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What happened at Eastercon 2015

This was my first convention of the year and it was a relatively quiet one. Despite that, and coming home before the convention ended, I was still shattered by the end of it. A painful journey down on Friday meant I arrived late but just in time to see the last half of the opening ceremony. As bad as my journey was, the guests of honour coming from America had a much worse trip. This involved having their plane return to the airport as they didn’t have enough fuel to fly around a storm. As a result they arrived late and had been awake for a very long time. At the end of his first panel, when Jim Butcher was asked for any closing thoughts it consisted of ‘I’m very tired’ which was fair enough after being awake for 30 hours!

The rest of the weekend seemed to pass in a blur. I spent it hanging out and catching up with old friends, such as my stalwart convention buddy Adrian Faulkner, plus I had a chance to catch up with Mr Gav Reads, as I like to call him. The always lovely CE Murphy was over from Ireland and it was so great to see her and put the world to rights. I met a couple of likely lads in the form of Rob Adams and Cameron Johnston and we shared writing stories over a pint of real ale from the bar on Friday night. I briefly ran into the award winning Ruth Booth, who picked up a BSFA award for a short story, so many congratulations to her.

Even though we’d met briefly in the past I was properly introduced to Lucy Hounsom by Jen Williams and we had dinner together in the pub with Adrian, my agent-buddy Pete Newman and his good lady wife Milady Emma Newman. They were both nominated for a Hugo don’t you know for their podcast. I’m not going to get into the Hugo controversy as others have done that elsewhere and with more clarity. See George RR Martin’s blog post about it for more info. I also met the friendly Ed Cox and we shared a manly hug, and Catie introduced me to Charlie Stross at one point too. I also ran into the always kind and generous Gillian Redfearn several times over the weekend, in a corridor, in the pub, during a panel, although at one point I’m sure I saw that she’s grown some horns (see her twitter feed for photos).

So a lot of names and faces, old and new to me over the course of the weekend. As ever, this more than the panels and even the guests of honour, are what the conventions are all about for me. Connecting with like-minded, creative and clever people and being able to completely relax and mention something tangentially connected and not receive a blank stare. At one point someone mentioned Star Wars and Spaced, and that set me off quoting Simon Pegg’s character as he berates a small child in a comic shop for wanting some Jar Jar Binks merchandise.

Saturday consisted of more panels and also hearing Jim Butcher speak on a few panels during his first convention in the UK. It was great to meet him in person and get a book signed. As well as being over here for Eastercon, he is also going on a mini signing tour of the UK this week. Saturday night was a fairly late one where myself, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Peter Newman and David Tallerman put the Marvel film universe to rights. I think we got it all sorted out in the end but don’t ask me what we ultimately decided.

Amazingly I only managed to buy two books at the event, but I did receive one in my bag, The Seventh Miss Hatfield by Anna Caltabiano who I met last year on a panel at Nine Worlds Geekfest. I’m also feeling briefly smug as just after Eastercon they announced the Clarke Award Finalists and I’ve already read two of them and picked up another, Station Eleven, at the weekend. I’ll attempt to read the others but I won’t make a promise as my to read pile is already hideous.

I left just after breakfast on Sunday so I missed Adrian’s talk on storm chasing, but I’ve heard very good things about it. Check out photos from it on his blog. So now there’s a big break for me between events and the next one will be Nine Worlds Geekfest in August. I’m helping out with the Podcasting track again, but don’t expect to be on any panels. In theory, this leaves me with several uninterrupted months where there’s nothing going on and I’m going to focus on chipping away at book 3. That’s the plan anyway so we’ll see how it goes. As ever I came away from the convention tired but also happy and re-energised. Being around those kind of creative people buoys me up and makes me keen to get back to the keyboard and turn out another chapter. So that’s what I’m going to do, starting….now.

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Eastercon Report

Eastercon is done for another year. This was my second year at the event and despite only being there for only a couple of days due to family commitments, I had an excellent time and met some wonderful people.

So I attended on Friday and Saturday, took part in one comics related panel on Friday night, where a panel and I recommended some of our favourite comics to demonstrate the diversity of the medium. On the panel were Alys Sterling, CE Murphy, and David Tallerman. Despite the timing of the panel it was fairly well attended and there was a good spread of comics. My recommendations were Sweet Tooth by Jeff Lemire from Vertigo comics, Sleeper by Ed Brubaker and Sean Philips from Wildstorm, Chew from John Layman and Rob Guillory and Rachel Rising by Terry Moore. I took a little perverse pleasure from the expressions in the crowd whilst describing Chew and I think it was the one title that generated the most questions. After that I could relax and I spent the first evening relaxing in the bar and taking it fairly easy as there was another long day ahead. The snow is still stubbornly sticking to the pavements and piles of it lie around being obstanate, but thankfully the weather did not have any adverse effects on travel to the event.

Earlier in the day on Friday, I also attended two talks where my friend and all round good egg, Adrian Faulker, was a panelist. The first was Games in Fiction, which was interesting, however, because there was another panel on a very similar subject on Saturday, it meant the area of discussion was very narrow so it sort of trundled along. The second panel was probably one of my favourites of the weekend, Debut Authors’ Panel, where Bella Pagan from Tor UK moderated a diverse group of new writers. The panelists included Adrian Faulkner, Emma Newman, Francis Knight, Naomi Foyle and Stephanie Saulter. It was a great panel and each author had a very different story to tell about how they went from aspiring writer to being an author in print. Bella Pagan was an excellent moderator, including everyone, keeping the conversation going and it was also a lot of fun.

Debut Author panel

On Friday I also attended a Clarion Publishing launch in the frosty conservatory and later met up with head honcho, Colin Tate, whom I met at Eastercon last year. This sort of event is always great for catching up with people who I normally only see once or twice a year. At the bar (big surprise!) I also caught up with and chatted to Andrew Reid, Mike Shevdon, Anne Lyle and Ruth Booth. I was also introduced to Gillian Redfearn, of the mighty red pen, at Gollancz. I’m sure I’ve missed someone and am now feeling guilty. It will come to me!

I’m still getting over a nasty bout of man flu that is clinging to my chest, so as well as a cough I also lost my voice in the latter part of my panel. Thankfully I only had one panel, so I called it a night fairly early on Friday and gracefully skated to my car across the ice. Well, what actually happened was I rushed towards my car, slipped on the ice, nearly did the splits, and yet managed to stay upright due to waving my arms about. I took it as a sign that it was definitely time to call it a night.

Saturday went a lot more smoothly. With my voice varying between a squeak and a Barry White’s imitator, I watched several panels including Reinventing Urban Fantasy. This was probably my favourite panel of the weekend. All of the panelists were really engaging, there was a lot of back and forth between them and the time just flew by. They discussed magic, tropes and archetypes in fantasy, Harry Potter, their favourite authors and all sorts of other stuff. It could easily have continued for another hour without anyone noticing.

urban fantasy

Edit: other stuff I forgot to add the first time I posted this. I also attended an excellent reading by Gareth L. Powell, who read from his second Ack Ack Macaque book, and Stephanie Saulter, who read from Gemsigns. Adrian and I visited the art gallery and we were both transfixed by the amazing paintings of Guest of Honour, Anne Sudworth. I’m notoriously picky about art and I know what I like and don’t like. Her landscapes were gorgeous, rich, vibrant and quite remarkable. While an original is out of my price range, a framed print is not and I shall be investing.

Later that evening, whilst everyone was watching Doctor Who in the main hall or were drinking at the bar, a few friends and I snuck off to the secret American style diner for dinner. When we got back we had more drinks and spent time chatting to new and old friends including CE Murphy, Adrian Faulkner, Mike Shevdon and comedian and master magician John Lenahan, who later entertained everyone in the main hall. His act was so funny my sides ached and everyone came away with a smile on their face. After that I spent the rest of the evening chatting with people in the bar and it was a wonderfully relaxing end to my Eastercon weekend. From seeing a few other posts, and from listening to feedback from other people, it seems as if they also had a great event. I’m really looking forward to the next one and also to the next big event on my calendar which is World Fantasy Con in Brighton.

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