Here are comments and observations by a variety of writers in the Milford family. We had a Milford stand this year to promote upcoming events and the bursary for SF writers of colour.
Sue Oke says:
This year’s Eastercon, Ytterbium, was held at the Park Inn. A familiar venue from previous years and while the panel/workshops rooms were more than adequate, the hotel seemed totally unprepared for the number of people requiring lunch/drinks etc. (almost as if they didn’t know how many people were coming). Conversations at the bar revealed that quite a few people had to wait until the evening before their room was ready—come on guys, you’ve hosted a convention before, it’s not exactly unexpected for most of the convention guests to arrive around about the same sort of time.
Putting the (let’s face it, the usual) gripes aside—I thoroughly enjoyed my day at the convention. I was only able to attend on the Saturday due to work commitments, but still managed to hook up with friends, wander round the Art Gallery and catch two of the Guest of Honour interviews.
Frances Harding and John Scalzi were entertaining and engaging interviewees and certainly kept the audience amused. I particularly liked Harding’s predilection for playing “extravagant games with language” and the way she viewed the endings of her books as an opportunity to unlock the potential of her characters, rather than have neat resolutions. The “introvert” Scalzi gave an illuminating explanation as to why he has never suffered from imposter syndrome. At the age of 14 he decided he was going to be a writer; everyone around him––parents, teachers, mentors––all told him, yes, that’s exactly what you should be. Scalzi is an example of how the power of ongoing positive support and encouragement can be fully realised. A lesson for us all, I think.
The panel on surviving the apocalypse added a light-hearted interlude—those words really shouldn’t go together––with Ian Whates’ insistence that his first priority would be to find someone to perform an anti-vasectomy. As the only male on our ‘survivors’ panel, his goal was to selflessly work to repopulate the planet. The female panellists weren’t exactly impressed—their choice of weapon was an AK-47 assault rifle, a pretty effective deterrent. Whates dismissed the weapon as wasteful, scattering bullets everywhere. His weapon of choice, rather tellingly, was a harpoon gun. This, he explained, could be reused over and over by the simple expediency of winding the harpoon back after use.
The Elsewhen Press book launch was fun, with Geoff Buck holding court and answering (increasingly techy) questions on his new book Genesis, where sentient intelligence spontaneously develops within the web and does what it has to do to survive.
One disappointment—I was so busy chatting and generally having fun that I totally missed out on the ‘Subtle Forms of Racism in SF’ talk. If anyone out there attended and has some useful take-away points to share, I’d be really grateful.
Finished the day with an excellent dinner hosted by Elsewhen Press; it’s really great being a part of their family of writers.
Looking forward to Fantasy Con in Glasgow!
Jim Anderson says:
I always find Eastercon to be a wild and distracting ride. The programme includes more interesting panels than one person can attend (Saturday’s Planning for the Apocalypse was an unexpectedly rip roaring ride, including the importance of shopping trolleys, libraries and spear guns, distilling and chocolate, amongst many other things), readings from authors known and new (to me), and of course the BSFA awards ceremony. Beyond the programme itself is the opportunity to mingle with old friends and make new ones, and generally spend a bit too much time in the bar. All in all, a delightful experience.
Liz Williams says:
I attended Eastercon from Friday to Sunday this year, driving up from Somerset and staying in the Radisson. It was a good convention for me – I caught up with a lot of people, including the New Con Press team at a book launch on Friday night. It was great to see Gwyneth Jones again – we used to meet up in Brighton, but I haven’t seen her since I moved westwards. And great, too, to see that she has a new short story collection out – ‘Big Cat.’ I’m looking forward to reading it. Gwyneth is one of the writers who inspired me when I was starting out and I’m so pleased she’s still writing. Also great to catch up with Chris Priest – I went to his daughter Lizzy’s book launch, too, and the room was packed. Lizzy Priest came to Milford a year or so ago so it was fantastic to be at the launch of her books – note the plural. Go and check out the first one, ‘Concrete Faery’ – it looks ace. I didn’t get the chance to go to any panels and sadly missed John Scalzi’s GoH speech as I had a reading scheduled at the same time. Kari Sperring and I co-wrote a short story for Milford last year, featuring a 1920s occult house party, a bunch of nudists and a disreputable guru, and we each read a section of this. You’ll have to read it to find out what happens, though. When we send it somewhere (ahem, cough, sorry). However, it was good to meet John, whom I’ve been corresponding with online for some years now: he’s a great guy. Tade Thompson and I sat next to each other for the awards ceremony and alas, we were both pipped to the post for Best Novel and Best Short Form respectively, but the competition ws very stiff and my congratulations to Ian McDonald, who won in my category for Time Was. I left on Sunday morning to do a small literary pilgrimage – to Dorney in Buckinghamshire, which is the village on which Susan Cooper based Huntercombe in The Dark is Rising. All round, an excellent weekend.
Gaie Sebold Says:
When I got to Eastercon this year I was shocked to realise that I hadn’t been back for three years. (Not because of any particular problems with Eastercon itself, but due to various life-stuff and some simple convention burn-out on my part).
It was good to be back. There were a few hiccups, but generally quite minor ones – at least for us. The nice young man on reception (good lord, nice young man – it’s official, I have finally become my mother) sorted us out despite the hotel having lost our booking, forcing Himself to rebook through other channels, which resulted in us apparently having booked two rooms. That being swiftly dealt with, we were able to mingle a bit before diving into various activities: including the relaunch of Himself’s novel (Shopocalypse) with Newcon Press along with numerous other books, a lively and well-attended event.
I only encountered two of the guests of honour: John Scalzi and Francis Hardinge, but both were delightful and entertaining and Mr Scalzi (proudly clad in a very pink and gloriously glittery GOH Ytterbium t-shirt) was very kind when I wibbled fangirlishly at him.
I was a panellist for one item, about genre Awards and the uses thereof. I hope we gave good value, there was a fairly broad cross-section of opinion. I was surprised to realise how few people were aware that the Clarke Awards accept small press books and have accepted self-published books, so long as they fit the other qualifications, since 2016, so I’m restating it here.
Overall the programme felt fresh and interesting; there were (as always) panels and events I wanted to attend and failed to, sometimes because they were opposite each other, sometimes just because BarCon happened, as it does. A slight overemphasis on dystopian reality, for my taste, but those are the times we live in, and it is, after all, one of the functions of SF to explore where we’re heading.
Personally I relentlessly avoided the real world until Monday and had an excellent time: so congratulations to the organisers, and, of course, the award winners. I was particularly chuffed to see Gareth Powell win a BSFA award for his novel Embers of War. (If they had one for Nicest Bloke in SF he’d probably be a finalist for that too) and Alliette de Bodard win the non-fiction award for her excellent On Motherhood and Erasure.
Even the weather decided to be lovely. All in all, a good con.
Ian Creasey tells of his Eastercon book launch disaster:
Becoming an author involves a lot of hard work and rejection, during which time the would-be writer dreams of the day when their first book will be published. However, when that day arrives, things don’t always go quite as well as the writer hoped.
I write science fiction. After many years of selling short stories to magazines and anthologies, self-publishing two collections along the way, I finally landed a book deal with a traditional publisher, NewCon Press. It took twenty years from the sale of my first story to the publication of my first trad-pubbed book, The Shapes of Strangers, so it was a big deal for me.
The book came out in April 2019, with a launch event held at a convention on 19 April. The launch was a big disappointment. I’m writing this account mostly to salvage a little something from the wreckage, but I figure it might also be helpful — or at least amusing — for other new authors to hear about what can go wrong.