I put up a rather bleary-eyed post in the early hours of Monday morning expressing my happiness at Voyagers winning a Sir Julius Vogel Award – but a whole lot of other good stuff happened on the Sunday of Au Contraire. Here are some personal highlights from the day:
Jay Lake Kaffeeklatsch
Though I moderated two panels and ran a live Q&A on the day, my personal highlight was a kaffeeklatsch with Jay Lake, a prolific (and very talented) author of short fiction and novels. The half-a-dozen of us who spent an hour with Jay in the Con Suite were treated both to his engaging conversation, and to an impromptu tutorial on the state of SF short fiction markets in the US, and what sort of story to submit where – priceless information from one who really knows the score.
(You can read one of Jay’s stories at Tor.com – I enjoyed it, but as the comments show, the political fissures that run through the US run through its SF readership as well.)
Panels: Joss Whedon and SF Poetry
To those panels: the first was “Joss Whedon Is My Master Now”m with Patrick Nielsen Hayden, myself, and Alistair -aargh, surname recall fail – as the three panelists. This was a fun panel with lots of good discussion, much Whedon-love and some cogent criticisms as well. As a Buffy fan first and foremost, I was impressed how many others shared my preference – though a small band of Firefly diehards made a bold stand on the edge of Alliance space, swearing colourfully in Mandarin as they did so.
Next was the SF poetry panel with my fellow panelists Janis Freegard and Harvey Molloy. Though it was not so well attended as the Joss Whedon panel, the discussion was good, with both considerable optimism and some pessimism on the future of speculative poetry in particular and poetry in general – is flash fiction the new poetry? I particularly loved the way in which, moments after Harvey read a poem which he said he wasn’t going to submit anywhere, one of the audience put up his hand and asked if he could publish it!
Patrick Nielsen Hayden Q&A
My third commitment was to run a live Q&A session with Tor Books Senior Editor Patrick Nielsen Hayden. Having already been to Patrick’s kaffeeklatsch and sat besuide him on the Whedon panel, I’d stopped feeling nervous, and it wasn’t a hard job to let the questions flow and hear a great deal of accumulated publishing wisdom – and a surprisingly optimistic take on the future of publishing – at close quarters.
In other circumstances, I would have attended Juliet Marillier’s panel on reviewing SF, but that was my only chance to catch up with US fans Pat and Roger Sims, whom Kay and I met in 1994. It was lovely to see them again, and catch up across the years and the oceans.
Than it was dinner (a yummy dinner, at Balti, organsied most ably by Martyn Buyck), and back to the con hotel for the awards ceremonies – not just the Vogels, but all the Convention awards.
Final thoughts on Au Contraire
Final thoughts? Overwhelmingly positive: this was a stunningly well-run Con, and the women behind the convention deserve an enormous amount of credit. I was especially impressed that two key players in the convention committee could pull off publishing and launching a collection of original fiction at the same time as being convention organisers.