As I may have mentioned once or three thousand times, last Friday and Saturday was the SFXWeekender event in Prestatyn, Wales. I attended and so it is now mandatory that I write a blog post telling everybody what I got up to, in the hopes of making them jealous and thus ensuring that they attend next year and make the SFXWeekender 4 an even bigger success. In return, I hope that I come to the attention again of the powers that be and get invited back, thus taking one more step on the road to author godhood*. We all play our part in the machine that is publicity.
*Attending genre events does not guarantee godhood, but it will get you readers. Please tell me this is true. Please.
I am sure that there will be plenty of ‘What I did on my holidays’-type accounts of the weekend, and the schedule was well-publicised in advance, but frankly I can’t think of any better way to do it, so I’ll be doing much the same.
What I did on my Weekend
Actually, I just can’t bring myself to do a whole travelogue. Here are the highlights instead…
Departed later than expected but made good time to North Wales. Thanks to my lovely, very understanding girlfriend for being a lovely, very understanding chauffeur for three days. We played ‘Spot the Nerd*’ as we got closer to Prestatyn, and really some people do make it too easy… ON arriving, we saw a caravan pretending to be a TARDIS. Nuff said.
*I include myself in this category and so do not think this game is demeaning to nerds.
I turned up with enough time to have a quick spin around the venue to acclimatize and find locations of importance: toilets, stage, bar. Erm, yup. Just those three. Oh, and then there was finding the Angry Robot and Black Library stands in Bartertown (the SFX name for the trade hall; those jokers have all the fun). Having waved hello to publishing and sales types, exchanged customary abuse with Graham McNeill and Aaron Dembski-Bowden, I hit the stage for the Elf Preservation panel. I will be blogging more about this in a couple of days’ time, so will say no more here (except – go to my last post and vote on the polls please, I’m still collecting data).
Following the panel I had an hour to chill out until my signing with Guy Haley on the Angry Robot stand. Said chilling out was done with the aid of a pint of ‘beer’ (I use the term loosely for the fizzy, frothy stuff available at the bars) and Graham ‘New York Times Bestselling Author’ McNeill. Having not seen each other since the Horus Heresy meeting that had finished some 22 hours earlier, we had lots to catch up on. And then after those two minutes had elapsed, and it being too easy to play Spot the Nerd in a bar crowded full of people taking surreptitious pictures of the nice-looking cosplay ladies in attendance, we continued the discussion that had started on the panel. As I had expected all along, we were right and everyone else was wrong. Or something. The world got fixed, either way. Somehow.
My signing followed, and I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I was there as an Angry Robot author* and had no official signing slot with BL. Some fans made discreet inquiries beforehand regarding whether BL books would indeed be signed, and assurances were given that this would be the case, so it is fair to say that I was slightly anxious that I would end up signing plenty of BL books and none from The Crown of the Blood. Such was not to be the case. There were people with Black Library novels and there were, the writing gods be praised, people who had my Angry Robot books too.
*Which, as Adrian Tchaikovsky pointed out, means something very different without the capitals.
I also had time to chat with Paul Young, the artist responsible for the covers of The Crown of the Blood series. He lives in Prestatyn and happened to pop in to the show to see what all the noise was. Anyway, he is a really nice guy, we had a bit of a chat about the cover for The Crown of the Usurper; I was able to sign his sample copies of the first two books and give him my card.* I chatted to people about BL work, AR work, and even a bit of gaming. There were even books sold – thanks especially to the people who bought both volumes at once in a show of faith (some folks were more sensible and only shelled out for book one).
*I have had business cards made up (actually, again, it was my girlfriend who did them) with the Deliverance Lost cover on one side. I have had them for 6 months and this is the first one I’ve managed to give away… I need to network harder, people.
I was looking forward to Friday night. There was much whispering and palpitations concerning the 2000AD 35th birthday party, and it seemed to be the place where all the cool kids were going. The reality was not as exciting as I had been led to believe. There were some speeches, and a cake was cut, and the Almighty Tharg did make an appearance.
And then it was like the bar had been before being closed for two hours to make no changes whatsoever. Good company was on hand in the form of Graham ‘I’ve got a Gemmell Award and you don’t’ McNeill, Guy ‘I am the King of the Goblins’ Haley, and Mark ‘I’ve laid out more rulebooks and game supplements than you’ve had hot dinners’ Owen. There was drinking. There was a failed attempt to procure fish and chips. There was a, regretfully, successful attempt to procure southern fried chicken pieces and (in my case) a cheeseburger.* There were other people with whom I had conversations. And then there was bed.
*Special message for Mark and Graham – Dobby. That is all I have to say on the matter.
Having wisely procured accommodation in a place with radiators, running hot water and a generous breakfast buffet, I passed the night in more comfort than many attendees. I had nothing scheduled for the day, so as well as showing my girlfriend around to meet some people (and prove that some people are even bigger nerds than me) I actually went off-site and did some sight-seeing around North Wales. In fact, we went to an aquarium and looked at fish and crabs and things, which in a way was probably more educational than studying the nerd flora and fauna.
Anyway, we got back just about the right time to see the opening rounds of the costume competition. And there were many costumes to judge, some downright stunning, some consisting of t-shirts and not much else. The usual suspects (Graham and Guy) managed to intersect with me again, and we had a fine old time – Graham was out-nerded by my girlfriend due to a deficit of Misfits knowledge. Nerd points have been deducted from his running total. The biggest cheer went out for the chap who turned up as Bender. If only he had answered the questions with ‘Kiss my shiny ass’ and ‘Death to all humans’ he would have won my vote*.
*I did not have a vote. Just thought I would clarify that, in case I go again. I do not need to be lobbied by Hawkmen, alien ambassadors and slightly disturbing manga characters.
If there was one event that I was looking forward to (and Kez, my chauffeuring girlfriend was really looking forward to) it was this:
Having escaped in search of food that had not been microwaved or required a microwave, we returned in time for the Buffy sing-a-long. We met up with the Black Library crowd and there was singing. It was a shame that there were no words on the screen, or bouncing ball to keep time, but having 800+ nerds all singing along gaily to They Got the Mustard Out was quite possibly the most enjoyable experience of the weekend.
After that it was more drinks (during which I, much to my chagrin, spilt Batman’s pint*), the fun of watching a man with an unbendable steam punk arm trying to play pool, and more costume-spotting. We left on the stroke of midnight (more or less) and our nerdfest was over.
*Quite possibly the scariest experience I have had since my age entered double figures – nobody wants to jostle someone’s arm and then turn around to come face-to-face with the Dark Knight…
Special mention must go to my girlfriend, who over the course of a few hours turned into a nutter magnet. She was harassed twice by the same Star Wars clone trooper, gave a genuine girlish shriek of terror when she turned round to find Darth Vader standing behind her, saw Wonder Woman drying her son under a hand dryer in the ladies’ loo, and was chased across the pub by a scarecrow. I would be lost without her.