Our trip to the World Fantasy Convention 2013 in Brighton was two years in the making, having bought my ticket almost as soon as it was announced. Wiebe decided to join me and then planning our travel arrangements started. In the end we decided to drive up, since Wiebe doesn’t really like flying – I think it’s to do with having to fold his legs behind his ears to fit in the seats – and what with luggage and weight limits, driving would be cheaper even taking the parking costs in Brighton into account. So it was that we set out really early on Thursday to drive up to Brighton. We drove from Leiden to Calais reasonably quickly avoiding most traffic and arriving at Calais an hour early, so we got an earlier train.
Sitting in your car on a driving train is just really weird! It creates a weird disconnect between your eyes telling you the car is standing still, in fact we were picnicking during the train ride, and your other senses telling you the car is moving. But we got through the tunnel safe and sound and arrived in Folkestone far earlier than expected. This turned out to be a good thing, because then we hit the M20 and M25 and things slowed down, if not completely stalled. We took as long driving from Leiden to the French border as we took driving from Folkestone to Brighton. And of course we had to drive on the wrong side of the road, yes; the wrong side of the road, no matter what you Brits say driving on the left is just not natural! But we hung in there and we got to the Hilton at about 2PM without any mishaps and taking only one wrong turn.
WFC being my first ever con I wasn’t really sure what to expect, except for lots of people and lots of books. There were problems in the run up to the con, which I won’t sum up here, but which were listed quite comprehensively by alittlebriton but once there everything seemed to go off well, though there were some incidents here and there, as noted by Laura Lam and Stephanie Saulter in their con write-ups. But as this was my first con, for me it was mostly about the people I met and the panels and parties I attended and I was lucky enough to avoid anything untoward.
What made the con the fantastic experience it was for me, were the people I met there. Some were old friends, such as Liz de Jager and Amanda Rutter, who I’d met on my last London trip and since, but most were people I’d been talking to on Twitter and via email for a long time, but who I’d never seen before. It was a surreal experience to meet all my Twitter friends in the flesh in one go. What was even stranger was that people recognised me. To me the people I talk to online are real people and not just names on a screen, but I’d never realised that would work the other way around as well. So I had a great time saying hello to people and chatting to them, though in hindsight, also due to the number of attendees, I got to chat to too few people for a long amount of time. I’m not going to list who I met up with, because I’m sure to miss people, as by Sunday names and faces became somewhat of a blur. Suffice it to say it was awesome to meet everyone and I wish I could more easily attend more events and meet up with people more often.
Meeting people happened mostly in between panels, at the mass signing and at the various parties. Wiebe and I popped into the Tor UK, Harper Voyager, and DelRey parties, and spent longer at the Gemmell awards reception, the Jo Fletcher Books party, the Gollancz party and the Hodder/Headline party, which was the only off-site event we attended. They were all huge fun and great places to meet people. The panels I attended were interesting, though I can see how they would be rather generic to long-time con-attendees, but as a newbie, I found them interesting indeed. I attended the two YA panels, the blogger panel, the second book panel, the interview with Sir Terry Pratchett and three readings, one by Mary Robinette Kowal, one by Freda Warrington and one by Amy McCulloch who had a ninja guest reader in the person of Laura Lam.
The YA panels were really good, though unfortunately the question of “What is YA?” came up at both and especially at the second one took up a lot of time. The Second Book panel was hilarious. It was interesting to hear about the problems authors run into writing their second published novel and the panellists (Mark Barnes, Alison Littlewood, Lou Morgan, who moderated, Snorri Kristjansson, Laure Eve, and Den Patrick) were well-matched and funny despite being on at Sunday at noon. I was really disappointed with the blogger panel, as half of the people on there didn’t seem to understand what book bloggers do and the three who actually got it were drowned out by one of the other panellists. It felt patronising and snobbish and it actually was the only panel where I walked out before it was over. The interview with Terry Pratchett was a bittersweet experience; while it was amazing to see him in person and to hear him speak, it was also really sad to see how much his disease has affected him and how hard it was for him to keep his train of thought. But his assistant Rob was amazing and did a fabulous reading from Raising Steam, Pratchett’s latest book. You had to be there, but I think I won’t ever look at the word prototype the same again. Finally the readings; these were great. It was really cool to hear these authors read from their own work and to hear what the characters sound like to them. In addition, the lovely Mary Robinette Kowal did a short shadow puppet play, which she allowed us to film and which she’s graciously given me permission to share with you here.
Of course there were also books, masses and masses of books and book signings. Since the authors I read hardly ever come to the Netherlands to sign books, I had to make the most of my chance so I brought loads of books from home to be signed and made a list of books to get so I could get them signed. Below are some picks of the books I brought, the books I bought or got for free, and some of the swag and the pressie I got from the lovely Jared and Anne. Most of the books I got signed at the mass signing on Friday. This took the form of me running around on a sort of author scavenger hunt and Wiebe following after me with a huge stack of books in his arms and
we went back to the room halfway to swap out signed and unsigned books. It was really funny as Wiebe constantly got comments about the size of his stack and his reading matter. He just sighed and said he was doing his husbandly duty as pack mule. I had some books signed at their launch, such as the Legends anthology in honour of David Gemmell, Mary Robinette Kowal’s first two books, and Jon Oliver’s new anthology The End of the Road. And I had a super-special personal signing of my copies of the Split Worlds series, as I had a tea date with Emma Newman, which was really fun and cool. And one book I picked up and unfortunately didn’t get signed, but am super excited about having it in my grabby paws is the proof for Liz de Jager’s Banished. I’m so proud and pleased for Liz that her book is almost here and I can’t wait to sit down and read Kit’s entire story. But pics of all the books now:
On Monday morning, when the con was well and truly over, we got back in the car, drove back home, picking up the girls from their grandmum’s on the way, and collapsed into our own comfy bed safe and sound. For me WFC was a fantastic experience with lovely people and fine books. A special thank you and shout out to the Red Coats, the volunteers who kept everything running to time and smoothly. They were lovely, kind and patient and perhaps under-appreciated by some. To all the authors, publicists, editors, fellow bloggers and other bookish people I met this weekend, thank you for making my first con experience delightful and hopefully I’ll be able to come back for another con in the future.
So the TL;DR version of this post? Wiebe and I had a fantastic time away in Brighton, met lots of lovely people, brought home a ton of books and are now recuperating from lack of sleep and lots of travel.