|A burnt-out wreck on Brighton seafront ... and that's just me on the Sunday morning.|
So here's my outsider's guide to what goes on at a Convention, from the eye-level of a worm.
As soon as you register at the front desk they give you LOTS of free books - there are literally stacks of books laid out by publishers for the taking thereof. Some of them haven't even been published yet and are Sekret Preview copies! So you fill up your bags (they also give you bags). And then you go to the Dealers' Room and buy more books from small presses and second-hand sellers - and they often give you free chocolates and mugs and postcards and stuff when you make a purchase. So by the end of the weekend you can have suitcases full of freebies ... which is the point at which you realise that you haven't got a car and you have to make it back on the train/tube/plane hauling the lot. A process of winnowing takes place. Free books are left in hotels all over the city, possibly distorting the economy for years to come.
(I was, btw, deeply interested to see that big-name fantasy authors - and I mean BIG names - print and reprint many many books via the small presses. It's clearly not all caviar and champagne at the top end, either).
This bit is awesome, if you have Fannish inclinations. I SAW SUSAN COOPER!! IN THE FLESH! She is real! Susan Cooper, in case you don't know, wrote The Dark Is Rising series, five books that dominated my childhood. I lived and breathed those books. I liked to pretend I was an Old One in disguise. *sigh*
Now I'm just Old.
|Best. Cover. Ever.|
It turns out that SC studied English in JRR Tolkien's class at university, and her first boss when she went into journalism was Ian "James Bond" Fleming.
I bet she was a fan-girl too.
|Susan Cooper and Neil Gaiman: double swoon from all women of a certain age|
|Terry Pratchett: friend and collaborator with Neil Gaiman|
|Tanith Lee: no known relationship to Neil Gaiman, so probably his mother or something.|
3) The MASS SIGNING:
This is a useful Buddhist exercise in teaching authors to swallow their egos.
The idea is, every single author at the convention goes in and finds a random place at a table. They put a name plate in front of them. They wait desperately for people to bring them pre-bought books to sign. They hope that that they haven't accidentally sat next to someone much more well-known who will just make them look like a huge loser. (Luckily, Neil Gaiman gets a room to himself, so nobody has to actually slit their wrists in humiliation.) NO, the authors are not allowed to actually sell or display their books. NO, the dealers' room isn't open at this point, so fans can't even nip out and buy one.
NO, I didn't take part.
4) BEING ON A PANEL:
|A worm amidst dragons: Chaz Brenchley, Michael Marshall Smith, me, Jane Johnson (fiction publishing director for HarperCollins), Heather Graham, Robin Hobb.|
5) BOOK LAUNCHES / PUBLISHER PARTIES
Publishers hand out free wine and nibbles to anyone who strolls in. This is a Good Thing. There might be a signing table somewhere at the back, but I have no clear memory ...
6) HANGING OUT WITH FRIENDS
|Megan Kerr and Kristina Lloyd and a ton of booze|
And this is the best bit of all :-)