Lexifabricographer For when the right word just won’t do…

May 5, 2013

Conflux Roundup – A swirl of vague impressions

Filed under: geekery,wordsmithery — Tags: , , , — lexifab @ 12:03 am

A week on from the end of Conflux, I still don’t have it all straight in my head. It was an overwhelming experience. On the one hand, that’s ridiculous – it was a gathering of about two or three hundred people, confined to a single building across about six rooms and a couple of eating areas, which is not exactly the World Economic Forum in Davos.

On the other hand, I wanted to do everything, be everywhere and talk to everyone. The sheer impossibility of those mathematics, the number of hard choices and the opportunities regrettably foresworn all did my head in. I do have a few regrets – mostly around people I was a bit too shy and starstruck to introduce myself to, even though intellectually I know it would have been fine and not the rude intrusion that it seemed like in my head – but overall I had an amazing time.

Conflux has a well-earned reputation for being a writers’ con. Nearly all the panels are geared towards the art, craft, business and/or love of writing speculative fiction and editors, agents and publishers have a strong presence alongside the creative types. There was a great sense of energy and of a vibrant, welcoming community that wanted nothing more than to sit down and talk about writing. I had a wonderful time with it.

Discussion panels made up most of the program – I would have attended a dozen or so over the course of the weekend. There were three in particular that I loved: the Horror one late on the first night, moderated by Kirstyn McDermott and featuring a cast of horror fiction luminaries, in which sparkle vampires were roundly denounced and the film versions of The Mist and The Road were compared and contrasted to great effect. Then there was the so-called smackdown between small-press and mainstream publishers, in which Russell Farr of Ticonderoga, Marc Gascoigne of Angry Robot and agent Alex Adsett were all largely in furious agreement that the Big Six (or Five, now) publishing houses are on the brink of apocalypse (it was more interesting and erudite than I make it sound, of course). And finally there was the panel exploring the Essence of Steampunk, which concluded that steampunk is largely comprised of everything that seems like it might be steampunk – but it got there by a fun and somewhat digressive route.

One of the great parts of the con for me was the number of people who had opportunities to pitch novels to publishers and agents. As is no doubt often the case with these things, heaps of people had manuscripts to flog and the program allocated five-minute slots with industry professionals. On top of that, the program included workshops on preparing pitches and dealing with agents and publishers. All good stuff for those in a position to take advantage of it. (My manuscript is nowhere near that state).

The international guests of honour were terrific. Marc Gascoigne, managing director of Angry Robot Press, was the main drawcard for me (not that I needed one, you understand, I was going anyway). Angry Robot one of the hottest and most interesting international spec fiction publishers on the planet right now. But more important to me, Gascoigne was an early writer on Shadowrun game books and tie-in novels way back in the late eighties. I would like to have had the chance to chat with him about that. Alas, the opportunity didn’t come up (or at least if it did I missed it). And I didn’t know anything at all about the other intentional GoH, Nalo Hopkinson, a Caribbean-born American writer. But after seeing her interviewed by Justine Larbalestier, I want to read more from both of them. They were such fun, engaging speakers. Hopkinson came to her writing career comparitively late in life, which I found encouraging. I’m definitely including their stuff in my next Amazon and/or library trawl.

(Oh dear, this is starting to get longer than I intended, and I still didn’t mention the Masquerade or the Regency ball or the Steampunk-themed high tea. That’s because I didn’t actually go to any of them, but I was rather pleased that things like that were there for people who like that sort of thing.)

If I hadn’t been at least a vaguely responsible parent, I’d probably have done what most of the interstate con attendees did, which was to stay up all night nattering in bars and getting roaring drunk in room parties. I suspect that’s where all the most interesting conversations were taking place.

Not being an experienced con-goer I wouldn’t know. Tell you what though, if all Australian speculation fiction cons are as wonderful, as informative and as much fun as Conflux 9, then I have every intention of making a habit of this con-going thing.

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