Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Eastercon Happened!

Dear readers, apologies for my absence. There has been a lot going on in Frugal Wenchdom - lots of doing fun stuff for very little, a  lot of saving.. and a bit of spaving and spending too.

One of the major things that happened was going to Eastercon in Glasgow. I had meant to write about this on my website but the software keeps rejecting my photos, which is very annoying. It would make more sense to write there as it has more to do with my writing/creative life - this blog looks at all that stuff too, but through a certain lens. So please bear with me while I attempt to convey both aspects of a lovely science fictional weekend...

I traveled to Glasgow by train on Thursday with OH. It is unusual for me to get to a con early, as I normally have my frugal head on and compromise being organized and unflustered for a night less hotel expenditure, but with several birthdays to celebrate Thursday was the best night to do this - and I'm so glad I went as this was a fantastic night. We had curry in a great value restaurant, and it was very nice indeed, and then popped next door to a proper whiskey bar. They had the world's oldest whiskey on sale at £900 a dram. Fortunately, the cider was pretty cheap! I took homemade cards for the birthday peeps. One of the pressies was a telescope bought from the antiques market. I accidentally broke the glass top of the box, so we had fixed it with genuine Northampton recycled shoe leather, and it looked pretty good.

First up con-wise, on the Friday was a book launch. This included several titles by Newcon Press and PS Publishing, including two PS collections of Ian Watson's work and also a poetry collection by him which he can be seen brandishing here.

Newcon Press was also launching Neil Williamson's novel, The Moon King (which I have read and it's awesome), an Imaginings novella by Eric Brown, and two anthologies - Femme and Noir, the latter featuring a story by me!

On Saturday, I had my first panel: Future Representation. "The panel explores SF literature in the context of what stories actually are, or are not, being told. Who gets to be in the future; what happens to everyone else; and who gets to decide?" This was moderated by Fran Dowd and included myself and novelists Ian Whates, Laura Lam and Stephanie Saulter. It was a great discussion!

 Saturday night, the entertainment was a swing band at the Space Admiral's Ball. I did my best Lindy hopping, which is not very good at all, but still managed to wear myself out completely.

Later, I noticed that one of the musicians was masquerading as author Juliet E. McKenna. I think it might have been the trumpet player.

I had a panel on Sunday, too: Poetic License - Does poetry allow exploration of challenging issues concerning gender, race and identity in ways that prose cannot? The panel was moderated by Ian Hunter and included Susan Bartholomew and Amal El-Mohtar as well as myself. Jo Fletcher was also due to have taken part, but she had a very sore throat and was unable to speak, which was a shame. Nonetheless it was a really fun panel, though an impromptu request to perform one of my poems had the old adrenalin going a bit.

In the evening it was the BSFA Award Ceremony. I got to present the James White Award.
This is an annual short story competition open to non-professional writers and the winner is chosen by a panel of judges made up of professional authors and editors. The James White Award was instituted to honour the memory of one of Ireland’s most successful science fiction authors, James White. The winner of the £200 first prize was “Beside the Dammed River” by DJ Cockburn, his story will be published in a future issue of Interzone. The judges also awarded a special recommendation to Vina Jin-Mae Prasad for her story “Flesh and Bone.” Neither of them were there to make a speech, so it was on with the ceremony for the BSFA Awards.

These lovely awards were made by Dan Brodie and Lauren Hubbard of Northampton's Skulls and Robots.The ray-gun shaped awards apparently caused one of the winners a bit of hassle at airport security... but all worth it, I hope!

The ceremony was hosted by Alice Lawson and Steve Lawson with guest presenters Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, Jim Burns, Andrew J. Wilson and Stephanie Saulter. And these were the winners...

Best Non-Fiction: Wonderbook by Jeff Vandermeer.
Best Art: cover of Tony Ballantyne’s Dream London by Joey Hi-Fi.
Best Short Fiction: Spin by Nina Allan
Best Novel: ties between Gareth L. Powell for Ack Ack Macaque and Ann Leckie for Ancillary Justice.

M'friend Gareth L. Powell with his award, some champers and his stick. Aw!

Thanks to the wonderful crew at Satellite4, administrator Farah Mendelsohn, Claire Briarley, who helped with the awards, and John Meaney who lent us his laptop and saved our bacon!

After that we went to the disco and danced like frickin' demons.

I have to say this was one of the best conventions I have been to. It had interesting panels and things to do, it was well organized, friendly, and lovely Glasgow was within easy walking access. And yes, I do mean lovely. It's a great city. I was with wonderful friends and my husband - it couldn't have been better. A lot of the time I was stuck behind the BSFA desk, but that can give you a different perspective and a chance to chill. And knit...

One thing I really learned that weekend is that I need to be kinder to myself. I have been beyond tired lately, and it really caught up with me at the weekend. I wish I'd been more able to put this knowledge into practice recently, mind...

Frugalwise, here are my tips for keeping the spending down at cons:

Graffiti by the Clyde
  1. Shop around for the best deals on hotels. Staying at the convention hotel is the most convenient option, but we chose to stay at the hotel next door. We had stayed at the other next door hotel before which was £30 a night cheaper this time round. The hotel we stayed at this time was only £10 cheaper per night than the main hotel, but we knew it would be comfy and have the all-important good breakfast included in the price. Oh, and there were special convention rates too! I checked to see if I could do better elsewhere, and no... it was a good deal.
  2. Check facilities in advance. I checked and found there was a gym we could use, so we brought exercise clothes with us. I also found there was a mini-fridge in the room, so we bought things for sandwiches and made our own lunches.
  3. Book transport early. We missed out on cheap flights and had to get the train. We used the Two Together card and Quidco to maximize what we could get for the money, but if we'd just been a bit earlier, maybe we could have reserved seats on what was a very crowded train.
  4. Don't be lazy. £1.50 for a can of pop? Or walk out of the door to the shop and not spend half that? Of course, not advocating drinking that in the bar, where you should buy the drinks you consume. Bar spend is a crucial factor for conventions. We do our best...
  5. Lovely free fresh air. A walk into the city centre was free. We saw great architecture, listened to music and enjoyed the riverside. Glasgow is full of graffiti art ahead of the Commonwealth games. It's like a big, open art gallery.
  6.  The Best Things in Life: we limited our book spend budget to £30, which went in one book and a couple of comics. But then on the last day, the freeby tables had some awesome free books on them. My favourite freeby - a beautiful fabric-bound edition of Terry Pratchett's Men at Arms.
  7. Launch parties: great places to bag those fast-selling limited edition books, nab authors for signatures, and grab a free wine.
We also took along vouchers for restaurants and pubs just in case. We didn't use them, but they were nice to have.

Make the most of your conventions.  There's always something new to try, somewhere new to go.

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