Worldcon, the story so far

Worldcon is well under way and I’ve found myself taking an early break on Saturday night to recover a bit. This gives me a chance to blog a few comments and pictures about what’s been happening at Aussiecon4, the 68th Annual World Science Fiction Convention, here in Melbourne.

I am exhausted and still suffering from last night (hence the early night tonight) so I apologise for any omissions or nonsensical lines.

It all began on Thursday. I flew in to Melbourne Thursday morning and managed to quickly check in to my hotel before heading directly across to the Borders book store right next to the convention centre for the launch of Baggage, an anthology I’ve talked about here before.

The Baggage launch.

A number of the authors in Baggage were at the launch and I got my copy signed by all those attending. Then it was over to the convention centre for the opening ceremony and Worldcon was on.

I was on two panels back to back Thursday afternoon, both of which were a lot of fun. First off was Why Australia Is More Horrifying Than Anywhere Else. On the panel were Will Elliot, Kirstyn McDermott, Chuck McKenzie, Andrew McKiernan and myself. It was basically a panel designed to scare the shit out of all the international guests as we just spent an hour talking about all the different ways Australia can kill you. It was a lot of fun. Here’s a shot of that panel, taken by Abigail Nathan.

L to R – Andrew McKiernan, me, Kirstyn McDermott, Chuck McKenzie & Will Elliot

Right after that was Minotaurs In Space Helmets: Using myth in science fiction. This panel was Gillian Polack, James Shields and myself and we talked about the difference between myth and legend, cultural appropriation, wherein Gillian declared me insensitive and I refused to accept her judgement, and a number of the standard archetypal mythic story elements used in sci fi.

Later on during the evening I got to attend a panel as a con-goer and sat in on My heart, which was always hers, an erotic horror reading panel, featuring Stephen Dedman, Felicity Dowker, Paul Haines, Erica Hayes and Kaaron Warren. Each of those people are excellent writers and they each read an excerpt of their work or a short story. This was a great event, which will always be remembered for aching balls and “Is it really necro if it’s still warm?” Thanks Paul, you beautifully sick fuck, you.

Erotic horror reading – L to R Erica Hayes, Stephen Dedman, Kaaron Warren, Felicity Downker, Paul Haines

So that was just day one. Friday was equally busy. I started the day helping out with the Kids’ stream and a light saber building workshop, which seemed to be barely contained chaos.

Kids making lightsabers

I ducked out early from that one as I was keen to attend the double book launch of Kaaron Warren’s Dead Sea Fruit and Angela Slatter’s The Girl With No Hands, both short story collections published by Ticonderoga Publications. You know already what a fan I am of Angela Slatter’s work after the way I gushed all over her other collection recently published, Sourdough & Other Stories. Kaaron Warren is someone else I’m also somewhat besotted with. Her writing is dark and visceral and often downright nasty. I’m really looking forward to reading both these collections. (Kaaron also took out the Ditmar Award for best novel for Sleights last night. Go Kaaron!)

L to R – Kaaron Warren, Angela Slatter, Lisa Hannet (who did the cover art for The Girl With No Hands) and publishers Liz Gryzb and Russel Farr

After that was the Blade Attraction panel. This included Kaneda Cruz, Wing Chung, Malcolm Davies, Sean McMullen and myself and we talked about the martial arts, their place in speculative fiction and movies and we demonstrated the things we discussed. There were people being thrown around and swords being wielded and other kinds of barely safe activity. It was a right laugh and the room full of people seemed to greatly enjoy it. We certainly did.

Then I went to the book launch of Macabre, a fantastic collection of Australian horror, old and new, with lots of readings from many of the contributing authors. This is going to quite an important book, as nothing like it has been done before. If you have any kind of interest in dark fiction, especially Australian, you need to have this book.

For the rest of Friday afternoon I stalked about the dealer room, investigating all the lovely things on offer and just generally mingled about the con. At around 5 I headed off with bunch of friends to the Harper Voyager 15th birthday party over at Crown Casino. This was a pretty swish affair with free booze and party food and talk of all things Voyager.

From there I headed back to my hotel where I met up with Felicity and Stephen and we finalised our outfits for the Australian Horror Writers’ Association Nightmare Ball. I have to thank Felicity for the amount of help she gave me with my costume as well as making me up. I think I looked pretty awesome, as did she as a Clockwork Orange droog and Stephen as Patrick Bateman, American Psycho.

The night got pretty messy and no more needs to be blogged about it. But it was excellent fun, I’m sure. I expect I’ll remember most of it eventually.

This morning, Saturday, I woke up feeling very ordinary, but bravely dragged myself back to the con. I had a Kaffeeklatsch early on and then from noon till two I did my Write The Fight Right workshop. Given the big names here and all the events going on, I was unsure how many people would be interested in little old me and my workshop. I was very pleased to see a room full of people and we had a great two hours, talking about what fighting is really like and how to factor that into your writing. As usual, two hours wasn’t nearly enough and we didn’t cover everything I wanted to, but we did cover a lot and had fun along the way. I got some very positive feedback, so hopefully people will have taken something valuable away from it.

After that I was on a panel called Crisis Of Finite Publishers, with DC writer Paul Cornell and comics aficionado James Bacon, from Ireland. We talked about the comic book industry and whether or not comics are really a dying medium or not. It was very interesting panel. I was a bit out of left field on this one, given that I neither write or draw comics, but my writing has been described as very graphic and visual in style and I’m the first to admit that I’m hugely influenced by comic books, as a voracious reader, so I guess that’s why I was included. Anyway, I’m glad I was as it was a fascinating panel. And no, it seems that comics aren’t dead, but they may be electronic soon, with far fewer hard copies, sold primarily through online outlets before long. Sound familiar?

Right after that I was on another panel, Tombstones and chapbooks, with Bill Congreve, Felicity Dowker and Ginjer Buchanan. Ellen Datlow was also supposed to be on this one, but sadly she’s had a family crisis and had to return home, so we wish her and her family well. This panel was all about where horror lives these days, whether it’s doomed to the small press forever more, or if there’s a chance that it could get mass and mainstream again. This was a very sparky panel, quite confrontation at first between the Australian contingent and Ginjer Buchanan, an American, and editor of Ace Books. A lot of contention surrounded the definitions of horror and so on. But it was the good kind of sparky, where the panel gets interesting and strong ideas are bashed out. It’s my favourite kind of panel, far more interesting than a boring hour of people all agreeing with each other. And of course we’re all still friends and everyone learned a lot, on the panel and in the audience. The net result seems to be that horror can easily be sold to mainstream mass market publishers, as long as no one calls it horror and it’s not marketed as such. And, I might add, I was right about Dean Koontz and The Taking. Ha!

After that there was a bit of a room party with a whole bunch of interesting people and much laughter, but I ducked out early and came back to my hotel to recuperate somewhat. As you can see (if you’re still reading and I apologise profusely if you are!) there’s been a lot going on. I’m going to chill and have an early night.

I’m gutted that I missed the Guest Of Honour speech from Kim Stanley Robinson as I was busy with other commitments, but I did manage to catch some of George R R Martin’s reading and talk somewhere among all that other stuff. I have very little in the way of personal obligations now for the rest of this con and I’m looking forward to enjoying the remaining items from the front, as a regular con goer.

I apologise for any mistakes, wrong names or any other fuck ups in this post. I’m on about 20% brain power right now. Commencing recharge: Now.


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13 thoughts on “Worldcon, the story so far

  1. I was gutted I couldn’t attend for more than a fleeting moment – the stars aligned this weekend, and pointed in the other direction unfortunately. I guess the upside was it’ll be back in another 10 years or so!

    It was great to finally catch up with you, albeit briefly. Hopefully I’ll see you around the traps more in future. Oh yeah, and thanks for giving me my one author/fan moment for the con.

  2. Hi Alan, I was one of the attendees at your workshop and it was one of the highlights of the con for me. I’ve been struggling with the finale of my book, and now I have a better idea of how to frame the fight scene. I hope you put some thought into making more information available, either as video podcasts or e-books etc. I would definitely appreciate and invest in such a resource.
    Melinda (who sparred with Laura Goodin but isn’t related *g*)

  3. Hi Melinda

    I’m glad you enjoyed it. I’ll definitely think about some sort of multimedia version of the content. An ebook is probably the easiest start, maybe with pictures or something. I’ll work on it!

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