Going on holiday by mistake – Follycon18, by Philip A Suggars


Insert “it’s grim up north” caption here.

So I hadn’t really planned to go to Eastercon, but Donna Bond from Newcon press mentioned that they’d be launching this year’s edition of the Best of British Science Fiction, (henceforth known as “BoB”) at the convention; and I thought: you know what, one of the things that sucks about being a writer is that you tend to suffer in silence and celebrate (mostly) in private. Seeing as I’m pleased about getting into this anthology, why don’t I give this book launch thingy a go?

To be honest, I always feel a bit weird about conventions. I’m an introvert by nature, which means that as much fun as it is to meet people, a con tends to send my battery into power saving mode pretty quickly. But the other important thing I’ve learned about cons is that the more you attend the easier they become.

The first convention I went to was the 2013 Eastercon, which, if memory serves, was held on a roundabout somewhere outside Bradford. I don’t think I knew a single person there and the only other people I spoke to were Aliette de Bodard and Adrian Tchaikovsky. (Aliette was judging the James White Award and I’d snagged the runner-up prize; Adrian was propping up the bar, both were a pleasure to talk to.)  I spent most of the rest of my time there earnestly sitting in on panels, making notes like Rory Gilmore at a safety briefing.


Gentle convention goers. (Including, I think, an attention rapt Gareth L. Powell over on the left and the legendary Jim Burns on the right). Photo Ian Whates.

I still find cons a bit of a struggle, but since attending Milford Writer’s Conference a couple of times there are usually a few friendly faces that I can chat to rather than having to make copious notes on, “The parallels between the Vulcan Pon Farr and the sex lives of IT workers”. So this time it was great to catch up with other writers from the Milford stable, including Guy T. Martland, Carl Allery, Sue Oke, Jacey Bedford and Matt Colborn. That said, Guy’s feline-overlord, Gordon, seems to have developed an unhealthy obsession with my pet, Ziggy.


From left to right: Ian Watson, Andy West and yours truly, looking pensive (and no doubt pondering something portentous.) Photo Chrissy Leonhardt

The BoB launch was a bigger deal than I expected, although this might have had something to do with Ian Whates’ offer of free drink for all attendees. There were about a hundred and twenty people packed into the Drawing Room by the time we kicked off, so many in fact that by the time I had squeezed onto the panel, peeps were already being turned away.

Sticking to health and safety required numbers was probably just as well though, given the stream that bubbled from the bar’s ceiling at all hours and the bits of masonry that dropped from the roof during the Future of Cities panel (allegedly).

(I’m reading such conspicuous decrepitude as our hotel cosplaying The Bradbury from Bladerunner rather than as some sort of extended metaphor for #brexit.)

Ian Whates introduced each of Newcon’s new books, along with readings from Jaine Fenn (The Martian Job) and Adrian Tchaikovsky (Tales of the Apt: For Love of Distant Shores). The highlight of the launch was probably Ian Watson’s brilliant stream of consciousness précis of Assassins’ Legacy which he co-wrote with Andy West. Ian managed to rattle away for what seemed like a good five minutes without hesitation, deviation or repetition (or even pausing to take a breath). Hopefully, someone had Nicholas Parsons on speed dial.

IMG_2127Donna Scott introduced good old BoB. It’s a slightly surreal experience to have ended up in an anthology including writers like Ken McLeod, Adam Roberts, Jaine Fenn, Eric Brown, Lavie Tidhar, E.J. Swift, Anne Charnock, Natalia Theodoridou and Jeff Noon. Especially as Jeff Noon’s brilliant, hyper-trippy ‘Vurt’ was one of the books that made me want to start writing science fiction in the first place. (I still highly recommend it). During the signing I got the chance to talk writer-stuff with Anne Charnock (just ahead of her BFSA award win).  I explained how I thought I’d messed up my first novel and she told me how she had approached her third and gave me a bit of useful writerly advice: that pretty much every book is different and that stuffing it up early on is usually an integral part of writing it.


From left to right: Adrian Tchaikovsky, Jaine Fenn, Ian Watson, Andy West and yours truly enjoying Ian’s speed-of-thought summary of “Assassins’ Legacy”. Photo Chrissy Leonhardt

All too soon, I was rattling back home on the train, thinking to myself that despite all the pain-in-the-butt-holio of getting up to Harrogate, it’s those sort of moments which make cons worthwhile. That is, the luxury of just being a writer for a while and the opportunity to talk and think about nothing else.


psuggarsPhilip A. Suggars is a British writer with a single yellow eye in the middle of his forehead and a collection of vintage binoculars. His work has appeared in Strange Horizons, Persistent Visions, Interzone and The Best of British Science-Fiction anthology series as well as being performed by Starship Sofa, Far Fetched Fables and the London Liars’ League. He has won the Ilkley Short Story award, was runner up for the James White Award and has been longlisted for BSFA short story award. He lives with three hairless primates and a (no longer) imaginary cat. Visit him at http://www.philipasuggars.com or follow him on twitter @felipeazucares.


About Jacey Bedford

Jacey Bedford maintains this blog. She is a writer of science fiction and fantasy (www.jaceybedford.co.uk), the secretary of Milford SF Writers (www.milfordSF.co.uk), a singer (www.artisan-harmony.com) and a music agent booking UK tours and concerts for folk performers (www.jacey-bedford.com). She's also a Home Office / UK Visas and Immigration department licensed sponsor processing UK work permits (Certificates of Sponsorship).
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