BristolCon 2018

Hot on the heels of the main course that was FantasyCon, came the delicious desert that is BristolCon, the best one-day event on the calendar, in my opinion (although I’ve never done Edge-Lit).

The 10am start was again just of my reach, the strike hit railway system getting me there just afterwards. But with my panel on publishing coming at 11am I was more about getting into the mindset for that. And while doing so, I finally bought a copy of Fight Like A Girl, and had it signed by editor/authors Jo Hall and Roz Clarke, and artist/author Sophie E Tallis, and chats with them and fellow Grimmies Sammy Smith and Joel Cornah eased my stagefright to manageable levels.

I sat next to moderator Cheryl Morgan, and we were joined by Tony Cooper, Gail Williams and Alicia Wanstall-Burke. Ironically, after a very similar panel two years ago was dominated by Grimbold Books, this year’s one had a strong self-publishing bias. My fellow panelists were all commendably professional in their approach, whereas I was offering shoestring budget options like getting covers done by friends, promotion through Facebook, editing by Uni group, and my big reveal, wearing a t-shirt with the title of the book on it. I also got to comment on the internationality of the process: covers from Norway and Northern Ireland, editing by a San Franciscan of Chinese ancestry (with whom I had argued the previous day, but Alicia’s terror tale of hers put it into perspective), and my being hanner Cymraeg. My last contribution was to reassure a fellow anxiety sufferer in the audience that the writing community is the most supportive and friendly group you could wish to know, a suitably feel-good ending to what felt like a really successful and enjoyable session.

I wound down after that with an educational, if a little off-piste presentation about Isambard Kingdom Brunel, before attending one of the panels I was most looking forward to (and wanted to be on!), a nostalgic look at our childhood favourite books. I sat with Sammy and Kate Coe, to watch another Grimmie in Steven Poore, and the panel he moderated was great fun, but the fun factor and my location had a downside, in that I was sat directly in front of an extremely loud laugher, and by the end my ears were ringing and my head aching. I followed Kate and Sammy to Pete Sutton’s book launch, before I finally had to obey my rumbling stomach and head into Bristol looking for fast food.

I got back for the favourite cliche panel, in which Guest of Honour Jo Hall (whose interview sadly clashed with my own panel) was declared the winner for declaring ugliness as an indicator of evil to be the worst of them. It was well backed up by the other panelists, at the expense of their own choices, especially Farah Mendelsohn, who put a blot on Mortal Engines, my most anticipated movie ever, by lamenting Peter Jackson’s decision to minimise Hester’s scar on the basis that Tom couldn’t possibly fall in love with her otherwise. Unfortunate.

I stayed there for the book length panel, another I’d applied to be on, as the author of probably the slimmest tome at the convention. Juliet McKenna, always one of the smartest voices here, followed up an excellent reading from her new contemporary fantasy by celebrating that ebooks have removed the author’s duty to provide books of 150K plus, and any length now goes.

After another brilliant reading, this time from Emma Newman, the last panel I saw was on the setting as a character – guess what? Yep, yet another one I applied to be on, Firgo itself being the star of my Grimbold novella. I’d have been a busy boy if I’d got on to all of them! The discussion went through a change of setting of its own, detouring through utopia and dystopia – another area I’m right at home in!

Before I left I made sure to stop by Dan Pawley at the registration desk to book up early for next year. I love this city, I love this convention, and I’ll be coming back over and over again.

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