Thank you, Paul Hardcastle, for digging me out of a title hole.
Leaving that aside, last weekend was pleasantly spent with Kez and little Sammy at an airport hotel near Heathrow, and not because of delayed flights. It was the Nine Worlds Geekfest. Those with long memories and some patience will remember that I wrote three whole blog posts on last year’s inaugural event. Be thankful that this year one post will suffice – not because I couldn’t give an almost hour-by-hour account of our activities (including nappy changes for the little one…) but because I’ve decided to take a slightly different angle this time.
Last year we tried to pack in as many panels as possible, mainly on the Skeptics track of events, and this led to a hectic weekend. With Sammy in tow, a more laissez-faire approach was required because at any given time we couldn’t be sure attending a panel would be possible.
Security at the hotel was a little overzealous for my tastes.
The consequence of this was an equally enjoyable event that turned out to be more about socialising than panels and signings. It highlighted to me what events are all about – community and meeting other people. It’s even truer at other events where I’m there in an ‘official’ capacity in some fashion – signing or on a panel – meeting people that share my passion and hobbies is a huge boost and inspiration.
And it’s always a mix of the old and the new, the expected and unexpected. There were some people that I wanted to seek out and spend some time with, there were others that I already knew but wasn’t sure were attending, and there were those that I met for the first time. It’s always good to hang out with fellow authors and catch up at these events, whether it was Adrian Tchaikovsky trying to hypnotise Sammy with mystical hand gestures, having breakfast with Anne Lyle and others and talking about Blakes 7, or learning first hand from Den Patrick that saying ‘Fiddlesticks’ can bring a baby out in fits of giggles. It’s always lovely talking to Ian Whates, and we caught up with Jonathan Green and heard how plans were progressing for Fighting Fantasy Fest in a few weeks’ time.
Similarly, I had a good chat with Matt Sylvester about his upcoming projects, including the progress of Raus Untoten II. Once again I met Dave Bradley (of SFX magazine) at the bar and competing social commitments required us to part company – we’ve been ships in the night at the last few cons I’ve attended but one day we’ll have a conversation that lasts more than the time it takes to get a served.
That just looks like a couple of paragraphs of name-dropping, but I promise there is a point to it, beyond trying to pretend that I am a networking god.
These are people that exchange tweets and emails, but I might see only once or twice a year. Sometimes we talk about books and writing, sometimes we want to talk about anything but those things (more often the former). Stuff comes up in conversation, bits of news or snippets of advice or war stories, which you wouldn’t necessarily go out of your way to find out or come across except in that more relaxed atmosphere.
SpaceSam. Not quite arriving from Krypton, but pretty super all the same.
As someone that writes mainly for Black Library but also has a few ‘original’ works published (please go and buy Empire of the Blood, I promise you’ll enjoy it…) I sometimes feel that I am standing with a foot in two worlds. Black Library mostly involves itself with its own events and is a microcosm in itself in which I feel very comfortable and established, and the publishing team and other authors are good friends with each other.
The wider world of publishing, and conventions in particular, I find more daunting. For the uninitiated there can seem to be a labyrinth of groups and cliques and circles depending on people’s publishers, their agents, who goes to what conventions. Most of this is purely subjective, of course, but things have got easier since my first outings into the wider genre. It’s nice that over the last few years the number of familiar faces has kept growing, as that list shows, and that helps when you’re not exactly a powerhouse at initiating conversations with strangers.
There are also the people that you get to know over the weekend, either just in passing or more socially. A conversation over another breakfast (on a different day, not a Hobbit-style second breakfast), for instance, meeting wannabe sky-pirate Liesel Schwarz and talking about her teen rebellion in South Africa and the excitement of getting a review in the Independent (two things I have not experienced; one of which I would like to). Of all the people I might have thought I’d meet, I must confess that Phil Lowles was nowhere near the list. Phil was one of the assistant games developers in the tranche Games Workshop hired after I’d moved on to become a ‘full’ games developer. He’s professionally involved with web design now, but obviously the geek-gene never goes away and he’s organising A Game of Thrones events, including Titancon in Belfast next month. It’s likely I would never have caught up with Phil if we hadn’t run into each other in the hotel foyer.
And then after the weekend reality returns.
For many people that means going back tot he 9-5 of work, but for me, for a writer, it also means stepping back out of the community and returning to the solitary tap-tap-tap at the keyboard. The culture shock kicks in both ways – dealing with people, getting up to speed, and then getting back home and finding that all the people have gone away. It’s not quite post-holiday blues, but it takes a day or two to recover from that sort of (to me) intense activity.
Anyway, random bits (to call them highlights would be unfair to many wonderful people not mentioned):
Check out Gengki Gear and their fantastic geekwear. We are assured that coloured baby vests will be coming soon… However, because I am very strange and can’t wear a T-shirt that I’ve seen someone else wearing (sort of) please avoid wearing this one to any event I am attending:
Writers, always keep an eye on Fox Spirit books. They’ve pretty much got a rolling submissions window for anything from flash fiction to short stories, and Adele (‘Aunty Foxy’) is one of the nicest people you’ll ever get a chance to work with.
Some fantastic cosplay outfits. Everyone gets 5 ‘Awesome Cosplay’ tokens to hand out to people they think deserve them, and any cosplayer that gets 15 could trade them for an ‘Awesome Cosplay’ badge.
Sammy spent Saturday in his UFO, and children that took part got a goodie bag as a prize, so we were trying to give away all the tokens he earnt. Even so, we ended up with 21 tokens… It’s hard to ignore the conclusion that if you want to attract attention, be a baby in a flying saucer (being super cute helps too!). But anyway, the tokens (which I hear are used at other events too) are a great icebreaker (as is a baby in a UFO it turns out) and really made the cosplayers part of the whole event.
If that sounds like your kind of fun, tickets for the 2015 event are already available at bargain price on the Nine Worlds website. Hopefully Kez, Sammy and I will see you there!
We couldn’t find Sammy for most of Sunday, but Batbaby turned up, which was cool.