Last year I went to the SFX Weekender in Prestatyn, Wales. It was the first huge sci-fi convention I’d ever been to and I had a fabulous time, despite the truly awful accommodation. I cosplayed, I geeked out and made some lovely new friends.
This weekend I went to the Sci-Fi Weekender (SFX magazine are no longer involved) but this time I was one of the guests and that brought home to me just how much has happened in the last year.
Stuff I got up to
To be honest, it was all dominated by Just A Minute, but I’ll get to that in a minute.
The weekend started with a panel called “Here Come the Girls” and when all the panellists met just before it started we agreed it was a bit of a silly subject. It still led to some interesting discussion however and Stacia Kane made some very interesting points about how some readers have reacted to her characters.
I was also on an apocalyptic fiction panel which I enjoyed immensely. I have to say I was really impressed by Hugh Howey and Peter Brett – they were very interesting and personable. Gareth Powell did a grand job of moderating too.
Then there was a panel about fantasy world building (I thought it was supposed to be about urban fantasy but no matter). Paul Cornell stepped in last minute when we realised our moderator was still interviewing Brian Blessed and he did a fine job. Even though the panel had lots of people (I think the ideal size is 4 plus moderator and I think there were 7 of us plus Paul) it went well I think.
All I can hope is that what we said on all of the panels was interesting, informative and entertaining. The location was not ideal – as Gareth said, it was like doing panels in a motorway service station. There was a lot of ambient noise, background distractions and some microphone issues. I think putting up partitions would be a great improvement if it was held in the same location again.
Just A Minute
You know, I’ve been spotting a few pictures of us up on the stage this morning and I’m finding it hard to believe I actually did that! For the last month I’ve been so very, very anxious about it. For the half hour before we went onto the stage I was completely freaking out. I mean hyperventilating, swearing more than usual, flapping my hands, grabbing Gareth’s sleeve and asking him what the hell we’d been thinking when we said yes.
Then my name was called and I went onto the stage and couldn’t stop shaking. There were so many people! Then I remembered I hadn’t switched my phone off as I’d been so busy freaking out. Of course, the damnable thing crashed and I ended up abandoning it face down on the table. Not an auspicious start.
But then once we started, I gradually relaxed. I shook for about fifteen minutes, then I forgot to be scared. I discovered a competitive streak I never thought I had and actually made the audience laugh! I have vague memories of talking about my crush on China Miéville (covers face with hands) and having a zombie-proof cellar filled with books. I recall Gareth being very funny and frighteningly strategic in his gameplay. He won the game by one point – I came second.
I’m so pleased I did it. The audience were fantastic – thanks to everyone who came to watch and cheer and clap and laugh, you made it so much fun. And a huge thank you to people who came up to me afterwards to chat – I find it so hard to initiate conversations and it was a great icebreaker.
The first Between Two Thorns signing session!
Like every other author, I was worried no-one would show up on Saturday morning. I went over to the Angry Robot table in the dealer’s room and saw the UK edition for the first time (soooo pretty!) and stood there stroking the cover for a moment before being told people were already waiting to have their copy signed.
And they kept coming. Blimey, people were queuing! I was absolutely gobsmacked. I met lovely people, I spelt names very carefully, realised that velvet gloves are not ideal for signings and had a fantastic time. Between Two Thorns was sold out in less than two hours.
I know several people went to buy a copy later in the day and were disappointed – if you were one of them, you can get a signed copy in the following ways:
Pre-order from Forbidden Planet
Come to the Bristol launch this Thursday (7th March) at Forbidden Planet Bristol Megastore, 6-7pm
Come to the London launch this Friday (8th March) at Forbidden Planet on Shaftesbury Ave, 6-7pm
I would love to see you at the launches if you live within striking distance of Bristol or London – and we will be having drinks afterwards too.
The venue and event organisation
I have a skewed perception of the weekend by virtue of being a guest – I was so busy with panels, the signing session, interviews and even the international phone-in launch that I didn’t experience the event in the same way that I did last year.
I can, however, talk about the venue. Both the Haven and Chic staff were fabulously friendly and helpful. The accommodation was a huge improvement from last year’s gulag-like hell, but the caravan was bitterly cold and I got very little sleep as a result.
For me, the fact it was a split site was a problem. I feel that it diluted the atmosphere and it was harder to find people and bump into friends. I can’t say anything about the quiz nor the full Saturday night show – I only saw Professor Elemental who was, as always, fabulous but once the next act started I left, knowing it wasn’t my cup of tea when someone appeared dressed as the pope.
If only the centralised location of last year’s Weekender could be paired with the accommodation improvements of this year’s event.
But it’s really about the people
The thing with these events is that it’s impossible to please every single person. I can’t imagine how difficult and stressful it must be to put on events of this size. For me, it’s the people who make it. I love the geek immersion, I love being able to talk about roleplaying without strange looks, I love the cosplay and glorious frivolity of it all.
In fact, I shall be seeking that very thing at this year’s Nine Worlds event which is slap bang in the middle of August. It being after the launch of Between Two Thorns and Any Other Name, I may have time to make a costume again. I also have some Split Worlds fun brewing at the back of my mind for it too…