After that frankly pants first half of 2016 (see previous posts) I was looking forward to a day out in Derby. Time to get back in the saddle, dive back into the genre, go see some very good friends and caress some very good books. Yes, I like books. You might already have guessed.
Edge-Lit never disappoints. Alex Davis and his team of non-expendable Redshirts can cope with pretty much everything a summer’s day in Derby city centre can throw at them, up to and including a Caribbean carnival and a king-sized showroom’s worth of high-revving hot ride motorbikes on the pavement outside the bar. Which was what happened, obviously. Sometimes there’s only so much bass you can physically take before you have to retreat into the murky depths of Derby itself in search on bass-uninflected caffeine rations.
I still remember being the hyper-hyper newbie at my first AltFiction (as it was back in t’day) and even back then the whole con seemed a welcoming a cheerful place. On my first day I waited outside a sandwich shop while Ian Watson got a bacon buttie on his way in to the venue. That felt bizarre. Coming back the following year, people were waving to me even before I got through the door. It’s that sort of convention. Hopefully the Sheffield SF Writers who made the trip this time – David R Lee, Kathryn Wild, David Sarsfield – felt that level of positivity too. I know Dave L thoroughly enjoyed his workshop with M John Harrison, and David Sarsfield was making his debut as a published member of the Fox Spirit Skulk, which is a positive force in its own right.
It took me a while to settle down this time, though the red wine at the combined NewCon/Fox Spirit launch definitely helped matters. David Tallerman’s short Cthlonic “school report” reading was a highlight, though I couldn’t really afford the hardback of his collection and came away instead with Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Apt collection and VC Linde’s poetry based on three words selected by a collection of different authors (if that makes sense). I’m not usually a great fan of poetry, but the whole concept was interesting enough to draw me in.
Before that launch there were the obligatory panel sessions to attend. The morning panels were more up my street than the afternoon ones. Alistair Reynolds, Ian Whates, Nina Allan and Adele Wearing asked if small presses were producing the best SF (the answer was a resounding yes, if you needed to ask). Marc Turner took the chair for a journey through the landscape of literary fiction and its on-off relationship with genre, with Jen Williams, Edward Cox and Cherry Potts all somehow managing to not mention Michael Moorcock along the way.
Lunch was the now-traditional stagger (wine, remember…) through the covered market in search of a £1 tray of chips. And after that exhaustion kicked in as hard as the carnival bass, meaning that the afternoon became a blur of coffee, juice and sitting down in various combinations. Team Newman (Emma and Pete) combined for Emma’s Guest of Honour interview, with readings from both After Atlas and the forthcoming fourth volume of the Split Worlds saga – which I probably shouldn’t have listened to, given that I still haven’t read the third… As ever Team Newman went the extra mile in making more of the time and the format.
With the Edge Lit Quiz on hold this year, the evening’s entertainment belonged to the Super Relaxed Fantasy Club, hosted by Jen Williams and Pete Newman, with guests Jason Arnopp and Maria Lewis. I’m fairly ambivalent about werewolves in fiction although Maria’s take on the monsters seemed agreeably uncuddly and bloody. Jason’s Last Days of Jack Sparks on the other hand is pitched much better to my caustic, agnostic self.
We shall draw a veil over the shenanigans of the Pinborough-helmed raffle, save only to say that it was not for the faint of heart. And, as I warned various folks beforehand, never sit near the front….
Over at the Fox Spirit Books stall, Adele Wearing and Daz Pulsford kindly agreed to make room for a small pile of (the British Fantasy Award-nominated – have I mentioned that yet?) Heir to the North. I was well chuffed and over the moon to discover that they all sold. I love you, whoever you are
Taking my cue from Alex Bardy, who this year cosplayed as one of the Expendables and carried it off with remarkable aplomb, I used a few spare moments to point people at other people., networking by proxy. I can point you all at Dan Grace and Gemma Todd, both names to watch out for in the future. Dan’s novella Winter is out now through Unsung Stories, and Gemma’s novel Defender is out early next year from Headline.
Jen Williams and Edward Cox were a delights to talk to, and Adrian Tchaikovsky was very kind. It’s always a pleasure to talk to Shellie Horst and Susan Boulton (Hand of Glory – coming soon!) Other SFSF regulars – Marc Turner, Dan Godfrey, Andy Angel, David Tallerman, Ian Sales – crossed my path and reminded me that it is probably well past time to start planning more events. Which is part of the reason me and Sara Smith were there anyway, to get our collective heads back into gear following the last few months. So no need to worry on that score – SFSF will return.
Amongst the EdgeLit debuts this year was author, editor and Bristolcon-wrangler Joanne Hall. Standing in at short notice for Pete Sutton, it was brilliant to see her again and give some power to the Grimbold presence at the con. T-shirts featuring a fox and a cat riding a dragon were mentioned in all seriousness in conversations with Auntie Fox…
Lastly, it’s not a convention without swag. Some of it is still hidden in the car until I can sneak it all in (I hope Rachel isn’t reading this…) but as well as the Tchaikovsky and Linde, I picked up Dan Godfrey’s New Pompeii, Jen Williams’ The Silver Tide, and Paul Kane’s Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell. The TBR is teetering on the verge of collapse. I wanted a copy of Pete Newman’s The Vagrant as well, but the bookstall ran out of that before I could get to it. Bah. Still hope to have read it and Zen Cho’s Sorcerer to the Crown by the time Fantasycon comes around, which means I’ll have read the whole Best Newcomer shortlist.
So, a very successful – if exhausting – day. If I met you and haven’t mentioned you, it’s mostly because I may have been on remote control at that point…