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WorldCon, Days 2 and 3

Day 2
A quiet(ish) morning, but I did get a chance to check out the room in which we would be playing I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue in the evening, in order to confirm the tech facilities. It was apparent from a quick glance that the facilities weren’t suitable (despite several emails to the organisers before the convention), so I went to the tech desk. The person I needed to speak with wasn’t there, so they asked me to leave my number and someone would contact me.  It became an afternoon of meetings, during which no contact from Tech, and then I went to the Wildcards Dinner in the evening. Alas, Emma Newman and I had to leave the dinner early as we had to head back to the convention centre for the panel game. I got there early enough to ask Tech to come along and plug my MacBook into the sound system. I needed to be on the desk with the other panelists, but this wasn’t possible, and I had to stand apart from them at a podium. Also, they couldn’t connect my Mac to the sound system, so I had to transfer the files from my machine to theirs. The way to do this, apparently, was for the tech guy to shout for the (very large) audience to be quiet, before shouting “Does anyone have a USB key we can borrow?”

The game itself went really well, and the panelists (Mur Lafferty, Kameron Hurley, Daryl Gregory and Emma Newman) seemed to have as much fun as the audience. Watching the bemused expression on the American panelists’ faces when the line “We’ve had a letter from a Mrs Trellis from North Wales” got an enormous cheer from the audience, was priceless.

So, despite the tech issues (this was obviously a running theme, at least for my panels), it was a resounding success.

Day 3
Friday morning say the first in another succession of meetings, followed by my third and final panel (which went well, despite the panel being offsite. When I asked how to get there, it was “Leave the convention centre through the front doors, cross the road, climb the steps and walk 2 or three blocks until you find a small, yellow building.” – it was my first quest!)

A lunch with one of my favourite authors and favourite people in genre (where I tried reindeer for the fist time – spoiler: it’s delicious), and then it was time to head back to the apartment to get ready for the Hugos. This year I was accompanied by my oldest daughter, Verity, who looked amazing in her dress and high heels.

A fantastic set of results across every category, but I was particularly delighted by the result for Best Fancast (Tea and Jeopardy) and especially Best Novella (Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire). This means that last year a book I edited won both the Nebula and the Hugo, and this year a book I edited won both the Nebula and the Hugo. So, no pressure for next year, then!

I also briefly met Daveed Diggs (the original Lafayette and Jefferson from Hamilton) and Sibel Kekilli (who played Shae in Game of Thrones). And what’s more important, they met me! So happy for them!

Then onto the Hugo Losers’ Party which was held at Helsinki’s Steam bar, which was fab but loud and crowded.

WorldCon in Helsinki – Day 1

Helsinki, so far, has proven to be a dream. The amusement park was fun, the zoo funner, and I’m just about fine with making my way around the bus and tram system. We arrived here on Sunday and WorldCon started yesterday (Wednesday).

I rolled up to Registration at about noon, having seen no-one I knew since a brief encounter on the flight the previous Sunday. Within a minute of me standing in line I was joined by Liz Gorinsky, Angela Slatter, Lisa L Hannet and Haralambi Markov.

I headed to the nearest café to grab a bite and a drink, and ended up with a vegan pulled-oat-and-avocado-on-sometypeofbread, and a juice, and it was delicious. Between me starting the sandwich and finishing it I was greeted by 8 or 9 friends from around the world, which was wonderful.

Over lunch I spoke with an American guy who told me that the panels are (already!) really hard to get into, as they were filling up quickly and the con staff are really hot on fire safety (no pun intended, but I’ll let it ride) so they don’t allow overcrowding and rooms have a very specific number of allowed audience members. I discovered this to be true, later. Cheryl Morgan has some information on why this is happening.

Mid afternoon I headed downtown to meet up with the Australian contingent, and we quietly too over the pub. I left them to head back to the con centre to have a light dinner with Marguerite Kenner and Alasdair Stuart. “Light” dinner because all of the eateries in the centre appeared to decide that dinner time is an appropriate time for cafés and restaurants to close, and the one we chose (“chose” in this instance meaning “headed to because it was the only one with the shutters still open) had a very small choice of food as they were also closing and weren’t cooking anything new.

A little prep time next, and then I headed to my first panel of the convention – “Ready, Steady, Flash!” – which I was hosting. Peter Newman was one of the panelists, and I got to meet N S Dolkart, Karin Tidbeck and the amazing Nalo Hopkinson for the first time.

It was full when I got there. In fact, it had been full for a while, and the staff were turning away audience members half an hour before the panel began! The table was set up for four (there were five of us) and no roaming mic (though I’d specified one was needed). Luckily, I was able to do without a seat, and I’m quite a loud chap when needed, so I was able to do without a mic, but I can imagine other panels suffering with this set-up. The panel went really well, and several audience members came over at the end to thank us, which is always nice.

It was only 10.00pm, so I decided to head back into town to my digs, but my bus was still half an hour away, so I stopped off at the bar on the way out and chatted with some friends for 15 minutes or so before heading out. Very early, I know, but it was only Day 1 of a 5 day con, os plenty of time for late nights to come…

Today will be a very busy day, with meetings, meetings, a few meetings, and one or two meetings, and tonight I’ll be hosting a version of I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue, which should be fun.

I didn’t take any photos yesterday, so here’s one of me, riding a tiger.

 

So, that was 2014

2014 was a mixed year, for me. The year started well, work-wise, but after a short while, background issues at one of Angry Robot’s sister companies caused the investment company who owned the Group to re-evaluate its presence in publishing, and although Angry Robot was a profitable imprint, the owners decided to act like complete arseholes and thus a period of several months of anguish began. It’s worth noting that Osprey (the most senior of AR’s sister companies) behaved professionally, throughout, with the exception of one senior member of staff, who had been thrust into a situation beyond his ability to manage (the Peter Principle in full effect, here), and so he – along with the investors he reported to – made a number of very bizarre calls. That was a very bleak few months, as we were largely kept in the dark as to the overall plans for the group, and what little we were told, we were prevented from relaying to our authors and their agents. I’ve moved away from Angry Robot, but I still keep an eye on them, and I’m delighted by the fact that they were bought out by someone who actually has a love of publishing, and not a quorum of bankers looking for a quick buck, with no regard for the actual people involved. Long may Angry Robot sail the publishing oceans!

In May, Tor.com announced a new novella programme, and announced they were looking for a team to run it, including a Senior Editor. The job looked like it had been plucked directly from my subconscious, and so, despite the fact that they wanted someone based in New York, I decided to apply for it. Weeks of interviews commenced, and in early July I was offered the role. At one heartbreaking meeting with my friend and mentor, Marc Gascoigne, I handed in my notice at Angry Robot (the only company in my working life I have ever been sad to leave). It was a very difficult decision, but I couldn’t pass up what may well be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to found a new imprint with the best major genre publisher in the world! Naturally, the timing was unfortunate (Angry Robot was working through its issues at the time), and naturally, a bunch of people added 2 and 2 and reached 7.6, but the move was the right one for me, at this stage in my career.

I joined Tor.com in August, the day before the World Science Fiction Convention descended on London. It was a good WorldCon (see my report, here). What made it extra-special for me this year (apart from the exciting new gig) was my Hugo nomination. In 2014 I became the first ever British editor to be nominated for a Hugo. Which was kinda cool. From the instant I heard about the other nominees, I pegged Ginja Buchanan as the winner, and win she did. That I was convinced she would win took all of the stress away from the event, and I was able to enjoy the ceremony without any of those frustrating “what if I were to win?” concerns. I do hope that another Brit is nominated next year – there are so many that are way more deserving than I (though I won’t decline if I’m nominated, again). Odd to think that I’m still eligible for Best Editor (Long Form) this year and next, due to books I’ve already worked on, and next year I’ll move into the eligibility for the Short Form category, where the competition is just as scarily tough!

In September I Chaired my first convention – FantasyCon in York. There were a number of behind-the-scenes problems that were stressful, but dealt with (largely by the brilliant front-of-house Redcloak team). A significant number of people told me it was their favourite convention to date (or favourite FantasyCon), so that helped.

The only other major event of 2014 happened in December, when my Dad died. I won’t write of it, here, as I blogged about it, already.

So, what about 2015?

Well, I want to lose some weight (2 stone would be good – that’s about 12 kilos), and get fitter (I ran a lot in the second half of 2014, but it dropped off a bit). I’m also going to be at my first Guest of Honour gig at CONvergence in July (the single best convention I have ever attended, and easily my favourite).

And, of course, the first novellas I have acquired (with my brilliant assistant, Carl Engle-Laird) will come out (this coming summer).

It’s going to be an exciting 2015, folks!

 

 

WorldCon and the Hugos – A Convention Report

LONCON3_logo_270wIt’s 10.45am on Monday the 18th of August as I write this – the last day of LonCon3 – the 72 World Science Fiction Convention. Every year I seem to find something that makes that particular WorldCon my favourite, so far –

  • Montreal 2009 was my first WorldCon
  • I didn’t do 2010
  • Reno in 2011 was my first ever trip to the good ol’ US of A
  • During Chicago 2012 I discovered my favourite city in the world.
  • San Antonio 2013 was the best one socially and
  • London 2014 I attended as the senior editor of a new imprint for Tor.com, and also as a frickin’ Hugo nominee! (More on that, later).

Spokane 2015 has a lot to live up to!

I’m currently the Chair of this year’s FantasyCon, so I know the amount of work that goes into running a relatively small (400+) convention. This year, WorldCon had over 10,000 members, and I understand that around 7,500 of them attended the convention. With those numbers, it was pretty inevitable that there would be some hiccups.

I got to my hotel on Wednesday – the day before the event started – and decided to register for the convention early. I had a 2.30 meeting elsewhere, but there was just enough time to register, as registration was due to open at noon. I got there at 11.50, and was delighted to discover that I was one of the first 10 people in line! Woohoo! Unfortunately, Registration was not yet ready to open, and we were informed it would be open 30-45 minutes late. This  would have made me late for my appointment, so I left, and returned at 6.30. The queue was a bit longer, but not too bad, and it didn’t take me long to register.

Unfortunately, there was an additional registration area for programme participants (those of us on panels) and this registration kept different opening hours. This meant I had to come back the following morning to continue my registration. I got back to Registration the following morning (around 10.00am) to find that the lines to register were about a mile long. Luckily, I only needed Programme Participation reg, but the people managing the main registration queue didn’t know where that was. So I queued for the Information Desk. They knew, and directed me. I went and picked up my pack (my third visit to Registration, so far) and walked away, a relatively happy bunny.

My pack contained information on which panels I was on (I knew these), instructions on how to moderate a panel (I know this, but it’s certainly useful for newbies) and a folded piece of card with my name on it (not needed, as every panel I was on had this on the table, already). What it didn’t have (and what I had been told it would) was my Hugo pin and ribbon. As a virgin Hugo nominee, these are very important to me. So I headed back to the Registration (for the fourth time) to query this. They handed me a second pack, which had been misfiled, and I checked it. There was a certificate, my pin (yay) and a couple of Hugo Party invitations (one for the pre-ceremony party, one for the post-). The ribbon was missing, and I was told they hadn’t been delivered, yet. I managed to pick mine up a couple of days later on my fifth visit, so all was finally resolved.

My hotel was the Ibis Styles (nicknamed the Abyss by Adrian Tchaikovsky) – the worst hotel I have ever stayed in (and I’ve stayed in Britannias!). Nice to see mock wooden flooring in carpet form, though – I’ve never experienced that. It was special.

Thursday night saw our first panel. I hosted a game of I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue, with Paul Cornell and Emma Newman playing against Catherynne M Valente and Seanan McGuire. It probably took me 16-20 hours worth of prep to get everything ready for this, and I was fully expecting an audience of 20-30 as it was on at 10.00 at night on a Thursday – the first night of the convention. Not only was it full (500? 600? 700 people?) the door staff were having to turn people away. And it worked! The audience laughed where they were supposed to, they anticipated the regular gags and cheered, and there were a few rows of Americans who had never heard the show, looking suitably mystified at Mornington Crescent. I predicted – correctly – that it would be the highlight of the convention for me. The panelists were all brilliant, and a special shout-out goes to Seanan, who had been pretty ill the previous couple of days, and who still made the panel (and was hilarious). Knowing she was poorly, she even lined up a replacement and rehearsed with him. He wasn’t needed, but thanks for being there, Heath!

A Literary Beer the following day went well, and I moderated a panel on what it’s like to be an editor – the audience were quieter than usual at this one, which worried me, but I had a few people come up to me afterwards to say how much they enjoyed it, so that  was nice.

And all through the week/weekend, I had meeting after meeting after meeting, talking about the new novella imprint I’m setting up for Tor.com. There’s a lot of excitement around for this.

And then, on Sunday, we had the Hugos!

I always enjoy the Hugo ceremony. I go whenever I’m at a WorldCon. I love the pomp and pageantry, the celebration of our genre. And I called a lot of the winners, correctly, including the winner of the category in which I was nominated – Best Editor (Long Form). From the instant the nominees were announced, I’d named Ginjer Buchanan as the winner – the woman is a genuine legend in the industry, and anyone would have been foolish to bet against her. Because of my unwavering conviction that Ginjer would win, it really took the pressure off, and I found that I wasn’t nervous. I wondered if I would become a little nervous as they announced my category during the ceremony, but I wasn’t – not even a little. My wife (who had travelled down from York for the night to support me) found her heart beating that much faster as the nominees’ names were called out, but I surprised myself by being calm, even then. And who could possibly argue with the result? As we were walking back to the hotel I asked my wife if it was odd that I wasn’t even disappointed not to win.  As it turned out, I came 5 out of the 5 nominees, but I’m the only British editor to ever be shortlisted in any Hugo editing category – that’s a big enough win for me! (And I’ll probably post my speech here, soon).

Alt-Universe Wesley Chu, collecting his Campbell Award.

Alt-Universe Wesley Chu, collecting his Campbell Award.

I was a little disappointed that neither of my Campbell-nominated authors (Wesley Chu and Ramez Naam) won their category, but the Campbell this year was the hardest category to call, and again – no-one could argue against the winner; any of the nominees would have been appropriate. I was delighted by Kameron Hurley winning 2 Hugos for her fan writing (Best Novel Nominee (at least) prediction for next year for The Mirror Empire) and I jumped to my feet when Ann Leckie was announced as the winner of Best Novel for Ancillary Justice. It was a fabulous year for diversity, and for the middle finger of justice to be presented to the small number of small-minded bigots who try to derail the ongoing progression that the genre is largely achieving.

It’s odd to think that – even though I no longer edit novels – because of the books I’ve worked on recently, I’ll still be eligible for the Long Form Editor award for the next 2 years, but I really hope that we’ll start to see some more Brits appear on this list in future – folk like Julie Crisp, Gillian Redfearn, Marc Gascoigne and Jo Fletcher (among many, many others).

GinaLeeThe pre-ceremony party and the losers’ party were nice – folk had dressed up for them, and the writers of Game of Thrones and one of the Orphan Black writers had flown over. Doctors 5 and 10 (Davidson and Tennant) were there, too, which was nice, and I got to shake Tennant’s hand and tell him I enjoyed his work. Luckily, someone had informed the bar/restaurant staff at both parties, how dangerous we genre folk can be, and so they put away anything that would conceivably be used as a weapon – glasses, crockery, metal cutlery – and replaced it with flimsy plastic versions (including plastic wine bottles!). I don’t see that as being tacky and insulting to us, at all, no – it was no doubt a tragedy well-averted. And if it was all-but impossible to cut the cheese with a plastic knife the thickness of a paperback cover, well that’s just the price you have to pay to stay safe.

Looking forward to the next one (in Spokane, USA, next year), and to all the great cons in between, but most of all looking forward to getting home and seeing the kids after being away from them for 9 days.

Where to find me at LonCon

As always: in the bar.

If I’m not there, these are the panels I’ll be appearing on:

Thursday 10pm
I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue
I’ll be hosting this panel game, with panelists: Catherynne M Valente, Seanan McGuire, Emma Newman and Paul Cornell

Friday Noon
Literary Beer

Sunday Noon
The Editorial View (moderator)
With Jenni Hill, Betsi Mitchell, Joe Monti and Anne C. Perry

Sunday 8pm – late
Hugo Awards Ceremony

Monday 1.30pm (yes, seriously!)
What Does an Editor Do?
With Ginjer Buchanan, Abigail Nathan, Steve Saffel and Jane Johnson

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