NewCon 4: Confessions of an Overgrown Fangirl

Ever have a moment where you wonder what your younger self would’ve thought?

A Northampton fishmarket is an unlikely Con venue – the distinct absence of fish, though, and the gathering of both talent and aptitude made it wonderfully successful. Art show, dealers’ room, bar and café all lazed in the same open space; an outside garden lured smokers with wire caging and fairy lights. Throw in M C Jester and the wonderful hospitality of organisers Watson and Whates and you have a very enjoyable, family-atmosphere event.

For once, I was free to attend panels, scribbling copious notes in a toxic green pen. Blog posts will follow on my two faves – ‘SF and Media’ and ‘Sex Sells’, the latter noticeably female-dominated.

Between events, I had time to chat and circulate and get myself known – and this is where the System Shock sets in…

…pause for breath.

If anyone had told my wide-eyed, twenty-something self where I’d wind up, I would’ve giggled in disbelief.

When I walked into NewCon, alone, I knew maybe three names on the guest list. I confess to being intimidated; I had no table to hide behind, no MonQee to flaunt. I took my MacBook as armour and FP badges as weapons… and ended up needing neither. Helped by the easy atmosphere, I found myself thinking, ‘you silly bitch, you know this’.

From a hilarious combat-Mum bonding moment with Juliet E McKenna to talking shop with Storm Constantine and Freda Warrington in the mesh garden; from trading affable insults with Andy Remic to having breakfast in an unmentionable burger joint with Tony Ballantyne, right up to a conversation with Paul Cornell about icomics (after Gary Russell and Russell T, making a hat-trick of ‘Who’ Gods in a week)… my younger self watched it all with an expression of perplexed amusement.

The moment itself though, was Sunday morning, sitting chatting with Marc Gascoigne. Once involved in the earliest days of Fighting Fantasy, Marc was approached by an eager fan wanting him to sign a copy of Titan – a book now rarer than a wargaming girl.

My late fiancé, Bones, loved those books – enough that I’ve never parted with them. It would’ve been surreal for him, and I caught it from his memory. Next time I see Mister Gascoigne, I must ask him to sign my copy too.

Anyway, by Saturday night, I’d run out of business cards; by Sunday night, my Inbox was noticeably overweight. Good things to come, I think – I don’t know how many times I need to explain to my office where the real work gets done.

Long time out of the picture or no, between Orbital and NewCon, it’s been like picking up an old re-enactment blade – eminently familiar. This is the place where everything I was in my twenties is tempered with everything I’ve learned in my thirties and that forging has allowed me to realise something:

This blade is mine – and I know how to use it.
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