Days Out · Geek Stuff

WFC2013: A ramble.

I thought I’d leave it a few days before I wrote my post World Fantasy Convention blog, partly to get over the fatigue it induced and partly to give myself musing time. In the meantime countless posts have been written by people in far more coherent and considered accounts than mine has any hope of being.

I absolutely had a wonderful, highly enjoyable weekend. I think though that this was as much about the people I was with as it was the event itself. For starters I got to spend the weekend with my awesome friend Liz and see first hand the buzz around her debut novel Banished – ARCs of the book were at the event and getting to see her sign her first… second… and a fair few more copies was truly wonderful. I also got to spend plenty of time with other friends including ones I’d met before, ones I’d only had the chance to interact with online, and ones I’d never had any interaction with before but absolutely will have now.

There was, as there should be at all good events, a good sized dealers room with plenty of browsing opportunities. There was also an art show that included all manner of fantasy related art, including some gorgeous cover art and Lisa Snelling’s lovely Poppets. I was very good and kept my limited budget in mind the entire time, it’s probably a very good thing that the Poppet I fell for was already sold – I think it would have been pretty hard to resist! I did pick up a few very exciting books courtesy of the tables in the registration area, my ARC of Banished is already situated on my shelf of most highly prized items.

Haul

There was a wide range of panels on offer over the course of the weekend, I only made it to five of them though. Sadly two of the panels (Fangs for the Memory: Have Vampires Lost Their Bite? and The Mainstream and Us) suffered for having one very dominant voice and we didn’t get a chance to listen to a range of views on what should have been interesting discussions. The two YA focused panels, Not in Front of the Children: How Far Should You Go in Young Adult Fiction? and Are All the Best Genre Books Now YA? were wonderfully entertaining opportunities to hear from some very brilliant YA authors and whilst neither necessarily had anything new to say I enjoyed them both (I took detailed notes at both of these and will put them up once I’ve had a chance to tidy them a little).

The highlight of the panels I attended, and probably the entire weekend, was called 2013 Life Achievement Recipient Susan Cooper in Conversation with Neil Gaiman and delivered just that – two utterly wonderful authors in conversation, the only criticism any of us could levy at it afterwards was that we wanted another hour or two of the conversation!

I also attended one additional event that didn’t come from the main programming. The Popup Pirates set themselves up a few days before the convention to organise a few additional sessions – I went along to their Saturday evening reading to hear my friend Mark H Williams read from his debut novel Sleepless Knights (I reviewed it earlier this year). There was a good range of readings, Tom Pollock’s reading of a scene from the third book in his The Skyscraper Throne trilogy in particular left me wanting more.

In addition to all of the organised, both official and unofficial, aspects of the weekend that I went along to were many, many more that I didn’t. It was great when chatting with people to be able to compare notes about what we’d each seen and heard. The unscheduled part of the weekend though, the time sat chatting with people, was absolutely brilliant. I’m a pretty quiet, shy person really, once I know you I’ll chat away forever but before then I’ll generally keep quiet. The large scale side of the event did leave me feeling overwhelmed a few times, but chilling out with friends completely made up for this (escaping the convention hotel to go to a nearby pub on the Saturday afternoon felt a bit naughty, but most welcome).

The most unexpected aspect of the weekend was how inspired to keep writing I felt by the end of it. I’m sure I’ve talked before about how much I enjoy talking about writing and with writers, for the first time I had actually got a concrete, well underway, work in progress to talk about, and the hugely friendly encouragement I got from the friends I chatted with gave me a huge boost. I’ve come away refocused and with a much clearer understanding of what I’m writing, who I’m writing for and probably most importantly why I’m writing. That in itself was well worth the trip.

Geek Stuff · TV Stuff

A Tale of Two Conventions.

In the last few weeks I’ve been to two very different conventions, and had a brilliant time at them both.

Thought Bubble, Leeds.
The Cardiff International Comic Expo back in February was my first ever comic convention. I had such a good day that I knew I wanted to go to more comic conventions and had heard lots of good stuff about Thought Bubble so decided that I would go and see what it was like for myself. Over the months between booking my ticket and it finally being time to make the journey up to Leeds I found out that a few online friends were also going to be there and it would be an opportunity to meet in person some of the people I have known online for some time. I spent much of Saturday with Liz and Mark from My Favourite Books, met up with Budgie for a coffee, and briefly met Bevis and bought the only comics of his that I didn’t already own so that now I have a full set.

It’s been a few weeks now, so I’m not going to be going into much detail about what I did and saw walking around the two halls, instead I shall just say that the vast array of comics on offer was pretty amazing. There were so many talented creators there selling comics that would have covered pretty much anybody’s tastes. I could have spent my money five or six times over, so settled for collecting lots of business cards that pointed towards online shops for future splurges. My comics TBR pile is now looking very healthy again and I’m looking forward to some great reading time once I’ve finished my semester 1 assignments and exam. The atmosphere at Thought Bubble was warm and friendly, and I had a really enjoyable weekend. I shall definitely be going back in future years.

Con-1, Birmingham.
Me and my friend Emma are both huge fans of the tv show Leverage so when she discovered that Starfury were going to be doing a Leverage convention we eagerly booked our tickets. The line up got better and better as we got closer to the weekend, with four out of the five main cast members (Gina Bellman, Beth Riesgraf, Aldis Hodge and Christian Kane) able to attend. In addition we had one of the co-creators and writers of the show, Chris Downey, and arrived to find Mark Sheppard appearing as an unannounced surprise guest. An added bonus for me was that Christian Kane was going to be bringing along bandmates and buddies including Steve Carlson and Riley Smith, and they were going to be playing a gig on the Saturday night. Kane’s The House Rules is one of my most played CDs of 2011, and I’m a fan of Steve Carlson’s solo music too so this all sounded like a wonderful early Christmas present to myself.

Both Saturday and Sunday started with panels (there were photoshoots going on at the same time but we’ve never gone in for them), these always tend to be entertaining though when there is no moderation of the questions being asked there is always the risk that things can get a little silly or even out of hand. By and large the questions asked were good, interesting ones (I’m thinking of taking a couple and putting them together for a recurring blog feature in 2012) and every person on the stage answered what was asked of them really well. At every convention I’ve been to before there has been one guest who has been a little disappointing, or just not so comfortable with being on the stage answering questions but every single person at Con-1 was utterly brilliant. As Sunday progressed I started to feel increasingly sad with each passing panel that we were getting closer to the end of things – I could have listened to each and every one of them for so much longer.

Something that was a little unexpected but that just made the weekend even better for me was how much discussion there was of writing, both from Chris Downey talking about writing Leverage – his Sunday panel began with him walking the audience through how they write Leverage episodes, and from Christian, Steve and Riley talking about writing music. I came away feeling inspired by them all, and buoyed by the realisation that in general terms writing is writing no matter what the desired end product is.

Saturday’s musical evening was every bit as good as I’d hoped, and probably a bit more. We knew that Life of Riley were going to be playing first but another surprise was that Brian Nutter followed them. He is one of Keith Urban’s guitarists, and a really talented musician – I hope there will be more opportunities in the future to hear him perform. The final act was Christian and Steve along with Brian, and the members of Life of Riley, it was so good to hear so many Kane songs that I love performed live.

Con-2 has already been announced for next November, after having such a good weekend at Con-1 we’re definitely going to be there.

Days Out · Geek Stuff

Out and About : Cardiff International Comic Expo.

Over the last couple of years I’ve been trying to find my way into the somewhat confusing world of comics, I’ve been reading things that have been made into movies, found a few webcomics I love (though sadly I discovered two of them mere months before they finished for good) and followed recommendations lovely people on Twitter have been giving me. When I heard there was going to be a new comic expo in Cardiff it sounded like a great opportunity for me to go and pick up some new titles and explore a bit more.

Keeping to a budget is hard.
My first walk around the expo left me feeling a bit overwhelmed, there were tables full of colourful books waiting to be bought and I hadn’t heard of most of them. Behind each table sat someone who had a role in creating the books, the idea of speaking to one of them and revealing I knew nothing was more than a little scary. Knowing I had money saved specifically to spend in this room encouraged me to take another walk, and eventually I stopped at the Corvus Press table. They were selling issues #0 and #1 of The Baker Street Irregulars and sat behind the table was inker Patrick O’Connor. He was wonderfully friendly and I ended up walking away with both issues. Buoyed by the fact I’d managed to navigate a conversation I carried on and managed to spend the rest of my budget with relative ease.

In addition to the Baker Street Irregular issues, I bought Hero 9 – 5, Breathe and The Young Sherlock Holmes Adventures from Markosia, Arthur The Legend from Dalen and 10thology a collection of work by all Welsh creators. Expect to see reviews for all of these popping up over the next couple of months.

Whilst wandering around and trying to stretch my budget to its fullest I managed to nearly get run over by a Dalek on three separate occasions. Luckily for me they were in a good mood and didn’t appear keen to exterminate anybody.

Talks, talks and more talks.
In addition to the sales side of the Expo there was a full schedule of talks and panels. This was much more familiar ground to me, they tend to make up half of each day at the sci fi conventions I attend. I got organised before getting to the expo and had a list of the talks I wanted to go to, every one sounded good but I picked the ones I wanted to see the most.

Sidekickcast’s Secrets and Lies Live was the first panel I attended, a news quiz pitting a team of writers against a team of artists and both of them against the audience. It was a great start to the day, I laughed most of the way through it and Paul Cornell lead the writers’ team to a resounding win.

Matt Savage took the stage next, he’s a concept artist who has worked on films including The Dark Knight and X-Men: First Class, and Doctor Who – he was responsible for the redesign of the Daleks for the relaunch in 2005. He was a really interesting person to listen to, having pictures of his art to accompany what he was saying made for a really interesting panel.

Paul Cornell and Jimmy Broxton’s panel was excellent, fielding questions from the floor for the majority of the time they both proved to be really interesting to listen to. The discussion on how the comics industry is struggling to attract new young readers was of particular interest to me, the points they made have kept me thinking long past the event.

Mike Tucker and Mat Irvine took to the stage to talk about their time working for the BBC Special Effects unit. They have recently released a book chronicling the work the unit did over its lifetime, they talked through some of the photos that made it into the book and some that they’d had to leave out. The allotted 45 minutes flew by on this panel, I would have happily sat through another 45 minutes at least.

Creating Who? was the final panel and the one I’d been looking forward to the most. My ultimate dream would be to write tv tie in novels, particularly for one of the family of Doctor Who programmes. This panel was all about writing for Doctor Who outside of the tv programme and included comics’ writers and artists and Big Finish audio adventures’ authors. Sadly for me the person I was most looking forward to hearing from, Justin Richards who is Creative Director of the BBC Books range, was unable to attend. The panel was interesting, but ultimately a disappointment for me.

Looking forward to 2012.
I had a brilliant time at Cardiff International Comic Expo and I was thrilled to see them already advertising next year’s expo. I’ll definitely be booking my ticket.

Geek Stuff

Hub 4

I’ve just realised it’s now a week since I went to Northampton for the Hub 4 convention (“a 3 day event for Torchwood fans”) and I still haven’t blogged about the weekend. I’m going to put that right now.

We had been to the Hub 2 and Hub 3 conventions last year and had a good time at both, so when the line up for the Hub 4 included both Eve Myles and Naoko Mori for the whole weekend we decided we would attend. The line up as a whole was good, we’d seen Kai Owen and Tom Price before, and Eve was at Hub 2 for one day. In addition Naoko was there for the whole weekend, Cush Jumbo, Ian Gelder and Susan Brown from Children of Earth all did one day, as did Anthony Lewis who had appeared in “To The Last Man”, Ian Hilditch who is a Weevil and also John Barrowman’s body double, and directer Colin Teague.

The morning signings were all as smooth running as they normally are at anything organised by Showmasters / Massive Events. The best guest for the signings was Colin Teague who was on a mission to tell as many people as possible about his new project Resonance. It is a multi platform project that he feels will appeal to fans of genre tv, and it will be interactive so that followers can help to direct the ways that plots and characters will develop. It sounds really interesting and he seemed incredibly passionate about it so I’m really looking forward to seeing what happens.

Both afternoons were taken up by q&a panels. The highlight on Saturday was the panel of Eve, Naoko and Cush. They were all hugely entertaining and witty, Cush had never done a convention before but she got the hang of it quicker and better than most first timers we’ve seen at these events. It would be hard to pick a favourite panel from Sunday, again the first timers were excellent.

Saturday afternoon also so a first in that they did an episode screening with live commentary. They chose the episode “Meat” and Colin, Eve, Kai and Naoko all took part in the commentary. It worked pretty well, there were a few technical teething issues but nothing that couldn’t be improved on for future events. It was a really nice addition to the weekend, one I hope they’ll be including in future events.

All in all it was another brilliant weekend. The tone and atmosphere was different to the previous two Hub events that we had been to, we suspect this was a combination of one of the actors not attending, and some of the fans who attend primarily to see him not going as a result. It was all very nice and laid back though, very enjoyable. I definitely won’t be going to the Hub 5, it’s taking place on the first weekend I’m away at uni. I’m not sure whether there will be a Hub 6, I suspect it will depend on whether another series of Torchwood is greenlit. If it happens I’ll certainly consider being there.