So: one week on, what can I remember?
As it turns out, I made notes…..
This was AltFiction’s first year as a two-day event – and only my second attendance – and I have to say it felt far less rushed than last year. There was more time to spread out and talk, which was inevitably what these things are all about. There also seemed to be less people hanging around, although I did see a slightly different crowd on the Sunday, and some people I talked to could only afford to take one day out of their schedules. The programme on the otherhand was pretty packed full – like last year, it was a case of cherry-picking what you most wanted to do and using the rest of the time to catch up. (Most people, it seemed, wanted to be in Dan Abnett’s workshop, on Sunday; from what I’ve heard, it was a deserved highlight).
My intention – without a manuscript to tout – was to see more of the workshops and just actually talk to more people. Learn where the genre is going. Come away with a shed-load of books. Mission accomplished.
You know it’s going to be a good weekend when you struggle through the horrible revolving door and the first thing you see is Andrew Reid waving at you like a hat-trick goalscorer. The fact that you can pick up conversations after a gap of a whole year is one of those comforting peculiarities that I’ve come to love about conventions.
The workshops were a mixed bag: Juliet McKenna was an absolute professional (Powerpoint!), while both Rod Rees and Jonathan L Howard were debutants and although their hours turned into mini-panels they were still instructive and interesting. I thought I attended fewer panels than I had last time, but since they were spread over two days, it must be my memory that’s playing up. Of the various panels, the most interesting was the Writer’s Life panel on Sunday, while the most entertaining was the one on Audio Books, with James Goss and Mr Abnett. (And somehow I contrived to miss both GOH speeches. Silly me.)
The readings I attended were also good fun – if Adrian Tchaikovsky has any doubts as to his ability to write short stories, he should cast them aside now…
And let’s not mention the raffle (“Would you like to pull a ticket from my box?”). Not in front of the children….
High points from the notes:
- Every word must count: every word you use must do at least 2 things.
- There’s a difference between writing and the business of writing. Understand both.
- A writer has to always look to the next contract. Head up, eyes wide open.
- Never mind the first 10000 words: your first page must be the bomb. In fact, your first sentence must be the bomb.
- John Jarrold gets 30 submissions every week. What makes yours better than the rest?
- Write and edit for pace and clarity.
- Has Fantasy moved past Tolkien? More like “have Fantasy fans moved past Tolkien”?
- You can use a modern sensibility, but get your research right first.
- A Heroine is defined by her relationships to men; a Hero (gender-neutral) is not. But don’t hero-worship your female characters though.
- I want a Historical Pre-enactment Society t-shirt. Or one of the Subway/zombie pastiche shirts (Bub of the day… class!)
- Progression in Fantasy is rare. Be aware of it.
- “Every book I’ve ever written started with a what if?“
- I’m allergic to marching bands.
- SFF fans and writers are nice people. We don’t bite. Unless you want us to.
- The I-Spy book of people encountered: Sandy Auden (SFX), David Moore (Solaris/Abbadon), Luke Richards, Jeff Richards (Boneman – SFF Chronicles), Stephen Aryan (SFF Chronicles), Ian Whates, Ian Sales, Susan Boulton (SJAB – SFF Chronicles, Andrew Reid (mygoditsraining – SFF Chronicles), his partner Lisa (epic knitter), Tom Hunter (Clarke Award), Mark Yon (SFF World), Anne Lyle, Graham McNeill, Tarnjit Tiyur, Chris Barker (Derby Scribes), Sean Jones, Cheryl Morgan (Clarkesworld), and probably many more that I didn’t even write down….