I spent yesterday, as did a number of other people, at alt.fiction, a one-day genre writing convention in Derby. This was the fourth alt.fiction and the first in a new venue, the QUAD. I had a good day. Chatted to some friends, met some new people. The two programme items that really interested me were unfortunately both scheduled at 10:00 a.m., and I missed the train I’d planned to catch so I arrived too late to attend either. At previous alt.fictions, I’d arrived early, but they’d not opened the doors to the venue until it started, so I wrongly supposed they’d do the same this year. I should have caught a much earlier train. I’ll know better next time.
The various conversations I had were much more about sf and the business of writing sf than is usually the case at conventions. But then that is what alt.fiction is about. I did chat to some people about book reviews, and was a little surprised when someone told me they’d bought James Lovegrove’s The Age of Ra and The Age of Zeus based on my review of the latter in Interzone. I’d not been all that effusive about the book, although Solaris has pulled out the line “Lovegrove has fun with his premise, and he’s not afraid to get in a few digs at the real world” and posted it on their blog here. Perhaps they’ll put it on the next edition. Which would make it my first cover quote.
(I also plugged my review of Bruce Sterling in Interzone 221 several times, and even persuaded a couple of people to buy copies of that issue.)
I had a good talk with Andy Remic and Gavin Smith about the state of the genre. And another about literary mashups with my agent John Jarrold, Jasper Kent and Tony Ballantyne, in which we tried adding “and Zombies” to various literary classics. We also included other supernatural beings. When I jokingly suggested A Christmas Carol and… Ghosts, John pointed out that Adam Roberts had already done something similar. And Jasper admitted that his novels Twelve and Thirteen Years Later are essentially War and Peace and Vampires.
Myself and Mike Cobley, as is traditional when we meet at cons, compared our MP3 player collections. Later, he, myself, Tony Ballantyne, Roy Gray and Jyoti Mishra went to the Slug and Lettuce for dinner. It was nice, but spoiled a bit by these loud rowdy people watching some strange arcane ritual on the televisions scattered throughout the room.
I didn’t buy any books. Which is unusual for me. But then there were no second-hand book sellers in the dealers room, and I’ve pretty much bought most of the new titles I want. Since the TBR pile is already stupidly high, this was not a bad thing.
Other people I spoke to included Ians Whates and Watson, Mark Chitty of Walker of Worlds book blog, Stephen Palmer, Brian Turner of SFF Chronicles, Lee Harris… and I’ve no doubt there were others whose names I’ve forgotten or never learned. And far too many people I never got to actually chat with, although we said hello every time we passed each other.
This year, alt.fiction carried on for much later, but I wasn’t staying overnight in the city. So I caught a train back home, with fellow writing group member Steven Poore, around half past nine. I was home an hour later.
I’ve been to all of the alt.fictions so far, and I’ve enjoyed them. I wasn’t too keen on the QUAD as a venue. The second-floor foyer outside the two cinemas – where the panels items took place – was too small, so people congregated in the café/bar on the ground floor just inside the entrance. Previous alt.fictions took place in the Assembly Rooms, and the bar was in the centre of the function rooms. Besides, I like 1970s Brutalist architecture. Despite that, I certainly plan to attend next year, if there is one.