Ecko Risen or How Bloody Surreal Was THAT?!

Nine years of signings. Spreadsheets and phone calls and emails; readings and Sharpies and biscuits and beer. Times when the books department has been so full we couldn’t move and we’ve all sweated our arses off – times we’ve watched the tumbleweeds and tried to make a joke out of the whole thing.

Nine years – you become completely familiar with the process, convinced that there are no surprises left.

Yeah, right.

Last night was an A1, tip-top, clubbing, jam fair. It was a sandwich of fun, on ecstasy bread… I’m sure you know the rest of it. With every stage of Ecko’s rising, so the surreal has felt just like that. The finished book, the wrapped pile of them in the foyer at Titan Towers, the posters, the copies laid out on the table as so many new titles have been displayed before… I had no words then and can’t find them now. It’s overwhelming.

The double-vision is wonderfully bizarre, still hard to wrap my brain round this morning. It’s not only the personal ‘surreal’ of seeing such an old story finally in the light, or actually sitting at that table with a pen in my hand, it’s the whole process, the book from manuscript to publicity – and understanding, from an author’s point of view, how Forbidden Planet’s events fit into that structure. It’s been quite an eye-opener (and I had no idea that reading was so fucking terrifying)!

But thank you to everyone who’s been so incredibly supportive – those who were there in person, those who sent love and best wishes via every media channel known. It’s been a long journey, and being able to share it is the best, and perhaps the most surreal, feeling of all.

 

 

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…

 

‘The Long Earth’

What if there are multiple quantum earths? And what if we could go there?

Totally impossible of course, but it was once said of science fiction that it is a kind of exercise bicycle for the mind, which while it might not take you anywhere, may possibly tone up the muscles that might!

In a unique event at London’s Royal Institution, world famous authors Sir Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter come together on 21st June 2012 to discuss their new series of novels entitled ‘The Long Earth’ inspired by the many-worlds interpretation of quantum theory – aided by philosopher of physics David Wallace.
To celebrate this event, Forbidden Planet and the Royal Institution are proud to present a limited edition version of ‘The Long Earth‘, signed by Stephen Baxter and featuring a unique event-specific commemorative stamp. Get in quick though, as it will be limited to 2,000 copies!

If you miss it, you can see the full video of this unique event on the Royal Institution website from 11:00am on Tuesday 26th June.

 

Iain Banks and Kim Stanley Robinson

How does that saying go? I love it when a plan comes together?

This one is thanks to Rose at Orbit and Jon at the Brish Library, and it goes something like this…

Forbidden Planet and Orbit Books, in association with the British Library, are delighted to present a unique opportunity to hear two giants of the genre in conversation about 2012, the end of the world, and the future of science fiction. This event will take place in the Auditorium at the British Library.

Tickets £7.50, concessions £5. Doors open 3pm, for a 3:30 start and the event will be followed by a public signing from 5 – 6pm.

For tickets or more information, you can find the event on the FP website.

Conventions, it seems, aren’t the only things that are changing with the times :)

EasterCon – The George Effect

You know how it is – when you’re at a Con, you do kind-of concoct the blog post in your head as you’re going along. (Or maybe that’s just a side-effect of being behind a table in the Dealers’ Room?) Either way, this one was going to be all about The George Effect. How GRRM was an absolutely lovely man – and about the effect that having Game of Thrones on prime-time TV, and then at the Con itself, had opened the doors to a whole new range of fans… fantasy becoming mainstream, new credibility and community, we know how it goes…

But hey, looks like David Barnett in the Guardian has done it for me.

Instead, there was a second thread to EasterCon, woven in with the first – and one that’s becoming more predominant with every event we’ve attended…

Costume.

Championed by the wondrously tea-making Doctor Geof, Steampunk, specifically, is becoming more than a thread, it’s becoming a full-on machine. Costuming has been loitering at Cons for decades, but it’s not about Trekkies any more – it has a new glamour and elegance, a full-on social involvement brought in precisely by the media that’s now representing our genre/s. Not only is George bringing in new fans, but the new expansion of the literary into the visual is opening events like EasterCon to a different swathe of people.

Rita’s absolutely right when she uses the word ‘inclusivity’ – this was an event that was all about the welcome. After the SFX Weekender, we were thinking about book conventions and how they’d have to adapt – and lo, here is EasterCon doing exactly that. The changes were obvious, even among the traders. More people, younger people, are attending and reading and and becoming involved.

I’ll talk about Ecko (you know I will!) but not here – this is the place for the ‘thank you’. This EasterCon was about the opening out of traditional social cliches and barriers…

George, genre, glamour and garment, I think we’ll look back at Olympus 2012 as a new beginning for us all.

 

 

 

Empire State Launch

Point before opening: filming Adam reading from Empire State has apparently done for my little Lumix camera. Dagnabbit, there was going to be video footage and everything.

Anyway. Where was I?

I was here: debut signings at FP. Thanks to the meticulous records of Mr. Veasey, we’ve had a look back through them – at Gareth Powell, at Mark Charan Newton, at Scott Lynch, to name but a few. I haven’t got accurate attendance figures, but Adam’s was way up there – an event that came together with support from family and friends, journos and bloggers, publisher(s) and fans, where every layer of the industry joins in to give someone a proper flying start.

And Adam (I must stop thinking of him as @ghostfinder, damn you Twitter!) is the New Face in more ways than one. This is not only a new book – this is a new World. The Empire State really is a parallel dimension – in the World-Builder project, everyone can play. It hearkens back to the gaming of my youth; those bright-eyed and idealistic role-playing sessions where there was no GM and everyone could share in the creativity, man. This time, though, I suspect a stronger structure *g*.

Find details of the Empire State World-Builder, and how you can help create and populate it, here.

Thank you to Lee and AR for their support, and for bringing both Adam and the Empire State to us… and to everyone who came and broke that bottle of champagne over the author’s head.

The humble book signing is currently subject to a lot of doom-saying – I’m sure I don’t need to go into why. Events like last night prove that ‘doom’ is not necessarily the case.

What is, is change.

*Never* be afraid to do the new thing.

 

Last Night’s Who Signing

Sometimes, things just work. No matter how big they may be, or how many cats need herding, they reach a kind of social critical mass – and it all just falls into place.

So it was last night.

Outside, we had fans queuing for hours in the cold – clutching dedicated pieces of Who memorabilia they’d treasured for years. We all know the return of Who has spanned the generations, bringing families together on a Saturday evening – my son is seven and no-one feels this more than I do. But to see it really brought to life is quite something. From the girl from the US with the TARDIS earrings and the painted jacket, to the Dad with FOUR eager cubs out there with him… truly, the Doctor spans space and time.

Inside, everything was gleefully organised chaos. Steven Moffat chatted to his gobsmacked fans, Mark Gatiss had a thing about peg dolls, Ben Cook offered very fine scarlet hair and Tom MacRae offered equally fine studded scarlet boots – the writers of Who are a garrulous and colourful bunch. The atmosphere they brought with them was voluble and festive.

Chatty or not, they’re efficient – flawlessly herded by Clayton Hickman and Garry Russell, the whole crew really linked with their fans and put in a sterling evening’s work.

Prior to last night’s event, we’d been a little nervous about accommodating something of that size – that many people, that many fans – but experience tells, it seems, both theirs and ours. Either that, or FP is bigger on the inside.

At the end of yesterday evening, a great many people went home laden with presents and smiles. They’d had a moment, and they’d snagged something cool for Christmas Day.

And that’s really what makes this stuff special.

 

BristolCon

Watching by the beady eyes of the Overlord, it’s been a busy weekend in Bristol.

Two signings at the store – an open-plan group event for a Rogues’ Gallery of local authors, flawlessly cat-herded by Cheryl Morgan, followed by the main man himself, Richard Morgan, bringing us brutality, bloodshed and gay elf sex with The Cold Commands.

Then, on Saturday, suitably armed with a well-earned hangover (and still watched by the Overlord), we unpacked a table of books at BristolCon, an event doubled in size from the previous year and featuring lots of familiar faces and @nametags.

So. Another Con. What’s so special about this one?

During both signings at FP, there was a strong sense of family – a connection between authors and readers and fans that spilled over from staffroom to shop floor and brought everyone together to buy books, and to swap ideas and stories. And that sense of community was both expounded and expanded at the Con itself – a lack of barriers, social and physical, and a welcoming warmth that made BristolCon something above the ordinary.

Nailed to the trading table as usual, Tim and I were nevertheless right in the middle of things – not only selling books, but establishing and re-establishing those lines of communication and support that pull us all together as an industry, and give us that reassuring sense of exactly where we need to be.

For me, the weekend was made special by re-bonding with an old friend I haven’t seen in nearly a decade (bless you, Ken) and by pub-crawling round the watering holes of the city in the company of another friend that I don’t see nearly enough. Though my capacity for beer is sadly lacking these days, it’s apparently been replaced by a capacity for Mexican Burrito(e?)s and cake. Whodathunkit.

On a more serious note, the weekend was also made special (and a little bizarre!) by Jo asking me to do a reading from my own forthcoming title at BristolCon next year… I guess some part of me will never quite grasp that this is real until… not I’m standing there with my heart in my mouth, my book in my hand and (hopefully!) some people to read it to.

That… and my FREE KITTEN.

Size Matters Not

This is fantastic.

Daniel, the lad in the picture, had only picked up a needle once before. But he was a huge fan of Warwick’s work, and came to the signing with this gorgeous little amigurumi Wicket finger-puppet, made by his own fair hands.

Warwick was delighted with it – and Daniel went away with a grin like the sun coming up.

Moments like that are absolutely magical, and make me remember how very, very lucky we are to be able to do what we do.