Last year, I decided that I was fed up – sick to the back teeth – of not actually knowing anyone else who writes (or tries to write) genre fiction, or even reads genre fiction. To that end, I swallowed my terrible nervousness at the prospect of introducing myself to people and having nothing to say after that point and signed up to go to Alt.Fiction.
In my mind, it could have gone either way. What I didn’t count on was the community being completely receptive to the prospect of people who just rock up and say “hi”. When I went to NewCon later in the year, I knew a few people by name and more by sight, and when I signed up for Eastercon, I was quite safe in the knowledge that there would be no shortage of conversation.
So one year on I signed up for Alt.Fiction again, except this time I was actually going with the expectation of knowing people there.
Warning: picture spam incoming.
Two people I was really looking forward to seeing were Adele (@hagelrat) and Vick (@vclinde). For a start, they both bake, and there was certainty that they had turned up with delightful baked goods in tow. As it turned out, they had. Adele had produced coffee muffins and shortbread (amongst other things) and Vick was touting a mix of vanilla/mint and coffee fudge. There was maximal deliciousness.
Also, it turned out I had forgotten the SD card for my camera, which wasn’t my brightest move ever. Luckily, Vick had one to hand and was happy to let me use it to take pictures with. She was less happy that I attempted to take a picture of her, as can be seen here:
Ridiculous, really, considering how pretty she is.
I also met up with the lovely Mark Yon, who I hadn’t seen since the last Alt.Fiction but strangely it felt as if no time at all had passed since we last said hello.
Mark. He reviews books in between chuckles and the occasional guffaw.
I also saw Susan Boulton, who I sadly did not get enough time to talk to with all my rushing around going to panels and whatnot. She seemed to cope marvellously, nonetheless.
When you see Susan, you should always ask how her editing is going. It’s her favourite question.
Presented without comment, Sam and Charlotte.
The panel/podcast/workshop roster was very good, I thought – it was quite varied and there seemed to be an effort to avoid clashes of particular interest (e.g. scheduling two sessions on similar topics at the same time). I went from Military SF in one session to a workshop on characterisation (with the ever-lovely Kim Lakin-Smith presiding) to the ubiquitous (but well-attended) panel on publishing to…raffle anarchy.
Whether due to inebriation, hangover, or simple chaotic-neutral alignment, Guy Adams and Sarah Pinborough MC’d the raffle with a spontaneous and brilliant double-act full of double entendre, single entendre,* mockery, jealousy, tomfoolery, and hilarity. I didn’t win shit, but it was a fantastic half hour nevertheless.
Sarah: “Have a rummage in my box, Guy.”
Guy: “Doubt I’ll find a ticket.”
Saturday night was great, although I always get the feeling that I’m letting the side down when I go to bed before midnight. I know of at least one person who was up past four, so it stands to reason there were more. Still, it was a good decision as the radiator in our room turned on around 5.30 am, to the point that by 6 am it was impossible to stay inside any longer. We wandered around for a while in search of early breakfasts, and then I left Lisa to her wool-based shenanigans while I went back for the Sunday session.
The Writer’s Life panel was very good, with a surprisingly alert Sarah Pinborough unfortunately juxtaposing herself against an art installation that depicted scenes of destruction and ruin, and an amazing level of attendance for so early on the second day.
I got to go to a cracking workshop with Dan Abnett, who delivered not so much a workshop as a one-man panel, but that was completely okay because he’s a fantastic racounteur and was happy to just fire ideas and thoughts about the process of putting fiction together at us for nigh-on seventy minutes.**
Later on, I got to hang out with the ever-entertaining and entirely brilliant Tom Hunter, who had turned up to the Sunday dressed as a rock star, and the heroes of Twitter that are Jennifer Williams (@sennydreadful) and Adam Christopher (@ghostfinder).
“Why are you photographing me? Why?”
Conversation or coffee – it is one or the other, there is no middle ground
Facial hair is mandatory at Alt.Fiction. No-one told me.
I then got to sit down with Dan Abnett, Jennifer, Adam and Anne Lyle (@AnneLyle) and just chat for an hour (mostly old tv show and movie banter) before the final panel on How to publicise your writing with Tom, Adam, Jon Weir and Jenni Hill.
To be brutally honest, my writing hasn’t really gone places in the last year. It’s got better, certainly, and I’ve definitely improved at seeing projects through, but with work commitments piling up one on top of the other I’ve not been able to put in the time and effort that would see it anywhere near the point of needing publicity. I’ve got some short stories out in the ether waiting for rejection notices, but it’s nothing to crow about.
Tom’s overarching point of the panel was, for me, the point of the trip. Alt.Fiction wasn’t about me turning up to sell myself – it was about me turning up to meet with some really nice people who, in spite of the fact I very rarely see or speak to them, have in the space of a year become my friends.
Addendum – I will update links and twitter names tomorrow. I apologise to everyone I’ve missed off, I’m just so tired and I need to go to bed now.
*Gag of the day being Adams’s offer to “sign” a book by ejaculating into the middle section.
**yes, he ran over…and no-one minded at all.