6 Things I Discovered at World Fantasy Convention 2013

1. Some panellists like to talk a bit too much. To the point where others panellists can become silent witnesses. The point being raised may be valid, but time is always limited and panellists need to be mindful of that. Personally I always like to hear a range of opinions and everyone is up there for a reason, so they should have an opportunity to speak. On one panel I attended, it was dominated by one speaker, on another, the panellist actually said ‘I’m talking too much, someone else go’ and he zipped his lip and sat back, so he was very aware of how much he talked and made a conscious effort not to talk too much.

2. Joe Hill is a really funny guy. I was genuinely surprised, although I’m not particularly sure why, as I’d never met him before. But we all create versions of people in our head from the little information we know and we fill in the gaps ourselves. I didn’t expect him to be brooding and sulky, or maybe I did, but he was warm, witty, very friendly and he spoke with great passion about his books and comics collaborations. Listening to him speak during his guest of honour panel made me want to go out and buy his new book Nos4R2, or Nos4A2 as it’s known in the US. I was already a big fan of Locke and Key, but I saw several people picking up comics in the dealer room after he’d spoken about the comic book series.

3. Moderators are there to moderate, not be an active participant. Quite often the moderator is knowledgeable about the subject, so they can offer interesting counterpoints, or use their experience to raise interesting and thought provoking questions. There’s a huge difference between that and actively talking as much, or more than one of the panellists. Some people might not mind that and might disagree with this, but to me sometimes it felt as if the moderator felt snubbed for not being on the panel as a participant, so they took the opportunity to insert themselves into the discussion. The best moderators at WFC guided the discussion, made sure everyone had an opportunity to speak, even brought someone else’s comments to a close in order to hear from someone who had not spoken very much. Some had a list of questions and they ran down them one by one, others picked up on points raised in the discussion and then asked follow on questions, which made it more organic.

4. Authors are lovely. Speaking in general terms, of course, most of the writers I met at WFC were really, really nice people. Some I’d talked to online for ages but never met in real life (hello Liz, Jen and Den!). Some I’d never met before but was introduced to them over the weekend (hi Amy, David, Richard and James!), and some were old friends (Hi Adrian, Kim, Andrew, Laura, Catie, Mike). It was great to catch up with them as I don’t see them more than once or twice a year, as we live all over the country, so it’s great to just hang out in the flesh, talk nonsense and writing. If I’ve forgotten anyone then please excuse me as it’s not been done on purpose, but if you want to make me feel guilty then say hi.

5. Some people are just dicks. Other people have gone into the specifics of what happened at WFC in detail elsewhere, but from my perspective these events are social gatherings where like minded people can get together, have a bit of fun and relax. It’s supposed to be enjoyable and a little secret universe away from the real world and daily life. Most people during my day job and ‘normal’ life couldn’t tell you who Neil Gaiman was, or what Gollancz is or does. That’s not a criticism (ok maybe a little) but it’s just not their thing. So, in saying all of that, I am always horrified, shocked and appalled when someone from our corner, who is one of us, turns out to be a revolting, creepy and pervy dick. Most conventions have very specific harassment policies, others have general guidelines, some have none. Regardless, behaving like a creepy dick in any situation, bringing what is unacceptable behaviour in the real world into the SFF con scene, and somehow thinking it might be ok or that you can get away with it, is seriously messed up. I’ve read a number of horror stories about women being harassed, or leaving the con scene because it’s just too horrible, and I’m very sad to hear it’s still going on. However, I’m am glad to hear the WFC organisers have stamped down hard on what happened and the person responsible will be ejected from the convention scene.

6. Card and board game are awesome. Cards Against Humanity is a fun game. If you have a dark and slightly twisted sense of humour, like me, then it’s hilarious and it is not in the slightest bit politically correct. I laughed until my stomach was aching from some of the random combinations and answers Adrian and I played, while a slightly bemused and possibly scared Mike Shevdon looked on in surprise at our antics. One convention that I missed this year was the 9 Worlds, and they had a games thread with board games in there too. Hopefully I will be able to attend the event next year and if I get there, I’ll definitely take along a few games and spend some time destroying empires and so on. For all that I love computer games, and I have been playing them since the ZX81 Spectrum days, there is still a lot of fun to be had with some of the new and really interesting board games knocking around. At WFC we played a few card games, mostly because of transport and lugging stuff around, and these included Gloom, Pirate Fluxx and Cards Against Humanity. Drinking probably helps with the last one, not so much the first two as there are rules.

Overall for me the convention was a great long weekend away by the sea and I spent my time surrounded by some wonderful people from the writing world and all extensions of that area, agents, editors, publicists. Hopefully I will see some of you again at events in the near future.

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