Wednesday, 6 November 2013

World Fantasy Convention 2013: a worm's-eye view

A burnt-out wreck on Brighton seafront ... and that's just me on the Sunday morning.
I'm not exactly a fraud when it comes to the World Fantasy Convention - I have had horror shorts published, and I do write fantasy, paranormal and mythological fiction within the erotica genre - but I'm not "really" a fantasy author by community standards. Erotica is the one genre that SF and horror geeks get to sneer at. We are pond-scum. We are worms. (That doesn't mean that proper authors don't write erotica - they certainly do, but they do it under pen-names and they NEVER ADMIT TO IT).

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.


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.

A worm amidst dragons: Chaz  Brenchley, Michael Marshall Smith, me, Jane Johnson (fiction publishing director for HarperCollins), Heather Graham, Robin Hobb.


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 ...

Megan Kerr and Kristina Lloyd and a ton of booze

 And this is the best bit of all :-)


DaveF said...

Au contraire, I have the evidence that you did indeed sign one book at an official signing table - my now treasured copy of Named & Shamed. To be fair you probably had the highest ratio of time spent at a table compared to books signed - at least as good as Joe Hill's or Neil Gaiman's ratio.

Loved your panel, though I thought Annie was cheating asking you a question she clearly knew the answer to!

Janine Ashbless said...

Surely being asked to sit down and sign is cheating? And you brought your own pen! ;-D

DaveF said...

Fair comment :)

Chris said...

That just looks so awesome. Feel my jealousy!

Anonymous said...

@DaveF - Actually, I didn't already know the answer to the question I asked Janine and I was genuinely interested in the answer. However, I do know Janine quite well and could have asked her at lunch afterwards so I suppose it was a bit cheeky.
But, as the least famous amongst the panelists and a personal friend, I thought it good that she got a question of her own, a bit of a plug and anyway Jane Johnson (excellent moderating btw) thought it was a good question. Certainly gender changing names specifically to sell in a different genre hadn't come up in the conversation although the gender question was aired lightly.

Nym Nix said...

See, now I would have had a quiet swoon if I encountered you at a con.


Anonymous said...

Someone needs to come up with a way to sign e-books... :)