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Apologies for not blogging earlier about BristolCon – I was regrouping both my spoons and my thoughts. It was, as always, an awesome day, even on the opposite side of the (incredibly sparkly) lanyard. Although it did start off with me being woken up at the ungodly late hour of ten-to-nine to discover that I’d accidentally switched my phone to silent, my alarm had consequently not gone off and I hadn’t heard the 15 increasingly frantic “Where are you?” texts… Luckily Chris appeared from downstairs and made me a cup of tea, and when I strolled in at 25 past nine nothing was on fire and the only think that had exploded was GOH interviewer Ed Cox (who I hope feels much much better now).

Not many massive changes this year – the Lego was back and expanded, and we added decaf tea and coffee to the Brick Out Room at the request of our members. The minion team was superbly organised by Ade Couper and our tech team was expanded substantially, meaning better sound and lovely new art frames which, we discovered late on Friday night, had lethally sharp edges that needed urgent filing by a whole team of people armed with files and expressions of deep concentration. Luckily no one was badly hurt and no art was damaged, but it highlighted the dangers of doing everything in a hurry.

Programme Room Two was my home for the day – I did a brief reading from The Summer Goddess and was very happy that it completely sold out from the Grimbold Books table at some point in the afternoon – yay! I was also over the moon at the amount of people asking me to sign books for them (that’s one way to make an author happy. Another is to buy them drinks. Both these things happened, and It Was Good.) It was nice to see so many of my Grimmies there too; I got to chat with Ellen Croshain about her next book which I will be editing, and she gave me a lovely mug – thanks Ellen!

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I wonder why people want to be GOH’s at BristolCon, said no-one ever… l-r, GOHs Chris Baker (Fangorn), Sarah Pinborough, and Ken MacLeod. Photo by Cheryl Morgan.

I somehow ended up on THREE panels, which might be a record for me, but I really enjoy doing panels so that was fun. On “SF and F on the Margins”, with Cheryl Morgan, Sammy HK Smith, Adrian Faulkner and Jason Whittle we talked about the books and authors that can really only find a safe home in the small press, about translations, about the way the small press can revive the careers of those who have struggled to get on in the Big Five, and about diversity. Cheryl’s latest project is Piracity, an anthology of pirate-themed fiction featuring authors from Bristol and the Carribean, and she explained why that was important to her – you can find details of the Piracity Kickstarter here, and it’s well worth backing if you want to support the diverse and innovative fiction small presses are creating. There was also a name-check for Fox Spirit’s excellent “… Monsters” series, among others.

My second panel was on the subject of “Writing Through the Storm”, with Gareth L Powell, Neil Beynon and Stephanie Burgis, ably moderated by K S Turner, who managed to keep what could have been a very heavy subject on an uplifting track. We discussed writing with depression and chronic illness, writing through grief and how loss informs our writing, self-care, and tips for those days when the words just won’t come. Plus I got to fangirl shamelessly at Steph, who is a consistently excellent writer as well as a lovely human being (Her Masks and Shadows is probably my favourite book of the year). So that was fun 🙂

I also got to moderate for the first time at BristolCon. I don’t usually moderate because prepping for a panel in the blitz of all the other con prep is too much, but luckily I had a really good bunch of panelists and an interesting topic, in this case “After The Heroes Have Gone”- looking at who cleans up after the end of a story. That was with Juliet McKenna, Joel Cornah, R B Watkinson and Guest of Honour artist Chris Baker (Fangorn), who has been working on a screenplay about that exact subject. We managed to steer a delicate line between the destruction of Aleppo, a sequel to King Kong where everyone gets sued for Health and Safety breaches, and what to do with monster poo, and Joel got to geek out about LOTR, so he was happy.

Another highlight in a day packed with highlights was the lunchtime book launch, for Amunet by Robert Harkess (which I was lucky enough to edit, so I can confirm it’s a really rollicking steampunk adventure!). The tech team , headed by John Baverstock, really do like to pull out all the stops when it comes to launches, and this one featured a full recreation of a Victorian theatre, complete with Mistress of Ceremonies Bev Rumble, lots of dressing up and even more cake…

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Rob Harkess and his steampunk chocolate ‘tache

Despite all this fun, there was a slightly sombre aspect to the day, for me, knowing it was to be my last BristolCon as Chair of the Committee, a position I’ve held since BristolCon was conceived one drunken night in The Commercial Rooms in Bristol. It’s been a fantastic honour and a privilege to steer the Good Ship BristolCon from humble beginnings to what it is now, a respected event that draws in over 300 people from across the UK, and, indeed, Europe (there were con attendees this year from Germany, Holland and Finland, among other countries.) I have no doubt that Roz Clarke and I are leaving the con in capable hands, and I hope that Colin Harvey is raising a pint to all we’ve achieved in that con bar in the sky.

BristolCon will continue to go from strength to strength – next years Guests of Honour are Jen Williams and Jonathan L Howard, with an artist TBC. I’ll be there and I hope you will too.

As to WHY we’re dropping out of con-running at this time, well, that’s for another blog post. I can tell you that exciting plans are afoot, and you ain’t heard the last of us!

(If you would like a whirlwind tour of BristolCon courtesy of the lovely Ben Galley watch this vlog!


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