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.