In a few weeks, I’ll be in Glasgow for the Satellite4, the 65th Eastercon at the Crowne Plaza Hotel. I’ll also be participating in my first-ever panel. This is my only official part of the programming. Aside from that I’ll be bouncing around between other panels and in the bar. If you recognise me, please do feel free to say hello.
Sat 19 April 15.00-16.00
PANEL: Future Representation
The panel explores SF literature in the context of what stories actually are, or are not, being told. Who gets to be in the future; what happens to everyone else; and who gets to decide?
Fran Dowd (moderator), Laura Lam, Stephanie Saulter, Donna Scott, Ian Whates
The last progress report for the World Fantasy Convention went up, and it was really dismissive and terrible. Especially when it downplayed the harassment incident I blogged about earlier, reporting actual lies and using charged victim-blaming language:
“Regrettably, we learned of one small harassment incident that occurred on the Saturday night when an extremely drunken fan made a nuisance of himself in the hotel Lobby. Unfortunately, he was not reported to either of the professional Security guards who were on duty at the time or any member of the con committee. As a result, by the time we had found out about the incident and ascertained the details, the individual concerned (who was not attending the Awards Banquet) had apparently already left the convention.”
I know that there was one man who harassed at least three women, and I heard rumours of two other people who were also crossing the line.
2. an extremely drunken fan made a nuisance of himself in the hotel Lobby
The person wasn’t a fan, but in industry professional. This also is distancing, as WFC kept banging on about how this was an industry convention, not a fan convention (while still happily taking fan’s memberships). And it was nowhere near “making a nuisance of himself.” He made my friends deeply uncomfortable. I’m not even sure if it was in the Lobby, either.
3. he was not reported to either of the professional Security guards who were on duty at the time or any member of the con committee
I was the one who helped Emma and my other friend find someone to speak to, so this very much raised my hackles. I didn’t see any professional security guards, and even if I had seen them, I would have thought they were hired by the hotel and not the con, so I probably wouldn’t have gone to them. And it was indeed reported to a member of the con committee, another friend of mine (and this person reacted really well). The paragraph makes it sound like there was a huge delay before the incident was reported. It was maybe an hour, tops.
This is why, in my previous blog post, I stressed the importance of having a clear harassment policy in place. You can’t get mad at people for not following a policy that doesn’t exist. That makes no sense.
4. As a result, by the time we had found out about the incident and ascertained the details, the individual concerned (who was not attending the Awards Banquet) had apparently already left the convention.”
I was informed that the Board was told at 8 am the next morning about it. Had the person really left that early?
The whole thing leaves a very bad taste in my mouth. And it’s such a shame, too, because despite this huge disappointment, I had fun at WFC, and many people involved did a great job running and volunteering at the con, and this casts a shadow over that. If you care about the safety of your attendees, you don’t blame them in an email sent to every convention attendee. You don’t shame them for being brave enough to come forward. You don’t brush it away under a rug and lie on multiple points to try and make yourself look better. I didn’t really expect the board to do much, but I didn’t expect them to insult my friends, either. It’s like a parody of how I expected them to react.
So I’m back from World Fantasy Con in Brighton. I’m exhausted and distinctly under the weather, though I’m feeling a bit better now. It was my first and only convention of the year, I believe, and overall I had a wonderful, amazing time, though I do have one complaint, which I’ll get to after the excited squeeing.
This was my first con since Pantomime came out. It was so cool/bizarre/amazing to have a few people come up to me and say how much they enjoyed Pantomime, both some people I knew and even a few strangers! Thank you so much to everyone who took the time to tell me that. I even met Ellie (@patchworkbunny) who had just started Shadowplay. Thank you to Mieneke (@Pallekenl) for bringing me stroopwaffels 😀
The main highlight for me was being able to meet two of my favourite authors, and find out they’re both really nice people. I met Robin Hobb for the first time, and she gave me a big hug (I managed not to cry, but I came close). She’s been my favourite author since I was 15 and is a big influence, plus I also met my husband through her books. I even brought my husband’s battered childhood copy of Assassin’s Apprentice down to show her (much to his acute embarrassment). I also met Scott Lynch, another of my favourite authors, and got a hug from him too, as well as meeting the amazing Elizabeth Bear, whose books I must go hunt down now. In the photo below, Scott Lynch is wearing my glasses and making a sad face.
It’s strange, meeting authors whose work you admire for the first time. You don’t know them, not really, but you’ve spent so much time in their imaginations. It’s a funny little disconnect.
I wasn’t on any panels, but I managed to sneak on and do a ninja reading with Amy McCulloch, which was fun. Amy’s reading was fantastic, so I felt a bit nervous following on after her. I loved the giant Alice in Wonderland thrones they had in the readings. It was funny going back and reading from Pantomime, since I hadn’t read the start of chapter two in a while. I had to resist the urge to go back and edit ;-).
I went to a few of the programming events: the conversation with Terry Pratchett, which was sweet and a little melancholy. The “how far is too far” in YA panel, and the “are all the best books in genre now YA?” The first I found amusing as many of the authors were basically like “we have to discuss this so many times. When will we give the magical answer so that they stop making this panel at every convention?” Which, you know, is a fair point. I particularly enjoyed Francis Hardinge’s responses, and remember her saying something along lines of: “Books are comforting. Books are kind. Books are there when no one else is,” which stuck with me (though not enough for me to quote it verbatim with any certainty). The other YA panel was a veritable panel of YA royalty with Susan Cooper, Garth Nix, Neil Gaiman, Will Hill, and Holly Black. It was a good panel, though it seemed to sidetrack more into “what is YA?” rather than exploring what about YA makes them some of the most exciting works in genre, such as the blending of subgenres, et cetera.
On Saturday evening, I went out for dinner with my agent and the 11 or so of her authors that were in attendance! It was really great to meet some of them I only knew online and joke around with several more. There were a LOT of in-jokes spawned. To the left is a photo of Andrew Reid, Stephen Aryan, Tad Williams in the background, and a langoustine. That about sums up the tone of the night.
Mostly, what I came away from this con with was that so many people in genre are kind and welcoming, and it’s nice to geek out and see old faces and meet new ones. It’s fun to blend the lines between author, professional, and fan.
There was a bit of a dark spot on the con, unfortunately, and I did want to discuss it, as the con wasn’t as smooth for others as it was for me. There were complaints before the con about the lack of panel parity and the almost belligerent tone of official correspondence. Additionally, several people mentioned that there was no harassment policy, and this was an answer to the harassment policy FAQ:
“World Fantasy Convention 2013, as with any other predominantly adult gathering, will have a number of rules and regulations for the safety of attendees. These will be clearly stated in our Programme Guide, which will be given to each attendee when they register. In the meantime, we refer you to the UK’s Protection from Harassment Act 1997” (Source).
However, it was later changed to: “World Fantasy Convention 2013 will not tolerate any form of verbal or racial abuse, sexual harassment, aggression, violence or lewd behaviour towards any attendees or members of staff. If reported to our professional Security and Stewards or to a staff member—and substantiated by the event organisers—then any person deemed to have committed such an act will be immediately ejected from the convention without refund and may even be reported to the police under the UK’s Protection from Harassment Act (1997)” (Source).
Even though that’s much better, that’s not a specific, separate harassment policy, which many other conventions have. For example, here’s one for Nine Worlds, which covers what harassment is, what someone should do, also includes an anti-racism statement, and clearly states what will happen if they violate these conditions.
Two of my friends were harassed by a drunk man on Saturday night, making them feel incredibly uncomfortable. They compared notes and realized they should report it, and I helped them find someone to speak to. The organisers responded very well and quickly by taking down the information, but then the person in question was not, as far as they know, removed (though that FAQ answer up above says they would be), nor have they as of now been contacted for a follow up. There was one tweet that they were investigating a sexual harassment claim; however, they weren’t even sure if it was related to their experience, as there was evidently an author who was harassing women as well (though I’m not sure if anyone officially reported about the other person). I’m not mentioning names as I was not directly involved. I do know that these two names have been noted down for Bristolcon, and that they won’t be allowed to attend.
While obviously sexual harassment is protected by law, it would be nice if all cons, no matter how big or small, how professional of fan-oriented, put a harassment policy in place. Sometimes, people are lecherous and deeply unpleasant, but that doesn’t mean that the men or women harassed want to go through legal means and get them arrested. But if there is a policy in place, people who have been made to feel uncomfortable can know who they should contact (my friends couldn’t find any redcoats, as it was pretty late), and it would also make it clear what would happen should someone harass someone else. Ideally, this policy would never have to be enforced, but sadly, harassment is still all-too-common in conventions. By putting a harassment policy on the convention’s website, it’s at the very least a gesture that says to all attendees that the con itself cares about the safety and comfort of their attendees.
EDITED TO ADD: I’ve been informed that the incident was passed to the chairs of the convention at 8 am on Sunday and that the person who reported the incident has been followed up with today 🙂 I also want to clarify that I’m not attacking WFC, but mainly wished to stress the importance of clear anti-harassment policies for future conventions.
So, aside from that unpleasantness, it was a good con and I enjoyed myself. I’d do a huge name drop of all the wonderful people I saw again and met for the first time, but then we’d be here all day and I’d invariably forget someone. Often I come back after a con drained, but this time as Kim Curran and I took the train back from Brighton, we smiled happily, still buzzing from who we met and what we learned. Until the next con!
I am still recovering from the Chicago Worldcon, but it was a blast. Here’s some bulletpoints of the week:
The week was a lot of hanging around, eating, drinking, and uh, not going to many panels on my part. The next con I’m going to I’m going to plan my time better.
That’s not to say I was in the Big Bar the entire time. Because the Angry Robots took over Worldcon, we did a few events. We went out for pizza, we went bowling, and there was a book reading at The Book Cellar. I went to the Tor party and sat through part of the Hugos, but it was so packed I couldn’t stand in the back the entire time, so we followed via Twitter.
I was really impressed by the Hugos, which I’d not followed that closely in previous years. Out of the 17 categories, 11 of the wins were of women, and there was a good parity between genders in the nominations. As so many award ceremonies have been male dominated, that was refreshing. Another goal next year is to read all the nominations next year and vote.
This con was a lot about meeting people I’ve known online for some time. Foremost was meeting Wesley Chu, who I chat to on gchat pretty much every day, so meeting in person and staying at his house was a treat. Also invading Wesley, his lovely wife Paula, and their dog Eva’s home was my husband, Craig, my editor, Amanda Rutter, and Adam Christopher.
I also met many of my Strange Chemistry and Angry Robot stablemates for the first time: Gwenda Bond, Cassandra Rose Clarke, Ramez Naam, his girlfriend Molly, Lee Collins, his girlfriend Victoria, Chuck Wendig, and Matt Forbeck. Saw Lee Harris, Anne Lyle and Kim Curran again. New people met: Mur Lafferty, Stephen Blackmore, Stacia Decker, Anne Zanoni, and Josh Vogt.
Also, I said a brief awkward hello to Neil Gaiman (photographic proof to the left!) and then ran away from Neil Gaiman to say a quick hello to Scott Lynch, who is one of my favourite authors. Yay! I’m sure I’ve forgotten people and will have to go back and slyly edit this.
Overall, it was a great, if exhausting week. Now I’m in California hanging out with my family, so stay tuned for a California post later!
Eastercon 2012 will go down in my books as one of my favourite conventions, hands down. The weekend passed in a blur of laughter, geeky jokes, some panels, and lots of drinking in the bar. Hopefully, it’ll also be the only con where I have to walk around with a cane as well–I sprained my ankle badly a few days ago.
I knew the weekend would be good when my book sister and Strange Chemistry stablemate, Kim Curran, showed up at the airport with a sign saying “LAURA LAM – AUTHOR.” When you meet an online friend in person for the first time, there is always that niggling fear that your chemistry only works online, that you’ll meet in person and just sort of go “so…” and stare at the ceiling. Not so with Kim. We chatted about everything under the sun and it was ace.
Friday, Kim bravely ventured into the con on her own to ready herself for her first and only panel, and I hobbled into central London to meet my agent. Here was another case where I was a bit nervous that we wouldn’t get along as well in person, but it turns out that fear was unfounded and we got along swimmingly. Hurray!
I ventured back to the con and realised via Twitter that my editor, Amanda Rutter, was only a train ahead of me, so she waited for me at Terminal 1 and we took the bus up to the hotel together. We said our hellos to friends, and then Kim and I unveiled our secret, which was fun. Underneath our jackets and cardigans we were wearing Strange Chemistry t-shirts we’d had made, and we’d gotten one for Amanda as well. So we have a uniform.
Due to my sore ankle, I ended up camping out in the bar for most of the weekend with my foot up on a table. That’s my excuse, anyway, and I’m sticking to it. I went to two panels–“How not to suppress womens’ writing” and “YA Dystopia.” I also went to the George R. R. Martin interview, the BFSA awards (which I won’t go into…), and Tom Pollock’s reading (where he single-handedly made every author feel like their oratory skills were sorely lacking), and Adam Christopher’s reading (who, while he didn’t screech like a train, still did an excellent job). But mainly I was just hanging out with dear friends, and making some new ones.
I’m going to echo Adam Christopher’s quote of Paul Cornell–you do feel “cozy in the genre.” The genre seems to have its fair share of spats and trod toes, but overall it’s people having fun, dreaming up worlds and sharing our favourites. Even George R.R. Martin, who’s hugely successful, was able to just sit in the bar and chat with people, and hopefully no one was too weird to him (me included!). As always, I wish I’d been better about taking photos while I was there. It would have been nice to have a photo with me and Juliet, and photos of me, Kim, and Amanda in our t-shirts, and some candid photos of people laughing in the bar. I could make a little album for us to look back on in the future.
And here’s my obligatory “photo on the Iron Throne.”
Last weekend I made the arduous journey from the frozen north of Aberdeen to frozen northern Wales for the third annual SFX Weekender. This was my second UK convention. Last time at Fantasycon, I didn’t know what to expect and was utterly terrified. This time, I felt more confident and at ease and overall I enjoyed myself.
SFX was held in Pontins holiday camp in Prestatyn, Wales. Pontins is nothing to write home about—so-called “chalets” that bear more resemblance to council estates with basic amenities, and the food in the canteen was inedible cardboard. But really, it was only a place to house us, and evidently Prestatyn was a huge improvement over last year’s location (I shudder to think what that were like–a haunted look came into peoples’ eyes when they mentioned it, like they had seen unspeakable horror).
It was wonderful to meet people I met last time and make new friends as well. Highlights include: the kebab fiasco, almost getting lost on the way to the Tor party in some tiny Welsh lanes with Adam Christopher, Will Hill, and Lou Morgan and finding Lavie Tidhar, David Tallerman, and a few others stranded at a “Pampered Pets” cattery by their cabbie (don’t worry, the cabbie came back for them). Staying up late and chatting with my Party Chalet roomies: Suzanne McLeod, Alex Bell, Michaela Deas, Diane Ware, and Sophia McDougall. I also briefly met China Mieville, though I couldn’t think of anything interesting to say to him other than “how’s life?” (evidently it’s good). I also enjoyed attending the Strange Chemistry chalet pizza party, having surprisingly delicious food at the nearby haven of civilisation known as Beaches Hotel, and playing Apples to Apples, which is a lot of fun with a bunch of writers and publishers. Plus, I totally won, hehe. I regret that I never got around to dancing.
I only went to several panels, but I enjoyed them. Elf Preservation examined fantasy races and their purpose in genre literature. I also attended the urban fantasy and space opera panels, which were full of good discussion. I was also present at the costume contest, but I couldn’t see a thing so I have no idea who won. I didn’t go to any signings, as I’m not too bothered by those, and I dislike queuing more than necessary.
I did have a few criticisms. The main one was that there was nowhere to sit and chat easily, unlike Fantasycon. The signing room/canteen was loud, crowded, and smelled of stale grease. The main arena was loud and dark, as was the screening room. If something was going on in the pub, it was also loud. My throat started protesting Saturday night from the constant almost yelling to make myself heard to my friends. Next year, having a quieter place to sit and nurse a drink and chat would be most welcome. I’m also a fan of name tags, as I’m astronomically bad at remembering peoples’ names and this saves my ass.
My other criticism concerns the girls in lingerie on stilts. I’m not a prude by any stretch of the imagination, but it felt unnecessary. SFX had a fairly even gender divide in attendance, as far as I could tell. The girls were for the men and perhaps queer women (though I spoke to two bisexual women who felt similar to me about them). I really didn’t feel they were necessary, and Sophia McDougall says it all better than I have.
Because Wales is hard for me to get to, I’m not sure if I’ll go next year, but I’m glad I went this time.
Lastly, here’s me in my half-assed costume of an urban fantasy elf, with a blurry Joe Abercrombie in the background. (Photocred: Andrew)
I have now been to two conventions. I attended Comic Con in San Diego in 2009, which is now a hazy recollection of lots of queuing and a blur of media previews and people frantically pressing freebees into my grasping hands.
FantasyCon was on the opposite end of the spectrum. The only queue was waiting with a friend to check into her room on the first day. 450 people or so attended, and it was a nice blend of readers, writers (both established and hopeful), bloggers, and industry professionals. The programme was packed full of panels, readings, and book launches, and there was even a disco and a Lovecraft-themed burlesque, though I’m afraid I didn’t watch much of that. Nipple tassels just aren’t quite my thing, you understand, even if there are tentacles involved.
I went not knowing what to expect or quite how to act. I ended up just being myself, though I squashed my nerves as deep as they would go. I made lots of friends, learned a lot about the industry, and I hope I didn’t make a complete idiot of myself. I have plenty of genre fans in my day-to-day life, but it’s always nice to get into in-depth discussions with near-strangers about all sorts of geeky subjects. I ended up ranting a couple of times about my thoughts on gender and sexuality in SFF (sometimes at great length depending on how much gin I had ingested for courage), but people put up with them graciously.
I ended up not attending as many panels and readings as I’d initially planned due to losing track of the time and consistently misplacing my programme. I attended the Judging a Book by its Cover Panel, which was interesting as I’d never really thought about the process of cover art, aside from wondering why cover artists sometimes ignored what a character was meant to look like (like the beautiful American cover art of Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb having a blonde Fitz). I also attended The Rise of YA Panel, Dealing with Agents and Editors, and How to Market Your Novel.
A few times in the panels, the issue of women writers in SF was brought forth before industry professionals, as there appear to be far more men writing in the genre than women. Jo Fletcher (of the new imprint of Quercus, aptly titled Jo Fletcher Books), said that she felt it a travesty, but for some reason science fiction with female names tended to sell less. Juliet E. McKenna brought up an excellent point that it’s not so much that there’s a gender discrepancy in the gender of writers, but than men are receiving 70% of the reviews, which thus lowers the visibility of female science fiction writers.
I only attended a few readings, and for my next con, I plan to go to more. I went to Adam Christopher’s and Anne Lyle’s. I knew Anne online and befriended Adam pretty early on and so it was wonderful to get a taste for their writing, but I also wish I’d sat in on at least one author I didn’t already know.
I also attended a MasterClass with literary agent Will Francis, of Janklow & Nesbit, and I really enjoyed it. As a hopeful writer who’s queried a couple of agents without any luck so far, it was nice to ask questions and have more of an idea of what it’s like from the other side of the query.
Mainly, I spent a lot of time in the bar, chatting with people. And that’s the main strength of these conventions—making friends and connections. Writing is a solitary activity for many. I’m lucky in that my husband also writes, but many do not have that support. And the genre community in the UK is lovely and welcoming, and so even if you’re a nervous newbie, I can’t recommend going to them enough.
See the gallery below for two photos of the beach and the Royal Pavilion.