. As I’ve mentioned on here before (and whinge about at length anywhere I can possibly get the words out) my husband is the proud owner (and driver) of a race car, which is running in the UK Time Attack series. This means I spend a lot of weekends in the paddock at racetracks, and last weekend was no exception: that was Oulton Park in Cheshire.

This time didn’t go entirely to plan, as you’ll see from the video…

It might not look like much from inside the car – and he was absolutely fine, thankfully – but standing on the other side of the track and knowing that not only has there been a crash but that your husband’s is the only car not back in the pits (and watching the track doctors go screeching off in their car…) is a deeply, deeply unpleasant thing.

1000111_567602749949112_30444218_n

(Photo: Togethia Media / James Young)

Still, driver fine. Car not so much, but there’s a few weeks before the next race – at which the car will have some shiny new livery.

BFR new car livery

Isn’t he pretty? Yet again, that’s the work of my fantastic cover artist, Pye Parr. (The large blank space, in case you’re wondering, is for the series sponsor stickers which have to be applied to the door of every car competing.)

Minor catastrophe aside, the highlight of the event was watching the vintage F1 cars on the track – one an old Schumacher car, and one an old Senna one. Because I’m part of the race team, I get a pit wall pass meaning I’m free to come and go in the garages and pits as well as out onto the safety wall dividing the pits and the track – and for a long-time F1 fan, being able to watch (and hear) them go past from there was something else.

F1 car

Away from motor racing, I popped in to Kim Curran and Bryony Pearce’s launch for their new Strange Chemistry books, CONTROL and THE WEIGHT OF SOULS at Forbidden Planet. It was enormous fun, and it was fantastic to see so many people turn out to support them – including a big group of teen readers. I was lucky enough to read a draft of Kim’s book, “Control” a little while ago, and thoroughly recommend it. She’s one of the most exciting new YA authors working in genre, and I hope there are many more books to come.

Speaking of new books, I’ve been popping up here and there to talk about REBELLION a little more. You can find me lurking at Chuck Wendig’s Terribleminds, talking about the challenges of REBELLION (and my favourite paragraph) as well as talking about angels at Winged Reviews. And if you’re interested in the “story behind the story”, pop over to Upcoming4me to find out about REBELLION’s history.

I’ll also be doing a couple of things at the upcoming Nine Worlds convention in London in a few weeks – but I’ll post on that separately. I’m not sure I can compete with the car…

Edge-Lit 2

This weekend sees the return of the one-day Edge-Lit festival up in Derby (Edge Lit 2: Edgier!) and I’ll be dropping by to chat and take part in a couple of panels.

At 5pm, I’ll be involved in the “Urban Renewal: what makes urban fantasy so popular?” panel, along with Suzanne McLeod, Emma Newman, Freda Warrington and my Solaris stablemate Gaie Sebold; and after dinner I’ll be talking with Adam Christopher, Gary McMahon and Gavin Smith about where it all started on the “My first genre reads” panel.

I think this second panel was originally scheduled for 8pm, but has since been moved to 9pm: if you’re coming along, do be sure to check the programme!

There’s some great panels and events on the line-up, and the guests of honour include the fabulous Mike Carey – so if you’re in the area, do swing by. It’s going to be a fantastic day. (See what I did there?)

 

 

 

Alt.Fiction 2012

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….

SFX Weekender 3

North Wales.

February.

Chalet.

It takes a special kind of circumstance to make me even consider contemplating those three ideas in combination. It takes the marvellously over-the-top geekfest that is the SFX Weekender.

Other people have already covered the majority of big things that need to be said: Sophia McDougall‘s blog post on the gender issue within programming has already been widely discussed, and as far as I can tell, what that all boils down to is the old chestnut about visibility on a range of levels, including publisher.

On a more positive note, I was pleasantly surprised by how many women were there, and there for themselves (as opposed to wearing the standard “My boyfriend / husband / son / best mate brought me along–but in 37 hours, I’ll be out of here” expression). I frequently bang on about how inclusive the SFF & genre scene can be, so it’s heartening to  see it playing out on a larger scale.

SFX Weekender bar (photo borrowed from Jonathan Green)

And talk about scale. There were thousands of attendees, making it by far the largest convention I’ve been to, and the first non-writery one. It’s a bit of a bemusing experience for writers: we’re not quite sure what to do when a bunch of cosplayers wander past us, and I still can’t quite get my head around Darth Vader pulling pints behind the bar.

I’ve also seen more 11th Doctors than I ever imagined possible, and a startling number of 10th Doctors who were women (and while I applaud your cosplay, ladies, you’ve left me slightly… confused as to my 10th Doctor-related feelings…).

I think I handled it pretty well–particularly the moment when Anne Lyle, Amanda Rutter and I were ambushed by a Dalek demanding we open the door for it. Thinking fast, Anne and I did what every loyal friend would do, and threw Amanda to our new portal overlord. She was rewarded with the promise she’d be exterminated last, so technically we did her a favour. Stop judging.

I also particularly enjoyed seeing a Dalek aggressively refuse a massage (where do you even start?) and hearing yet another Dalek tell a passing Stormtrooper that “I am not the droid you are looking for.” Like a true Rebellion girl, I spent a significant portion of my time hiding from at least one Judge Dredd, because He Scares Me.

There were a lot of great moments: the roadtrip (because one does not simply walk into Mordor) up to Prestatyn with my fabulous chalet-mates Amanda and Anne, as well as the lovely Will Hill. Being shouted at by Amanda for “doing it wrong” when someone asked about my book. Sitting in Adam Christopher’s car with Adam, Will and Laura Lam on the way to the Tor party, driving down the narrowest lanes imaginable and trying to decide who we’d send out if a hook-handed serial killer started banging on the roof. Sorry, Will. We needed Adam to drive, and Laura and I will be required later for the role of Screaming Female #1 and #2…

I got to catch up with friends: people like Sarah Pinborough, who was incredible at the Just A Minute session–which is up on Youtube: the first part’s here, and I cannot encourage you to watch the whole thing strongly enough–and I met some fantastic new people–Joe Abercrombie is just as awesome a person as he is a writer, quite a dancer, and a bloody sight better at getting pizza than I am. Dammit.

I magicked G&Ts out of thin air, and was presented with a half-pint of wine (Johannes Roberts, you’re a man after my own heart….).

I had huge fun, too, hanging out with the Solaris, Abaddon & 2000AD crew, who are a fantastic bunch and who feel like family. I don’t get to see them in force that often, but the Weekender marked 2000AD‘s 35th birthday, so they were there en masse, and what a fine masse that was.

I danced like a loon to Craig Charles on the decks on the Saturday night, and am fervently hoping that no video of the event exists. I will also keep the photo of a certain editor and a certain author playing “Dinohunt” with intense concentration to myself. For now.

The SFX disco (photo borrowed from Jonathan Green)

I may also have inadvertently started an “Alasdair Stuart for god!” campaign. I would totally vote for that ticket, by the way.

So: I went to very little of the programming, and I’m sure I missed catching up with a whole bunch of people, but that wasn’t really the point. Part of the Weekender’s appeal is that you never quite know what’s coming, or who’s round the corner… summed up best by walking straight into Dave Monteith from Geek Syndicate on the Saturday night. Many moons ago, we used to work in the same incredibly boring office and haven’t seen each other in years–so when we did bump into each other, there was a lot of hugging, squealing and general “Ohmygod!”ing. It was nice.

The downside, of course, is that the site is so large it’s easy to lose people: there were several times I got separated from friends in the middle of a conversation, and many chats which went unfinished–but I hope they can be picked up again next time. A common complaint was that there was nowhere to sit and catch up with people, and that’s true. Hopefully it’s something that can be remedied next year. Because, yes, it’s back next year… and yes, I’m already provisionally booked in at the hotel across the road.

To conclude, then: a good weekend, made–as always–by the people. And in this instance, quick shouts go out to Will Hill, Amanda Rutter, Anne Lyle, Jon Oliver, Dave Moore, Mike Molcher, Simon Parr, Tom Pollock, Lizzie Barrett, Sarah Pinborough, Johannes Roberts, Alasdair Stuart, Jonathan Green, Lee Harris, Adam Christopher, Laura Lam, Jared Shurin, Anne Perry, Andrew Reid… and so many more people who’ve been obscured by the post-convention fug.

If you weren’t there, and you want to get a feel for the weekend (or maybe you were there, and you’d like to relive it from the comfort of your own home…) you could do worse than to check out Jonathan Green’s fabulous vlog & slideshow here.

Meanwhile, and for reasons which I don’t altogether understand, I seem to have got this song stuck in my head as my SFX Weekender theme-tune, probably because I have a strange little ipod. Still, y’know. Let’s go with it…

Ego, Ego, Ego

One of my mad-dash self-pimping posts, this. If you’re averse to the odd spot of self-promotion and shoes with goldfish in the heels* then this is probably the time to look away…

If you’re still here, that’s good. This was worth sticking around for.

Last week, Solaris announced the line-up for their autumn anthology (you might well have read “End of the Line” or “House of Fear”, which were released in 2010 and 2011 respectively). This year, the theme – and the title – is Magic.

Full details including the line-up are on the Solaris blog, and if you look carefully, you’ll see that the “and others” includes, umm, me.

I can’t even begin to explain how excited I am about being involved in this: quite apart from the fact that so many of the people on that list are authors I admire hugely, Audrey Niffenegger is the kind of name that makes my jaw go from here ^ to here _.

The Time Traveler’s Wife is one of my favourite books (because I am a girl and in love with Henry, even though he’s an idiot for most of the book, yes, I know, don’t even try.) and so for me, this is a very, very big deal.

Random other pimpening: I’ll be turning up at the SFX Weekender coming up next weekend – I won’t be doing anything other than mooching around and enjoying myself, hopefully, but there’s a good chance I’ll be lurking around the Rebellion / Solaris & Abaddon crew at least some of the time so if you spot me, come and say hello! You can even ask about the fish.

I’ll be at a couple of conventions this year, attempting to sound intelligent… or at the very least, to smile nicely while failing to sound intelligent.

You can catch me at AltFiction in Leicester (April 14th & 15th), where I’ll be wearing my editor’s hat (which has a really big feather in it and goes nicely with the shoes) for one panel to discuss SFF non-fiction. Then I’ll be joining in with the “New Writers” panel, with Jon Weir, Tom Pollock and Vincent Holland-Keen – I’m particularly looking forward to this one.

I’ll also be at the Discover Festival in Snibston (May 18th – 20th), where it’s entirely possible I could be wearing a different hat. With or without feather…

*Note: no goldfish were harmed in the making of this blog post.

Pack Up Your Troubles

Well, I’m off to the bright lights of Nottingham for a couple of days, for Fantasycon. I’m really looking forward to it, as it’ll be a chance to catch up with lots of people–most of whom I’ve not seen since World Horror in March–and to meet some new ones too.

I promised myself I’d pack light, you know, just fling a few choice things in a bag tomorrow morning… FAIL. I’ve actually spent the last half hour sitting on my case and inching the zips on it together to get it to close. Sitting on it. This for a trip which will inevitably see me wearing jeans & a t-shirt a good 80% of the time, and for which I’ll be away the dizzying total of 2 nights.

Girls, eh?

Try not to break anything while I’m gone…