Sunday, 7 November 2010

In Which I Go to Bristol

Some time ago, my friend Cheryl suggested to me that I might like to go to BristolCon (of which she is a committee member) and, as it is practically on the doorstep, and membership was only £15, I thought "Why not? It might be fun"

So I spent yesterday there, and it was.

My day didn't start too well. Having got up remarkably early for a Saturday, dealt with some urgent errands in town and got myself to the station on time, I found that the train I was planning to catch was running very late, so had to wait half an hour for the next one, and arrived a little later than intended.

However, one I arrived and was registered, things sarted to improve. The hotel had provided tea & coffee, so I was able to get by blood-caffiene levels up, and to take a look around the dealers room and art show before heading to my first programme item - a short reading by Juliet McKenna. The programme was set up so that each panel item was 50 minutes long rather than an hour, with 10 minute readings sandwiched in the gaps. A nice idea - you get the chance to get a 'taster' of different books and writers, or alternatively to make that essential coffee or loo break without missing or disrupting a panel.

My first full panel was Cheryl Morgan interviewing Joe Abercrombie, one of the Guests of Honour.

I have to confess that I haven't actually read any of Joe's novels, but hearing him speak about the process of writing was interesting. cheryl was also able to disclose that George RR Martin is a fan, and any further delays in his completing the next book may be blamed on the fact that he is reading Joe Abercrombie novels instead of writing...

There was much discussion of hacking people to bits, and of blood spatter. Joe Abercrombie: "People getting hacked to pices, what could be funnier?"

I stepped out for the nxt cupld of pnels as I was supposed to be meeting a friend for lunch, and was back in time for local journalist and novelist Eugene Byrne's talk about Bristol.  This was fascinating - he started by telling us Bristol's founding myth (which has brothers who were rivals in love) then de-bunked the urban myth about the Bristol Zoo carpark and talked a little about the Suspension Bridge, and the Victorian lady who threw herself off it, butwas saved by a combination of her crinolenes and the very soft mud into which she fell. He then took us on a brief 'walking tour' via google streetview of some notable spots in Bristol, including Thomas Chatterton's house (almost opposite the hotel), the (site of) the church of Saint Wilgefortis, (AKA St. Uncumber) who is the patron saint of unhappily married women, and the non-existant street. It was all fascinating and highly entertaining.

I stayed for the short reading by Mike Shevdon - I saw him on a panel at EasterCon talking about fanastical London, and wrote his name down intending to buy his book, and I finally managed to buy 'Sixty One Nails'(the first one) and get it signed. He read the opening of the book and I am looking forward to reading the rest.

I also had a brief chat with him earlier in the day, when I spotted him with Paul Cornell, and asked them each to sign books for me ;-)

The next panel I went to was entitled "Future Science" and featured Alastair Reynolds, Jon Turney, Nick Walters, Gareth L. Powell and Paul Cornell,  discussing the science which they hope, fear or expect for the  future.

Paul Cornell wants to live forever, everyone expects that there will be a total loss of privacy, and that science fiction today is notably more pessimistic than it used to be.

This panel was followed by Paul Cornell's GoH spot, in which he talked, very entertainingly about past and current projects, including writing 'Death' for the Lex Luthor comic (and being able to liaise with Neil Gaiman about her dialogue, his current work in progress which is an urban fantasy novel, but without sexy, sparkly vampires - more police proceedural with supernatural elements (which to me sounds as though it may have a similar sort of flavour to Mike Carey's 'Felix Castor' novels, which would be just fine by me!)

He also broke the disappointing news that the BBC will  not be commissioning 'Pulse' - apparently it was initially approved but then cancelled, which is a great shame.

At the end of his spot Paul read from his short story "The Occurrance at Slocombe Priory", an hilarious M.R.James/ScoobyDoo mash up... That was the last of the panels I attended.

As well as the panels, however, I enjoyed meeting Alex Keller, after a mutual friend told me, via Twitter, that he would be there and I should say hello. An he was, and I did, and I bought his book, and we chatted ., and I enjoyed myself :-)

 I also briefly met Ben Jeapes - sitting down before Paul Cornell's talk I noticed the name badge of the person sitting behind me, so asked whether he was the Ben Jeapes who wrote 'His Majesty's Starship', and it was! So I was able to tell him how much I enjoyed it, and asked whether he has anything else in the pipeline (yes, but probably not for a year or two). A completely unexpected pleasure. And if you haven't read HMS (which I think was also published under the title 'the Ark') and the sequel, 'The Xenocide Mission' give them a go.  He has more convincingly alien aliens than I've come across for a long time.

All in all, I enjoyed myself a lot.

I didn't so much enjoy my trip home. I got to temple Meads about 15 minutes before the train was due, to discover it was running 40 minutes late. The next one (25 minutes later) was on time, but very crowded, and with 2 platform changes, which is a lot of running around. Oh, and the reason given for the first one being so late? It was due to "the number of people wanting to board the train in Cardiff, following a rugby match". Now, I don't claim to know much about sports, but I am pretty sure that International rubgy matches  are planned in advance, and do not simply happen spontaneously, flash-mob style. I am also fairly sure that lots of people will use trains every time there is a match, so you'd think the train operaters might be able to work this out, too, and consider, just maybe, putting on extra trains/carriages or at the very least, taking the extra volume of people into account and adjusting the timetable if needed. But obviously not.

Oh well.

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