Eastercon is the UK’s premier convention for science fiction writers, this year held in Bradford and as the 64th Eastercon it was badged ‘Eight Squared Con‘.
The convention is winding down about now, and I got back late last night, completely knackered after a minimal amount of sleep on Saturday night. I guess the TL;DR summary would be something like: ‘conference center easy to find, great parking, lots of fun, informative and thought-provoking, great opportunity to network with other writers.’
First of all I have to compliment the choice of venue. I’ve attended dozens of different conventions over the years, some for work, most for play, the usual home and gadget shows as well as numerous RPG and writing conventions, but the ease of access to this convention was, by far, the best I’ve ever experienced. I traveled by car and it took less than an hour to travel there with zero hassle over finding the place and plenty of free parking on site.
I traveled up on the Saturday morning, arriving earlier than planned, so I was able to join in with 9am tai chi, a wu style run by a very nice lady whose name I’m afraid I didn’t catch, though I did pick up a leaflet which shows that her classes are London-based with a website here. I didn’t sleep much Saturday night, so I also joined in with the tai chi Sunday morning. Great sessions with a strong focus on the lower body and legs, so both days I maintained a low (-ish) horse-riding stance which left my thighs buzzing nicely.
The whole weekend, especially Saturday evening at the bar, was an amazing opportunity to catch up with other writers. I spent most of the weekend with fellow Manchester Speculative Fiction writer James Ridgway (thanks for helping me to sort out a hotel). Great to catch up with Chris Behrsin, a former Manchester Speculative Fiction writer who had nipped back over from Poland, and fellow Rocket Scientist Colum Paget who I last saw at the 2012 Alt.Fiction. In the dealers’ room I bumped into Terry Martin (editor of Murky Depths, where I had my first ever professional fiction publication) as well as Roy Gray (marketing guru for TTA Press, home of Interzone). At the bar I pounced on Francis Knight and then Marton Owton, both members of the T-Party writing group who critiqued an old-now-shelved novel of mine at the 2011 Eastercon — utterly fantastic to hear Francis has recently signed a three book deal with Orbit! New friends now include Tracey Berg (beagle owner and scientist of things biological) and Marie-Claire (labrador owner and soon to be translator). Marie-Claire is hoping to translate the Rocket Science anthology into her native Dutch for distribution in the Netherlands and she has already made a start with my story Incarnate. Apologies to anyone else I’ve forgotten.
Great choice of panels throughout the weekend including the usual writery topics as well as a number of other diverse subjects. I went for panels that touched on editing fiction, plotting story shape, stories in RPG/computer games, non-Western SF and fantasy, the practicality of a constitution for an independent Mars colony, the relationship between law and emerging technology, a look back at New Wave, older women in (or missing from) genre fiction, a discussion on cityscapes.
I think the only disappointing panel for me was the panel on non-Western fiction. It seemed seemed rather poorly organised, with a meandering focus that almost completely avoided one of the suggested topics: ‘China’. On the flip side, the other panels were extremely informative, generally very well organised and moderated, and a whole heap of fun.
The writing advice panels, one on editing and another on plotting, offered some great first-hand advice from editors and published writers which served to reinforce some of the writing craft I’ve picked up over the last couple of years. The Mars constitution panel (co-hosted by Ian Sales, editor for my short story Incarnate in Rocket Science) was obviously rather ad-hoc from the start and we had a near abort after just 45 minutes when Mike Cobley, the moderator, inadvertently forgot that the panel was an hour-and-a-half as opposed to just an hour. But this panel actually turned out rather well in the end with the audience lending a helping hand which resulted in a very lively and humour-filled debate. The law and technology panel — the last panel I attended on Saturday at 8-9pm — was just a filler for me before I hit the bar, but it was turned out to be one of the most informative with a discussion that wandered through various aspects of law including intellectual property law and 3D printing.
I think Sunday provided two of the most interesting and thought-provoking panels for me. First of all there was a panel that discussed older women in genre fiction, notably their absence. Panel members admitted to struggling to find novels where the protagonist was an older woman, and I also found myself struggling — perhaps Lessa or Moreta from the Pern stories? — though I’m not entirely sure these characters are particularly old until they feature as extras in the later novels. Shameful.
Lunchtime on the Sunday I attended my favourite panel of the weekend, a discussion on cityscapes. I love featuring urban settings in my own stories, notably an urban shamanic Manchester in my short story His City (published in Arcane II) and for those people who have seen a draft of my novel Seven Souls there is, of course, Canton (now Guangzhou). I came away from this panel with a bucket-load of novels to add to my Goodreads to-read list. Ultimate moment came right at the end with Walter Jon Williams saying: “I want to see more Chinese cities in fiction.” I couldn’t agree more!
One last note: in the dealers’ room I picked up a slightly cheeky steampunk themed tin from a certain Doctor Geof. Rather handy for keeping my wadding dry (if you know what I mean, taps nose). Spiffing stuff!
So that was Eastercon 2013. Next year it’s Satellite 4 in Glasgow and I’m very seriously tempted to pop along.