April 5th 2013
(now with added hyperlinks!)
There are very good reasons why I didn’t do a day-by-day blog of Eastercon. The first reason is because the convention hotel and the one I was staying at were separated by a bus journey, and nipping back to my room to file a report would have taken a significant chunk of time out of every day. The second reason is allied to the first, in that I didn’t want to lug my steam-powered laptop around with me (and in the event, the con hotel wifi was taking a beating without me adding to the bandwidth). The third reason is probably the most important, however: I was having too good a time to stop. Click to read the rest of this item…
March 23rd 2013
All will become clear shortly.
My itinerary for eightsquaredcon, the Eastercon 2013, is as follows:
Friday, 9pm in Rowan – “Underground London” with Paul Cornell, Roz Kaveney, and Anne Lyle: Take one London. Add magical society hidden from most people. Mix in famous places from the city, and optionally garnish with police procedural. Why is this such a great recipe?
Saturday, 11am in the Conservatory: “Genre get-together: science fiction” with all the other skiffy writers.
Sunday, 1pm in the Boardroom: “Advice for Writers: Setting” with Darren Nash (moderator), Chris Beckett, Aliette de Bodard, and Gaie Sebold: Practical experience and observations on writing believable and detailed environments.
Monday 11am in Rowan: “Selling Space” with John Coxon, Tracy Berg, John Dallman, Anne Lyle: How do you fund space exploration, particle accelerators and other costly scientific endeavours? Why do countries do this, and why are corporations taking an interest? How does academia make its fund-raising media-savvy?
I’ll also be in for the BSFA awards on the Sunday evening, hoping to pick up a gong on behalf of Joey HiFi and the Jurassic London crew.
However, the Ben Jeapes thing: let me explain. Actually no, let me sum up. Ben is having a book launch at Eastercon with Clarion Press. Ben cannot be there. I am standing in for Ben.
All clear? Excellent: I’ll see you in the Conservatory at 8pm on Friday, then. I’m still uncertain as to whether I’m supposed to be signing them, but I could be persuaded…
March 10th 2013
Comrades! Some running dog capitalist has put a copy of Thy Kingdom Come on Amazon UK for £100. Which is a startling amount of money, especially when there are 8 unsold copies (the only unsold copies, in fact) appearing on the NewCon Press stall at this year’s Eastercon for the original (and best) price of £25, a large proportion of which goes to the Red Cross. Ian Whates of NewCon has shown himself to be a fellow traveller in that he’s not taking a cut either.
But – don’t buy them until I’ve signed them, which I should have done by Friday lunchtime. Alternatively, buy them and leap out unexpectedly at me
while I’m holding a drink, and I’ll do the honours. Because all the smart money is on Joey HiFi’s cover winning a BSFA, right?
April 9th 2012
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.
April 7th 2012
Well, that was fun. I think I’ve shaken more hands today than on any given day in the rest of my life. The thing is, is that everybody seems genuinely delighted for me, and as I remarked to Tom Hunter, administrator of the Clarkes, there’s no rancour that might be associated with other, lesser awards… pfft.
But seriously, it’s been brilliant. I’ve had the opportunity to thank Jon Courtney Grimwood for supplying such an excellent cover quote, and Pat Cadigan for writing some kick-ass cyberpunk which inevitably inspired the Metrozone. I’ve spoken to Anna, my UK editor, on the phone, and met up with Anne, one of the other Orbit editors (no Bananagram this year. Curses!). And the spontaneous round of applause in the bar which left me redder-cheeked than the Greater Red-Cheeked Authorbird caught in mid-blush. And Jared and Anne from Pornokitsch, and and and. I haven’t managed to buy a single drink all day, either, even if it’s a nice cup of tea. Which has been especially helpful as I’m running solely on caffeine and adrenalin.
But I have also been to panels: first up was magic and technology with such luminaries as Juliet McKenna, Chris Wooding and Adrian Tchikovsky, discussing the meeting point of science and the arcane arts in their books, and how it all needs to fit together. Then there was also the Gollancz digital Gateway talk, in which I asked awkward questions regarding the accuracy of OCR technology. Sorry, Darren.
I should reasonably have gone to another panel later (the Not the Clarke Awards), and I was tempted by the Doctor Who evening double-bill (Human Nature/Family of Blood), but I didn’t make it out of the bar – more beers and food with Anne, new Orbit author Francis Knight, and Gail Carriger, followed by an early night. I’m such a lightweight. On the plus side, I haven’t been in the Dealers’ Room yet, so my wallet may yet thank me.
April 6th 2012
Normally when I update the blog, I do so using the online WordPress editor. Not today, dear reader, for bad internet connection is bad: my usually-reliable dongle is stuttering and spluttering like a ten-year old Austin Allegro. I don’t know whether it’s the room I’m in (1st floor out of 3) or that Heathrow is sucking my bandwidth, but whatever the problem, I’m lucky to get a reliable 3G connection, let alone high-speed kilobytes a second.
Which rather knocks the idea of streaming the PKD award. Ho hum.
So – Eastercon. I left Newcastle at just before 9am, and finally swung into the Radisson at just before 2pm. After loading up with name badge and goodie bag, and a refreshing cup of tea in the Atrium, I leaf through the programme, and my eyes immediately alight on “Talk on Cassini and Saturn” by Leah-Nani Alconel. Saturn? Moons? Magnetic fields? I roused myself from my bench and across the way to a soon-to-be well attended talk by Imperial College space scientist Dr Alconel.
Two things about her: firstly, she loves her job. It showed in every single sentence. Secondly, she really loves her job. Seriously. We’re talking hardcore science bug. Yes, I knew some of the stuff already, but the Cassini mission magnetometer data was new to me, and it was presented in a way that wasn’t just engaging, but exciting. Kudos to the doctor.
Straight afterwards I bumped into Philip Palmer, fellow Orbiteer and journeyman – which is one of the good things about Eastercon. An oft-repeated phenomena, in fact, because after I’d wandered down the road to my hotel (I’m in the overflow) and come back, I met Darren Nash, formerly of Orbit and now at Hachette Digital. “Drink?” I suggested.
Four and bit hours later, we’d (him, me, and a frequently-changing rota of SF folk) pretty much put the world to rights, having discussed the Clarkes, ebooks, Hollywood’s passion for remakes, sex, religion and politics. A good evenings work, even if I say so myself.
After a few more conversations, here I am, back at the hotel, wondering what’s happened to my internets…
Tomorrow, it looks like first panel is on “Sufficiently advanced magic”. I may even take notes.
April 1st 2012
After charging down to London for the Olympic Park 5 mile run (not me, I hasten to add), I find myself back in the Metrozone next weekend for Olympus – the 2012 Eastercon. I’ll be there from Friday afternoon until Monday afternoon, and am appearing on the official programme precisely once: the Personal is Political, on the ethics of writing, at 7pm on Sunday in Room 38.
I will, at most other times be found wandering the corridors of the Con hotel (note: no walk-ins: the Con is officially full), listening to panels and propping up the bar. I am, as ever, always up for a chat about stuff in general, the Metrozone in particular, and will sign pretty much anything as long as I’m not going to get arrested/divorced for it afterwards.
With luck and a following wind, I’ll be blogging Eastercon again. There’s also a small matter of the Philip K Dick awards being announced Friday night, Pacific Daylight Time. That’s an 8 hour difference, I think, so if the ceremony starts at 6.55pm PDT, it all kicks off at 3am on Saturday as far as I’m concerned. It’s also being streamed live on USTREAM, so I could, if I was conscious, watch someone else win the award! Feel free to commiserate with the humbled loser on Saturday morning.
May 9th 2011
I have imparted great wisdom yet again on the Orbit website on the thing that is Eastercon.
See here for sagacity.
(published via Emergency Internets! Huzzah for 3G dongles!)
April 25th 2011
The final day of Eastercon. I think a lot of folk had already gone, or were going only. There was certainly the sense that fewer people were visible, and the number of wheeled suitcases disappearing out of the door leant an air of “is a fourth day of programming really needed?” It’s a difficult call – last year’s Eastercon seemed a little busier throughout the Monday, but the membership was higher than this year, and being London-based, perhaps people were prepared to hang around for longer. I stayed till the Tuesday in 2010, but this year I was off on the 16:38 from Birmingham International.
After the obligatory hotel fried breakfast, I packed my stuff up, checked out and put my case in storage (a huge ballroom with one very lonely member of staff on duty – who I remembered to thank) and did a bit of wandering. Inevitably, I ended up in the Dealers’ room, where I had a good browse without the intention of buying anything: my bags were pretty full as they were, and you know…
Then I spotted a big pile of Target Dr Who books on one corner of a table. I used to read them as a kid, and had dug them out recently so the Boy could try them for size. There were some duplicates – I’d already got The Day of the Daleks, and a couple of the others – but I thought I’d grab a few to add to the collection. When the bookseller said, “Take them all for a fiver.” I hesitated for a nanosecond before cracking open the wallet. I haven’t even checked them against my existing books yet, but I spent a very happy hour with a sandwich at lunchtime reading “The Seeds of Doom”, which when televised (Tom Baker as the Doctor with Elizabeth Sladen as Sarah Jane Smith) scared me rigid.
Before all thoughts of Whoish delights, however, was my final panel: Nuke it from orbit – how to organise a planetary invasion. I was on with Mike Cobley, Charlie Stross and John Harrow, with Nik moderating. I’m afraid the Belgians came off very badly, and the conversations did keep turning back to stuff the British Empire had done already. Sorry world. However, I did try to inject a little humanity into the proceedings when I suggested that dropping massive space rocks on the natives to force their surrender might cause at least some putative astronauts to have second thoughts. Far better, I opined, to offer them peace, prosperity and a future full of promise: few governments could stand against that sort of invasion. I for one, etc…
Lunch, with the good Doctor followed, then I listened in to the Space Opera panel – fascinating stuff, and made me wish I’d looked in on other panels with David Weber. He’s worth listening to.
Then the mundane bit of trains and platforms and travelling. I was home by 9pm.
April 25th 2011
I’m not going to have time to do this in the morning, as I have to be packed and checked out of my room by 10am. And yes, I intend not to be up at the crack o’dawn. So I’m here with a cup of (decaf) tea and my 3G dongle, while the ventilators outside the window rumble away and the lights of the NEC shine through the nets.
Sunday. Easter Day. It’s weird not being in church – it was weird last year, and it will remain weird – attending an SF convention over what is several of the most significant days of the Christian calendar with no religious input at all is a strange experience for someone who has always attended at least two services over the four-day period. Yes, I am at work: not so much selling books, as doing that nebulous networking thing that may or may not produce fruit a month or a year down the line. Being seen and showing willing is almost important as meeting people and saying the right things.
Breakfast was a much more civilised affair – no light opera fans mixing it with the SF crowd – so I get to eat my own body weight in fried food again, wash it down with tea, back to my room to blog. That done, because I’d heard good reports about the pool, and having remembered to bring my trunks and goggles, I headed for the hotel pool.
And very pleasant it was too. Being roughly circular and having a strip in the middle laned off for Proper Swimming, I got into my usual swimming fugue of just swimming quite quickly, not worrying about the time or how many lengths I’d done, not really thinking about swimming at all. There were maybe three or four other people in the pool at the same time – certainly not enough to even be vaguely distracting. Just swim and swim and swim until I felt I ought to come out. To be recommended.
Truth be told, signings and readings are odd things for writers. What if no one turns up? I’d chatted to a few of the dealers, and they weren’t doing fantastic business, the Dealers’ room being much quieter than I remember it from Eastercon 2010 – perhaps the effect of folk having less money in their pockets, fewer attendees, the hotel prices. Also, as I found out from the Forbidden Planet people, the hotel’s restriction on leafleting and putting up posters: always a big part of a con, but not allowed except on the very few notice boards dotted around the hotel.
So I yakked to the FP folk, signed their stock, and flogged a couple of books to someone I managed to dazzle long enough that their good sense and judgement was clouded and their wallet opened. Straight after, there was another author event in the Fan bar. I got to sit next to Stan Nichol, who is lovely, but such was the (lack of) interest, we talked to each other pretty much for the whole hour we were scheduled to be there. The lovely Bella from Orbit graciously plonked a pint of Illustrius in front of me, and Liz Williams passed the authorial ‘Consequences’ game to me for a suitably outrageous addition. I had to work with an enraged giant porcupine in the previous sentence, but I don’t know why it was enraged, and what happened to it after I passed it to Stan.
Also signing was Rod Rees. I’d had my eye on a copy of his Demi-Monde for a while, and he very graciously, because I was his first and only customer the entire session, pressed a newly minted copy of the wonderous Quercus hardback on me, signed and stamped, entirely free. An amazing gift, and straight to the top of my to-read pile.
I had afternoon tea (or hot chocolate in Bella’s case) and played on Bella’s Sony e-reader thingy. I still remain to be convinced of its superiority over the humble paperback, but certainly, for an industry pro, it beats lugging around a dozen manuscripts. They certainly have their place.
The reading. It’s hard, when you’re a classic introvert, to read something you’ve written, out loud, in public. I used to have real problems (as in Too Much Information sort of problems): now I just get incredibly nervous. My secret weapon was BSFA award-winning, Nebula award nominated (and later on that evening Hugo award nominated too) Aliette de Bodard. She’s this tiny bundle of talent who is clearly going places, and I was very lucky to be paired with her – because people came to hear her, and stayed to hear me. I’m grateful. She read a hauntingly beautiful story about the Aztecs. I read stuff that made people laugh. I was even forgiven when I went on too long. But there were cookies and flapjacks as well, and the audience nommed appreciatively.
Phoned home on my steam-powered and increasingly unreliable mobile, then downstairs to hear the Hugo nominations. Orbit have two authors in the Best Novel category: Mira Grant for Feed, and NK Jemsin’s A Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.
A long beer in the Fan bar with Roy Gray of Interzone, some mad New Zealanders, and a couple of others – the conversation naturally turned to rocket planes and real ale. And so to bed.
Tomorrow sees me here almost to the bitter end, but not quite. I’ve a panel at noon, and the train leaves late afternoon. I have to assume there’s a world outside the con for me to return to – it does become very bubble-like after a couple of days.
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