Only a week after the event, here’s my event report. Just like back in school. The short version: a great time was had and lots of new and interesting people were met, including some heroes of mine in within fiction writing. Can’t say fairer than that…
So I arrived on Wednesday evening, and stayed through to Sunday evening. We managed to get in early on the whole registration thing, which was good because it got kind of lively when the convention proper commenced. All told, this one had 10,000 guests which makes it the biggest World Science Fiction Convention held yet! So it is just as well the ExCel Centre in which it was held happens to be HUGE. Seriously, this thing is so big, it has TWO Docklands Light Railway stations for access.
Now, I’ve never been to this particular type of convention before, and discovered rapidly that having that word in the title can mean many different things. I looked at the event and thought it looked interesting, but got a nudge to do some stuff for it several months back by some good friends in Emma and Esther and said, ‘sure, I’ll happily do a panel or two’ (having never done panels before). By the time I reached the event, I had signed up for six, and a book signing spot. I approached initially with a fine combo of eager excitement and a degree of terror, but actually found the sheer scale of fixtures a great help on this one. I spent more time on the Wednesday night finding my way around a wonderful iPad app, which essentially provided a scheduler for me, choosing which other events and panels I was provisionally interested in attending, that I kind of forgot about the pre-panel prep.
Well, apart from the first one, for which I needed to source good examples and stories behind fiction and film which ‘got London wrong’. I had a little chat over a tea with Michael, (who was kind enough to put us up for the duration, even lending us his bedroom. Hero!) and between him, Joy and myself, we managed to add a couple of examples to the reserve. For the record, I now need to watch the Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes at least twice, so I can finally get round to watching it, and to spot everything we cited both at home and at the panel . Thor’s rather curious London Underground travel route in Thor: The Dark World I knew about already.
The first panel I attended was amusingly titled, ‘LOLcats in Space: Social Media, Humour and SF Narratives’, and had a frankly brilliant line-up, including Jean Johnson as moderator and Charles Stross on bass guitar (the instrument part may or may not be an untruth). Energetic, insightful and packed, I couldn’t have asked for a better way to have got started on my little tour.
Then, very relevant to my current chosen path and equally entertaining, The Changing Face of the Urban Fantastic. Another cracking panel team including none other than Paul Cornell and Robin Hobb, moderated by the excellent Liz Bourke. Good as this panel was, migration started quite early, though I soon remembered why. Straight after this, A Conversation with George R.R.Martin, Connie Willis and Paul Cornell. Yep—that did mean Mr Cornell needed to run, or figure out how to co-locate. He chose the former. Luckily, that meant he could go straight in, whereas when I left at the end, I got into the first very large queue to get into the double suite that this popular fixture hosted. That was a lot of people. Paul did a great job keeping the conversation and the questions flowing, and a good time was had by all. I finally got to my panel that evening and for a first one, I was happy enough with it. I did discover a thing though; being on panels with other authors often just helps you part with money as you seek out their work. Mike Shevdon was on this one with me, and I am now the proud owner of a copy of Sixty-One Nails, following a fascinating conversation about some of London’s more interesting traditions still kept today. The source of that book title is one…
Two readings concluded the day, catching some from Frances Hardinge, as usual sporting her trademark stylish hat, and Adrian Tchaikovsky, reading cool new things.
And that was only Thursday!
On Friday, I arrived to be overwhelmed with panels I wanted to attend, and ended up not making either of the 10ams I wanted to see. I will keep checking for transcripts. However, this was because I was queueing for a Peter V.Brett signing with Joy. Well worth it, and got Sixty-One Nails signed by Mike Shevdon in the same hour. Being there got us a chance to catch Paul Cornell just before his signing and say hi too.
I really enjoyed a swordplay for writers workshop, of which I was sure to take photos and odd notes here and there. Definitely educational. I sat on two panels, Developing LARPs—World vs. Character and got plenty of interest out of that, then Urban Fantasy: London, which I enjoyed immensely. There was a lot to talk about in an hour, including the obvious question of ‘why London’? and mentioning a bunch of other cities, with Manchester coming up too thanks to certain questions and myself and Tony Ballantyne being resident there at present. Learned a lot, talked even more, both after the panel and throughout the con. I also managed to get to the Titan/Tor party thanks to Tony, and enjoy a beer and a chat with a bunch of people in the publishing world. Finally met artist Sarah Anne Langton thanks to Ian Whates and a natter with Peter V.Brett, to name a few. Also, got a bit of tasty birthday cake.
Saturday, I went wandering around the gallery section and chatted to Ade Brown after seeing some tremendous artwork. He has the Where Angels Fall website currently under development, but I’ll be sure to check in once it is done. There were many other incredible exhibits, but no photos of course from me. However a chance wander helped me bump into none other than Ben Aaronovitch, author of the Peter Grant series [Rivers of London/Midnight Riot in US) being the first]. We ended up going for a coffee and effectively a small kaffeeklatsch, which was about as pleasant a way to spend a morning as I could ask for.
I sat on two panels, Race and British Speculative Fiction, which may have run from 13:30 to 15:00 on the programme, but I was still talking with panellists and guests two hours later on that one. And enjoyed every minute of it. Then LARP Safe: Building Inclusive Worlds in the evening. Perhaps my smallest-attended panel of the con, but that wasn’t a bad thing. Also, I collected a surprise moderator badge for this one due to the original not being able to make it. I would like to say now that this wasn’t anything to do with me seizing an opportunity and bundling the original moderator into a cupboard for an hour. That’s not how I roll.
Finished up the day with a top-quality 80s Night Dance. No, really. It had exactly the right level of cheese for my tastes, though they almost killed this poor chap by seguing several 80s wolf-themed or mentioning songs in. Go on. Think about it. There were a quite a few. In fact, perhaps a competition is worth thinking about…
Though the con did run to Monday, Sunday was my last day there, regretfully.
The morning schedule proved relentless, with a signing first thing, sharing a table with the delightful Melinda Snodgrass, straight into a kaffeeklatsch with Adrian Tchaikovsky, great fun, and then a rush out to my final panel, Representation, Whitewashing and Internationalism in Fandom. My last panel, and a superb one, thanks to a brilliant audience and a top panel in Zen Cho, Mark Oshiro, Eylul Dogruel and Andrea Horbinski. I felt we all had something different to bring to that table, and we again had a long chat afterwards. Sadly couldn’t get into the Charles Stross reading because I’d been beaten to it, and my final official thing was getting along to the Robin Hobb signing.
A note on that signing. I thought I was mostly going along to help Joy carry some books at first, but over the panels and events attended where Robin was present, she very much sold me on reading her books. So by the time I got into this photo, I was very definitely a fan!
I didn’t attend the Hugo Awards, just because we had a long drive back that evening, so had to content myself with reading the results. But we did stop to quickly chill before we left, reminding me that I hadn’t mentioned any of the many parties going on in the evening. As well as advertising future events in the Fan Village, some other entertainments were laid on including the Tolkien Society running a big quiz, bidders for future WorldCon events giving us a flavour of their nation and city, quite literally in most cases. I’ve tried a salty liquorice liqueur courtesy of Helsinki’s bid for 2017, Kansas fed us several times some delicious pulled pork, and Japan introduced us to several fine whiskies and the wondrous green tea flavoured Kit-Kat, to name but a few.
Overall, this was a truly amazing experience in which I got firmly bitten by the convention bug. I’m already setting plans in motion for next year! Next up this year, an entirely different affair by way of the Labyrinth Literary Festival up in Stockton, where I shall have a reading and be happily to sell you and/or sign books. I look forward to seeing some of you there!