The approach of BristolCon has me thinking back to previous cons I’ve attended. There have been good and bad, and many in-between. But which was my best?
Was it Jersey in 2002? Possibly. At this con I had a meeting with John Jarrold, then editor at Earthlight (Simon & Schuster) during which he told me a deal for my novels was pretty much on the table. A 3-book deal. This was on the Friday, about an hour after my arrival. I went to a party or two. There were huge chocolate bars in the hotel shop. I flew on a plane (y’know, like, twice!). I went to the beach. It was sunny! The only downside was the man who snored in the bedroom next door.
Or was it the Glasgow WorldCon in 2005, where I hung out with Lou Anders, who was to publish my books in the US. An absolutely wonderful guy, Lou’s enthusiasm was hugely encouraging, particularly given the difficulties that had transpired in the UK since that con in Jersey. The only downside to this con was my experience with taxi drivers. (Taxi drivers, you are often the first point of contact for visitors; make a good impression.) Oh, and the fact that the bed in my hotel room broke. And the fact that for 24 hours I lived on only M&M’s* from the mini bar. * – apostrophiles please note M&M’s is correct.
Or was it the World Fantasy Con in Washington in 2003? This was a big deal. It cost a small fortune, but I considered the trip to be an investment in my career. I flew to America alone – like some kind of jet-setter. It was an adventure. I stayed in hotels, met editors and authors and agents, lunched and dinnered and partied. And I was more tired than ever before or since.
Or was it my first con: Liverpool, the Adelphi, 1997. Here I met the lovely David Garnett (where are you, Dave?) who introduced me to loads of people I’d heard about and who also wrote stuff, and told me to send him something for New Worlds, which he was then editing. (I did, and although he didn’t buy it he did give me some useful snippets of advice.)
Or was it the 2011 Eastercon near Birmingham? This was my kids’ first con. They loved the relaxed atmosphere and general hub-ub. Furthermore, I was able to introduce my very excited daughter to Keith Brooke – all round good egg and author of her favourite novel The Unlikely World of Faraway Frankie.
And my worst con?
Perhaps it was Blackpool, (2004). This should have been so great as my first book was just out. But no one from the publisher was there, there were no copies of the book, and the con membership packs were DIY jobbies, pick ‘n’ mix leaflets. There was something for my novel among them, but I think I was the only one who picked it and mixed it. There was no actual convention hotel. The hotel in which we stayed wasn’t great, and Blackpool’s a dump (sorry if you happen to live there – no offence or anything). It’s also a 4-hour hour drive from Birmingham. No thanks. My best memory of this con is the great Peter Lavery’s delight at picking up a Best of Blackpool Trams DVD. A great guy who I’m sorry not to see any more.
Or was it Manchester in 98, where I had pleurisy, felt RAF and spoke to hardly anyone the whole weekend.
Or Fantasycon (2007?) at which I asked Conrad Williams to sign a book he hadn’t written. (This ranks as one of my Most Embarrasing Moments – up there with the time I sneezed into an ashtray in a pub and blew its contents all over a girl I really fancied…) The highlight of this con was seeing the wonderful Hal Duncan stagger back to the hotel in the morning from God knows where looking like the living dead. (What? Oh, apparently Hal is the living dead. Fair enough.)
I’ve met loads of great people at cons over the years, many of whom – if not most – are on my wavelength. I’ve met authors I’d read and admired, many becoming friends. At a recent Eastercon at Heathrow my wife spotted a man we both recognised. It turned out he lives next door but one.
So, while cons vary, it’s clear having written this that even the least enjoyable have high points. And who knows, maybe the best of them all is yet to come…