This was my first time attending Eastercon. Originally we’d planned on just going on the Sunday, as that had the most panels I wanted to attend. Then, in a moment of utter madness, which I blame on Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies and the card I picked that day – being Courage! – I checked the schedule of panels and emailed the event organisers offering my services on a range of topics on which I felt I might have something to say. Having never panelled before. Having only been to one proper convention before.
It was only a few weeks before Eastercon – there’s no way they’ll want you, I told myself, everything will already be finalised. You’re safe.
Only they did. They put me on two panels, one on Saturday, one on Sunday. Oh gods.
Cue much frantic research and the quelling of the urge to retract my offer. I had to do it someday, so I thought before I’m actually published might be a better idea, pop my panelling cherry before there’s the remotest possibility anyone might have heard of me.
So Saturday night I took part in Mystery, Romance and Fantasy. This caused much uproarious humour on forums when I told them – but Godblind is DARK, was the consensus. Why on earth would I know anything about romance?
But, you know, I’m a woman with many depths, and there’s quite a large still pool at my centre that loves romance and love and cuddly stuff (don’t tell my editor). And, you know – The Princess Bride. I figured I could waffle on about Wesley and Buttercup until the cows come home, because the book and film encapsulate both mystery and fantasy in a firmly romantic setting. Or mystery and romance in a firmly fantasy setting, perhaps. I learnt in the panel that there’s a difference, but I’m not entirely sure I know what it is.
So I plunged in, bolstered by alcohol and with lots of notes, and I waffled. I think I ranged off topic quite a lot, and the other panellists were by far more knowledgeable of books and authors and tropes than I was. But I made a contribution, I said things that made the audience laugh (not sure if they were laughing at me, though) and I survived.
And I mostly talked about Sarah Pinborough’s Behind Her Eyes, to the extent I had to promise the audience I wasn’t getting commission! But, you know – romance, fantasy elements, a lot of mystery.
Sunday, however, was a different barrel of monkeys. Sunday I took part in Genre, Fanfic and Community. Yikes. I don’t fan-fic, though I’m a fan of a lot of things – Star Wars, Doctor Who, Firefly.
But funnily enough, it was GRRM who saved me – someone on Facebook posted a link to a livejournal post he’d made about why he hates fanfic… wait, what? Was I going into a room of ficcers and saying why authors should hate it? They’d be breaking out the flaming torches and the pitchforks and storming the table!
But I mentioned it to Ed Fortune, the lovely moderator and editor of Starburst Magazine, in the Green Room beforehand (I know, I was in a Green Room!) and he said to go for it. So I did, and it certainly turned the conversation in more interesting directions.
Of course, he then asked me a question I didn’t even understand, let alone feel qualified to answer. Something about when the original and the fanfic intersect. My brain froze and I actually had my hand over my mouth, panicking.
Do I wing it? Do I bluff desperately and hope I get it right? Nah. I just said I wasn’t qualified to answer that question and he passed it to someone else.
That was the worst moment, when I realised I was out of my depth, sitting next to a woman whose PhD was on Doctor Who, no less! But I managed to string some more words together and get out of there without melting into a puddle of embarrassment.
So, what did I learn?
- Don’t volunteer for panels I’m not qualified to speak on;
- Relax and have fun and don’t worry about saying I don’t know the answer;
- Find the Green Room and go through the agenda beforehand; and
- Two drinks beforehand is better than three….
All in all, Eastercon was great fun. I met up with Anna Smith Spark and RJ Watkinson, litter-bombed some home made Godblind flyers (must contact Harper Voyager and discuss formal flyers etc prior to Edge-Lit) and I had some really interesting conversations. I attended Pat Cadigan’s hilarious and inspirational panel on her life and how she continues, in her own words, to “make cancer my bitch”.
Also, Ed McDonald, author of Blackwing:
Currently reading: Nevernight, Jay Kristoff
Currently watching: The Last Kingdom season 2, Doctor Who
Currently listening: Soundtrack from Gladiator