Wfc2013 or wtf2013?
Last weekend I joined the world’s (for world read UK, US, Australia mostly) fantasy authors, publishers and agents in Brighton for wfc2013. Expectations had been set low by a series of unfortunate announcements by the organisers that made you think that women and disabled people were not welcome. Once I arrived though most of those thoughts were proved unfounded.
Why “most”? well you see the panels were problematical. They seemed to be stuck in the 90’s, as an example “Is print dead?” You know we had a debate on that on my publishing course in Uni in 1997 as the publishing world was going to be challenged by Multimedia (remember that?). Is print dead? Nope, books are no more challenged by e-books than by audio books, e-readers are just another format on which you can access the stories that will continue to be churned out. I have an e-reader, I have a large library of physical books, I use both, I don’t foresee a time I will ever abandon print.
There are other examples, one of which I’ll go into in detail. The panels seemed to mostly be built around negatives. Or asking questions that you just think can be answered with a simple yes or no.
Program details here: http://www.wfc2013.org/programming02.html
We arrived Thursday morning and spent a pleasant time in the bar chatting with Paul Cornell and Lee Harris after registering and collecting the mountain of freebies. This was the calm before the storm really. We did get the chance to book in and dump our two bags worth of freebies each before going for a fantastic lunch in Terre a Terre then heading back to the hotel for when the dealer room opened at 2pm. Oh boy that dealer room was dangerous for the wallet. What a great set of stalls. We ended up trying to avoid it as it seemed that every time we went in there we bought something new.
I didn’t actually manage to get to any panels on the Thursday but did go to 2 book clubs. One for Only Forward by Michael Marshall Smith (one of the organisers of the con) and one for Anno Dracula for Kim Newman. I don’t feel this format worked, they were not very well attended and relied upon the attendees to have done a lot of prep really. Pretty stilted both times, I did of course try to throw questions at the authors and we did learn some interesting stuff but I wouldn’t do a book club at a con again.
By being at the book club I did miss out on helping to organise the “Pop up pirate” guerrilla programming that a bunch of friends did. I did get to support them and go along to their alternative, fringe program though which was good. A number of readings were done including Francis Knight and Tom Pollock.
And there was grog and doubloons. Yaaarr. I’m hoping to help out more next time.
Friday we went to lunch with Hannah Berry and Maura McHugh ostensibly to plot for BFL 2014 but really just an excuse to catch up and shoot the breeze. Hannah, as a local, took us to a fantastic Mexican restaurant called La Choza where they had a day of the dead theme since it was the day after Halloween)
Facepainting was provided by Ziggy Angus email@example.com The food was pretty good too.
Arriving back late afternoon and actually missing some stuff I’d thought about going to. I was in time to go to the Broads with swords panel (again insultingly titled and basically a ghetto panel) to support Gaie Sebold who was appearing. It was an odd conversation that, in the end, turned into a list making exercise on “who are the best female fantasy writers”.
Later I also attended the We’re all bloggers now panel which was excruciatingly described – I quote, in full:
Being a columnist or a critic used to be a skill, combining knowledge and the ability to write with insightful observations. These days it seems that everybody has an opinion and evolving technology has given us numerous platforms through which to make our views known. Have we degraded the true art of criticism to a point where it has lost all value, or are some of the best insights found online these days?
In essence then the organisers are saying that bloggers are unskilled, uneducated and have nothing worth saying? As a blogger I find this rather patronising to say the least. I was not alone. Cheryl Morgan, http://www.cheryl-morgan.com/ pointed out that the panel description was idiotic. This didn’t seem to go down well with the panel or the moderator and having had enough after 15 minutes I walked out. Maybe it got better, I’m not sure. The moderator was pretty awful on that one (a fairly common problem in the panels I attended).
The only other panel I attended was What else have you got? Which bucked the trend of the panels and was actually entertaining and informative, what a difference good moderation makes. The people on the panel were all well-known editors and it was an interesting chat.
We went to a couple of launches and readings but not sure, now that I’ve slept, in what order so will just list them here:
Titan books launch – mmm popcorn
Jo Fletcher book launch – long signing queue for Fearie Tales
PS Publishing – picked up a signed copy of Sunburnt Faces by Shimon Adaf
Mass signing – bewildering experience but managed to get pretty much all the books we’d brought with us signed
Del Rey party – that one went on till late
All of the launches were fun and good mixers/networking events.
Readings I went to were:
Gareth L Powell – who was surprised to find that Hive monkey was on sale on the Solaris stand, as was I, had to nab a copy too.
Gareth is always entertaining to listen to and garnered himself a few new fans with the monkey’s exploits. I’ll be reviewing Hive Monkey and hopefully interviewing Gareth soon.
Wesley Chu & Scott Lynch – very entertaining, can’t wait to read Lives of Tao (will be the next but one book I read I think) and Scott Lynch was like a big puppy but he had the most mesmerising voice.
Genevieve Valentine – who read a stunning story & was the best reading I went to all weekend
And last but certainly not least Rochita Loenin-Ruiz who sadly got a bit rushed and had to skip to the end.
I also attended a Kaffeeklatch with the very talented and fun Joe Hill who entertained a room full of people for a whole hour, made everyone feel included in the conversation and had a number of brilliant anecdotes and tips for writers. We also discussed the best books we’d each read this year and it was very nice that Joe recommended the Johannes Cabal books from local (to Bristol) writer Jonathan L Howard (who’s doing a reading for BristolCon fringe this month. http://www.bristolcon.org/?page_id=2074
In between times there was always the art room where Tessa Farmer’s work always seemed to be causing a buzz
A lot of time was spent in the bar or in other refreshment areas chatting with friends old and new. And of course there was Brighton in the rain
And Brighton in the sun
Rare as that was. As well as restaurants and other sundry fun stuff. Talking about restaurants, one close to the convention hotel tweeted a bunch of people using the hash tag #wfc2013. Very enterprising. A bunch of us went there (and were a little ripped off actually – we ordered the special menu at £10.99 + drinks as there were more than 12 of us and they charged us full price – very naughty) It was called the Little Bay and was set up as a theatre inside. We were in one of the balconies so it came as a complete surprise when the opera singer popped up behind us.
So in summary fun was had, but problems remained. Once I’d decided that it wasn’t aimed at fans and that the panels were a bust I had a much better time. I would go to another, just for the networking possibilities, which is a little sad to be honest. Those guys could really learn from BristolCon which was many times more fun both as a standard punter and someone with a tiny role to play in the publishing industry. There are far too many people to mention that I met, chatted to and saw at the con but needless to say it was a massive vortex that mostly prevented you from talking too long to any one person. I met a bunch of fine folk and in the end that’s what made the con.