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Many Happy Returns – TWF

There is always a degree of uncertainty before an organised event. Will people come? Will the sun shine? Are there enough chairs? These are questions that disturb the sleep of any organiser and the truth is that you never know until the day.

Well, the Write Fantastic needn’t have worried. Well, except for the sun, that is. Otherwise, the Write Fantastic 5th Anniversary event went very well indeed. I don’t know the exact numbers, but about sixty people turned up to listen to panels and mingle with authors. There was a very friendly informal atmosphere and plenty of opportunity to catch up with old friends and make new ones.

The panels went well, with the right balance of information, comment and humour, and the audience asked some excellent questions.  The venue also helped; the combination of space to gather looking out over the lawns of St Hilda’s College with a dedicated auditorium worked well.

One suggestion for next year – If people have Twitter names (mine is @shevdon) it would be nice to have room for them on name badges.  It would save me squinting at people and wondering if I know them by some other nom-de-tweet. Or maybe I should get a separate tweet-badge, just for that purpose?

The day rounded off with the launch of the Anniversaries Anthology (copies still available from The Write Fantastic, I believe) and a few celebratory remarks from Juliet E McKenna to mark the occasion.  So, it was a very good day – I certainly enjoyed myself.  There was much talk and a degree of arm twisting that this should become an annual event, which as Oxford doesn’t really have a speculative fiction event, could definitely work.  Watch TWF’s website for news on that.

Thanks to all involved in the organisation and staging of the event, and may I take this opportunity to wish the Write Fantastic a very happy 5th birthday, and many happy returns of the day.

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The Write Fantastic is Five

Here at Shevdon Manor, we were delighted to receive an invitation to participate in the fifth birthday bash for none other than The Write Fantastic.  This is scheduled for Saturday 8th May at St Hilda’s College, Oxford

For those of you out of the loop, The Write Fantastic formed as a group of fantasy fiction authors with the common interest of promoting the genre, getting new readers involved and engaging in events and activities.  It’s not a unique group but over the years it has been remarkably successful, not least due to the efforts of those involved.

I have been to a number of Write Fantastic events over the years and have enjoyed them all without exception.  They are a great bunch of people and they’ve just extended their ranks to include Kari Sperring, Freda Warrington, Liz Williams and Ian Whates.  Ian, of course, is a fellow Angry Roboteer and author of City of Dreams and Nightmare.  I went to Kari Sperring’s reading of Living with Ghosts at FantasyCon last year, which was very atmospheric, and I came home from Eastercon with a copy of that and Liz Williams’ Snake Agent, signed, as my prizes from Eastercon.

The day is planned as a mini convention, there will be panels, opportunities to meet authors (bring books if you want them signed). There is a full programme planned.  It starts at 10am and at 10:30 I am doing a panel called “Debut novels – the adventure starts here” with Ian Whates, Kari Sperring and David Moore.

Also attending (in no particular order) are Juliet McKenna, Jessica Rydill, Geoff Ryman, Ben Jeapes, Sarah Ash, Stephen Deas, Jenni Hill, Chaz Brenchley, Freda Warrington, Liz Williams, Geoff Ryman and the lovely Ian Watson.

The afternoon will culminate in the launch of The Write Fantastic “Anniversaries” Anthology, published by Newcon Press at around 4pm, with opportunities to mingle and chat.

The event will be held in the Jacqueline du Pré Music Building at St Hilda’s College, so it’s a great venue.  Overall, the event is highly recommended and should be a really fun day.  Hope to see you there.

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Odyssey 2010

The equinox has come and gone and spring is definitely upon us.  You can tell this by the snow outside.  Spring means Easter, though, and that means Eastercon, which is being held at the Radisson Edwardian Hotel near Heathrow this year.

Odyssey 2010 is probably the largest and most comprehensive con in the UK and covers the full range of media, films, TV, comics and of course, books.  The program spans from Good Friday through to Easter Monday and is available here.  The Guests of Honour are Alastair Reynolds, Iain M Banks, Liz Williams and Mike Carey, which is quite some line-up.

I will be there from Saturday morning, and will be participating at the following events:

Open Autograph Session. 12pm-1pm. Hotel Lobby. Lots of our attending writers will be present to sign your books. Joe Abercrombie, Aliette de Bodard, Chaz Brenchley, Mike Carey, Mike Cobley, Paul Cornell, Stephen Deas, Jaine Fenn, Colin Harvey, Roz Kaveney, MD Lachlan, Claude Lalumie?re, MEG, Ian R. MacLeod, John Meaney, Ricardo Pinto and Liz Williams, Suzanne McLeod, Mike Shevdon.

The Occult in Modern Urban Fantasy. 6pm-7pm. Room 12. Modern urban fantasy is strongly influenced by the occult. Why is the occult such a rich source of stories, and how do you keep your characters authentic but uncliched? Mike Carey, Suzanne McLeod, Mike Shevdon and Pat Rigby-McMurray (mod).

London as an SF/F Setting for Books, Comics and TV. 7pm-8pm. Room 12. From Doctor Who to Neverwhere to Stickleback in 2000AD, London has made many appearances in Fantasy and SF (and even as board games). The panel discuss the different ways in which the capital has been portrayed. Sebastian Bleasdale, Mike Carey, Roz Kaveney, Pat Rigby-McMurray (mod) and Mike Shevdon.

If you’re planning to be there, do come and say hello, either at the Open Session, after a panel, in the bar or wherever.  There are loads of other sessions to go to and lots of great writers will be attending, either as guests or simply to enjoy the con themselves.

Hope to see you there.

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Phoenix Convention VII

With my first Phoenix Convention over, I returned to a pile of things to do and a busy week ensued. It wasn’t until the weekend that I was able to think back and realise what a great time we had. PCon certainly isn’t the largest convention I’ve been to, nor is it the grandest venue, but for me it had two things that made it stand out.

The first was the mix of guests and attendees. Approximately a quarter of the people at P-Con were writing, or making films, or editing, or doing something in the way of creative endeavour. The other three quarters were people who enjoyed and commented on those things. While that alone would not make a great convention it was a great start.

I’ve been to conventions where everyone seems to know everyone else, but where they all stay in their groups, talking about things that are only relevant (or even comprehensible) to that group. It makes it very difficult for people new to the convention to join in and make contact, and tends to lead to a stable set of attendees who simply get older each time the convention repeats. I have sat in panel discussions where the question has been asked, “How do we bring in some new blood?  How do we grow?”

The answer might be found in the second element to P-Con’s heady brew, the atmosphere. This started with the organisers, who were welcoming and friendly and keen to introduce you to people, immediately eroding any barriers that might have formed. It continued, with guests and fans that mingled throughout the convention, keen to chat, open to questions and conversation. In panels it was less about the panel members discussing the subject and more about the panel and the audience have an open discussion on the topic at hand. It was light-hearted, interesting and engaging and as much fun to be on the panel as it was to be in the audience.

It is possible that this was partly down to Irish culture, which has the reputation of being one of the friendliest on earth, and Dublin in particular, which Lenny Henry once described as a party city – like a cold Jamaica. We had great weather, which Dublin is not so famous for, and you could go out and see some of the city without making specific preparations against the elements. All of that is contributory, but insufficient in itself to make a great convention.

It certainly helped that the organisation was relaxed but efficient, which must be hard to do when you think about it. Peter and the crew did a fantastic job of making sure everything ran smoothly without making it look stressful or difficult, which is the mark of excellence and for which I would like to express my thanks to all involved. I’m sure there were hiccoughs (aren’t there always?) but they were dealt with quietly and with smiles and good humour, so that nothing became a problem.

The Guest of Honour, Nick Harkaway, was everything a GoH ought to be, charming, funny and with a great collection of stories. As a special treat, the GoH interview is now available on YouTube so that you can hear what Nick had to say about elephants, ninjas and birthday cake. Having listened, you will definitely want to check out his book, The Gone Away World.

And while you’re listening to Nick, sample the atmosphere and savour a taste of what PCon has to offer. Maybe you’ll be tempted to travel over to Dublin and sample PCon VIII next year.

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To Dublin for P-Con 7

This weekend I will be in sunny Dublin for the Phoenix Convention, from Friday evening through until Sunday afternoon  I’m really looking forward to the event and all that’s planned. I have three panels scheduled over the weekend, see below for details.

Saturday 11:00 : What Makes a Good Story along with Ian McDonaldPaedar Ó Guilín and Steve Westcott, which should promote a good discussion about all things writing-related.

Sunday 11:00 : Genre Bending with Laura Anne Gilman, Paedar Ó Guilín and Cheryl Morgan, which seemed appropriate for me, as someone who writes urban fantasy historical mysteries with comedic and horrific elements.

Sunday 13:00 : Urban Fantasy: A flash in the pan or here to stay? with Catie Murphy and Steve Westcott.  Hmm, wonder which side of the debate I’ll take on that one?

I am also looking forward to meeting new and familiar faces, in particular Catie Murphy, author of the superb UF series, The Walker Papers, and fellow Angry Robot author Colin Harvey, who’s new book, Damage Time, is out at the end of April.  In addition, I’ll be travelling over with Juliet E McKenna, which gives her a chance to tell me about the exciting podcast she did with Solaris Books recently.

Hope to see you there.

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Planning for 2010

With it being almost the end of January, I am busy planning the events for the year ahead. Already things are getting booked, so I thought I would share what’s up and coming on the calendar front.

Firstly, we have the Phoenix Convention or PCon as it is probably better known. This takes place on the weekend of the 5th, 6th and 7th March at the Central Hotel Dublin. This will be my first PCon and I am thoroughly looking forward to it.  The guest of honour is Nick Harkaway and there will be lots of other people there including Juliet E McKenna and C E Murphy (who has a posh new website – click the link to see).

I was emailing the organisers in the week about panels and possible events, and asked whether they were running Kaffeeklatsch type sessions and was told that Guinnessklatsch had been discussed. Not sure whether that will make it to the final program or not, but I think it sets the tone nicely.

Then there is Eastercon or Odyssey 2010 as this particular Eastercon seems to be styled.  Held at the Radisson Edwardian Hotel, Heathrow, London between April 2nd – 5th, this is probably the largest of the UK SF, Fantasy and Horror conventions.  As I am a fan of the Felix Castor series, I am delighted that Mike Carey will be there along with Iain M Banks, Liz Williams, Alastair Reynolds and artist Carlos Ezquerra.

From 17th – 19th September at the Britannia Hotel, St James St in Nottingham is FantasyCon, which hosts the British Fantasy Awards and a plethora of other events.  Last year’s FCon was excellent, so while it is a little early to talk programs and guests of honour yet, I am already signed up to attend this year’s event.

Last but by no means least, NewCon 5 is planned for 9th and 10th October in Northampton at it’s regular venue of the Fishmarket Arts Centre.  Not sure what the program will be yet, but this event has a great atmosphere and for a small boutique con it punches far above its weight.  Guests already include Paul Cornell,  Paul McAuley and Pat Cadigan, so it’s already shaping up to be a con not to miss.

Am also thinking I might go to PicoCon as an attendee, but that’s not confirmed yet.

So that’s the program so far.  Lots to look forward to, I’m sure you’ll agree.  If you are going along to one of these events and you feel like saying hello, please do.  It’s always great to meet people who share my enjoyment of the genre and books in general.  I’ll be updating the program with more details when I know more.

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Bedford Signing – Sat 5th December

For those of you in the Bedford area, I will be at Waterstones on Silver Street in Bedford on Saturday 5th December for a signing and ‘meet the author’ type event. The event starts about 10am and will go on until we either run out of books or I get really hungry, probably about 3pm either way.

The team at Waterstones have been most supportive and we are looking forward to a good day, so come along and get your copy signed or just say, Hi.

See you there!