Monday, 5 April 2010

Eastercon! (Odyssey 2010)

I have never been to a con before. In fact, prior to starting the book blogging, I had never even heard of cons or knew what they involved. When some of my Twitter pals began talking excitedly about Eastercon, I confessed my lack of knowledge and was fervently encouraged by enough people to think about trying it out. I was phased at the idea of attending for more than one day on my first outing (in case I didn't find people who would talk to me, or in case I really didn't enjoy it), so I decided on a one day outing. To my great delight, two other con virgins (Jason aka Kamvision and Cara aka murf61) also decided to come along on the Saturday and we agreed to meet up for the day.

(Me and Cara)

(Me and Jason)


We attended three panels on the Saturday. The first of these was "Female Superheroes - Why Aren't There More of Them?" held at the heinously early time of 9am in the morning. I am not a massive comics/graphic novels fan but I did want to show my support to Sam Sykes, who came over from the States and had been drafted in to chat about (in his words) 'feminism and tight pants'. The other members of the panel were Paul Cornell, Esther Friesner and Roz Kaveney. I found this panel an entertaining listen, although I felt they meandered into manga a little too much and didn't really address the fact that the skimpy costumes and unrealistic body image portrayed in comics may be a contributing factor to why more women don't read comics. It was a good way to start the day though, and gave me a few comics I will no doubt check out now.

The second panel was one I had earmarked as soon as I saw the programme, and it was attended by an absolute mass of people: "Writers and the Web". The panellists this time were Joe Abercrombie, Mark Charan Newton, John Meaney and Maura McHugh. I really loved this panel! All the panellists were very knowledgeable about the ways in which authors can utilise the web, but came from entirely different perspectives so this generated some lively discussion. Add in a number of intelligent questions from the audience, and it made for an hour that flew by. The interaction between Mark and Joe, in particular, was enormously amusing, but showed a great love and appreciation for their fans.

The third and last panel was "Bridging the Gap: SF/F and Social Media" - completely different from the other two, more traditional panels. This event was broadcast live and accepted questions from virtual attendees. It had its own hashtag generated for Twitter users (#LiveCon) and most of the attendees in the room were not only joining in the debate physically, but via Twitter as well. Which was great for those who had iPhones or some other way of connecting to the virtual part of the panel. For those of us luddites whose phones do not have this function, it felt a little as though we only had half of the conversation. I liked the idea of the panel and some of the discussion was very interesting, but if I attend one like this again I shall make sure I have the necessary equipment to enjoy it completely!

I would not be the person you now know me to be if I didn't come home with at least some swag in the form of books! The Dealer's Room was a particular highlight, including the charity shop table (where I picked up the Campbell book on the cheap) and the Gollancz stand, which was just complete book candy for me since they brought along some of their forthcoming releases. While at the stand I made friends with Simon Spanton (I had a complete geek girl moment when I realised he knew my name!) and got Sykes to autograph his book for me. Well, he did better than that, as you can see from the picture below:

You will probably recognise one of those doodles as a pug. The other is apparently a mandrill (although someone did ask whether it might not be considered a self portrait!)

I also purchased two of the forthcoming YA books from the Gollancz imprint, which I am beyond excited about reading!

In my pile of swag you can also find three of the newer releases from Angry Robot Books, which Lee Harris brought along for me (thank you Lee! Still owe you smooches!)

Lee, myself and Carolyn from Book Chick City had a lovely little chat about various bits and pieces while ensconced in the Polo Lounge (which became my home away from home on the Saturday).

(Lee looking very suave)

The rest of my day, apart from panels and having a spin round the Dealer's Room, was spent being sociable and chatting to all manner of like-minded people.

I spent a very civilised hour with Sam Sykes having lunch, where we discussed reviews, cover art and pugs over McDonalds (yeah, but it was cheaper than pretty much anything in the hotel to eat!) Considering his many threats of violence on the run up to the con, it was pleasant to get a picture of Sam and Mr Abercrombie not brawling to the death!

The latest issue of SFX (which contained glowing reviews of both Sykes' Tome of the Undergates and Stephen Deas' King of the Crags) proved of particular interest to Simon Spanton:

I had a really lovely chat with Julie Crisp about Mieville's The City and The City and my less than positive review of Apartment 16 (which, thankfully, she was not disconcerted by at all - and she shouldn't be; the book has been garnering great reviews elsewhere). Here is a picture of Julie and Mark Charan Newton:

I also spent most of the day with Adam aka Ghostfinder on Twitter. He was great company although woefully knows nothing about football! In the picture below, it looks like I am sneaking up on him in order to steal books or something, but he knew I was there. I think.

I managed to fit in a catch-up with Alex Bell and we were joined by Suzanne McLeod, a very fine author (read her books! You should totally read Alex's books too!) We chatted about the mysterious identity of a chap in a blue jumper being courted on the Gollancz table, and Alex offered us some Bacon Beans that Sam brought across from the States for her. Man, these divided opinion. Personally, you could not pay me to eat one of those things again!

Me and Liz finally got to chat for longer than two minutes (which is what happened at the Headline party!) I managed to grab a picture of her, but not of Mark or Gav from Next Read (who it was lovely to talk to about books, reviewing, awards and hot authors! Or maybe the latter was just me and Jon Weir!)

Finally, for your amusement (and the clear amusement/bemusement of the Polo Lounge on the day) here is a picture of Jason and I sporting moustaches in preparation for a joint feature we are planning!

And that's a wrap! I talked to far more people than I had space to mention here - and all were unbelievably lovely. I wish I had taken far more pictures of the many great events that happened across the day.

Basically, I adored my day out at Eastercon. For anyone wondering whether attending a con is for them, I can only say "Go and do it!" Next year I am in for the long haul of the full weekend, for sure. I was gutted that I had to leave on Saturday night (through illness, rather than lack of a bed - which I was offered by a few kind folk, should I have wanted to stay!)

(Massive apologies to anyone who feels offended by not being mentioned in the above post. Kick me in the comments section or via Twitter!)


  1. Sounds like great fun! I can heartily endorse your comments about Suzanne McLeod and her books - fantastic reads and a fantastic lady!
    One day I'd like to attend a Con such as this ... but, sigh, circumstances of Life tend to get in the way.... :-/

  2. Good god, now feel my day was spent slacking in comparison! Great piece. Glad you liked your first con... Jon

  3. Ugh. I could have sat up for that a little better. Granted, I look quite huge, putting a rest to any doubts about my titanic shoulders, but perhaps a bit too huge?

    It was a good time! Glad you had fun!

  4. @ Helen - concur a thousand times about Suzanne :-). Now that I am a positive veteran of cons (*grin*) it is my turn to urge you to make the trip. I can't emphasise enough how great it was!

    @Jon - ha, maybe I made the socialising sound a wee bit more energetic than it was, since it involved sitting in the bar talking to people ;-)

    @Sam - I did give ample warning of photograph, by y'know, saying "Please can I take a photograph?" :-p Besides, you'd already sunk a few pints at that point - maybe sitting up was the last thing on your mind!

  5. looks like wicked fun, see you there next year since M won't let me go to Texas for WHC. ;)

  6. Great blog! And fantastic to meet you in RL! Love the pic of you and Jason and the 'taches'. Those bacon beans were an experience, weren't they? *g* *waves* at Helen: you should come, con's are great fun! And many thanks for the book love, both of you :-)

  7. It sounds like it was a great con and I would definitely like to go. I'm sure Paul Cornell and others covered this on the panel but, superhero comics are not comics. Ok, they are comics, but what I mean is they are just one genre in the medium of comics. The common perception of the average joe on the street is that all comics are batman, spider-man, superman etc and that's it. This drives me mad. There is a comic in every genre you can possibly think of, and some I don't even wanna think about! There are a lot of problems with some female superheroes, but outside that genre, I know of a lot of comics that would appeal to everyone. If you ever want any more suggestions on where to go for comics give me a nudge.


  8. @Adele - oh, would be awesome for you to join the gang at the next Eastercon! Have you seen it is at Birmingham? That is where I went to university, so I am looking forward to visiting a few of my old haunts as well!

    @Suzanne - thanks for the comments, t'was great to meet you too! Ha, glad it wasn't just me that had no love for the bacon beans...

    @Stephen - I suspect the panellists probably felt that most of the attendees would realise that comics don't automatically equal superheroes. As I pointed out, I am not a massive comic book reader (I have dabbled, if that much can be said!) so I am probably closer in knowledge to those average joe's you refer to! I would be happy to hear any suggestions on seminal comics that should be read - drop me a line on the email address listed in the 'About Me' section.

  9. sounds like a fun time. I wish there was a big con near enough to me to go, but that just doesn't happen - plus family and $$ keep me home.

  10. I guess I just need to move across the Atlantic already cause I've been missing out.

  11. Big fun to catch up with you, Amanda, as always. The moustache silliness brought me more joy than it probably should have. But you and Suzanne are rubbish for not liking the bacon beans (although every one else at the con seemed to be with you on that!)

  12. Sounds like you packed so much in, looks like a really good day!!

  13. @Neth - I can see that family and $$ would create problems! I could have spent a fortune on staying there all weekend and buying far too much.

    @Bryce - ah, you have been missing out and we'd love to see you over here - but do you know some of the seriously cool cons you have over there?

    @Alex - The moustache silliness made me cry with laughter. Seriously, I've been sent some pics and you can see the tears *grin*. The phallic cigar was just too much! Looking forward to this Saturday :-)

    @Dot - I had a fab time, I definitely recommend it!

  14. Very nice photos, but they make me soooo jealous. I wish someday I'll be able to attend the Eastercon (other cons as well :)) and meet all you nice people ;)

  15. This sounds like so much fun. I want to go to one..