Monday 5 April 2010

Why writers should go to conventions, even when they don't want to

A few days ago a writer friend invited me to Odyssey 2010, also known as Eastercon, an annual fantasy/science fiction/horror convention here in England.

At first I didn't want to go. It was 25 pounds for the day, I didn't know anyone, and it was more of a fan con than a pro con, unlike others I've attended such as the World Fantasy Convention or the London Book Fair. Plus I'd just arrived in Oxford, my favorite town, and wanted to enjoy it.

My wife convinced me to go and I'm glad she did.

After a short drive to a Heathrow airport hotel (convenient for out-of-towners, soulless for everyone else) my friend and I split up and we wandered around the convention. There weren't any panels I wanted to see until the afternoon so I headed to the dealers room. If I wasn't going to make any professional connections I would at least have fun stuffing my bag with books! I got a decent haul. Prices were lower than at previous cons I've been too. I'm not sure if this was luck or the financial crisis, but there was lots of vintage stuff on sale cheap. Even the new books were discounted.

I also made some unexpected professional connections. I met a medieval researcher who knows some specialists in medieval firearms, the subject of my upcoming book and perhaps a future one. I also met the owner of Atomic Fez Publishing, a new Canadian small press, who I'll be interviewing in an upcoming post, and lots of pleasant fans besides.

Most importantly I met Brett and Sandra, co-owners of ChiZine Publications, two judges in the Fresh Blood Contest. My book is a finalist in that contest so it was interesting to meet them. They invited me to a party that evening, and of course I accepted. My ride was leaving before then but a lifetime of Third World travel made me unconcerned with such trivialities.

Continuing to wander, I attended a hilarious and informative speech by Dr. Ben Goldacre on Bad Science and bumped into a Swedish friend who I didn't know would be there. We then started sampling Rosie's Scrumpy Cider (7.3% ABV) and buying more books. I made it to a panel on swordplay (another future post), drank more cider, and managed to stay sober enough to be presentable at the ChiZine party.

Publisher parties at conventions are an interesting mix of aspiring writers, published-but-unknown writers, famous writers, editors, artists, and the occasional why-the-hell-are-you-here oddity. Besides meeting two famous names (including one who gave me a ride to Oxford, I told you it would be no trouble), a photographer for the Romanian edition of Penthouse, and various Goths, I got to chat more with Brett and Sandra. While getting to know them better will have no effect on my chances of winning the contest, that's up to you, I did learn that they're smart, fun folks who love what they do. I could work well with these people. So even if I lose, they're getting a manuscript from me.

All in all, I had a great time, bought some books, got material for future blog posts, drank some good cider and mediocre wine, saw old friends, and made professional contacts. So if you're thinking of not going to that next convention, rethink. They're almost always worth your time.

I just wish that the next day when I was playing with my son in the park my wife didn't notice a postcard sticking out of my back pocket and say, "What's that!"

It was a sample from the Romanian edition of Penthouse.

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Looking for more from Sean McLachlan? He also hangs out on the Civil War Horror blog, where he focuses on Civil War and Wild West history.

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