It hasn’t actually taken me a week to get over Sci Fi London’s convention atmosphere (1), but, here I am, and it appears to be May. That means a new story soon, but more of that later.
It was a cracking weekend. Both panels went tolerably well, and I made at least a valid pretense of saying something intelligent. My favourite question from the audience was the chap who asked the world-building panel whether they were particularly careful about physics. Answer: “I have giant insects!” in a kind of Brian Blessed declamation. When you have giant insects, physics is not your friend.
The “New Heroic Fantasy” panel, with Joe Abercrombie, Tom Lloyd and Stephen Deas was reassuring, in that nobody else was particularly keen to define what the New HF actually was, when it stopped being the old HF and why. Mr Abercrombie, especially, made the valid point that there’s a limit to how “new” you can be without stepping out of the heroic fantasy box entirely. The word “gritty” was thrown about a good deal. I suppose the point is that very few things in the world are digital, flipping like a switch. Fantasy fiction, like everything, has been evolving at varying paces down differing routes. What we have now is different to what there was in the past, and so it looks as though we should be able to get Linnaean on its ass and classify it to death, but it ain’t so – and the same is true of what appear to be separate genres and sub-genres now – go back far enough and you’ll find ancestral books that straddle the divides. (3)
The world-building panel was odd in that it was “sci fi and fantasy”, and whilst there is a commonality in the world building of both, there are a great many differences. So it was that we rattled through the questions perhaps a little fast, having so much ground to cover, and there were a few topics I’d have liked to spend more time on. Still, that’s what a blog’s for, no? Anyway, I did get the opportunity of meeting Paul McCauley, Liz Williams (whose Nine Layers of Sky is a unique and highly enjoyable read) and Mark Charan Newton, another young Tor author who I’ve exchanged the odd email with in the past. Mark also got to meet a particularly manic band of my friends, who were last seen diligently trying to convert him to larping, so he may no longer be speaking to me. However, I came out of it ahead, clutching a proof copy of his Nights of Villjamur , which everyone else has to wait until June to read, and which looks to be excellent.
In between all this serious author stuff (4) there was the dread spectre of the SFL annual pub quiz, held in a cinema theatre, but with liberal applications of free beer to add that out-of-focus pub atmosphere. Were I a less humble character I would no doubt now be trumpeting the fact that the team I was on, as formed by my agent Simon, cruised to a solid victory against all comers (5). My bragging rights are somewhat dented by being on a team with Paul Cornell, of Dr Who and Marvel comics fame, who knows very nearly almost everything about science fiction, whilst my contribution was an extremely minor piece of Star Wars trivia (6), The final showdown between our “Mexikhans” (7) and the Lords of Luton was settled, as is apparently traditional, by dance off. Because this was a serious, formal occasions we were represented by Mr Tom Hunter, administrator of the Arthur C. Clarke awards. And disco diva. A somewhat mad time was had by all.
To those who came along, thank you. To those that didn’t, shame! Come next time, it was splendid.
(1) They gave me a magic plastic card that turned into free red wine whenever I wanted. This is generally acknowledged as a mistake (2).
(2) Red wine? I never used to drink red wine before I fell in with publishing types, most especially a certain editor who shall remain nameless.
(3) The whole is pleasingly organic and Darwinian – as in evolution – the modern eye, for example, sees mammals and reptiles as two wholly separate lineages. The fossil record, however (while vastly incomplete) still shows us intermediate forms in the Permian. And I digress..
(4) Really, really doesn’t count as serious author stuff.
(5) all right, a joint victory, but a solid one.
(6) As opposed to those weighty and important pieces of Star Wars trivia we see so often on the news.
(7) Pronounced with as many ‘a’s as you like.