The Raddison Edwardian Heathrow is a strange place. It was either designed by an architect whilst dropping acid or one with an acute hate of right angles. It is possible to take a lift up one floor and end two floors above where you started, routes back from places don’t seem the same as the one you took to get there originally, there are secret stairs that don’t seem to take you down to the logical place on the floor below; heck, it even has a pond on the second floor. It is a place that seems to break the laws of geometry and physics, and therefore the perfect place to hold an Eastercon.
I was here two years ago for a pervious Eastercon. It was there I had my first con where I didn’t feel invisible, the con where those of us who had started talking on twitter just a few months earlier met for the first time in the flesh, taking over the pro’s bar and dominating it. It was the con where Adam Christopher and I excitedly discussed our dreams of publication, where Amanda Rutter was just making a name for herself attending her first con as a book blogger. We were all full of dreams and had an amazing time.
A lot’s changed in two years since we were last here (not least the entrance to the pro’s bar which has moved round the corner – more evidence of the satanic architectural forces at work in the building). Adam has his first highly acclaimed book out and 3 more on the way. Amanda now has her own imprint. It was hard not to look back and wonder what I had achieved in the last 2 years. It’s a dangerous game comparing your career to others and I had to try really hard to stop doing it on occasions. Everyone’s path is unique.
This was proved to me over the weekend when I bumped into an old friend from the BSFA Orbiter’s group. When I first joined I had to crit a short story of his which was so incredible, I felt I didn’t deserve to be part of the group. Nick’s an amazing writer and the story, Of Hearts & Monkeys, eventually got published in Postscripts. We stood chatting what we’d both been up to since we last spoke, and discussed rejections and successes (but mostly rejections). It was only then that I realised how far I’ve come. “Sounds like you’ve almost made it,” he said to me. Depends on your definition of ‘made it’, I suppose, but it made me realise that I’d not been stagnant these past few years and just how much I’ve done in the last 2 years.
So I focused on the future. Stephen Aryan and I laid groundwork back in January but new jobs and moving meant that we had to delay those plans until each of us was settled. Eastercon presented itself as a good way to flesh some of those plans out, and if nothing else the weekend was worth it just for that.
But as it happens, it was a very good con. The schedule smartphone app was a stroke of genius and within 5 minutes of using it, I wondered how we had ever managed without it. Schedule updates, maps, alerts and twitter feeds all within a few finger taps.
George R R Martin was guest of honour and whilst I’m not the biggest of ASOIAF fan, he is the biggest Fantasy author in the world right now, and I have a lot of respect for that, even if I have my own individual niggles with the books. But what a lovely person he was! His reading was that rare sort you could just get lost in, that carried you far away from Heathrow and its constant rumble of jets and smell of Kerosene. I could have listened to him read all day. He was also a good guest of honour: good humoured, intelligent, and mixing with the fans and pros alike.
I wish I could have said that about all the guests of honour. The discussion on the nature of heroism was a panel I was looking forward to, and GoH Trisha Sullivan had some good points to make, but she laboured them to the extreme, subverting what could have been an interesting discussion on whether violence and heroism were synonymous, into a rant that women had been written out of the history books. I have to admit my greatest annoyance came when she brought out a Bionicle and a Hero Factory toy and claimed it was evidence of society’s willingness to take things to ever greater extremes. For the record they are two different toys released over 5 years apart at completely different price points. It was akin to bringing out an apple and a watermelon and using as evidence of genetic engineering. I’m not even sure that she’d even read Martin or Joe Abercrombie, as whatever their ‘crimes’ you can’t say they don’t ever show the consequences of violence in their work. Joe did his best to try and make it light-hearted and the moderator did his best to try and steer things back on course, but it was a bit of an embarrassment.
Paul Cornell on the other hand was his usual delightful self. He’s a great choice for a guest of honour: always happy to talk to fans, passionate about genre, engaging, and intelligent. My only regret is that I had to leave before his reading from his forthcoming novel.
Amanda was there with some of her Strange Chemistry team (She now has a team!). I’ve known Laura Lam since Fantasycon (although in the nicest way, it seems like longer) but it was the first time I’d met Kim Curran whose upcoming book, Shift, sounds really interesting. I’m excited about the forward momentum for Strange Chemistry. It all seems to be happening so quickly. Amanda did even jokingly try to recruit George R R Martin to her ranks, but apparently he’s busy on some other project called Winds of Winter 😉
Then there were people like Saxon, Sarah-Jane, Tom and Mr & Mrs Strong who I kept bumping into and hanging out with. It was also good to see people Jason Baki and Cara Murphy, part of the original gang from 2 years back that I’d not seen much of since. And I also met a lot of new people including Elspeth and Ruth.
Anne Lyle sold out her new book from Angry Robot in the first day, and I was pleased to show her evidence on my kindle that I had already bought it, even if I’ve still not got round to reading it.
We invented a couple of new con games whilst in the bar. The first was called ‘Author Wave’ and involved giving authors a friendly wave. If they just waved back you got 1 point, if they looked confused but waved anyway you got 2, and if they just ran away you got 3. I’d like to thank Stephen Deas for giving both Stephen and myself the only 2 pointer of the weekend. Mike Shevdon got smart and started nodding and George R R Martin completely blew me out.
Then there was Author Cosplay where we tried to point out con-goers to each other who looked vaguely like authors (although this soon got extended to celebrities) and rated how good their “cosplay” was. We had a lot of George R R Martins (including the actual George R R Martin but we decided his cosplay wasn’t as good as some of the others), a few Terry Pratchetts, a Joe Abercrombie and a Brian Blessed.
The other one was an idea for a game called Pitch! where you scored points for pitching a pre-determined novel to an editor. You got points based on where you pitched it. Obviously, it goes without saying that you should NEVER play this game (even if Adrian Tchaikovsky jokingly suggested I try it on Bella Pagan when she sat down next to me). Author wave and cosplay were harmless fun but Pitch could be a bit creepy and VERY annoying… so please don’t do it. That said, Amanda was interested in the magical horse story Steve and I pitched to her, but then she was in on the joke 🙂
Panels were really good this year in my opinion, possibly because of the high fantasy content. It’s been a long time since there were panels I regretted missing. Probably best of the lot was Mike Shevdon’s archery presentation. It was really, really interesting and I came away feeling I learnt a lot. If he ever does this again and you write fantasy or anything with bows and arrows in it, I recommend attending. I wish they had recorded it.
The only real complaint about the weekend was the food and drink prices. It was the same 2 years ago, and no matter how braced you were for it being expensive it still managed to shock you. Luckily Steve knew of a nearby pub and we went there a couple of nights. Food was great and reasonably priced too. Saved us from a weekend of McDonalds.
As a result of a
meal strategy meeting we missed most of the BSFA awards kerfuffle but then as I said, it wouldn’t be an award without SOME controversy. I still reckon most of it would have blown over if there had just been an apology along the lines of “it wasn’t our intention to cause offense. Sorry” instead of the defensive justification that was posted instead.
I had a great time at Eastercon. I came away both utterly knackered (not helped by my neck playing up to the extent that I nearly slept on the hotel room floor one night) and refreshed. A lot of plans were made for the year ahead, not least the decision not to leave it to the last minute to book for next year’s event.