SF/F and Social Media and – Join Us Live at EasterCon

At EasterCon this year, on Saturday 3rd April at 3:00pm (BST), UStreaming live from Odyssey 2010, we will be merging industry and Social Media to debate – and real-time demonstrate – this question: –

Just how far has the SF/F industry really embraced Social Media?

We know that writers are all over Twitter; they’re everywhere. Promoted by publishers, orbited by bloggers and followed by fans, they meet one another through the #amwriting hashtag or join David Rozansky’s #scifichat. Competitions and give-aways abound freely (please RT), circling like little bluebirds over the head of a dazed man.

But, in the grand scheme of things, how much impact does this have? In a world where only the top 15% of books published sell more than 5,000 copies… can we do more with Social Media to ensure that the industry accepts change and allows itself to grow?

The Twitter support community is great – on one level, we’ve embraced the ideal of completely. People help each other – no, I mean it. But socially, the industry is insular – despite the ‘New Age of Geek Chic’ and all of that gubbins, are people reluctant to reach beyond their safety zone?

Are we going round in circles, preaching our love of SF to the already converted?

And it goes beyond Twitter. Twitter is the foyer; there are many other rooms to peek into. The David Gemmell Legend Awards can be found on Ning; video promotions for book titles are becoming quite the thing, dahling – and more and more authors follow the free-download example set by Accelerando.

Is good Social Media an effective long-term investment – or is its short-focus immediacy just a smart way to give out a quick dozen books? Will it, as Jim C Hines mused, eventually prove to be the end of the book signing?

And, of course, the very nature of those books is changing under our hands – not only their format, but how they’re sold – that was one trip up the Amazon we all remember. How far can Social Media promote the awareness and acceptance of those changes – professional, legal and personal – and help ensure that they’re beneficial in the right places?

To find out – and to chip in – come to #LiveCon.

Track the #EasterCon and #LiveCon hashtags at UStream TV, or on the BSFA website – or join us on Twitter – use the #LiveCon hashtag to ask my panel a real-time question.

Join author Paul Cornell and Angry Robot Books’ editor Lee Harris as they match their industry wits with Social Media experts Nik Butler and Del Lakin-Smith – and follow all of us live on Twitter for commentary, not only from #LiveCon, but from the whole weekend.

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Danacea at EasterCon – Those About to Rock!

It’s no secret that I spend the bulk of my professional life either in the brig – or outside the box.

Give me a line, I can usually be trusted to stick my toe somewhere else. Occasionally it’s in my mouth – along with the rest of my foot – but I’ve pulled off enough fast ones to know how to keep hopping.

Perhaps that’s how I’ve found myself on not one but two panels at this year’s EasterCon – uncivilised times though they may be (Sober? On a Friday night?!) – I’m stepping out on ground I should stand secure upon. I blog-rant far too much about the future of marketing in the sf industry, it seems I’m now getting the chance to put my gob where my keyboard is…

Friday 22:00 – ‘The Marketing of Novels’
Sunday 11:00 – ‘Twitter: Ego Boosting, or Information Busting?’

I’m also getting the chance to flex my expertise at something new – potentially even more crazy than last year’s MonQee

With thanks to Harmonix Music, to Forbidden Planet, to Titan Books, to Gollancz, to the Black Library, to Tor, to Rebellion, and to the unrelenting support of the EasterCon LX2009 committee, Mister Devereux and myself are once again setting light to the rulebook.

This time, it’s Rock Band: Battle of the Bands – and it’s sitting like a biker chick on a Harley at the height of the Sunday night programme.

Sunday 22:00 TIME TO ROCK!

Prizes range from the awesome three-foot Millennium Falcon to the new Titan edition of ‘V for Vendetta’ – which GoH David Lloyd will sign for the winners at the closing ceremonies – to signed books, pre-publication proofs, fantastic new cover art on some cult SF classics… and some glorious 2000AD goodies for the true connoisseur.

There’s something genuinely exciting about making this work… as the feedback starts to filter in… as those all-important web-vibrations that hint at something massive coming your way…

Much has changed in the last year – both in the industry and at Forbidden Planet. It’s time to get pro-active.

This? Is going to rock!

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Dancing on the Fault Line – SF does Twitter

And so – it begins.

At his signing, Cory Doctorow said that Science Fiction had ‘anxiety about the future’ – and tried to control it. From my realisations at last year’s EasterCon – I didn’t doubt he was right.

But it seems the New Age is upon us.

Twitter has gone mainstream – we know this. My Mother is concerned about my twitter presence (‘all they do is talk about cereals!’). When I explain, she accuses me of ‘second-hand networking’ and tells me I should be out there ‘meeting people’. I’ll come back to that in a minute.

This week has seen Forbidden Planet get to grips with Twitter as both network and platform. As more of our SF-friendly Brands are bump-staring their own IDs, I have a two-year head-start and a place in the London (and sometimes UK) Twitter Elite. I’m rather bemused by this (I sell toys!) but it means that Forbidden Planet’s Twitter presence has credibility – and is suddenly a highly desirable commodity.

Coming back to ‘second-hand networking’ – for your Twitter presence to have impact, you need to be doing something. Signings and events bring energy and vivacity to Forbidden Planet’s Social Media presence, draw more followers, which in turn markets event more successfully…

…and, in turn, bring more business attention to the company.

Suddenly, Twitter isn’t about cereals any more. It’s become much more efficient, a strategy in itself. Talking to Tor Books about a forthcoming event with China Mieville, we know we need a new face on SF PR; we need to pioneer radical change in the industry. We need new energy to stand out, to break moulds. We need to broadcast, to live-stream from events – to embrace web and Social Media tools and really establish the New Age of Geek Chic.

As the BBC blocks twitter, so the SF community embraces it, at last understanding the web-revolution. This morning saw @eastercon, LX2009, establish its own twitterstream – and I’m heralding this as a landmark moment in pro-fandom.

I’ve been standing on this fault line for two years, straining to pull the sides together.

Today, we can stand tall, geeks together. The movement into the real future has begun.

Thank you to Lindsay Digital for the sunrise image. Nothing else would do.

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Show Me The MonQee

He’s met some top talent, been through twenty-two episodes of adventures and has had every part of his anatomy scribbled on… hey, hey he’s the MonQee, and he’s finally come to rest in the art toy cabinet at the Forbidden Planet London Megastore.

In addition to the host of names from the previous MonQee post, a thank you to the kings of UK space opera, Neal Asher and Alastair Reynolds. And a huge thank you, too, to Terry Pratchett himself for his approval for and support of the project: the fact that his email arrived on my birthday had to be a coincidence!

The MonQee Project is now live here. This completely unique piece of urban vinyl will be auctioned through MissionFish on eBay as part of the Forbidden Planet’s thirtieth anniversary celebrations. To find out more: watch this space!

All proceeds, of course, go to the Alzheimer’s Research Trust. The MonQee, we hope, will go to a very good home – he deserves nothing less.


The Curious Incident of the Fan in the Night-Time

Last weekend, I was flying company colours at Orbital, the UK’s annual science fiction and fantasy convention – the first time in 14 years I’ve re-entered fandom.
Attending an sf con was like putting on old shoes. I know this world as intimately as FP’s demographic – I understand it, have lived in it and it holds no shocks for me. (Oh all right, it was great!)
Nothing had changed since 1994.
Four days’ heavy trading and four nights’ heavy drinking, though, showed me something curious: –
There were almost no younger fans. When I say nothing had changed, I mean it – the same people, now in their thirties and forties; dressed in the same costumes, only with a little more curve to fill them.
The biggest EasterCon in 20+ years – and I could see no Next Generation.
My Boss, Jon, noticed it; loudmouthman, decabbit, rnalxander and I drew many conclusions and my friend Liam Proven, long-time sf fan, has watched it happen round him.
The initial explanation is obvious – oh, they’re ‘on the web’. Fans don’t need to meet Bill Gibson, they can read his blog; they don’t need books for escapism, they can play Second Life. If they want conversation, it’s on a forum; signatures, they’re on eBay.
If traditional journalism is threatened by the common blog, then the fanzine is in serious trouble. Perhaps the novel itself is nearing its closing chapters.
Following that thought, since joining FP I’ve watched sf and fantasy explode through the covers of the paperback and become multi-format, street-smart and cool. Buffy, Battlestar, comic-book blockbusters, Doctor Who – Heroes! – these aren’t just for geeks any more. In television and cinema, nostalgia is the new cutting edge. FP rides this wave – the Megastores shine bright on the high street. But what does it mean for fandom?
My friend John Rivers has been a Who fan many years; he knows the young fans are still out there. New mass credibility means they don’t need to attend the generic sf con; creations like Who and Star Wars are so TARDIS-vast that they offer a whole agenda of their own events.
Like all communities, it’s become big enough to fragment – and it takes a powerful traction beam to pull the pieces together.
Orbital, as well as a central location, offered a guest list that should’ve been that traction. Neil Gaiman alone has enough presence – and the Dream Master was accompanied by the vision and humour of Charlie Stross, the radical brilliance of China Miéville and the sweeping imagination of Tanith Lee. Between them, they cover every angle and appeal to every corner of the Multiverse.
But they were not – quite – enough.
Why? Certainly they’re not accountable – their talks and panels were thought-provoking – even controversial – and their social presence always an amusing fan-magnet – if you didn’t find China in the disco, you’d find Charlie in the bar. To me, Orbital’s guest list shows that genre writing is changing, that fantasy and sf boundaries are being blown back. Evolution prevents stagnation and the genre adapts.
And, as writing adapts, so does format – the genre moves from paper to small screen and big, and more work is issued on the web. Ant Miller, my brother-in-law, commented that Cory Doctrow now publishes nothing on the printed page.
And, as format adapts, so fandom must move with it. If the classic EasterCon is to embrace a younger generation, it needs to stop reading books in a quiet corner. Its eyes and arms need to open wide and embrace more formats and different kinds of creativity. From anime and manga to film and television, from virtual publication and freedom of information to the wonders of live video-streaming (thanks, Nik!), it needs to become forward-thinking.
After all, hasn’t that always been the point of ‘science fiction’?

MonQee MagiQ

And then, there are the times when it works.

Even at an EasterCon, a six-foot woman with a wacky plastic MonQee draws attention.

Spending his days at the front of the Forbidden Planet stand and his evenings escorting me to bars and parties, MonQee rapidly became a vortex of attention. Creepy-cute and sinister with his white body and featureless face, everyone wanted to know what he was, and why I was carrying him. I found myself being smiled at, stopped and spoken to all over the hotel.

After I’d shamelessly accosted the first few authors, the snowslide rapidly became an avalanche. Saturday morning, Loudmouthman took some MonQee footage in the Dealers’ Room – and we gathered quite an audience. Saturday night, the rumour went round the Scandinavian Party that ‘you were no-one at EasterCon unless you’d signed the MonQee’… and then the authors and artists started looking for me.

MonQee was in the Con newsletter; they gave him his own membership. MonQee was in control tower central to meet the Guests of Honour before the Opening Ceremony. As MonQee continued his tour, he gained more fans, more signatures and more credibility.

And more humour.

Charlie Stross – quite unashamedly – signed MonQee’s arse. China Mieville sewed his lips together; Neil Gaiman gave him an eye – which freaked fans out for the rest of the Con. Bryan Talbot drew him a full back patch and Dave Devereux went where no pen had dared go before and signed his groin.

A full set of MonQee pictures can be seen on my Flickr page.

Exhausted from partying, MonQee is home, safely tucked up in his box awaiting forthcoming FP signings and his invite to the Arthur C Clarke Awards. More of his adventures will come.

For now, I would like to thank: –

Chris ‘Fangorn’ Baker

Tony Ballantyne

Chaz Brenchley

Holly Black

Ed Buckley

Paul Cornell

David Devereux

Brianna Flynt

Neil Gaiman

Amanda Hemingway

Tanith Lee

Tom Lloyd

Kari Maund

China Mieville

Andy Remic

Justina Robson

Mark Robson

Geoff Ryman

Sarah Singleton

Charles Stross

James Swallow

Bryan Talbot

Freda Warrington

Liz Williams


Frank Wu

MonQee’s travels continue: there will be more!