Posts Tagged Conventions
I will be at FantasyCon this weekend at the East Midlands Conference Centre, Nottingham, catching up with old friends and hopefully making new ones.
On Friday at 6pm in Suite 1 I will be discussing Fae-Fi, Folk-Fum: Faerie & Folktale and the influences of folk-lore on Urban Fantasy in particular and on fiction in general, with moderator Alison Littlewood, along with Charlotte Bond, Victoria Leslie, and the lovely Emma Newman. Sounds like fun.
I’ll be around most of the weekend, so do come and say hello if you are going.
This year’s EasterCon, Satellite 4, was held by the banks of the Clyde in Glasgow over the Easter weekend. This was my first time in Glasgow and as is the way with conventions I didn’t get to see much of the city other than the area around the convention hotel. Having said that, everyone was very friendly and it would be a city I would go back to and explore without hesitation. The convention itself was well-organised and ran smoothly – clearly a lot of work had gone into the preparation and I would like to add my thanks to the many people involved in running the convention.
For me it was a chance to catch up with friends and colleagues and to meet people for the first time. It was particularly nice to meet those who have read my work and took a moment to let me know they’d enjoyed it. Writing is generally a solitary activity and to realise that your work has made a connection with someone is very rewarding – especially as they are such nice people.
In terms of programming, I participated in a panel discussion on different styles of fantasy, which was fun and interesting. Everyone seemed to enjoy it, including the panel, so that was good. I especially enjoyed the presentations of two visitors to the convention, Andy Miah from the University of the West of Scotland, and Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell.
Andy presented on the subject of enhanced humans, either by mechanical, biological, chemical or genetic means, and what was stunning about his presentation was not how much could be done, but how much of it was current. I was expecting him to be talking about things that might happen in the future, but most of what he was presenting is perfectly possible now, and may actually already have been done. Andy clearly knows his subject well and is a gifted presenter, and his presentation was excellent.
Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell is a former President of the Royal Astronomical Society and was President of the Institute of Physics. She is also lots of fun, really interesting to listen to and an inspirational speaker. Her presentation was on new developments in astronomy, a subject that until then I’d though was relatively well understood and quite static. How wrong I was. Dame Jocelyn mostly talked about transients, things which move around in the heavens and which have been difficult to study because the sensitivity to track something in the heavens that is moving around has only recently become available. These are important not just because they enhance our understanding of our universe, but also because there is evidence that from time to time large objects crash into the Earth causing damage on a catastrophic scale.
She also talked about mysterious things called whistlers that that are intermittent and fleeting – pulses of radiation that have crossed intergalactic space. This is cutting edge astronomy and we are only beginning to theorise on what might be the cause of such intense bursts of energy. Dame Jocelyn has the gift of making her subject accessible, understandable and inspiring. If you get the opportunity to hear her speak then I highly recommend it.
So overall Satellite 4 was a successful weekend for me personally and for the convention in general, and I hope I will get to visit the lovely City of Glasgow again soon.
I’ll be in Bradford for Easter weekend for the 64th EasterCon and I’m thoroughly looking forward to the event. I have a number of sessions programmed throughout the weekend – see below for details:
Friday 29th March
- 6:00 PM – Avalon, Sherwood Forest and Alderley Edge: The Magical British Countryside
- How does the landscape of Britain affect stories set in it? Where does the magic lurk, and how does it inspire writers? Sue Mason moderates Tiffani Angus, Anne Sudworth, Mike Shevdon and Freda Warrington.
- 9:00 PM – Underground London
- Take one London. Add magical society hidden from most people. Mix in famous places from the city, and optionally garnish with police procedural. Why is this such a great recipe? With Paul Cornell, Roz Kaveney, Anne Lyle, Simon Morden and Mike Shevdon.
Saturday 30th March
- Genre Get-Together – Fantasy
- A chance to meet the authors, get books signed and chat about books, stories and other stuff.
Sunday March 31st
- Author Readings
- I will be reading from The Eight Court, along with the lovely Emma Newman who will (I hope) be reading from her new book – Between Two Thorns.
If you would like a book signed or just to say hello, I will be around the convention for most of the weekend. There are a host of events, panels, games and discussions with plenty to do throughout the weekend.
If you’re at the event, please come and say Hi – it’s always nice to meet new friends. See you there!
From Good Friday until Easter Monday I shall be at EasterCon, which this year is being held at the Radisson Edwardian Hotel Heathrow. On Friday afternoon at 3pm I will be on stage with weapons. For reasons of safety and self-preservation, I will not be loading those weapons, but we will have some interesting pieces of video to entertain and amaze you, and I guarantee that if you see archery in a fantasy film after that, you will not see it in the same light again. It’s a promise.
I will also be around for book signings on Saturday and Sunday evening, so bring your copy along and I will be happy to sign it for you.
Hope to see you there!
As some of you will have noticed it has been quiet here on the website for a while – all for very good reasons, I assure you. I have been working hard on Strangeness and Charm: Book 3 in The Courts of the Feyre series, and I am finally at a stage where I can take a short break from it and catch up with other things.
One of those things was facilitated by Sandy Auden, writer, reviewer, and photographer. Sandy was at BristolCon this year and had the foresight to bring her camera with her. One of my reasons for being there was to give a talk on Archery in Fantasy, a whirlwind tour of the use of the bow and arrow in genre fiction, and Sandy was on hand to take some shots.
Pictured left is is a Magyar Horse Bow, or rather a replica example of one, made by the Hungarian Bowyer Csaba Grózer. This is the design used by the nomadic tribes of the open grassland of the Eastern Plains of Europe.
You can see that the bow is quite short, but it will draw easily out to thirty inches (which is about my limit) and is fast and sweet to shoot. It doesn’t jar against the hand but has a very ‘live’ feel.
The ends of the limbs, as you can probably see in the picture, are solid wood, and are called Siyahs. They act as levers on the end of the limbs so that the geometry of the bow evens out the draw weight over the length of the draw, making it smooth and fast.
Magyar bows of this nature were typical of a period about 4,000 years ago, so this is more ancient that an English Longbow, which would have been more common about 500 – 600 years ago.
In contrast, the bow on the right is a very modern example. This is a compound bow, typified by the eccentric cams on the ends of the limbs which act to change the apparent weight as draw it. This bow is set at 55 lbs peak weight, but at full draw I am holding only around 20 lbs, allowing me more time to aim and settle before releasing. Obviously I didn’t actually release, as there’s no arrow on the bow, and dry shooting a bow is very bad for it since all the energy stored in the bow has nowhere to go but back into the bow.
Compound bows were invented in the 1960s and have been developing ever since. This is an American design, manufactured by Bowtech Archery or Oregon, and is my competition bow. It’s a Bowtech Guardian – very fast and very quiet. A superb feat of engineering and design.
So I had a great time explaining how even the masters of Fantasy can get archery very wrong – and how some get it so right. I explained paradoxes, demonstrated stringing, showed off bows ancient and modern, with a really friendly audience who asked lots of interesting questions.
The only problem was we ran out of time. If I do it again, I’ll try and get a longer slot. Many thanks to Sandy for some excellent photos in tricky lighting conditions.
There has been considerable discussion over the past week about the British Fantasy Awards, who won them and why.
I was at FantasyCon in Brighton this year, and had a great time. The organisation was excellent, the venue worked well and it was great to see everyone there – the weather gave the whole weekend a summer holiday feel. I didn’t stay for the Sunday afternoon as I had a five-hour journey including a replacement bus service and London rail closures to negotiate and so I missed the awards ceremony, but it would be a shame if controversy over the awards overshadowed an excellent event.
Many thanks and congratulations to Marie, Paul and the whole team for all their effort in making FantasyCon 2011 a success.
The awards, though, were not a success and have culminated in the unfortunate situation that Sam Stone has handed back the August Derleth Award for Best Novel after there was criticism of the selection procedure and the method by which the books were shortlisted. It speaks volumes for Sam’s integrity that she gave back the award.
According to the rules of the society, the British fantasy Awards are presented on the basis of the votes from the membership of both the society and the members of FantasyCon, but while readers of genre fiction number in their hundreds of thousands, members of the BFS and FantasyCon number only in their hundreds.
It has been remarked upon before that the BFS has a strong bias towards Horror, a part of genre fiction which has been in decline in recent years. The fact that FantasyCon and the BFS Awards therefore have a strong bias towards Horror, and that the awards tend to go to authors known by the membership of FantasyCon who have worked hard to build a following in that group, should come as no surprise. It is a natural consequence of the process as it stands.
The 2011 shortlist for Best Novel, known as the August Derleth Award, is shown below:
- Apartment 16 ‘ Adam Nevill ‘ Pan McMillan
- Demon Dance ‘ Sam Stone ‘ The House Of Murky Depths
- Leaping, The ‘ Tom Fletcher ‘ Quercus
- Pretty Little Dead Things ‘ Gary McMahon ‘ Angry Robot
- Silent Land, The ‘ Graham Joyce ‘ Gollancz
There are no works of Fantasy on this list. Some of them might be described as Dark Fantasy, but the emphasis is on the dark element, rather than the fantastic.
August Derleth was the person who first published H P Lovecraft. He was a writer himself and coined the term “Cthulu Mythos”. It should be no surprise, therefore, that the August Derleth Award for Best Novel is rarely won by a work of Fantasy and is usually awarded to a Horror writer. Some years there are no works of Fantasy on the shortlist at all – as was the case this year. This is not because no works of Fantasy were published, or that none of them were worthy of recognition.
After the events of this year’s awards, the BFS is at a crossroads. For its awards to mean something, it needs to reestablish the credibility of those awards and the process that selects the winners. A first step to that, perhaps, would be to openly promote the August Derleth Award as an award for Horror writers, making the de facto situation a reality.
Then people might stop wondering why so few Fantasy works end up on the shortlist, and the winners of the award would get recognition from the people who appreciate the best in Horror fiction.
FantasyCon is a little later in the year than usual and in Brighton instead of Nottingham, giving those in the south of the country and opportunity to come along and meet your favourite genre fiction authors. This year has special guest, Christopher Paolini, famous not only for the Inheritance series but also for his somewhat unconventional rise to fame.
There will also be Guests of Honour: Gwyneth Jones, Sarah Pinborough, Peter Atkins, John Ajvide Lindqvist, plus Brian Aldiss, author of over 80 novels including the superb Helliconia trilogy, two of which won BSFA Awards with the other nominated, and Joe Abercrombie, author of The First Law trilogy, one of my personal favourite fantasy series. Details of the Guests of Honour can be found here.
I shall be reading on Saturday at 4:30 in Reading Room 134, but come early and hear Anne Lyle read from her Elizabethan historical fantasy, The Alchemy of Souls, at 2:30, the incomparable Mike Carey at 3:30, and M D Lachlan‘s norse Wolfsangel series at 4pm, then stay for Jaine Fenn after my reading at 5pm. It’s looking like a superb afternoon, and that’s without leaving the Readings Room.
Hope to see you there.