Going on holiday by mistake - Follycon18

 Insert “it’s grim up north” caption here

Insert “it’s grim up north” caption here

So I hadn’t really planned to go to Eastercon, but Donna Bond from Newcon press mentioned that they’d be launching this year’s edition of the Best of British Science Fiction, (henceforth known as “BoB”) at the convention; and I thought: you know what, one of the things that sucks about being a writer is that you tend to suffer in silence and celebrate (mostly) in private. Seeing as I’m pleased about getting into this anthology, why don’t I give this book launch thingy a go?

To be honest, I always feel a bit weird about conventions. I’m an introvert by nature, which means that as much fun as it is to meet people, a con tends to send my battery into power saving mode pretty quickly. But the other important thing I’ve learned about cons is that the more you attend the easier they become.  

The first convention I went to was the 2013 Eastercon, which, if memory serves, was held on a roundabout somewhere outside Bradford. I don’t think I knew a single person there and the only other people I spoke to were Aliette de Bodard and Adrian Tchaikovsky. (Aliette was judging the James White Award and I’d snagged the runner-up prize; Adrian was propping up the bar, both were a pleasure to talk to.)  I spent most of the rest of my time there earnestly sitting in on panels, making notes like Rory Gilmore at a safety briefing.

 Gentle convention goers. (Including, I think, an attention rapt Gareth L. Powell over on the left and the legendary Jim Burns on the right). Photo Ian Whates.

Gentle convention goers. (Including, I think, an attention rapt Gareth L. Powell over on the left and the legendary Jim Burns on the right). Photo Ian Whates.

I still find cons a bit of a struggle, but since attending Milford Writer’s Conference a couple of times there are usually a few friendly faces that I can chat to rather than having to make copious notes on, “The parallels between the Vulcan Pon Farr and the sex lives of IT workers”. So this time it was great to catch up with other writers from the Milford stable, including Guy T. Martland, Carl Allery, Sue Oke, Jacey Bedford and Matt Colborn. That said, Guy’s feline-overlord, Gordon, seems to have developed an unhealthy obsession with my pet, Ziggy.

The BoB launch was a bigger deal than I expected, although this might have had something to do with Ian Whates’ offer of free drink for all attendees. There were about a hundred and twenty people packed into the Drawing Room by the time we kicked off, so many in fact that by the time I had squeezed onto the panel, peeps were already being turned away.

 From left to right: Ian Watson, Andy West and yours truly, looking pensive (and no doubt pondering something portentous.) Photo Chrissy Leonhardt

From left to right: Ian Watson, Andy West and yours truly, looking pensive (and no doubt pondering something portentous.) Photo Chrissy Leonhardt

Sticking to health and safety required numbers was probably just as well though, given the stream that bubbled from the bar’s ceiling at all hours and the bits of masonry that dropped from the roof during the Future of Cities panel (allegedly).

(I’m reading such conspicuous decrepitude as our hotel cosplaying The Bradbury from Bladerunner rather than as some sort of extended metaphor for #brexit.)

Ian Whates introduced each of Newcon’s new books, along with readings from Jaine Fenn (The Martian Job) and Adrian Tchaikovsky (Tales of the Apt: For Love of Distant Shores). The highlight of the launch was probably Ian Watson’s brilliant stream of consciousness précis of Assassins’ Legacy which he co-wrote with Andy West. Ian managed to rattle away for what seemed like a good five minutes without hesitation, deviation or repetition (or even pausing to take a breath). Hopefully, someone had Nicholas Parsons on speed dial.

 This year’s Best of British Science Fiction Anthology.

This year’s Best of British Science Fiction Anthology.

Donna Scott introduced good old BoB. It’s a slightly surreal experience to have ended up in an anthology including writers like Ken McLeod, Adam Roberts, Jaine Fenn, Eric Brown, Lavie Tidhar, E.J. Swift, Anne Charnock, Natalia Theodoridou and Jeff Noon. Especially as Jeff Noon’s brilliant, hyper-trippy ‘Vurt’ was one of the books that made me want to start writing science fiction in the first place. (I still highly recommend it).

 From left to right: Adrian Tchaikovsky, Jaine Fenn, Ian Watson, Andy West and yours truly enjoying Ian’s speed-of-thought summary of “Assassins’ Legacy”. Photo Chrissy Leonhardt

From left to right: Adrian Tchaikovsky, Jaine Fenn, Ian Watson, Andy West and yours truly enjoying Ian’s speed-of-thought summary of “Assassins’ Legacy”. Photo Chrissy Leonhardt

During the signing I got the chance to talk writer-stuff with Anne Charnock (just ahead of her BFSA award win).  I explained how I thought I’d messed up my first novel and she told me how she had approached her third and gave me a bit of useful writerly advice: that pretty much every book is different and that stuffing it up early on is usually an integral part of writing it.

All too soon, I was rattling back home on the train, thinking to myself that despite all the pain-in-the-butt-holio of getting up to Harrogate, it’s those sort of moments which make cons worthwhile. That is, the luxury of just being a writer for a while and the opportunity to talk and think about nothing else.

 

Best of British Science Fiction 2017

My short story "London Calling" will be included in this year's Best Of British Science-Fiction anthology published by NewCon Press and edited by Donna Scott.

The anthology features stories from well established names such as Ken MacLeod, Lavie Tidhar, Adam Roberts, Jeff Noon, Jaine Fenn and Anne Charnock as well as work from up and coming writers including Natalia Theodoridou and Matt Dovey. 

The book will be launched at Follycon in Harrogate this year at the NewCon press event on Friday March 30th, but you can order it directly from their website here

Awards Season 2016: Dependent Assemblies

 Interzone 262: Cover by Vincent Sammy

Interzone 262: Cover by Vincent Sammy

I was ploughing through my reading for the Hugos and the Nebulas when it occurred to me that I have one story eligible for this season myself: Dependent Assemblies which came out in January this year in Interzone 262.

Gardner Dozis at Locus - "atmospherically written"

SFRevu -  "A very good story to end this issue."

 

Drat ... real life got in the way

0069.jpg

So ... I had some plans to read some #BlackSpecFic. But ... I'm reading for the nebula's this year and so have been snowed in with lots and lots of words. It's a lovely problem to have, but I think I'll have to shelve my original plans till the new year.

I'll follow this up with a Nebula related post in a few weeks or so as I come up with a nominees list. 

Black writers and speculative fiction: I'm part of the problem

Is speculative fiction a "whites-only" artform?

You'd kind of hope not, but the evidence from Fireside Fiction's research makes grim-as-fuck reading.  I urge you to look over their research and editorials yourself and a related Guardian article but the bottom line here is that of 2039 speculative stories published in 2015, only 38 were by writers who identify racially as black. That's less than 2%.

Some have quibbled that without knowing how many actual submissions from black writers there were in the sample, the study's conclusion is meaningless, but such sophistry badly misses the point.

If only 2% of stories published are by black writers then regardless of the reason then speculative fiction is deep in the bantha poodoo. As a genre that supposedly opens up a discourse with the possible, in the face of these numbers, you've got to ask yourself: exactly whose possibilities are we writing about here?

Reading the articles got me wondering though, what do I know about black speculative fiction?

Answer: fuck all really.

Which then got me thinking, doesn't that really make me part of the problem? Worse still, perhaps, is there anything I can actually do about that ? I'm not an editor on a pro-magazine. I'm obviously not a Gaiman or a Scalzi. In summary, I have bugger all clout in the spec-fic community. 

Upon reflection, the only thing I think I can really do is make a concerted effort to buy and read more speculative fiction by black authors. So, with that in mind, I've found a couple of resources to help remedy my ignorance. 

Of course this doesn't really make any difference in the grand scheme of things, and while it may not be anything like a solution, maybe it'll make me less of a problem.

On a related note, our only UK equivalent to Clarion and Viable Paradise, the Milford Writers Conference, is providing a bursary to fund two places for persons of colour for the 2017 Milford (9th September-16th September). Here are the details, reproduced from their newsletter:

"Each bursary is worth £610 and covers the whole cost of the Milford week, inclusive of accommodation and all meals - but doesn't cover the cost of transport. Applications open on 1st October 2016 and close on 28th February ... You can find out all the details and download the form from the website at http://www.milfordSF.co.uk"

#BlackSpecFic