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!

 

 

 

 

 

Nine Worlds – London Geekfest

IMG_2406So – there was headbanging to Rhapsody, there was Max dressed as Sharknado, there was Cards Against Humanity as the rain poured down just past our shoulders. There was that strange, polish-smell that only the Radisson has, and the hotel’s latest menagerie of odd glass animals.

There was Toothless, there were early morning doughnuts, thanks to Pornokitsch, and a whole conversation about Adrian Tchaikovsky’s eyebrows. There was talking Social Media with Adam Christopher, Sophie Calder, James Oswald and Tom Hunter (the thing about Merlin is absolutely true, okay?). There was much wine, and much garage food, and the usual round of Con-scurvy. And there were many friends, Dragonladies and Fox Spirits and Genki Gear and Soapasauruses (Soapasauri?) and a much-welcome visit from Rufus Evsion, whom I haven’t seen in far, far too long.

IMG_2410And all that’s before I even <get> to the books. But you know about those, right?

IMG_2421Nailed by knees to the Dealers’ Table or not, I can see that Nine Worlds has managed something wonderful – it does ‘welcoming’ better than anyone else. Don’t misunderstand, our community is family and has always been open to all, but Nine Worlds is like a sampler, it offers a little taste of everything. It’s a perfect place for a newcomer to find out what they like, and where they’re happiest. With badges on offer for personal pronouns and levels of sociability, it’s also a safe environment, where everyone can be themselves. For those not new to Cons, it’s the perfect place for people to cross the streams – to uncover the mysteries of Greater Geekdom, and find new avenues to explore.

IMG_2425As ever, thanks to the host of authors who came to sign for us. I’m always sorry that I can’t get to more panels (program was packed and it all sounded like SO much fun), but there was plenty going on everywhere in the hotel, and everyone was having a blast.

A new generation is born, it seems. We already know they’re cosplayers, and they play games – but it seems they’re readers and comics-readers too. And that must be a win!

Gail Carriger's fans!

 

 

 

Social Media, Clerics and a Very Large Gin – the Stuff I’m Doing At Cons

Large GinOkay, you know those ubiquitous blog posts where authors list all the stuff they’re doing at forthcoming Cons? This would be one of those.

But first, a quick apology.

If there *is* still anyone tentatively now brushing aside the cobwebs to see what’s lurking in this abandoned and distopian blog, it will be back soon, I promise. It’s partially a genuine lack of time, and partially an equally genuine lack of getting around to it. Procrastination, it seems, is directly proportional to weariness.

Anyway! As the disturbed dust tumbles from the long-forgotten ceiling, we brush it aside to see the wonders we had so long missed…

Tomorrow, Thursday 7th August, I will be at Nine Worlds Geekfest, and you can find me nailed by my knees to the Forbidden Planet trading table as usual (though I think it’s closer to the bar, this year). Feel free to bring savoury snackage and gin to Alex, Sarah, Craig and myself, as we wrangle both tills and authors into submission.

You can also find me on the Social Media panel on Sunday in County A at 11:45am, along with Tom Hunter, Adam Christopher, Sophie Calder and James Oswald, all of whom will tell you that you need to blog more than once every three months.

Next weekend, I will be at LonCon, again behind the Forbidden Planet table, but also at the following events: –

The Social Media panel (again), Friday 11:00 – 12:00, Capital Suite 10, this time alongside Wesley Chu, Julie Crisp, Max Gladstone, and Emma Newman

And on Saturday 13:30 – 15:00 in Capital Suite 8+11, I’ll be with
Django Wexler, Scott Lynch, Den Patrick and P. C. Hodgell, discussing the humble Cleric – and why exactly your party needs one. Or does it?

In between the two, on Wednesday 13th August, I will be joining a HUGE host of Titan Books and Angry Robot authors at the Summer Invasion of Forbidden Planet.

And honestly, by the end of all of this, I may well be in need of a cleric myself. 4d8 hit points back and make that a double with ice, please, Mother Superior.

 

 

The Sci Fi Weekender

BeachOkay, I admit: I went to the Sci Fi Weekender with a certain set of pre-conceptions – and a certain set of thermals. The memories of the previous year’s skull-freezing shower will haunt me ‘til I’m old and grey.

But sometimes, it’s good to be wrong.

One warm caravan; one hot shower. One view of mountains in the morning. Ducks that waddled past our window, in that businesslike way that only ducks can manage. All-in-all, the Weekender turned out to be an excellent event – and the business wasn’t just about the ducks.

IMG_2152Behind the trading table, we saw the most fantastical costumes – from a trio of Deadpools to the gorgeous armour of the Chaos Marine, from Su’s Death of Rats to the beer-drinking, cross-play Leia. It seems the event has become all about the dressing up. Everyone was getting into it, and not just for the Masquerade – I find myself wondering if I can still fit the more interesting end of my wardrobe, but hey, that’s another story.

IMG_2157And on the subject of stories, I thoroughly enjoyed my fiction panels – the books stream had a series of interesting topics, a lot of energy and insight, and a good and positive audience. There was a lot of feedback, people getting involved and asking questions – and that was how it should be. Well done, Sam – that’s never an easy job!

Snapping the SnapperIt was also one of these events where your twitter people come out of the woodwork, introducing themselves and putting faces to @labels. It was lovely to meet so many of you for the first time, and to realise just how far Ecko has reached. Knowing that your book had actually touched people’s lives will never, ever, cease to be amazing.

Louis Spins a TuneOther surprises included Sci Fi London’s Louis Savy spinning a mean seat on the Thursday night, and discovering I can apparently still dance – thought that was to Pat Sharp (who else?) on the Saturday. And might have needed beer.

Simon BisleyAnd props to both Bisley and Fabry, bless them, for being so helpful!

Deadpool's New Reading
All-in-all, the Sci Fi Weekender has taken on a new look – and as cosplay becomes more and more popular, who knows where it will go?

More pictures here.

Ten Years at FP – my Top Ten Memories

Secure Beneath Watchful Eyes10. The Launch of the London Megastore

The first event I ever did for FP – I hadn’t even started in the position and I was slung in at the proverbial deep end. Meeting GoH Ray Harryhausen left me genuinely speechless, and watching all of the journos and publicity types was like nothing I’d ever seen before.

FP are very fond of telling people to ‘hit the ground running’ – and they really weren’t kidding!

9. Signing Ecko.

Absolutely bloody surreal for all the reasons we know – but made doubly bizarre as John Barrowman were signing upstairs at the same time. As I changed hats from publicist to publicised, he was sat in the staffroom, gloriously foul-mouthed and completely at home.

Bless him for putting the icing on the evening!

Stephen Donaldson8. Fangirl Moments (cough).

Meeting Stephen Donaldson – wonderfully sarcastic, and a very drily funny man. And meeting Claudia Christian – along with getting the chance to don the classic Bab5 jacket. Insert fangirl squeee here.

7. The Gentle Giant World Tour

Karl Meyer of Gentle Giant Studios had whole Rock God thing going on, and a queue that waited for him for ten hours plus – fans that literally cheered him upon arrival. We had competitions, tour exclusive toys and tees, a party atmosphere in the store itself – the launch of the Commander Bly bust was absolutely massive.

As part of the event, we also had in store the full 3D head-scanning technology that made Gentle Giant’s busts and figures so perfectly sculpted and unique. Kind of like an MRI scanner for toys…

Gentle Giant Head Scan6. Stealing William Gibson’s Pen.

He’d actually come in to sign Spook Country, and his London fanbase was there in force to meet him. It was the afternoon Reverend Rat gave him the ‘Secure Beneath Watchful Eyes’ poster that he’d been looking for since ‘02 (I love it when that stuff happens, it’s really magical) and I watched the Godfather of Cyberpunk be struck suitably speechless by the gift. Lovely man, telling tall tales of the basement of Denmark Street in the 1980s (and I’ve heard a few of those, as well).

He only handed me his e-signature pen so I could have a look at it!*

5. Andy Serkis signing Return of the King.

I’d been at FP two months when Andy Serkis came in to sign the DVD release of Return of the King – and I’ve never seen a guest work so hard at a public event. The queue was huge as you’d expect, and the children were coming in and holding up little plastic One Rings to him, saying ‘Look! I’ve got it and you can’t have it!’ In response, he would surge over the counter at them, his whole face and attitude shifting, manifesting Gollum right before our eyes.

Andy SerkisHe did this four or five hours with no break and no let-up – and every kid was as wide-eyed as the first one.

4. Kevin Smith signing Shootin’ the Sh*t.

A consummate retail professional on top if all his other capabilities, Kevin Smith was absolutely aware of (and a part of) his fanbase. The thing that sticks in my head is him walking the store after the event had closed, commenting on stock and layout and visual merchandising – all with the eye of a man who knows exactly what you should be doing and why.

And one would expected to find him loitering outside with Jason Mewes.

3. Ray Harryhausen.

One of the first jobs I ever did for FP was escorting Ray Harryhausen back to his house in a taxi, listening to him talk – about being in LA during the war, and about how much he hated CGI. He was a very insightful and gentle man, still with a wicked twinkle, and it’s one of those moments I’ll remember for the rest of my life.

Ray HarryhausenLater, we took books to his house for him to sign, and our attention as Ray’s house to be signed, and we sat in the kitchen like kids, looking at the artwork in the walls and the miniature Talos on the cabinet beside us.

No words.

2. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost signing Shaun of the Dead.

One the first signings they did for us, promoting the original movie release of Shaun (the signed poster is still on the staffroom wall). I was there to run the event, and five months pregnant with Isaac. Quite aside from trying to persuade me to call my son ‘Simon Nick’ or ‘Nick Simon’ they were a great laugh, like Kevin Smith they were at one with their (substantial) audience, and fanboys to the core.

Specifically, Nick Frost won my heart by answering the business telephone and getting his mitts on a price gun… we so should’ve given him a job!

Kevin Smith1: Gerard Way signing The Umbrella Academy.

Huge. Bigger than huge. Fecking enormous. I’m forever retelling this, but it’s the only time we’ve ever shut the store for an event. It was like something out of a zombie movie, fans’ hands and faces pressed against the glass, screaming and chasing his car as he left. Love-lorn teenagers queued for hours (some from the previous night) – they burst into tears when they saw him and were absolutely unable to speak… that much was fair enough, but when it was their mums, ladies my age – that made me goggle.

Have to say, though, props to the man himself for being absolutely lovely.

And a special mention must also go to Max Brooks, and his affinity with the zombie goodies crafted by Nimba Creations. Fantastic afternoon, proving that, sometimes, legends really do come to life :)

Max Brooks

 

*I should point out that I didn’t, in fact, steal Mister Gibsons’s pen. I forgot I had it in my hand (I swear!) and he was extremely polite in asking for it back…

 

 

 

Max Brooks Did Not Write This Blog Post

P1050317But he tells a mean anecdote, chats to everybody and is in equal parts charming, shameless, insightful and very funny. He also wields possibly the swiftest pen we’ve ever seen. (Look out Dave Gibbons, that’s your record he’s challenging!)

P1050323He’s happy to help out wherever, to judge best-dressed Zombie competitions, to take merciless Sharpie revenge on the film’s promotional poster, and to wield wit well-worthy of his father. Max’s presence left all of us for (un)dead.

PlottingMore than anything, perhaps more so than any other author we’ve met, he felt strongly the changes from book to film – the loss of control, the distance that becomes necessary. The movie is not what Max wrote – he can scribble on posters and tease the director about this openly – but the undeath of your own text must be a very strange feeling.

Nimba CreationsAlong for the day were also Tom and Siobhan from Nimba Creations, with a masterclass in the finest zombie make-up…

War Face…Tim from the Empire in Leicester Square, volunteering for latex fun…

DistractoGirl!…Jenni, the almost-winner of the Twitter contest…

IMG_1285…and Luke Smith who’s ten-minute alleyway transformation from living to undead earned him Zombie of the Day, and Nimba’s gloriously gruesome prize mask.

Street War ZPlus a final and SPECIAL thank you to Jamie for eyeball cupcakes, hammocks and survival fun…

WWZI’m never going ANYwhere without this bag!!

#MADMONTH! BristolCon and Other Stories


Every so often, life at Forbidden Planet goes balls-to-the-wall crazy.

We’ve done Star Wars Days and Hallowe’en Celebrations, we’ve had signings with some of the most exciting names in the industry and we’ve taken our butts and our books to the Bristol Ramada and drunk far too much beer at BristolCon… and had a great time doing all of it. No matter how busy the business may be, there’s a sense of involvement that keep the energy levels high.


As Doctor Tim, manager of the Bristol Megastore said: we do it because we love it.

Honest, guv’nor.!

Seriously, though, sometimes, this stuff is just a privilege. From the wondrous (and hair-raising) tales of Michael Moorcock’s youthful antics, to stealing William Gibson’s ebook signing pen (erm… sorry about that), to remembering the basement days of Denmark Street with Iain Banks, to rediscovering the warm and open friendliness of Simon Pegg… there’s never a dull moment. The tales of Denmark Street remind me that all of these people started in exactly the same place as the rest of us – and each one still values the opinion and input of every single one of his fans. Props to the lot of them!


The #madmonth has ended with a day at BristolCon – a new venture for the local SF/F collective and a perfectly slotted-together event. In the Dealers’ Room as ever, it was still good to see a full and engaging programme of events (we at least got to Nick’s pub quiz – Walters, you’ve missed your calling as a stage comedian!) and (inevitably) to the bar… plus we got to chat to a guest list, all local, that all pitched in to make the event a success.

And the ‘local’ is absolutely the event’s hand-on win. There’s a strong genre family in Bristol, a gathering of authors and bloggers and podcasters and fans who’ve helped build a city hub that’s become big enough to host a Con of its own – and to make it a success. The atmosphere was very chilled – and there was a togetherness to it that can be missing from larger gatherings.


As with the signings at the Megastore – it’s gone to underline that we’re all the same at the root, and we all have the same things dear to our hearts. At the risk of sounding a scrape too cheesy… do we all do it because we love it?

So – props to Jo and her team for a fantastic event that will grow into something even better next year. It was absolutely bigger on the inside!


And yes, we will be back!