I think I’ve just about recovered from the jet lag induced by WFC 13 (con-lag?) that seemed to descend halfway down the M4 back to Bristol. It was, by and large, a really good if slightly exhausting weekend (there were a couple of issues, I’ll get to them). I will now proceed to drop names like a good ‘un and tell you about my MOMENT – I had a moment, but I’m all sensible now.
I travelled down in the Macaque-mobile with Gareth L Powell, Emma Newman, and Jonathan L Howard, and, having checked in and raided the free book table I met up with Sammy Smith, my publisher and protegé for the weekend, who was attending her first con and had nominated me con-mummy for the weekend (she was later caught at a party, glass of wine in hand, drunkenly signing her life away to Juliet McKenna’s aikido class. She’s a quick learner!)
We skipped out the small number of panels on the Thursday evening to go out for a meal with a horde of lovely people including Pete Sutton from the Bristol Lit Fest, Claire Fisher, Pat Hawkes-Reed, David Gullen and Gaie Sebold, and ended up at Little Bay, a restaurant done out like a Victorian theatre complete with SURPRISE OPERA! The opera was particularly surprising when the singer suddenly popped up over the balcony where we were sitting, delivered an aria down Sammy’s ear, and then tightroped along the balcony rail and vanished with a very non-Italian “Eh-up, folk don’t normally sit there!”
For the rest of the meal we could hear him singing as he patrolled the depths below us, just like, as one of our party put it, “an operatic version of Jaws.” It was a… lively dinner 🙂
Friday was the first day of the con proper, with panels and readings and all that. I saw Ellen Kushner reading from her WIP, which stars Alec Campion’s daughter Jessica and has lots of nods back to “Swordspoint” and “The Privilege of the Sword.” She’s a lovely writer, and I wish she’d do more books. (I chickened out of getting a signature though, in a moment of massive wimpiness that I’m sure I will regret.) Gareth read from Hive Monkey, and then we went to the late-announced surprise of the weekend – Neil Gaiman standing in for the sadly-absent Alan Lee, and being interviewed by Jo Fletcher about writing, fame, the service corridors at San Deigo Comic-Con, being a young and cheeky journalist for men’s magazines, and his formative, life changing (yes really!) experience of writing a biography of Duran Duran…
The “Surviving as an Independent Press” panel with Ian Whates was interesting – Sammy said it helped her feel that KI were doing things right, though I was concerned that the panel seemed to be a bit behind the curve when it came to things like bundling (giving away free e-versions of books with a physical purchase – something the record industry is beginning to embrace). It was interesting, but I’m not a business person – I just writes the words!
Sammy persuaded me to come along to the Pat Rothfuss reading. Rothfuss is on
my List of Shame, but having met him (he’s a big cuddly bear of a man who looks like he writes in a log cabin in the Appalachians, living on things he’s picked out of his beard) and heard his beautiful, haunting reading of a short story from a charity anthology the name of which escapes me, I will definitely be getting some of his books in the coming months.
We also sat in for the “Broads with Swords” panel, in the hope that the frankly sexist panel description would be subverted by the likes of Juliet and Trudi Canavan. They did their best, but by the end it had just turned into a long list of female fantasy writers, and I’m not sure what was actually achieved, although the chap sat next to me was making extensive notes, so I’m hoping he got some new reading material out of it!
We hit the dealer’s room in the afternoon, to find copies of Gareth’s “Hive Monkey” already on sale (it’s not out ’til January!) and the Forbidden Planet stand, where I had my MOMENT. Because right there on the shelf, between Joe Haldeman and Maria Headley, were three copies of “The Art of Forgetting”…
It was a proper Bad Boys 2 moment right there. I might have had a bit of a wibble, and I owe thanks to Sammy and Danie Ware for picking me up again! Seriously, though, seeing my books in the dealer’s room at a World Fantasy Convention is not something I ever anticipated, and I’m not likely to see it again, given how rarely WFC comes to the UK, so I think I can be forgiven for being a little bit overwhelmed.
Friday evening was spent bar-hopping and partying, supplying Gareth and Jonathan with beer at the scrum-like mass signing, meeting next year’s BristolCon GOH Jon Courtney Grimwood and the charming Daniel Polansky, who was so nice that “The Straight Razor Cure” went straight to the top of my reading list, and who wrote a lovely dedication for me.
“I bet you say that to all the girls,” I said.
He looked mournful. “Girls don’t read my books.”
So, girls, read his books and prove him wrong!
Saturday, mildly hungover and very disorganised, I managed to miss the Agent panel and Joe Abercrombie, but I did catch Scott Lynch doing a reading, with a capable and entertainiing guerilla support slot from Angry Robot author Wes Chu, who puts a lot of acting into his readings! Had a little chat with him afterwards, and he was so good-natured and enthusiastic that I’m going to have to buy his books too… 😉
(There’s a theme developing here, isn’t there? If people were less nice, I’d have more money!)
In the afternoon I went to the guest of honour interview, which was more of a chat between Neil Gaiman and the legendary Susan Cooper, one of the holy trinity of writers I grew up reading, besides Alan Garner and T H White. I was so keen to see Susan Cooper I cried off an extra-conventional kaffeklatsch with Scott Lynch that was taking place in a cafe in town at the same time, and which was by all accounts brilliant. But I did get bonus unexpected Neil Gaiman, got to find out about Ian Fleming (“a true gentleman”), and failed to resolve the question of whether the end of “The Dark Is Rising” sequence is happy or sad – it’s a matter of the reader’s interpretation! Things were less neat in the olden days….
I skipped the insultingly titled “Can’t write? Maybe you can edit an anthology?” panel, on the basis that I know I can do both perfectly adequately, thankyouverymuch, and went out for pizza with Sammy, Pat, Adam Dalton, Roz Clarke, KR Green, Sorcha O’Dowd, A C Smyth, Michael Underwood and some lovely Belgians and other people we had picked up on our travels. Then we hit the Jo Fletcher party, where I finally got to meet Snorri Kristjansson, who is just as awesome in person as BristolCon legend suggested (and he gives good hug!)
Sunday was a quieter day, I went to a reading by Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, who I have known online for over a decade but this was the first time we had met in person. She was absolutely lovely, and her reading was brilliant and unsettling, even if she did run out of time and have to skip bits of it. And I dropped in on the Fox Spirit “Tales of Eve” launch, which includes Juliet, Andrew Reid and Rob Haines, so looking forward to reading that.
There were a few not-great aspects to the con. The tone of the newsletters leading up to the event was pretty rude and hectoring, and some of the communications from the con had the same tone (though not from the Redcoats, who were brilliant throughout, especially Lou Morgan and Jen Williams. )But someone involved in running the event was unforgivably rude to one of my friends on the Sunday morning, to the point where I would have to think twice about going to future events that person was involved in the running of.
Some of the panel titles were clumsily worded enough to be insulting and off-putting. The programme could have done with a few breaks between items – I missed a few things just because of the length to time it took to get between items. And the con did not have a clearly laid-out harassment policy, which became an issue as it became clear that, despite protests to the contrary, people were being harassed in the bars by other con-goers. I was witness to two such incidents and heard about a third from one of the victims, who had put in a formal complaint. I have yet to see a follow-up statement from WFC about what, if anything, was done about these incidents, and I’m watching with interest to see if this issue is addressed.
(The three people I have the names of who were harassing people are, pending a vote of the full committee, barred from BristolCon. It has not yet been put to a full vote, so at the moment they’re only temporarily barred while democracy runs its course, but most of the committee are agreed that this isn’t the sort of thing we want at our con.)
Those small points aside, I had a great time. Looking forward to FantasyCon in York next September!