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Convention-Fest 2014!

As I’m sure everyone knows by now, the past fortnight had been filled with conventions and various other geeky things. Everybody else probably had their con reports done ages ago, but I got ill with a pretty darn impressive bout of con-plague right after coming home from Loncon, so I haven’t had time yet. So now that my insides have forgiven me for my wicked convention ways (all the snacking, all the coffee, none of the healthy stuff…), here are a few highlights of my con experience!

photo 1I went to Nine Worlds right from work on the opening night (Thursday 7th) and stayed until Sunday night. I had an absolute blast there, particularly as a bunch of my close friends & writing group buddies were going, and I also knew a bunch of other people from the London fannish scene. I’d booked the week between Nine Worlds and Loncon off work, so I used it to chill out and work on structural edits to The Paradise Swarm. I’m so glad I did this, I don’t know how I would have been anything but zombie-Claire for all of  Loncon if I hadn’t.

photo 3Then on the morning of Thursday 14th, I trekked down to the Excel Centre with a massive suitcase to attend Loncon3, which was my first WorldCon. I was also on staff, meaning I volunteered ahead of the con and had extra responsibilities for specific things (in my case, the Party Maven team! We walked around the Fan Village in the evenings being helpful and liaising with Ops. Shame I didn’t think to bring a pedometer!). I ended up doing way more than I’d expected which was really good fun although a bit taxing.

After I went home on Monday and searched my suitcase quite thoroughly at the front door, it became clear I’d lost my keys at the con! Luckily someone had brought them into the lost and found at the Excel and the staff there was extremely helpful, letting me send in a courier to get the keys back to my house.

On Tuesday, it was back to the office with me, with what I thought at the time was a little bit of a cold. That night, I went to the awesome George & Robin event at the Freemason Hall in Central London, which was super cool, because ROBIN HOBB!! GEORGE R. R. MARTIN!! The interview was really super interesting, especially when they started talking in more detail about the writing process and how they approach their work. I also got a gorgeous signed hardback of Robin Hobb’s latest novel, Fool’s Assassin, which is about Fitz! It is literally shiny.

photo (2)Of course, after that, my ‘little bit of a cold’ morphed into stomach flu and I had to take some time off sick. I’m feeling better now though, and I don’t think I’ll ever plan two back-to-back conventions like this. It was epically good fun, but I kind of feel like I’ve entirely lost the following week.

For 2015, I’m hoping I can make it to my first EasterCon and go to Nine Worlds again, as they are both in Heathrow and neither is too long, meaning I can take a few days off AFTER each con to recuperate. I’m never going back to the office the day after a con again!

Con Highlights:


I went to a lot of panels over the last couple weeks so I couldn’t name them all, but there were some outstanding ones. At Nine Worlds, I loved The Vampire vs Werewolves vs Dragons vs Warlocks debate, which had authors debating the merits of each (dragons won); Paul Cornell’s Only a Moment panel; and the Costume talks in the fandom track, which had @Hello_Tailor discussing the impact of film/TV costumes on the narrative, and @whatkatie_did talking about stealth cosplay! At Loncon, my favourite was hands down the Diversity in YA panel, which had great panelists and moderation. I also really enjoyed the various Kaffeeklatsches and Literary Beers I got to attend, with Emma Newman, Mur Lafferty, Seanan McGuire & Mary Robinette Kowal.


dariajaneI cosplayed all three days at Nine Worlds! My costumes weren’t the most involved I’ve ever had, but they were generally well received. In the end I got enough of Nine World’s new ‘Awesome Cosplay’ tokens to win a little goody bag with candy, a toy dinosaur and an ‘Outstanding Cosplay’ badge!!

On Friday, @Jenepel and I went as Daria and Jane, which was tons of fun, except that I wore a wig and contacts and pretty much no one recognised me as me. I kept having to point as my name tag and be all “Hi, we’re friends!”. On Saturday, I wore my Sally Skellington dress but without the white sleeves or face-paint. I think that worked well as a compromise between cosplay and looking like myself! On Sunday, I was Tank Girl, which was THE BEST to make, but which I forgot to take a picture of! Must dress in it again soon for photo-op!


photo 5I got some free books in my Nine Worlds welcome pack, at the Gollancz party there and from the Helsinki in 2017 bid (because I’d just supported it). I also bought lots of books, so now I have a nice stack of them. I even got a few signed. :)

New people!

I got to meet so many new people, from fans to writers I’ve admired for ages, with everyone in between; I can’t possibly name-check everybody (without forgetting some people and being rude). I knew fewer people at Loncon, but volunteering and being chatty do really help! Because a bunch of my friends were at Nine Worlds, hanging out in the bar there was great fun (except for the price of everything!) and led to meeting even more people. I had nice chats with people after the New Voices panels too!


Strange Chemistry Book Reviews

For the past year and a bit, I’ve been going to the Big Green Bookshop’s Angry Robot Reading Group, where we read some Strange Chemistry books as well as Angry Robot releases. I’ve liked most of the books we read, but I enjoyed the Strange Chemistry ones most of all. They just filled me with glee.

I like Young Adult books in general, and I specifically adore genre YA, so the imprint was a perfect fit for my taste. Now that it’s sadly been closed, I want to look back at a few Strange Chem books I liked.

As readers and fans, all we can do is let the world know we’d like more from Strange Chemistry authors, and from Amanda Rutter, who edited the imprint so brilliantly. If any of these sound good to you, consider buying them from your local independent bookshop. If you don’t have one, give the Big Green Bookshop a shout (on twitter, by email or at 020 8881 6767), they do free UK delivery.

And yes, I will shamelessly pimp my beloved local bookshop, because they are amazing and if anything, the closure of Strange Chemistry & Exhibit A shows us that if we like something we should put some monies towards it.

When The World Was Flat (and we were in love), by Ingrid Jonach

whentheworldWhen 16-year-old Lillie meets Tom for the first time, it’s like fireworks — for her, anyway. Tom looks like he’d be more interested in watching paint dry. As they get closer, Lillie suspects he holds the answers to her reoccurring nightmares and impossible memories.

I got a review copy of this book on NetGalley and posted a detailed review of it here. In short, I really enjoyed the mix of high-school drama and high sci-fi concept, slow character build up and humour in this book. This is a great summer read; while the genre elements far from ground-breaking, they work really well with interesting, likeable characters and high emotional stakes.

Emilie and the Hollow World, by Martha Wells

emilieWhile running away from home for eminently defensible reasons, Emilie stows away on the wrong steamship and finds herself on a journey to the interior of the planet in search of the missing father of her protector, Lady Marlende.

This book was easily our Angry Robot Reading Group favourite read of 2013, and I can’t praised it highly enough. So far, I’ve gifted it to two good friends and I think I might give it to my Mum for Xmas.  I love steampunk and travel stories, not to mention a smart, sensible, brave protagonist to root for, so this was a perfect fit for me. It reminded me of His Dark Materials and right now I don’t know HOW I don’t own the sequel yet…


Poltergeeks, by Sean Cummings

poltergeeksJulie is the daughter of a witch, so when she witnesses an elderly lady jettisoned out of her front door, she knows there’s a supernatural connection. Poltergeist activity levels are increasing all over town, until Julie’s mother is cursed in an assault on the high school.  Now it’s a race to find out how to break the curse.

I won’t lie, I totally picked up this book on the title alone. I love stories about witches, and this book didn’t disappoint, especially when you take into account the heaps of high-school drama and the Canadian setting – strange and exotic to me! I enjoyed the characters and their relationships, particularly the relationship between Julie and her mother, but I was especially intrigued by the revelations about Julie’s magical inheritance.

Skulk, by Rosie Best

skulk Meg’s only escape from her oppressive, not-so-perfect home is her secret life as a night-time graffiti artist. That’s how she witnesses the dying moments of a fox… that shapeshifts into a man. As he dies, he gives Meg a gemstone and his power to shift. Plunged into a shadowy underworld of warring shapeshifters, she must protect the stolen gemstone.

I bought this book to support the author who is a friend of mine, and also because the cover was so damn cool. This book doesn’t pull any punches, and I found Meg’s cruel and selfish mother just as disgusting as some of the gory bloodshed and definitely scarier than the bit with all the spiders and rats. There’s also some great commentary about class in Britain and proper laugh out loud moments.

The one thing I wasn’t terribly keen on was that it reads very much like book one of a series, and I personally found the ending left me wanting a bit more. Rosie has written and done edits on the second book, Rabble, so here’s to hoping we can read it soon in some form or another. I will be reading it when it does come.