With Alt.Fiction moving date and venue this year, the space it left behind – in terms of both – was filled by the start of a new single-day convention based on the same template. With Derby being a relatively short drive down for me, I thought it was worth partitioning off the time and heading down for.
My day started before Edge.Lit, with an invite to join some friends at a cafe just round the corner from the venue which Vick intended to review. It was worth getting up early for. They served strong coffee in larger-than-anticipated enameled tin mugs, organic bacon cooked to perfection, and scrambled eggs on toast that came in a portion almost too generous for my half-asleep digestive system to handle.
The cafe and the excellent food were merely backdrop to the company, though, and it was great to sit with a table of friends that I mostly “see” online and just talk nonsense. There is a definite tendency towards the ridiculous in our conversations that I adore and wish I had access to all the time. I don’t think there’s any other situation where the conversation could flow naturally from Vick’s glass allergy to perverted carnivorous parrots to a general agreement that “épicerie” is French for “epic recipe”.
Breakfast done, we strolled down to the Quad and Edge Lit began. In stark contrast to my first time at the Quad (where I stood around looking awkward until the panels started) I immediately ran into people that I know and a conversation started that didn’t really end so much as bubble along through the rest of the day.
I only managed two of the panels, being How do I internets? (paraphrasing loosely on the title there) and Publishing Today. I would have liked to have gone to more, but had spent most of the night awake with a sinus-trying-to-climb-out-of-head headache and I was terrified that if I sat for any longer in a dark room with a comfortable seat, I was going to nod off and wake up later with a drawn-on moustache. The panels were entertaining and interesting, with an informal Good Morning TV setup instead of the standard table with microphones. Mark Yon of SFFWorld and Lee Harris made moderating look easy, and the panelists used the time really well.
I think the meta-message (if you will) for aspiring writers in the audience was how well the authors did in their panels. There’s a certain skill to presenting yourself well in public and particularly on stage, and those two panels were prime examples of how to do it right. Sarah Pinborough wrote a blog post about advice for writers which includes the advice to “be charming”. It’s absolutely spot on, and it’s at little cons like Edge Lit where you really get to see that come to the fore. Granted the audiences aren’t very big, but I doubt there were many people leaving at the end of the day who would not be willing to champion the authors they met there.
I let myself down a little bit with the dealer’s room. I always try and show support at conventions by buying something, but with my contract ending before the summer and nothing on the horizon until September the long dry spell of August just seemed a little too close to add even more to my TBR pile. I’ll make up for it another time, I guess.
Just like with the cafe we ate at, the big draw of the convention was not the content. As Lee Harris put it, you go to conventions – even the little ones – to be with your people. I got to sit and chat with Damien Walter, who I met briefly at Alt.Fiction but was too busy being destroyed at Trivial Pursuits to talk to, and it turns out he’s just as awesome if not more than he is online. I also met Vicky Hooper, editor and writer and gamer and – most important of all – Mass Effect fan. I got to hear Catherine Hill’s incredible, hilarious rant about why Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a pile of nonsensical shit*, and deliberate over Vick’s latest round of experimental fudge flavourings.** I also found out that it’s not just me who has had short stories accepted but not really in the last twelve months, where editors will say “we like it but don’t know where to put it, do you mind if we hang onto it?” and then never contact you again. Although I well understand the frustration, it was heartening in a way to find out that it’s not just me.
I ended the day pretty early, mostly due to the fact that I was really, really tired and wanted to get home while I still knew driving was within the acceptable limits of my ability. Had I been feeling a bit more alive, I do not doubt that I would have been there until late o’clock, and that it would have been awesome.
*for future reference, all James Franco roles will be in the format of “Scientist James Franco” or “Drug Dealer James Franco”.
**the concept of bringing multiple flavours and asking me to state a preference is the wrong thing to do. As long as it’s not salted licorice, I will eat anything sweet by the fistful.