Titancon and Bristolcon - the inside stories

phew, long day over here. a titanic (pun intended, jo!) journey from sheffield made all the longer by queues on the motorways surrounding Bristol because of an accident earlier in the day, then compounded by my inability to book in at the correct hotel.

but, an excellent evening after that. pre-con evening included an open mic session, at which i read part of the prologue to HTTN, received well, alongside readings by Will MacMillan Jones and Cheryl Morgan amongst others. Paul Cornell and Ian Whates and Jaine Fenn held court in the bar, and i also chatted with Anne Lyle and Sue Boulton. my old school friend Tim, who now lives across the bridge in South Wales, popped by for a much needed catch-up - unfortunately he can't do the rest of the con because of prior engagements,but he did have a good chat with Paul Cornell without actually realising who he was.. :)

there may be a photo somewhere of my reading, but it's on Tim's phone, so patience, folks...
Okay, still awake and more with it. And this is supposed to be about what's a con like, so here goes.

I drove up - it's about 15 miles from where I live. And Kerry and my husband were there (I have a pic of Kerry to pop up when I transfer from my phone) and Kerry's lovely daughter who's doing mega well after her fall.

Anyway, I went into a small room housing the art exhibition and there was DJ McCune, a YA author on her third book, Pat Cadigan, Sarah Pinborough and Joe Abercrombie, and loads of others milling around. Everyone was really friendly and I quickly felt at ease, and Pat and Sarah were very reassuring about the upcoming reading.

About 8 we went into the room set up for literature night - round tables with a little podium at the front and a mike. Ulp. My stomach practically walked out of the room for me. The author guests were all gathered around the front and it hit me I'd be reading to them, as well as the room. I was very glad to have friendly faces at the back!

Laurence Donaghy went first with a funny, funny short that had everyone laughing and no one wanting to go next. We didn't know the running order, so it was a bit Russian Roulette waiting to see who was next. And, yep, it was me....

Mine was very short - the scene in Inish where Henry goes to the house John has been living in - which I was happy with as some were longer. Nice to have a balance. I was shaking. Much worse than any other time and my voice was awful at the start but I got going. Having Chris and Kerry to look up at was good. :)

But, once it was over I was able to enjoy the others! Peadar O'Guillion started with an excerpt of one of my favourite poems, and did a great reading. He also made more revelations about Joe Abercrombie's preferred length than anyone needed to know :D (but it was about the reading, it just came out wrong) Sarah Pinborough did the first chapter of Death House and raised some smiles despite it being about dead kids. Pat Cadigan and Joe wrapped up, Pat with a short which touched on her cancer experiences, and then quickly expanded, Joe with an excerpt from 'Heroes' (a war, as usual, attackers from the north, as usual).

I feel more relaxed about tomorrow now. Everyone was friendly and I feel in safe hands. But, for now - sleeep!

Just so's y'know, there were actually more than 2 people in the room :D the organisers expect around 300 this morning! :O
So we have established that the first rule of authors going to conventions is k̶n̶o̶w̶ ̶w̶h̶e̶r̶e̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶b̶a̶r̶ ̶i̶s̶ don't panic.
Sounds like you're both A: having loads of fun. B: Making lots of new friends. C: Dealing with nerves extra-ordinarily well.:D D: Reading lots ;)
taking a quick moment to check accounts before my 6pm panel; haven't seen Ursa yet, but have been floating about, talking to Juliet E McKenna re her forthcoming Aldabreshin Compass reissues (which i wholeheartedly recommend you preorder from Wizards Tower Press), manning the Grimbold Books stand in the dealer's room, and freaking out at the packed panel rooms. also attended Joanne Hall's book launch (Spark & Carousel), which was an absolute blazing success.
update: met Ursa and Glitch, post-panel, which got the thumbs-up from Ben Galley, somehow managed to not make a tool of myself and spoke eloquently, wished Ian Whates a happy birthday, got some ace tips from Alex Davis, now have signed copies of Ack Ack Macaque and Emma Newman's All Is Fair, and had a generally tasty burger to fill the rumbling stomach. if anybody did get a photo of the panel i was on, i'd love to see it just for purposes of proof! :)
Soooooo. Might not get all this done tonight. (And I'm mourning not being at the con hotel and joining in with the craic tonight.)

I got the train up this morning, a very peaceful train ride up beside a still, still sea and headed for the Green room for some coffee and a good morning to the other authors. I felt more at ease having met everyone the night before.

The first panel at 10 (after a welcome onto the stage) was Noobs and locals, of which I was both. It was in the second panel room and was pretty relaxed, and there were about 15 in the room which was great as there was a GOT panel elsewhere. Pic below: ( for those who don't know me, I'm the one on the far left)


I was happy enough in that room, but for my next panel, Building a (Broken) World I was in the big room, on a stage with microphones. Also, Joe Abercrombie was moderating, and Sarah Pinborough, Peadar O'Guillian and Pat Cadigan were on the panel too. No pressure, there....

Joe was great fun, Sarah incisive and Pat amazing (as she was in every panel) with a mix of humour and huge knowledge. I was happy to mostly listen and take part when asked - and the moderators were all very careful to involve everyone. No hiding place....

The hour fled by and then there was a fun quiz hour of Blankety blank. On offer was a t-shirt of George Martin, won by Lord Grimdark himself:



After, I was glad of a lunchbreak and a look aroung, before my next panel - women in sff, and do we still need these panels - with Pat Cadigan moderating, Sarah Pinborough, Zoe Sumra and DJ McCune. There was talk of us taking it to the bar (an Irish tradition, which surprised some) but we had enough of an audience not to need to, so we had the bar delivered to us. It was a great panel, funny, and with fab anecdotes. I was getting more confident and inputted a little more.

I then had an hour free and was ready for it before my last panel on YA, which was interesting and covered a lot ot ground. Then, a signing hour and then I sat with Pat, Sarah and DJ and mostly listened to anecdotes about cons past and the sf world in general, which I found really interesting. Finally, a closing ceremony and raffle and some food and it was edging to 9pm. I could have went back for the start of the evening disco and karoke, but I would have only had an hour to my train and decided to cut my losses and head home.
And, reflections:

This was a small, friendly con local to me and ideal to start at. Four panels was a lot for a noob, although I think I was able to input to all of them to some degree. I made some contacts, was blown away by the other authors. Sarah Pinborough was massively supportive and Pat Cadigan was just inspirational.

My conclusions:

1. These are important. I need to get to more if I can, and am looking at Manchester at Easter as a possiblity. They are the heartbeat of sff and, if you're serious as a sf writer, I think they're worth going to.
2. I need to step up. I need the confidence in my abilities to shoot for the moon and try to make it in this world. I want to be at this full time. I want to do what I'm good at and love doing. And to do that, I need to keep going and trying and grafting - because every single author there grafts and is professional, and works hard, hard, hard at it.

And a big thanks to Titancon for having me along and giving me the chance to spread my wings. :)
So glad you enjoyed your con springs, I just don't have the time to go to anything other than horse competitions and university. Lucky our CW department get authors in for weekly readings and discussions which is always interesting, if lacking in the SFF genre!

As someone who loves public speaking, I know how hard other people find it - it's the only time other than being with horses that banishes my anxiety. So very impressed whenever anyone does something new like panelling at a con, and you did 4! One day maybe I'll get to go insane and blabber on with insight ;) be great to see you over here in England, although I guess Windsor/Egham would be too far to ask you to come for a reading/chat!

And chopper, congrats on finding the place - how many hotels did you demand entry to before they let you in? ;) Glad you enjoyed yourself, Bristolcon is one I might be able to make in future years, I don't know how you lot all do it!

I shall continue living vicariously through all you successful people, and continue pointing out that I know amazing published authors. :)

Meanwhile, back over the pool, here's proof that i did my very first panel evah. jo did 4 - not sure how you managed the panic, as i was like tigger on crack all day before mine :D though maybe being able to start the day doing panels rather than waiting until the end is the best way to go.

what i take from this con, and cons in general - Bristolcon (and Edgelit for the Northerners) are ideal starter cons for networking, the people are friendly at both, it's not so large that it overwhelms you, there's room to breathe. it is definitely about getting to know people, about making and keeping contacts, about putting yourself out there on view. i still have that edge of fear about approaching the "big folks table" in the bar, but that's just me.

did Sarah Pinborough do the Titancon raffle? she has history with raffles.... ;)
oh by the way, that's Serendipity on the panel, second left.

and i only went to one wrong hotel before managing to check in - i blame a lengthy journey & delays on the M4....
Very interesting stuff.

Chopper, I can imagine doing that. Once, I got on the right bus (even asked for the destination) and the number and route changed after it left the station.


One was not amused.
Sarah did do the raffle - we all did - but it went swimmingly. And Pat Cadigan had fruit dropped on her head from the Friday night project (a role normally filled by Ian McDonald who wasn't able to make it).

I'm currently thinking of a family holiday to Manchester next Easter. And, ooooh, look, there's Mancuricon. :D
I normally write a report of Bristolcon for my blog... it's copied here for convenience... one note - I don't quote names in some instance, mainly due to not having their permission at the time of writing...

I thoroughly enjoyed Bristolcon 2015. It’s one of those nice friendly small local science fantasy cons – if you can call going on for 300 attendees small! And I know a lot people who attended weren’t local either!

One of the reasons for this success is the hard work done by the organisers behind the scenes to make it all run smoothly on the day. They start the year by organising guests and ghost of honour and build up to it. A BIG THANK YOU to all those involved to make things run smoothly, and an especial thank you to the organising committee who coordinate things (despite the best efforts of traffic snarl-ups and other similar gremlins to make things otherwise).

Bristolcon has two panel streams and a kaffeeklatsch room. So obviously I can’t report on everything, nor did I try to rush around like a mad idiot trying to get to everything – a mistake in previous years.

I attended Crossing the Genre Boundaries, which discussed the implications of literary writers coming into the genre and winning the prizes. The general feeling was that, whilst the literary works were indeed beautifully written, they tended to have less emphasis on what makes a science fantasy book genre specific. There was concern at the ‘watering down’ of the genre. But – yes there was a big BUT – science fiction is now the genre to be writing. Look at the way the film industry is concentrating so many films in this area. In the end, whilst it is nice to win prizes, the financial impact for the author tends to be minimal, with one exception. If you win a short story prize, you are looked on far more favourably by publishers if you are pushing to get a novel published.

Personal Note: Having seen what technology is around the corner for our society, our society is going to need all the help it can get to cope with it. This includes writing science fiction to introduce people to what they can do. And even then, science fiction is going to need all the help it can get – and that includes the use of literary techniques to help explain what the tech is doing and how it is going to change society.

I then stayed for half of the the Libraries, Past, Present and Future (because I had to be somewhere else). The panel reminisced about their libraries of the past and their favourite libraries in science fiction. What I found interesting was a lot of the libraries tended to come from the fantasy end of the genre, rather than the science fiction end. Hm…

Next up was me running a workshop in the Kaffeeklatsch room on ‘Real Technologies Futures Report and Discussion’. This was a report back on the Future Technologies Summit in London held on the Thursday and Friday beforehand, followed by a discussion and workshop to develop a story line based on the report. I was rather pleased that it was a fully signed up workshop – and I have a suspicion that a local builder will using some of the technology I talked about in his work, and someone else was going to take the ideas of another technology away to help her personally.

Lunch followed with a calming down after all the workshop excitement. (You’ll be hearing more about this in due course, said she with a evil grin!)

I attended the talk by Professor Ian Stewart on Time Travel and Real Physics. After introducing us to how time travel science fiction stories came about in science fiction, he took us through the issues of the faster than light limitation, black holes, white holes and the impact of quantum physics on trying to build a faster than light travel machine.

Having other stuff to do, I didn’t do anything until I was up on the panel, Faster Than Light moderated by Gareth Powell (though we did not get up to any monkey business). We went through the various faster than light themes in fiction and edged a little bit into reality. All I’m going to say is that I hope I gave the audience some interesting thoughts (said she with another evil grin).

The Reboots panel where amongst the fun questions were some serious questions. What sticks in my mind is that everyone agreed that a reboot should not be done unless there was something fairly different about the reboot e.g. going from black and white film to colour film, and the basic characters should remain the same.

The evening was light-hearted entertainment – quiz and film.

I met and caught up with a loads of friends in between times. And that is part of the beauty of Bristolcon… it has room to let you do just that!

Bristolcon next year will be going back to its normal October slot – October 29th. Keep that date! Be there! It’s fun or as they say up t’north, it’s a grand do.

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