Back in Bristol

It’s less than a week to Bristolcon! I’ll be there in voice (though not in person) a few days early, as an interview with Cheryl Morgan on Ujima Radio at 12pm Wednesday 23rd. Here’s the livestream link; it’ll be available on Listen Again after the broadcast. Cheryl will also be talking with Bristolcon director Joanne Hall about what this year’s con has in store. As we say in Jamaica, and on Ujima: CHUNE EEN!

The con itself is Saturday 26th September at the Doubletree Hotel in Bristol. Here’s what I’m doing:

15:50-15:55, Programme Room 1

Reading – a short passage from Regeneration (which will be available from con booksellers Forbidden Planet).

17:00-17:45, Programme Room 1

Bad-ass with a Baby

It’s still fairly rare to see depictions of parenting in SF&F. If a character has a child, does that mean they’re no longer allowed to be a bad-ass? And how difficult is it to juggle childcare and saving the universe?

Lor Graham (Mod), Amanda Kear (Dr Bob)Jasper FfordePeter Newman and Stephanie Saulter

Despite the fact that I dislike the term ‘bad-ass’ almost as much as ‘kick-ass’ (and for much the same reasons), I’m really looking forward to this discussion. The absence of children and family in SFF is something I’ve been writing and talking about for a while. Agree? Disagree? Do come listen, challenge and share.


From Bristol to Brighton, with some trepidation

Another week, another con … I’m off to Brighton in the morning for World Fantasy and I haven’t even reported back on Bristolcon yet, apart from a series of enthusiastic tweets on the day and the day after. Well … they said it all, really. Once again Joanne Hall, Cheryl Morgan, MEG and the rest of the team did a fabulous job. My panels were fun and funny, my fellow panellists were witty and wise, and the stuff I got to go to in between was equally thoughtful, informative and engaging.

In fact my only real request is for the ‘Humans are Weird’ presentation by Amanda Kear (aka Dr Bob) to be made available online so I can go back and revisit some of the weird and wonderful facts about Homo sapiens that she unpacked for us. It was evolutionary biology for the masses, with more than a bit of cultural anthropology and behavioural psychology thrown in. There were lots of laughs, some slightly rude jokes, and genuine wonder at how a species as bizarre as we are could have made it this far, and done this well. There’s an idea circulating to maybe make Bristolcon a two-day affair … and I’m  not sure I’m in favour of that. At the moment it seems small and perfectly formed, and I’m a little nervous at the thought of messing with something that works so well.

As for WFC … well … well … I wish I could say I’m looking forward to it with equal relish, but, as this post outlines very clearly and fairly, the communiques from the Central Con Committee of Doom have been less than welcoming. In fact if I hadn’t bought my ticket a year ago on the back of the UK’s regular Fantasycon (my first con ever, and hugely enjoyable), I’m not sure I’d be going at all. But I did, and I am, and maybe it won’t be as dour and dire and downright unfriendly as it’s seeming so far. I’ll report back next week, and will be tweeting from the front line …

Where I’ll be at Bristolcon

I’m going to be up, out, and on a train at a deeply uncivilised hour tomorrow morning, but it’ll be worth it because Bristolcon! Last year it was only my second con ever; I listened to great readings and discussions, met lovely people, and thoroughly enjoyed it. This year I volunteered to do ‘stuff’ – and the stuff I got is great:

Programme Room 1  –  10am

Creating A Culture – Building A Working Fantasy / SF Society

Worldbuilding: you want to change some of the rules to make things interesting, but you still want people to buy into the world you’ve created. Rocks, trees and dragons may give you a setting, but unless your protagonist is alone on an uninhabited planet, people (human or otherwise) will have to be organised somehow. How do you set about designing an original and yet believable society? What are the most ingenious societies we’ve seen in SF&F – and what might they tell us about ourselves?

Panel discussion with Dev Agarwal (moderator), Mary Robinette Kowal, Robert Harkess, Stephanie Saulter, Peter Sutton

Programme Room 2  –  6pm

Plausible Critters    

We see a lot of creatures in SF and fantasy that are just horses or dogs in cheap disguises. Conversely, we see interesting alien life forms that are hopelessly implausible. When sticking wings on a rabbit and calling it a snoogle just won’t do, how can you create weird, wonderful and convincing critters? What are some examples of the best and worst critters in fiction?

Panel discussion with Max Edwards (moderator), Snorri Kristjansson, Stephanie Saulter, Jaine Fenn, Gareth L. Powell

Both panels are variations on a theme: the construction of a storyworld that makes a kind of intuitive sense to the reader, that is coherent and immersive enough to allow for the suspension of disbelief so crucial to any kind of fantastic fiction. So – come hear how we think it should be done and who we think does it well (or not). And in between there’s loads more to see and hear; I’ve got my eye on the Re-Telling Fairy Tales panel, as well as Comics – Art And Literature With Speech Bubbles. And of course Forbidden Planet will be there, plus the organisers have arranged a sale table for authors they may not carry. So, you know. Buy books.


You ever get the guilty feeling that you’re so late with a post that it’s now too late, the thing you thought you should have written about days ago is old news, the window has been closed, the moment missed? Well I sort of feel like that. But I had too good a time at Bristolcon on Saturday not to at least acknowledge the hard work of chairperson Joanne Hall, who invited me when we met a month ago in Brighton at Fantasycon. She is clearly one of those rare people who can combine grace and good humour with ferocious organisational and timekeeping skills, as a result of which Bristolcon was fun and relaxed and went off without a hitch, at least from where I was standing/sitting/moving between panel discussions. And I met other extremely cool people and had some really interesting, stimulating conversations: shout-outs to Colum Paget (who appears to have recruited me for a hypothetical panel two Eastercons away – I’m game), Cheryl Morgan (who I think is a Bristolcon grandee, and I suspect a grandee of rather a lot, but I confess to missing details in the general hilarity), Iain Cairns, John Hawkes-Reed, Simeon Beresford, John Meaney, Gareth PowellAliette de Bodard (I came in early for a panel, caught the tail end of her reading, and became a fan; even more so when I spoke to her after and she turned out to be friendly and charming and invited me to sit at their table for lunch), and the lovely woman wearing the Neil Gaiman T-shirt with whom I shared a gushing fangirl moment along with a rather more measured chat, and whose name has since gone completely out of my head. I knew I should have posted sooner.

So be warned, those whom I will meet for the second, or even the third, time at Eastercon; it’s possible that I might get a deer-in-the-headlights look when you swan up to me with a cheery greeting. Please don’t take it personally, any more than I will when I do the swanning and you do the stricken-Bambi. I suspect it’s a condition endemic to the Cons, to be overcome only by repeated exposure.

  • I love stories.
    My new novel, Sacred, is all about them. Publication info will be posted as soon as I have it.

    In the meantime check out Gemsigns, Binary and Regeneration, available wherever good books are sold.

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