The talented and all round lovely Joanne Hall, author of the fantasy epic, Art of Forgetting: Rider, answers some of my questions regarding the Sci-Fi/Fantasy Convention being held on the 26th of October 2013 in Bristol.
Author and Chair of the Bristol Con, Joanne Hall.
For someone like me, who has never been to a Sci-Fi/Fantasy Convention, what can someone expect going to the Bristol Con?
BristolCon is a fairly compact SF/F convention – we usually have around 250 people, so it’s small enough to be friendly. There are really two sorts of conventions; there are the big media conventions like DragonCon or MCM Expo, where the focus is very much on cosplay and events with TV and film celebrities, and then there are smaller, more intimate conventions like Wiscon, where the focus is more on reading and writing and speculative fiction. BristolCon falls into the second camp. There are panel discussions and individual presentations on subjects of geeky and writerly interest (this year, for example, we have “How to poop on a Fantasy Universe and Other Grubby Goings On” and “How Humans are Biologically Weird”, to name but two) We also have an art room, a dealer room full of creative people, live music, a very hard quiz, kaffeeklatsches (small meetings of no more than ten people with a famous author, over coffee) etc. It’s a chance to spend the day hanging out with like-minded people talking nerdy and having a few pints!
In what capacity do you work at the Bristol Con? How many years has it been up and running?
I’m the chair, which means I get to boss the rest of the committee about and make sure everything’s running smoothly, and catch any dropped balls along the way. We’ve been doing it for five years now; the first year we ran for an afternoon and had sixty people, so it’s grown a bit since then.
What’s involved in getting the Con ready?
We start organising next years con even before this years has taken place, by approaching the people we’d like to be Guests of Honour next year (I could tell you who they are, but then I’d have to kill you…) Then we spend the next few months encouraging interesting potential panellists to sign up. I should explain that with smaller fan-run conventions everyone except the Guests of Honour pays an entry fee, even the hard-working committee. Then once we have loads of signups, as well as dealers and artists, about three months before the con the committee come together and toss around ideas for panels until we have about twenty-five potential panels. Then Meg, our supreme programme wrangler, sends the panel suggestions out to the people who have expressed an interest in being on panels, and they pick the ones they most want to be on. This ensures that people only end up doing the panels they are really interested in appearing on. Then we take the most popular 14-15 panels and build the programme around them. The programme is almost the last thing we do, only a few weeks before the big day.
There are a million other things to do as well, but BristolCon has a great committee and after five years we’re beginning to get the hang of the small stuff!
Who’s involved in this years’ Con? Can you drop us a few names?
Our Guests of Honour this year are Storm Constantine (Chronicles of the Wreaththu), and Philip Reeve (Mortal Engines), and our artist GOH is Mark Buckingham, who draws Fables and has worked on Sandman.
We always try and involve lots of local writers, such as Gareth L Powell, Emma Newman and Lou Morgan, and this year we have Mary Robinette Kowal flying in from Chicago – it was a nice surprise when she signed up!
Where in Bristol is the Convention being held?
It’s at the Hilton DoubleTree on Redcliffe Way, next to St Mary Redcliffe which is a beautiful medieval church. It’s only five minutes walk from Temple Meads Station, so it’s easy to get to from London and Birmingham.
Do people dress up? Can people expect to see Orcs, Wizards and Sci-fi heros? Or is it a more formal setting?
People haven’t tended to dress up in the past, but if people want to dress up, we’re not going to discourage them! Some of the committee do like to put on their best frocks – it adds to the sense of occasion. And we’ve had a number of people come in steampunk garb in the past. We certainly don’t discourage people from dressing up, but there’s no maskerade or costume competition like some of the bigger cons have.
What other events can people expect? Are there readings and book signings?
This year we’re launching “Looking Landwards”, an anthology of agricultural SF, and there will be readings between the panels and signings at lunchtime. Because it’s quite an informal con – there’s no green room or anything like that – most authors are happy to sign things during the day, or over a pint in the bar. It’s a really good chance to meet your favourite authors in an informal setting and find out how lovely they are!
Will you be doing a reading? If so, from which book and can you tell us a little bit about it?
I will be doing a five-minute reading after the panel I’m on (The Evolution of Genre), and I’ll be reading something from my heroic fantasy “The Art of Forgetting : Rider” but I’m not sure what yet – it’s hard to find an extract without spoilers!
For those interested, or wanting more info, where can they find it? (and any other relevant links!)
The first place to look would be the BristolCon website : www.bristolcon.org We also have a Facebook page, and you can follow @BristolCon on Twitter – we’re all very friendly and if you say hello we’ll say hello back!