I look forward to travelling to cons, it’s the writing time on the train and the solitude I think. The journey to Bristol was gorgeous, the morning mists melting over the hills and puddling round the trees. I managed to get a bit of writing done and listened to A Feast For Crows between trains, it seemed to be over very quickly.
The Ramada Bristol is thankfully no great distance from the station and I was warmly met by Paul Wiseall and Dolly Garland with a bag of goodness – lots of comic and novel samplers and rather cool graphic anthology, Murky Depths.
I attended three panels, which I’d already planned beforehand so I could just hang out and chill in between. These were: Working Together, about collaborative writing; Netiquette, or how not to be a twit online and Women in Sensible Armour – a discussion on the portrayal of women warriors in SF, rather than fantasy art and novels.
Working Together seemed to focus more on the working relationship between artists and writers in the comics industry. It was interesting to see all the different methods of working that exist (answer: there are as many as there are partnerships). None of it seemed to really hit on the crux of equal partnership in a creative endeavour, this is a lot harder than simply working to a brief specified by another person – in a shared world anthology for example. It gave me a lot of ideas for things I would like to try out in the future, but nothing new to add to my current way of working. This is fine, and I will continue with my method as it seems that is the best thing to do.
Netiquette was very interesting. I’ve touched on it before here on this blog, but it’s about how to get people interested in you as a writer, without being an annoying salesperson tirelessly flogging your wares. Marc Gascoigne‘s comment that Angry Robot will only consider authors with a blog, twitter and Facebook page was very telling of how important social media is to a writer these days. The other Marc, Aplin, who was chair, said that he is more inclined to want to read books by people he has met on twitter and chatted to. Writers tread a fine line – you have to show everyone a genuine person, but remain professional and not fall into troll feeding, responding to negative reviews of your work, sockpuppetry and all the usual pitfalls that get discussed. It’s something I’ve wondered about: until established, what can a writer blog about? They can’t advise on writing, as they’ve nothing to show for it; they can’t discuss their WIPs, in case things change or they let out spoilers; there are too many blogs on the process of writing as it is, and it’s dull reading . . . so what is there? Be yourself, show your human side – what else do you do apart from writing? Be engaging, let people get to know you, you’re more interesting than you think.
Women in Sensible Armour, was the obligatory diversity panel in disguise, although it tended not to meander as much as previous ones, thanks to the specific focus. This resonated a lot with me, having a lot of real life discussions on armour and women in general in the HEMA scene over at Esfinges. As for the imaginary portrayals of women fighters in literature and art, I think it’s safe to say that we have moved on from the chainmail bikini. Women in armour look pretty much like men in armour when they’re doing it right, and films like Lord of the Rings have done a lot to reaffirm this.
In between panels, and for much of the afternoon and evening I got to chat, eat and drink with some very cool people. Some I’ve met in real life and it was good to hook up again, such as: the effervescent Anne-Mhairi Simpson; the awesome chief organiser of Bristolcon itself, as well as author, Joanne Hall; Gareth L Powell (very briefly); Anne Lyle, who revealed that Pim and I will get acknowledgements in the final novel of her trilogy. I am honoured. Emma Newman looked stunning in a bespoke scarlet frock-coat; Kim Laikin-Smith was there with her family (again we very briefly spoke – there’s just not enough time at these things!); Marc Aplin of Fantasy Faction, who just like last year I bumped into at the coffee area, .
New people, along with Paul and Dolly (both of whom I wish I’d spoken to for longer) were the very funny Guy Haley, who got a lot of laughs on the Netiquette panel; the equally funny and informative David Moore; Jonathan L. Howard, who was very charming and friendly; Jen Williams – who I have wanted to meet for ages and was great fun to share booze with in the back of the room like naughty schoogirls; the gorgeous Michela D’Orlando, who I had actually previously met at the Gemmells, when we were both lost and looking for the ladies loo. She sought me out through the swordy thing, and I was happy to give her advice on finding classes, as well as chat about writing. Michela introduced me to Piotr Swietlik who was great fun to chat to and you can see a sample of his work here. I hope to meet up with both again at a con some time. Danie Ware I have seen several times at cons but never actually chatted to, was awesome and very much the voice of reason on the Sensible Armour panel.
Before I knew it the hours fizzled away and it was time to get back on the train. I will definitely return next year. It is a very fun, relaxed and friendly event, growing bigger every time.