Tuesday, April 17, 2007


Well, I'm probably the latest person in the world to post for this event - by the looks of things, most people were posting whenever they got a spare moment in the bar - but hey, so what?

Easter - traditionally a time of chocolate eggs, fluffy bunnies and (at least in our household) Science Fiction Conventions. This year's Con - Contemplation- was in the gorgeous town of Chester (a late arrival in the Con stakes after the original venue in Liverpool fell through). I have been to Chester before - as a Northerner, it was one of those places that I occasionally got taken on holiday to, moving out into town from a wet campsite somewhere - but I didn't honestly remember a lot about it. Vague memories of black-and-white bulidings, two storeys of shopping, a theatre called the Gateway.

All of which were there - with the exception of the Gateway which has (very sadly) been closed down with only the shell remaining, to be bulldozed in the near future. My other half is very into Cons, but I just like to go along and drop in to the odd thing whilst spending most of my time exploring whatever town we happen to be in (hence my dislike for Hinckley as a venue - there is nowhere to explore). Anyway, Chester turned out to be the most marvellous place to wander round - history at every turn, a virtually complete City Wall to wander round, a canal and a river, and good good shops. And the weather was fantastic.

Add in the fact that, in a packed hotel, I was the only person there who even remotely wanted to use the gym or the pool and you had a darn good time indeed (Sci Fi fans, and I know they won't mind this observation, tend to be on the large side. One acquaintance even saw me coming out of the gym and looked at me as if I was a traitor to the cause).

So what did I do at the Con? Well, a fair amount of writing for a start (yippee!), but also a fair amount of book buying. I used the Con Dealers' Room as a source of hard-to-get small press books and to this end spent some time chatting to the guy from Elastic Press (and buying, of course), and picking up various PS novellas, small press magazines like Far Thing, and the odd American import. Not only interesting reading, but hopefully potential markets to boot.

There was a panel discussion on writing too, which I naturally went along to. Two surprising things here: 1) there were a lot fewer people at the talk than is usual for such a topic, and 2) it wasn't just the usual 'make sure you follow the submission ms guidelines carefully' talk that you normally get. With representatives of Scheherezade, Interzone, Solaris books and Gollancz on the panel, it was a lively and interesting chat about the state of the industry at the moment. Even fellow con-goer and pro-writer Paul Cornell piped up with a question and seemed to find new things in it.

But, like all good things, the Con came to an end and we left our lovely hotel to return home. I have to say, I'd go back to Chester again, very happily. Until then, I have next year's Easter Con to look forward to: Orbital, in London, and featuring the blessed Neil Gaiman as Guest Of Honour...