Dr Emma King demonstrates thermodynamic principles (by blowing shit up)
I’m late in submitting my Eastercon diary. I blame work in the real world for sapping all the time I have available to blog – most of my spare time lately has been spent on writing (working on something new, it’s not going well but at least it’s going) and photography. I am also scrimping a lot here as, unlike last year’s diary, I am not planning to do an entry for every day. I had planned to do a daily diary while at the event but circumstance, alcohol and Russell Smith happened. Repeatedly.
This was my second ever Eastercon and already I felt like a veteran. I’d upped my game by actually staying in a hotel rather than going home each evening (arguments that they should have relocated to Manchester for my convenience were met with flat refusal, apparently the committee mostly live in Birmingham and they wanted the easy commute, strange coincidence…). I’d also been given three programme items to be on, two of which I was moderating and the third was with Pat Cadigan, one of the guests of honour.
There was an opening ceremony. The guests were introduced. Then Dr Emma King of the Royal Institute took the stage and proceeded to blow up bits of it using flour, gherkins, a lot of electricity and jelly babies. This sort of thing is apparently normal when the Royal Institute of Science put on shows and, according to her potted history of the institute, such things have been normal since it was first founded and evidence that it was almost certainly set up by Time Lords.* Luckily the stage survived (or was time shifted back to a time when it had not been blown up…) and proper health and safety procedures were followed. The only casualty was a single Jelly Baby.
After a Friday afternoon panel on communication in science and a wonderfully instructive workshop on preparing manuscripts for submission by Joanne Hall**, I started the weekend properly with a beer with R.A Smith. The fact that I have been having beer (and annual birthday dinners and parties) with R.A Smith since we were both at university does not make this unremarkable because this was a concept known as a ‘Literary Beer’ in which attendees at the conference can book onto a session with an author and sit and drink beer (or the drink of your choice) with them and talk books. A similar concept, the Kaffeklatsch, takes place during the day and supposedly replaces beer with coffee. However, I was aware that there were some drinking beer at Kaffeklatches and some heretics were even drinking tea! Russ had a good turn out for his beer and he proceeded to entertain with anecdotes and secret spoilers about upcoming events in his as yet unwritten book 3 of the Grenshall Manor series. He also performed an adequate re-enactment of a turret in the very obscure computer game Beachhead…
The next day I was at a loose end as I was not slated for any programme items until Sunday morning. However, I decided to check out the Women in Star Wars panel which played out to a packed room despite the early time of day. The discussion ranged over tropes that apply to women, particularly the idea of George Lucas riffing off Japanese ideas for female characters, as seen in anime and Japanese cinema and how that explained the paradox of Leia as the Princess who needs to be rescued but is also a strong, independent woman who is a leader in her own right. Apparently in Japanese cinema that is a common theme.
I followed this with a workshop on self publishing by F.D Lee that looked at many of the pitfalls that a self published author might get into. Some good tips, including pointing out that if you are publishing mainly on Amazon and other online sources, your cover is only ever really seen as a tiny thumbnail and so you should design it accordingly.
The afternoon was spent pleasantly in a Kaffeklatsch with two outstanding authors – Peadar O’Guilin and Peter Kalu. Originally it was supposed to be two separate events but because of very few attendees it was decided to merge them into one. The low numbers seem to have been across the board for this afternoon slot and one theory was because famous fantasy artist Fangorn was doing an art tour and everyone wanted to do that. So we ended up with five in total, all writers in some form, and as Peadar generously pointed out we were all attending each other’s Kaffeklatschs. There was a lot of discussion about Irish myth, African and Caribbean myth, football, zombies and zombie footballers. The last due to Peter’s latest book which apparently sees the 1966 England World cup squad coming back from the dead. As they do.
In the evening I attended the BSFA awards to watch awards begin given out to some very worthy people and to see Kari Sperring’s Eurovision host impersonation. I then yet again demonstrated my lack of geek by failing to attend the screening of the new series of Doctor Who which was taking place at 7 but instead opted to attend another Kaffeklatsch, this time with the wonderful Adrian Tchaikovsky. This was very well attended, despite the draw of Peter Capaldi on a big screen, and according to Adrian much better attended than his first Kaffeklatsch where he was able to buy coffee for all the attendees for very little money. There was much discussion on various topics and, as you might expect insects were a theme.
Once that was over it was time for food and drink and, eventually, bed…
*This is undeniably true. I have evidence. Good evidence. Well, had… it seems the entire body of evidence linking the RI to Gallifrey has apparently just vanished. As if it had never existed. Removed completely from time. That in itself is suspicious enough. Also, I am sure I saw Emma wearing a scarf once.
**I am not sharing any secrets, you can go to a workshop on your own… It was very instructive and did confirm that I was at least doing most things right when submitting to publishers, though I needed to up my synopsis and cover letter game a touch. Publishers look for any excuse at all to reject.