Archive | October, 2016

BristolCon 2016 – A fabulous day with fabulous people!

On Saturday 29th, I departed my house at an ungodly hour of 6:30 am to go to Bristol. The Great Western Railway terminated the train unexpectedly at Reading (under mysterious circumstances), so instead of reaching Bristol at 10:00, I eventually got there at 11:15. Putting aside the fact that I could’ve been in another country by then, it was annoying to have missed almost the whole morning programme.

So, I proceeded straight to the Break Room & Coffee, for much needed caffeine and just starting to socialize with all the lovely people I hadn’t seen for a while. In fact, as it turned out, this particular BristolCon experience revolved very much around just mingling, which was great. 

BristolCon is one of the smaller conventions, but even so, not only I didn’t get enough time to chat to a lot of people, completely missed the others. So it’s not that small. 

But I did do things besides chatting: I was on a “Murderous Women” panel (okay, talking) about how/if GrimDark has different perception/expectations of women authors than crime or horror. On the panel with me were Anna Smith-Spark, Jonathan L. Howard (who is the Guest of Honour at BristolCon 2017 by the way), and David Gullen. 

I also attended Kevlin Henney’s flash fiction workshop, which was really great fun. Kevlin, an accomplished flash fiction author, led us through the workshop, giving us plenty of tips in 45 minutes, and we even ended up creating some stories of our own. (Though in my case, not very good ones). 

After that, Dev Agarwal and I ran the Stage Managed Fighting workshop, which was really about accurate and interesting depiction of fighting in our stories. We were pleased to have a full house. Dev supplied the information and props, led the workshop with extreme competence and his years of martial arts experience. I was the lowly but glamorous assistant, and spent the workshop either being punched or punching (obviously the latter was more fun), and making faces at GR Matthews. I got told earlier that for a moment when I’d the boxing pad on, apparently I also had the “resting bitch face” which is fabulous, because looking like a mean boxer is the height of accomplishment for someone who is essentially an ever-smiling chatterbox! 

Most of the time then was spent sitting at the bar, which considering I don’t drink, just sounds weird. I had fascinating chats with a whole bunch of people, including Gaie Sebold with whom I’m thrilled to share an anthology (Fight Like A Girl, now available from all good booksellers), and her partner David Gullen (who I shared the Murderous Women panel with, and we got on brilliantly despite him covering up my name tag with his momentarily). Of course the wonderful GR Matthews and James Latimar, my online conversation buddies were a delight as usual. I also spent a long while talking to Richard Bendell, a fellow Stargate Fan, about music, religion, and great many other things. One of my highlight was seeing a guy dressed in Stargate SG-1 uniform. Dean, you’ve inspired me to do my own cosplay. Finally! 

MEG was her amazing organised self, and I’m pleased to hear that she will be chairing BristolCon 2017, though it is sad that Jo Hall is stepping down. Jo’s been absolutely amazing running the con. On a personal level, she was the first person to take me under her wing in the SFF world and for that she shall forever remain special. But Jo and Roz have wonderful adventures of their own planned, and I wish them both good luck. 

 

One of the first person I got to chat with at the con was Claire Carter, who is challenging her own artistic limits. I am sure we can expect to see great things from her as she continues to grow on her artistic path. I only managed to see Sammy HK Smith briefly, and Simeon Beresford – with whom a catch-up is certainly needed. Only managed to say hello to Cheryl Morgan, T. O. Munro, and Joel Cornah. Amanda Beecham was nice enough to bring me a cookie. Got some quality time at lunch with Dev Agarwal and Piotr Swietlik. A very brief catch-up with Dr. Bob. I have no doubt I’m missing great many people off this list, but suffice to say, that it was a wonderful event with lovely people.

Of course this adventure didn’t end there. The next morning, I managed to have a short session again with Nick Walters (and met Belinda the bicycle), GR Matthews, and Jo Hall. I also met RB Watkinson and her husband Paul. So even the post-con morning didn’t go without making new friends. 

I’ve of course already signed up for BristolCon 2017, and am already looking forward to attending. 

Thoughts on why we read certain books at certain times

Like most book lovers, I’ve piles of unread books. I continuously keep adding to it by buying new books. Realistically, unless I retire and read full time, it seems unlikely that I will be able to read all the books I own in a decade. But we are not going to talk about the book buying…that’s a whole separate issue. What I have been pondering is what makes us pick up one book over another, why I start reading a certain book as soon as it arrives in the post, or even on the way home from the bookstore, whereas others must await their turn for months, years, or even decades? One thing is for certain, there is no logic behind it as far as provable logic goes. So what drives these decision?

This particular pondering started because I just picked out my “Vintage” collection, which I bought almost to the day five years ago. For five years these books have sat on my shelf, looking gorgeous, but I’ve ignored them as I selected other things to read. Oh I have admired them, I have considered reading them, but they never quite made it out of their spot and into my hands. I don’t know why. Just as I don’t know why today this is the collection I was drawn to. 

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There are other books for me to read. In fact, it would make more sense to start reading a second book in The Liveship Traders trilogy, because I recently finished the first book. It would make more sense to finish reading Rousseau’s Confessions that I’m in the middle of. There are a lot of other books that, logically, I should be reading right now. But instead, I took out my collection, intending to read a book by Maugham, and instead started reading The Easter Parade by Richard Yates. I’ve never read anything by Richard Yates. In fact, even among this collection, I should be and am more drawn to Isherwood – whose journals I enjoy – and Maugham, due to his reputation. Yet, they must wait some more. 

I believe that books are like people. Sometimes we meet the right person at the right time and everything falls into place. At other times, the people are right but the timing is wrong and things don’t work out so well. This happens with books too. A right book read at the right time has the power to transform lives. It can offer support, comfort, hope, understanding, a really good cry, fuel dreams, energize, deepen emotional understanding, educate and make you think. The right book at the right time can be a miracle, often a mini miracle, but sometimes a mega miracle. So that’s why when books draw me to them, I listen. When I feel the urge to read something in particular, against all logic, I read it. The stuff that needs to be read will be read somehow. But books that your heart/soul tells you to read…that’s where magic may happen. Sometimes, signals get crossed and it’s just an ordinary book. But sometimes, it’s another alleyway, exploring uncharted territories inside one’s own soul. 

BristolCon 2016 – Come Say Hello!

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On October 29th, we will be gathering in Bristol once more for the annual Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention, BristolCon. If you’ve never been, it’s a fantastic event. Unlike most convention, it is only a single day event, thus a lot of less tiring and way cheaper, but still full of lots of fun and really cool people. So if you happen to be a fantasy/sci-fi reader and in vicinity of Bristol, check it out.

At 15:00, I will be on a panel with Anna smith-Spark, Jonathan L. Howard and David Gullen, discussing “Murderous Women” which will hopefully be as fascinating as it sounds. We will be talking about why attitudes to what women want and what women are expected to deliver vary in different genres. Amanda Kear will be moderating us and keeping us under control. 

To then get completely out of control (kind of), at 17:00 I will be Dev Agarwal’s glamourous assistant in a “Stage Managed Fighting” workshop. We’ll give some demonstrations and look at how fight scenes can add depth to the story. 

There will of course be general shannanigans, cake, book launch, book buying, socialising and a quiz! Meeting up with old friends and making new ones is also all in day’s work. If you have never been to a convention before, BristolCon is a great first. If you are a regular, I look forward to see you. You can buy the tickets at the door, or just click on this link and buy them in advance. 

 

 

 

 

Ishmael and the Failings of Human Race

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I just finished reading Ishmael, a novel by Daniel Quinn, which was recommended to me by Nik Perring (his book Beautiful Words is truly beautiful, and a lesson in how you can say a lot of things in few words). 

This is a philosophical novel. It is dialogue between a teacher and a student, where the teacher is encouraging the student to see through the myths human culture is trapped in. The teacher is a gorilla and the student is a human. It may sound weird, but when you read the book, the concept works. This book was awarded Turner Tomorrow Fellowship Award in 1991, a $500K price, before it’s formal publication in 1992. 

I don’t want to give spoilers, because if you haven’t read it, I would highly recommend that you do. Though published in 1992, it is in fact even more relevant today when we consider the situation humanity, and the planet is in. The dialogue is Socratic, based on logic. And like any logical conclusion, once you figure it out it seems obvious. It highlights the failings of humanity, but more importantly, WHY we fail as a race.

I read about 50% of this book on my kindle while running 17.29 miles over two days on the treadmill. If you have ever attempted to run on a treadmill, you will know that it’s very difficult to stay entertained. I breezed through it, and it was easier than running with music or movies. It’s written in easy-to-read style, not heavy academic/jargony prose. It is basically a conversation between two people, and you can agree or disagree.

It may not change your perspective, it may not change your idea of humanity, but at the very least it will make you think. Perhaps it will encourage you to see things from a new angle. Isn’t that what good books are supposed to do?