This afternoon I popped down to Leicester for the inaugural Fox Bites event. Set up by Adele Wearing, the Auntie Fox of Fox Spirit Books, it’s an open mic event for writers and a chance for like-minded, book-loving people to get together and chat and get to know each other. You might be thinking that this sounds a little familiar, and I suppose in some respects you’d be right, but that’s no bad thing. Exactly the opposite, in fact. There ought to be – and indeed there are – more events like this, set up across the country. With the advent of the e-book, and the attendant revolution in self-publishing and small presses, publishing (at least, from my perspective within the SFF genre) has certainly gone global, but it has also gone back to grass roots as well. Older heads amongst you may think of the post-punk DIY ethic and the home-distributed cassettes of the C-86 era and work an analogy from that (with Spacewitch as Rough Trade, perhaps?).
For a long time if you wanted to get into the genre you had to go to one of the Big Conventions. There wasn’t a lot else out there. I’ve nothing against those, but mahoosive crowds, anxiety, and costs aren’t a good mix (that’s why I never did Glastonbury). I imagine a lot of people also feel a bit intimidated by the investment (time and money) required for a major con. The biggest sea change over the last year or so seems to be that small, localised events like the York Pubmeet, Super Relaxed Fantasy Club (who pretty much started the ball rolling), and Fox Bites (and the SFSF Social, of course) are taking off and getting some traction. There’s one-day cons like BristolCon and EdgeLit too. A chance for authors and fans alike to mingle in relaxed surroundings, enjoy themselves, maybe even grab a book or two. It’s a good way forward – regular, or semi-regular, events that bring people together without all the major organisational headaches of a full con. And in the end, it’s good for the genre as a whole.
So today I got to chat to Amanda Bigler, Leah Osborne, Adele, Alex Davis, Selina Lock and James Everington amongst others, all super talented folk who are post-punking their individual ways through their genres. Next weekend sees the second SFSF Social, at the Old Queen’s Head in Sheffield, and other heads are working on more events for both Leeds and York for later in the year, as well as looking ahead to the run-up to FantasyCon in October. It’s the beginning of what someone else called the Northern Circuit – come and join us!