BLOG Three Postcards from Alt Fiction 2012

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Alt Fiction is a genre fiction convention that runs in the East Midlands. A couple of years ago it was in Derby, this year it was held in Leicester and coordinated by one of my dearest friends. As a result I not only attended the con I was present at every level of it, from planning to panels and manning the cake table. Because yes, there was a cake table. It was a huge experience and the only way I can write about it is through small moments that stuck with me. So here are my postcards from Alt Fiction 2012

1. Breakfast, now with added plotting

It’s the morning of the first day and I’m making pancakes. I’m also not alone, my fellow kitchen inhabitants being:

• Adele Wearing, event organiser, founder of Un:Bound, genius, genius wrangler
• Vincent Holland-Keen, Anarchy press author, film maker, Adele’s frequent part in crime
• Kate Laity, academic and author with multiple pen names and multiple credits to her name.
• Ann Marie Simpson-New author and social media maven

And occasionally, River and Echo, two rescue cats.

We’d spent a chunk of the previous night hanging out with some of the attendees and transporting over a hundred goodie bags for attendees to the venue, the Phoenix Cinema in Leicester. The venue was ready to go, people were already on site with more to come and the only thing left to do was get ready and head out.

Oh, and eat pancakes. I love to cook; it’s one of those things you can be a geek about but never quite conquer which I absolutely love and I’d promised Adele I’d do breakfast and the official con breakfast this time round was – without a shadow of a doubt – pancakes. Really good pancakes too: gluten free and fluffy and covered in everything from jam to Marshmallow Fluff. Because that fluffy stuff in Walnut Whips? You can buy that in tubs . Oh brave new world.

We’re all nervous, for various reasons. This is Adele’s first time in the saddle of the event and the learning curve’s been beyond brutal. Kate and I both have panels to do, Ann Marie is on her second UK convention and Vince… well, Vince may not be nervous for himself at all – he’s very Zen, but in a remarkably nice way – but even he seems a little nervous on Adele’s behalf.

So we eat pancakes, and we talk and we plan and then we get changed, get in the car and go to work. Later, walking through the car park, Adele at the head, I hum Little Green Bag from Reservoir Dogs to myself. I’m still chuckling when we reach the venue.

2. Gobby Boy

And then I talk for four hours. Four panels, four hours, four subjects, no stops, no waiting, just four different groups of people trying, and succeeding, to entertain and inform their audience in four entirely different ways:

• The Dragon’s Pen panel where heroic authors Conrad Williams, Graham McNeill and last-minute recruit Paul Kane deliberately pitched dreadful ideas to a panel including agent John Jarrold, editor Jenni Hill and Jared and Anne from Pornokitsch. Fast, funny, informative and in Conrad’s pitch, Dracularseholes, responsible for the pun of the weekend.

• The flash fiction open mic. Ten authors, ten flash pieces or extracts and ten fascinating, different voices. @Emapocalyptic’s Dahl-esque story is a real stand-out as is @mygoditsraining’s horrifically funny pomegranate tale, @ktscribbles’ novel excerpt covering a brutal cavalry battle and @ilendarayoung’s gloriously queasy werewolf regurgitation. All different, all unique, all great.

Halfway, done, done and on to the next one.

I’m a guest for the back end of my day, sitting on the genre TV panel headed by Stephen Volk, with Selina Lock, Adam Christopher and Mark Morris. Or to put it another way, the writer of Ghostwatch , one of the two founders of The Girlie Comic , the author of Empire State and the author of numerous Doctor Who books.

Then it’s up we get and off at the gallop to the Horror Tropes panel with Tom Fletcher, Gary McMahon, Paul Kane, Marie O’Regan and my desperate desire to talk to someone about Cabin In The Woods.

3. Cake or Death. And We’re Out Of Death.

One of the most utterly English sites imaginable is sitting in front of me. I’m in the bar at the Phoenix and in front of me are two tables. On one is a wide variety of baked goods produced by convention goers and Adele, and left for whoever wants them. Free of charge. It’s a good spread. No a great spread. Orange and chocolate chip cupcakes, chocolate shortbread, cookies, peppermint cookies made with gluten free flour, cake. Literally the only thing missing is a teapot and cricket on the radio.

Except, of course, on the next table over, the cricket is making its presence felt. Andrew Reid aka @mygoditsraining, Vick Linde, Kate Laity and Vince are all playing Trivial Pursuit, none of them quite adhering to the rules and all of them constantly falling foul of cricket questions. I’m briefly pressed into service by Kate as an “English interepreter” and before long @pablocheesecake and @madnad join us and start talking about the premiere event for Gospel Of Us , the new Dave Mckean movie, they scored tickets to. The cake table heaves, people chat happily as the move between panels, eat and drink and eventually, someone wins the game. We’re all having too much fun to remember who.

That’s what Alt Fiction is all about, that sense of fun. If you want to go to an SF, Fantasy and Horror lit convention and you have no idea where to start, start here. It’s incredibly friendly, the panels are great and people bring cake. Books and cake, what could be better?

I’ll see you there next year. Come say hi, chances are, they’ll be cake.

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