I enjoy conventions. This statement still surprises me sometimes, because I never thought I would and when my newly established friend Ian Watson first suggested I should attend one back in 2004 I baulked at the idea, saying, “Not for me,” but in the end I relented. (That Mr Watson has a lot to answer for!) I went, and I had a ball, and I’ve kept going back…
Conventions are many things. They’re an opportunity to promote myself as a writer. They’re an opportunity to promote NewCon Press as a brand and to sell NewCon books to both new and existing customers. They’re an opportunity to meet, chat with, and learn from and about other writers. They’re an opportunity to network with other industry professionals. But most of all, what really keeps me coming back, is that they provide an opportunity to catch up with a whole load of people who have similar interests to me; to chat with, drink with, and have a laugh with folk from throughout the land that I might otherwise rarely see, if at all. I’ve heard convention-going described as a reunion of close-knit family that have become dispersed far and wide; a sentiment I can definitely relate to. You see, above all else, conventions are fun!
The problem is that there are a lot of them these days, even if you restrict yourself to attending just those in the UK, as I do. This year, for example, I’ve turned down invites/opportunities to attend three, and will still have been to nine (or possibly ten; there’s one I’m still undecided about) by year’s end. While I’m at a convention, I’m not writing, I’m not editing, I’m not commissioning and approving artwork, I’m not agreeing layouts, I’m not packaging up and posting out books, or any of the other things that keep the income trickling in and the wolf from the door. So I have to balance going to cons with everything else… Yet here we are, with October disappearing fast, and two conventions are looming on consecutive weekends. I come back from Bristol on Sunday 27th, and shoot off to Brighton first thing on the Thursday, a mere four days later. I just hope my liver and my body as a whole are up to the task! (Did I mention there’s quite a bit of alcohol involved?)
The first of these conventions is Bristolcon, which started out small just a few years ago but has grown impressively. I attended for the first time last year, when the wonderful Anne Sudworth was their artist Guest of Honour, and very flatteringly asked if I would interview her. I found the convention relaxed, welcoming and enjoyable, so this year I’m going back. The equally wonderful Storm Constantine is a GofH this year, and she too has asked me to interview her, which I’m looking forward to. I’ll also be launching new title Looking Landwards there.
The second convention is a far grander affair: World Fantasycon. More than 1,000 people in attendance, including significant figures from the UK, USA and beyond. I was going with every anticipation of not being involved in any programming beyond the book launches I’m to host (four new titles at this one). Then I learned that two anthologies I have stories in are to be launched there, and Tanith Lee, who is receiving a thoroughly deserved Lifetime Achievement Award, asked if I could conduct her interview, and then I was invited to take part in a panel… Suddenly, I’m far busier than I’d ever expected to be, which comes as a very welcome surprise.
There have been some unpleasant issues surrounding WFC this year (I’ve never attended before, so can’t comment on whether this is the norm), and I can very much sympathise with many of the grievances expressed, but I’m going there to do what I always do at conventions: enjoy myself. I genuinely hope that, despite any negative issues, all those attending are able to do the same. It’s the people attending who make a convention. Let’s have some fun.
If you’re going to be at either convention, do come and say hello. I’ll be in the dealers room for much of World Fantasycon (and in the bar for much of the evening) except when I’m involved in programming. Here is a full list of my programme commitments for both conventions:
BRISTOLCON 26th October:
11.00 to 11.45: GoH Interview, Storm Constantine
11.50 to 12.00: Reading
2.00 to 2.50: launch of the Looking Landwards anthology
7.00 to 7.50: Panel: “Are friends Electric?” Robots, AIs, etc.
WORLD FANTASYCON, BRIGHTON 31st October – 3rd November:
2.00 to 2.30: Reading from “Default Reactions”, my story in the Urban Mythic anthology, Reading Hall 8b
8.00 to 9.30: David Gemmell Legend Awards Ceremony
9.30 to 10.30: Legends anthology launch and signing, the Regency Suite (Joe Abercrombie, James Barclay, Jonathan Green, Juliet E McKenna, Anne Nicholls, Stan Nicholls, Gaie Sebold, Jan Siegel, Adrian Tchaikovsky, and me, plus cover artist Dominic Harman)
Noon to 1.00 Panel: “The Next Generation” Size Doesn’t Matter: How to Survive as an Independent Press, the Cambridge
(I’ll have to split myself in two here, since I’m also due to be at the Alchemy Press launch of the Urban Mythic anthology, which features my story “Default Reactions”, at the same time).
5.00 to 6.00: Tanith Lee Interview: To mark Tanith receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award.
11.00 to noon: NewCon Press launch, Signing Alley by Halls 8A and 8B (launching Shake Me to Wake Me by Stan Nicholls, Colder Greyer Stones by Tanith Lee, and Twember by Steve Rasnic Tem. All authors plus cover artists Ben Baldwin and John Kaiine will be there, as will several of the Legends authors, for those who missed them. I’m sharing this launch with Kim Lakin Smith, who is launching her new novel Autodrome).
3.30 to 4.30: just me, signing at the Solaris table in the dealers room.
11.00 to noon: launch of End of the Road edited by Jonathan Oliver, featuring my story “Without a Hitch”.