Nine Worlds – A Second-Hand Blog

Matt BlakstadNine Worlds? Honestly, I didn’t see that much of it.

There was a fun combat panel first thing Friday morning and a sneaky couple of G&Ts in the bar on Saturday night – but I’ve never <ever> been that quiet (or that sober) at a Con before. Maybe age is catching me, who knows. Anyway.

So – this is a second-hand blog. A blog that tells of happy people buying lots of books (and I mean LOTS of books) which always makes the weekend go well. A blog that tells of happy people in every kind of cosplay; a blog that tells of an excellent venue and hotel, where the staff were sincere and helpful (and the bloke behind the bar mixing a Mai Tai (not for me) was an absolute God, a Dionysus for the modern age). Where was I? Yes – happy. From our nailed-by-our knees vantage, everybody had a very happy Con.

Now, that may not seem like a big deal – but getting this shit right is bloody difficult. Over the years, we’ve seen so many events die, or suffer from falling attendance, or become plagued with industry hamster-fighting… but with four years’ experience, Nine Worlds has absolutely got it right. People feel welcome and confident, they can dress in anything the bloody hell they want, they can attend a whole wealth of panels across every kind of format and topic. and learn about every aspect of this ever-expanding business of ours. Props to committee and program organisers for a top effort all round.

NPC Quest GuyMan of the match, though, goes to the Side-Quest Guy, handing out little Quest booklets for people to follow – I didn’t get time to follow mine sadly (missed my Gold, there) but the work and through that had gone into his costume and supporting story were amazing.

Above all, this is a blog to thank all of the lovely people that came to sign for us at our table – and those who also came to have a natter and sign their stock.

We had a bloody fabulous Con. More like this one please!

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Nine Worlds – Where I’ll Be

Nine Worlds Nine Worlds this weekend, which means you’ll find me, as ever, nailed by my knees to the trading table with a big piles o’ books, a full schedule of signings and (hopefully) a lot of tea.

I shall be on the Getting Fighting Wrong panel (not advisable, if you’ve ever tried it) alongside a suitable line-up of worthies: James Barclay, Liz de Jager, Sebastien de Castell, Oliver Langmead and Lucy Hounsom. The fur flies (or not) at 11:45am on Friday morning.

I’m also (so I’m told) on the LGBT Characters panel at 10:00am on Sunday morning – so I’d better not overdo it at the Cabaret the night before, I guess…

Signings ScheduleYou’ll also find me in the bar, as ever. And possibly dancing, but that depends upon my intake of gin.

Ah, but I shall miss the Radisson with its mad glass fish and its smell of air fuel and its…erm… character…

STUFF

Art Toy Addiction Stuff.

Stuff is sacred, collected stuff, hoarded stuff. Stuff signed by artists, authors, actors, musicians… stuff that commemorates creators no longer with us, and stuff that was so special when I brought it home, but that has sat in a drawer (with similar stuff) ever since.

Stuff that you find, as you pack your house.

I have stuff. I have the stuff that was signed wrong, the graphic novel that was printed upside down, the book that the author signed with someone else’s signature (Ben Aaronovitch) for a momentary laugh. I have stuff signed by guests that were drunk, guests that were sober, guests that had fans crying as they came into the building, and, just sometimes, guests that had almost no-one there at all.

Fat Freddy's CatSo much stuff.

And stuff occupies a strange space-time law of its own – when you pack it, it goes through a long period of never getting any smaller. It’s like the sofa in Dirk Gently, ever spinning in a pattern of impossibility, and never ever going to get out of the house.

Endless stuff.

Signed Langley Original - SlaineMy Mum had stuff. Images and treasures and memories, some of which I could identify, many of which were a mystery. She had pieces of my childhood, things that bought back floods of memory. She had letters from my father, memories of him that I’d never seen. She had photographs for days – family pictures, modelling shots, one amazing shot of a handsome bad boy on a motorcycle that no-one could identify but that had us all raising our eyebrows…

Magic stuff.

As You Wish - Cary ElwesAnd yet, it had to go. All that treasure, a dragon’s hoard worth, given to friends and family, and to the cancer charities of Oxted High Street. And then there was a flat, all sad and empty of stuff.

No stuff left.

It’s made me look at all my own memories, so many things all so treasured – my Vike kit, now unused in fifteen years, my gaming dice and books, all gathering dust – and I wonder why I keep it, if it’s only going to be abandoned in the end.

Perhaps the Vikings had the right idea, in fact – take all your stuff with you.

SO much Lego!As I pack, though, I find the magic is too strong, the hope always there – and I can’t give either of them up. I like my quirky collection of art toys and geek paraphernalia, I like the memories that those old weapons and folders carry with them. I know my son will be there one day, turning them over in his hands and wondering what to do with them…

…but for now, I want to keep it all, and tell its stories, and share it with him.

Because that’s the stuff that matters.

LonCon 3: Madhouse!!

Hula DalekThere are some unwritten rules to bring a bookseller at a Con. For example: you’ll hear the following phrases many times over the course of a weekend: ‘I’ve got too many books at home, I can’t buy any more’, ‘I can’t buy books, there’s no space in my luggage’, or the slightly more extreme, ‘If I buy any more books, I’ll need a new house!’

Apparently, there are a lot of SF/F readers with money to burn, not only on books and luggage space, but on the inevitable new house when they try to squeeze one more Kingkiller Chronicle into their already bulbous bookshelves.

IMG_2485Seriously, I’ve never seen anything like it. Not the bulbous shelves, (though our stall was buckling under the weight of fantastical literature), but the willingness of people to buy books. Those from over the water must’ve come with empty flightcases, because there were no concerned comments about luggage space. People were picking up five and ten and fifteen books at a time, hardcovers and signed books, books to enable them to meet their favourite authors, books to take home to friends, books that just looked interesting…  In a world where bookshops close faster than you can list them, something in me was jumping with childish glee at so much pleasure taken in the printed page.

Titan Books!One American fan commented that you only get a 20% – 30% crossover of SF/F books between the UK and the US. It hadn’t occurred to me before – but of course that’s why. If you go to a WorldCon, then the opportunity to broaden your horizons (and collection) is tremendous. Not only books, but authors and friends – no wonder you travel with only a clean pants and a Visa.

Slenderman Vs. MarkAnyway. More unwritten rules: usually, at Cons, we have time to escape our shackles and explore. Not this time! The sheer mass of fans might have been deceptively diluted by the size of ExCel – but all of them came to see us, sooner or later. I escaped for my couple of panels, and a slightly leftfield 40-minute session in the basement with the cleaning team, going through bin bags and looking for my wallet (thrown away earlier in the day, and fortunately retrieved). Even from behind the stall, though, the whole experience was intense, exhilarating, exhausting and wondrous, all in equal measure.

My Sigismund SistersMore than anything, it was fantastic to see so many people, so many friends, all together in one place. Friends from my twitter days, met in the flesh for the first time; friends from my Norwich past, back in the present as our lives rotate towards each other, friends from fandom, all over the world.

@ksonney and @ursulavAll-in-all, it was quite overwhelming. And after Nine Worlds and the Week of Madness between, its no wonder everyone came home saying, ‘Look, I love you all. But leave me the fuck alone ’til at least next Thursday.’

Free Universe!Well done, LonCon. That was tremendous!

 

 

 

 

 

On Publicity, Ego and THE FEAR

IMG_1024Publicity, I’m finding out, is a funny beast.

Despite publicising a major Geek Cred brand, being on the other end of the equation – being the brand itself, if you like – is a very odd sensation. It feels slightly nebulous, your-life-in-their-hands. And sometimes things you write, or you’ve been asked to write, don’t show up quite how you expected them to.

I’ll explain a bit more below, but first: yes, Ecko really is on MTV (and nooooo that’s not surreal at all!). Titan Books have done an absolutely storming job, and the links below have generated very interesting feedback and conversation: –

Flavorwire – Ten of the Greatest Debut Sci Fi and Fantasy Novels
Huffington Post – Seven Best Genre-Bending Novels (and Firefly) 
Criminal Element – Extract and Competition
SF Signal – Interview
Chuck Wendig’s Terribleminds – Interview
MTV Geek – Extract 
Dread Central – Interview 
Qwillery – Interview 
Qwillery – Book Cover Smackdown
Mind of the Geek – YouTube trailer 
MSN Entertainment – Prologue 
Bloodydisgusting.com – Excerpt 
Impedimentia – Interview 
Kirkus reviews – June Highlights

From small beginnings (in the bathroom, as I remember, in a little house in Norwich) it seems Ecko is really being run up the flagpole. And that’s equal parts wondrous and scary.

But (briefly) about the publicity thing. On a couple of the links above, the way the info’s been presented looks I’ve touted myself as one of my own ‘best of’ picks – and that really wasn’t the idea. Ecko running up publicity flagpoles in a very good thing, but to run him up there myself would make my ego the size of a small city…

…and that just doesn’t happen.

Seriously, I mean it. Authors do self-doubt BIG time. We all do – we agonise terribly about our own work, about all of its faffings and failings and shortcomings, about how it’s not as good as anything that’s come out before, or afterwards, or ever… Gareth Powell calls it THE FEAR and it’s part of the game. Immersed in our own insecurities, we need other people to give us objectivity. It’s why we have editors, and copy-editors, and proof-readers, and patient and honest friends. They’re people we trust to whack us round the head if necessary.

And it’s why we need publicists – because selling a brand needs objectivity too. That person, that team, is there, not because you believe you’re one of your own ‘Top 10’…

…but because you know you’re not.

And if we’re lucky, they do a damn good job of it :)

Ecko US Cover Art

 

Ecko Rising US Cover Art

Ecko US Cover Art

US proofs of Ecko Rising just landed on my desk. These moments make everything worth it – bring me out in chills because I still can’t quite wrap my head round the fact that they’re real. Then the book is in my hands, new quotes and new accolades, and I wonder if I could pinch myself and wake up.

Ecko might reckon he’s King of Cynics… but I love my goosebumps and I hope they never fail me.

Financial Times SF/F Books of the Year

So this morning, ECKO RISING is named as one of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Books of the Year by the FT – that’s one hell of an accolade.

Also listed are Adam Christopher’s EMPIRE STATE, Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2312, Tim Powers’ HIDE ME AMONG THE GRAVES and JUGGERNAUT by Adam Baker.

Link is here – though you’ll have to scroll down.

Little stunned to be in such lofty company. Feel I should be standing on tiptoes or something. Um. Maybe high heels? o_O

Wow.

(Pic stolen shamelessly from Adam’s Twitter Feed – I’ve been at work all day!)

Ecko Rising – For Real!

Overwhelming moment – exhilarating and surreal. Shaking hands as you pick it up (yes really), lump in your throat. Yet there’s that undertow of pure terror… because this is where the truth comes home.

Having your own book in your hands is absolute magic – being able to show your family, your friends, all over the world, and say ‘Look! Here it is!’ There’s no sensation like it; something in you hopes it never fades.

Yet it’s also a moment when you gird your loins, because this is where the slightly nebulous, romantic concept becomes cold and solid. There they are, a hundred of them, a product, down there in the Mail Room  at Titan Towers – they’re going to buyers, to reviewers, to some of the most respected names in the industry.

It’s a moment where you feel absolutely laid bare, under a harsh white lamp of scrutiny.

I’d say be gentle with me, but I have a feeling that this counts as ‘Past the Point of No Return’!

FP’s Small Press Expo – and a Question…

From an original idea by Jared Shurin, randomly dropped on the table during a meeting, yesterday’s Small Press Expo had the potential to do something new. Throw in NewCon Press’s brand new ‘Hauntings’ Anthology, specifically organised by Ian Whates to launch at the occasion, and a host of titles brought to us by Ian, by Jared’s Jurrasic label, and also by Snowbooks and Myrmidon Books, and we can spin an industry mixer at which everybody wins.

An almighty guest list included Christopher Priest, Philip Palmer, Adrian Tchaikovsky and a host of authors and artists and movers and shakers from across the genres – as well as some good news for the Apocalypse Girls and some subsequent fun in the pub with Fifty Shades of Geekdom (no link for that one – you’ll have to wait!).

Guaranteed, the books department at FP is a little too warm for that many bodies – huge thanks to everybody for eating the cupcakes before they slumped under the heat. Many of us were popping out for a breather, but the fact that everybody came back is testimony to a wonderfully successful occasion.

And it leaves me with a question.

We know that the nature of the book signing is changing – that the days of bloke-with-pen are rapidly falling behind us. We’ve had talks, readings, Q&As, and we’ve flown the FP rocket at other venues, at the British Library and the British Institution.

This month, two weekends in succession, we’ve had big events at the store – both times simultaneously with equally large and well-attended events at comic- and bookstores nearby. So the question is, with bookstores struggling to maintain life against the Amazonian onslaught, (not to mention Katie Price and her – erm – horse), has the very nature of the ‘signing’, the ‘promotional event’, become competitive?

Perhaps not so much in the UK – after all, we’re all mates. People go from one event to the other; we all wind up in the same pub and the bonds of community are as strong as ever. But moving forwards…

…it is that long before we’ll be needing orange speedos and vodka bottles to make an event a success? Please, tell me it will never happen…