I was so tired after Nine Worlds that all I had time to do was come home, unpack, do laundry, repack, and head back to London to help with the exhibits hall set-up, and then five (5!!!) days of con.
My panel participation:
Sex in SF&F: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (Saturday, August 16, 11 am-noon): me, Darlene Marshall (Mod), Terry Jackman, Jennifer Stevenson, Madeline Eve Robins
This panel had a different vibe from the similar one at Nine Worlds (suddenly I'm the 'sex in SF/F panel' girl!). Part of it had to do with the feel of the con overall. Nine Worlds is a small con in a single hotel, and LonCon was 8,000 people strong held in a huge convention centre. The other difference was the panelists. At Nine Worlds, we were a combination of erotica and SF/F writers and people who write about gender. At LonCon, much of the panel consisted of romance writers (or, writers who seemed to consider themselves as mainly in the romance genre over other genres). While romance is placed under the 'genre' label, there is a tendency for SF fans to reject anything smacking of romance/relationships and vice versa.
Before the panel, the moderator and I were in the green room and were approached by a gentleman who couldn't help but tell us that he thinks that sex scenes don't belong in literature full stop, especially SF. THAT was an interesting start to the day! I didn't expect there to be disagreement among the panelists themselves about where romance/sex belonged in lit; one panelist didn't think anything smacking of sex/relationships should be in a book if it wasn't advertised 'on the cover'--that is, if a cover's art said SF, it should be SF. I had to disagree, however: no matter the genre, stories are about characters, and characters (people) have relationships and sex. At one point I said "Sex is part of our lives, even if we're not getting any" and "Romance/erotica is about how people feel, and SF is about how things work, and you can bring these things together." My final comments were about mushing together genres. Why not? I think cutting out aspects of human behavior because of these ideas of what 'belongs' in a certain genre does a disservice to the stories that we are trying to write.
Overall, however, it was a lot of fun to be on that panel and great to hear different points of view on how to depict relationships in SF & F. Also, I discussed the recent popularity of cryptozoological erotica; I was pleased to get two panels out of reading that story!
The Wrong Apocalypse (Sunday, August 17, 1.30 pm-3 pm): me, Nina Allan, Jeff VanderMeer, Ivaylo Shmilev, Ramez Naam (Mod)
This panel made me nervous because it was populated with scientists and writers who have written novels or non-fiction books on climate change and environmental concerns, and I study gardens! But I didn't have to be afraid because the moderator was *on point*. He was sure that all of our different backgrounds were utilized in the conversation, and we went deep with the topic: it was so much more than a conversation about which TV shows and films have covered climate change correctly or incorrectly. Our conversation ranged to points on culture, class, status, politics, etc. I was deeply honored to have been on the panel with such amazing, intelligent people. (Plus, I made Jeff VanderMeer laugh at one point, which made my day.)
Wrap-up of Nine Worlds Geek Fest:
I should probably recap that con here as well (I'm tired and at this point unable to remember what day it is let alone what I blogged recently).
Love & Sex: An intimate exploration (6.45-8pm, Friday August 8): me, E Saxey (Mod), Rebecca Levine, Sarah Lots, Laurie Penny
This panel was such a hoot! It started with Saxey handing out 'love notes' to each of us that included a question each of us had to answer. Mine: 'Which characters do you wish were not in love?' My answer: Edward and Bella. This elicited groans of agreement from the audience. After we each answered our questions, Saxey jumped right in with asking me about dino pr0n, which many in the audience hadn't even heard about. I gave a quick summary of the story I'd read in the sub-genre and we were off on a conversation that swing from the no-nos of erotica writing to how to write what we write to what is freeing about it. At one point an audience member asked why only women were on the panel, and I asked him if he knew of any men who wrote erotica. When he said that he wrote it from a female pov, I did a short interview with him. The panel felt loose and ready for anything, and I believe the audience enjoyed us; there were a lot of raised hands at the end. And later in the hallways strangers came up to me and told me how much they enjoyed the panel.
School Stories: prefects, headmasters and tuck shops, oh my! (10.15-11.30 pm Friday August 8): me, Aishwarya Subramanian, Zen Cho, Emma Viceli, Ewa Scibor-Rylska (Mod)
I have to admit that this was a strange panel for me because the only SFF 'school stories' I can remember reading are Harry Potter and The Magicians; the other panelists had so many other series they're familiar with. Some of that might have to do with my generation (HP came out when I was an adult, and the series following in its footsteps aren't familiar to me). My initial contribution to the panel was to tell the audience to 'hold on to your seats' because I was going to describe a bit of theory! I explained that schools are a type of chronotope: they are an intersection of a place that exists in a certain time (a grade). A school has a cast of set characters (headmaster, etc.) and how they act when you are in primary school is going to be a bit different from how they act when you are at secondary or uni. But that they have a structure and a writer setting a story in a school has a structure--physical in the form of the school/ground itself as well as referring to the school calendar and the events that take place while one attends school--to use. I used my hands a lot, creating a sort of 'ball': this became a silly thing and we had the audience play along (someone--I can't remember who--said that the hand gesture was repeated at a later panel too). I was amazed at the other panelists because they knew their school series and mentioned so many things I'd never even heard of. I love how I learn so much from my fellow panelists as well as the audience at cons.
New Voices Reading! Saturday August 9, 10.15-11 pm
This was the second of two nights of new writers getting five minutes each to read. My friends and I had gone to dinner beforehand and waited an hour for our meals, leaving me about 10 minutes to scarf down my curry and rush back to the con to make this in time. Luckily I was last on the list so every time the audience clapped a fellow reader I let out a bit of a burp, terrified I'd burp into the microphone during my reading! I'd printed off my novel excerpt, but the toner in the machine is such crap that when I made a few changes on the paper, the ink flaked off, leaving the pages nearly unreadable. So I handwrote my excerpt to read--very old school! The room was *packed*, which was a total surprise, and my reading went pretty well I think. Later, a few established writers came up and told me they'd enjoyed it: a lovely result :)
So two cons, two very different vibes, but overall wonderful experiences. Next up is British Fantasy Con in two weekends with two new panels for me to be on.
IN OTHER NEWS:
On Friday night I got an email while at the con that I have made a story sale! It's a time-travel story, which I suppose means I can now say I write SF as well as fantasy, historic fiction, horror and erotica. More info to come as I get it.
But now, I need to recover after all of the travel and talking and panels and etc. I have come down with a minor case of con-crud and all that will restore me is meds and much sleep.
What I'm Reading Right Now:
Irregularity, ed. Jared Shurin (I figured it was time to get around to reading the anthology I was recently published in)
Between Two Thorns (book 1 of The Split Worlds trilogy) by Emma Newman
The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco