Last Saturday, I headed off my first ever con, BristolCon – not just as an attendee, but as a guest, with a slot on a panel and a chance to read from ACID. I was a touch nervous by the time I got to the Ramada Hotel, but as soon as I got inside, everyone was so lovely that those nerves quickly disappeared. Once I'd registered, there was a bit of time before the first panel I wanted to attend, so I headed straight for the booksellers' room and loaded up with books, then wandered off to look at the stunning artwork on display in the dealers' room. I particularly loved seeing the prints by Dan Chernett, who did the artwork for Chris Wooding's MALICE and HAVOC, two of my favourite books of recent years. Unfortunately they were wayyy out of my price range, but I can always dream…
Then it was time for the first event I wanted to go to – an interview by Juliet E McKenna with John Meaney. It was really entertaining, as was the panel that followed, a discussion about 'netiquette' and how not to make a twit of yourself online, with Mark Aplin from Fantasy Faction, Marc Gascoigne, publisher at Angry Robot, and authors Guy Haley, Dolly Garland and Robert Harkess. I particularly agreed with Dolly's point about not trying to be controversial unless it's about something you really believe in, and about how your blog is 'your' space and if you don't feel comfortable about responding to someone who's clearly just trying to cause trouble, you don't have to. And happily, the general consensus among the panel seemed to be that it's OK to blog about your dog every now and then, so worry not, Hound fans, he's going nowhere!
I was hoping to have time to hear Emma Newman, who I was on my panel with later, do a reading, but unfortunately the Netiquette panel overran so I missed it. However, I did get to see her, Dev Agarwal, Aliette de Bodard, Gareth L Powell and Leigh Kennedy talk about space travel and dysfunctional families, which was really interesting, particularly the discussion about the idea of what a 'family' is and how that might change in the future.
Then it was back to room 1 for the launch of Stephanie Burgis's A RECKLESS MAGICK. It was great to hear Stephanie read from the book and lovely to chat to her (albeit briefly) afterwards, as we've talked on Twitter and Facebook but never met in 'the real world' before. The book was the perfect read for my train journey home yesterday – I devoured it in a couple of hours – and I'd recommend it to anyone who loves the Regency era and a good old-fashioned adventure with a liberal helping of magic!
By now it was 3pm, and I was getting pretty desperate for something to eat so I didn't pass out halfway through my panel (which wasn't until 7), so I sneaked out to meet a friend who was passing through Bristol, and we grabbed some dinner at one of the little cafes by the river. We also visited a Chinese supermarket where I picked up the most gorgeous tin of jasmine tea (I'm a little bit obsessed with blue-and-white stuff).
I returned to the Ramada just in time to see the panel being held in honour of BristolCon's 'Ghost of Honour', the late Colin Harvey, and the launch of Colinthology, an excellent-sounding anthology which I will be purchasing as soon as I can (it's available from Wizard Tower Books and all proceeds go to the charity Above and Beyond).
And then it was time for my reading. Eek!
But it went well (I think!). At least, no-one fell asleep or threw things, which is always good. Straight afterwards, my panel began, which was called 'YA: Just for Girls?', with Moira Young, Emma Newman and Kim Lakin-Smith, and expertly moderated by Foz Meadows. My mind always goes blank with these sorts of things and I never feel as if I have the slightest clue what I'm on about, but the others were brilliant and the audience asked lots of interesting questions – we could have gone on talking all night. The conclusion we more or less unanimously came to was no, YA is NOT just for girls. The problem of boys stopping reading after a certain age is not caused by there being too many female authors or protagonists (because there aren't!), but by social conditioning – by boys and girls being seen as alien species to one another and any crossover between the two being viewed seen as a bad thing. Someone also asked about YA being heavily biased towards romance, and whether that put boys off reading it. This is another point I disagree with. I think because being a teenager is such a tempestuous time – a time of such great physical and mental changes – and often, at that age, you are discovering boys or girls for the first time, everyone assumes that YA fiction is mostly romantic. But there's plenty of stuff out there that has little or no romance in it at-all, if romance is what turns boys off reading YA (which again, might be due to social conditioning).
Anyway, as Moira said to me afterwards, "I think we sorted that one out!
After that, Foz gave a reading from her WIP, an intriguing-sounding YA novel, and then there was just time to go to the bar and hear organiser and all round BristolCon superstar Joanne Hall give thanks to everyone for coming. I would have loved to have stayed for the live music, but I needed to catch a train as my parents (who I was staying with for the weekend) were very kindly picking me up from the station, and I didn't want to be dragging them out at stupid o'clock to meet me. So off I went, lugging a bag of signed books and goodies, exhausted but happy.
A HUGE thank you to Joey for inviting me to take part, and to her and and every single one of the other volunteers who kept everything running so smoothly and made it such a wonderful day. I am in awe of your organizing skills – I hope you've all had a chance to recover and I hope I'll see you again next year!