Eastercon blog 3

April 9th 2012

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Sorry for lack of bloggage last night. But I have some time to spare at King’s Cross, having been delivered far more promptly than I anticipated by some excellent public transport (free bus from hotel to airport bus station, then tube to King’s X). Inevitably, a bloke on the bus (hello, Simon) said “you’ve been to Olympus, haven’t you?” So I talked about writing, and he talked about being a outside broadcast engineer, which is by far a more interesting job day-to-day. We also talked about Novacon (in Nottingham in October), and I’m seriously considering going anyway. It might be a sign.

Yesterday, then. Again, the will to go to all those interesting panels was subverted by long, involved conversations about the state of publishing, the rise of ebooks, creating income streams and such like. The publishing world is in a state of flux, and no one is quite sure how the chips will fall. Publishers getting it wrong is actually a good thing, as it not only means they’re trying, but it’s one less failure mode for others to test.
I met my UK editor Anna for drinks (tea, as going on a panel worse for wear is a, unprofessional, and b, a really, really bad idea. More on this later) and some mutual back-slapping. Editors do matter – they make books better, as well as all the other services that publishers provide, including at least a minimum bar of quality, which is becoming increasingly important. So winning the PKD isn’t just good news for me, it’s good news for Orbit too (not just that they get bragging rights over Gollancz for a whole year either…).

More conversations in the afternoon, but I also wanted to hear Cory Doctorow on the ebook panel, which I did. Lots of ideas there, regarding publishing models and DRM, which I’m going to have to think hard about. It would be easy to just steal Cory’s ideas, but there’s no guarantee he’s got all the right answers.

Then onto the BSFA awards.

Much has been said about John Meaney’s introduction. To say it was ill-judged would be charitable, but I’m a fairly charitable bloke, so I’ll say it was ill-judged and leave it at that. People did walk out. A lot more simply sat in their seats, cringing. That some of those who walked out, walked straight into my one and only panel on “The Personal is Political” will give those not present some idea of the trouble I was about to get into.

The panel. Difficult. Really very difficult. I don’t honestly think anything I say now will be helpful one way or another, so I’ll just make two observations. Firstly, I had prepared notes on the tension between creative freedom and social mores, on the ability of books to give vicarious insights and experiences for the good, as well as for the ill, and also on the problems of describing conflicting political and social institutions – you know, things I actually have experience on as a writer and why I presumed I was on the panel. Secondly, that wasn’t what the panel was about at all, as I discovered in the Green Room. It was a difficult, and ultimately frustrating hour. Sorry if I’m being cryptic but it wasn’t my finest moment.

So there was beer afterwards. Much, much beer and some very good company. Paul Cornell, Tom Hunter, another Simon, Emma Newman (whose book “20 years later” I bought) and and and, and even G R R Martin, briefly. Which was nice. A proper con-rounding off evening, in fact. The icing was someone (Rob, I think. I was a touch on the tipsy side by then) saying it was reading my blogs from last year that swung it for them to attend this year. Eastercon: well worth going to – next year it’s in Bradford, and it’s going to be brilliant.

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