Eastercon 2012

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.”

Some shout-outs: Kim Curran, Adam Christopher, Amanda Rutter, Lee Harris, Anne LyleAdrian Faulkner, Emma Newman, Tom Pollock, Nick Harkaway, Tom Hunter, Nic Clarke, Niall Harrison, Janet Edwards, Rob Haines, Jenny SargentMichele HoweAmy McCulloch, Natasha Tanczos, Francis Knight (mwah, sweetie), Adele Kirby, and many more. I’m sure I forgot people, but I think I got everyone I nattered with the most.

Now I have post-con comedown. Hurry up, August, and ChiCon!

SFX Weekender 3

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)