A Brief Report On A Small Part Of Bristol-Con 2017 by Eamonn Murphy.

October 29, 2017 | By | Reply More

On Saturday 28th October, I attended Bristol-Con which took place at a Hilton Hotel near the very famous Templemeads station. This was my first SF convention and I learned a lot about it the morning after. I learned that you should read the whole programme. I attended and enjoyed three panels in Programme Room Two. Only this morning did I see all the events for aspiring writers that were going on in The Snug. Oh well. One panellist had to travel from Ohio but I only had to go 15 miles into Bristol from Yate, by public transport. Even so, I was there after the start time because of a confusion of roadworks in the area that diverted even pedestrians. On arrival, I showed my Paypal receipt and got my badge and programme. The events in Room 2 looked the most interesting so I went thither.

‘You Are The Product’ was the first session between 10.00 and 10.50. It was about the Internet and how much data those tech giants are gathering about you every time you click and what this means for the future. There was an interesting discussion with the general conclusion that the Internet was a good thing but you had to be wary about taking everything it offered. Gaie Sebold said she doesn’t even see the right side of the screen where all the adverts are and it occurred to me that I don’t neither. Kevin Henney did a great job of keeping the discussion going as MC or whatever he was (M in the Programme). Adrian Selby was interestingly anti-tech and David Gullen was funny.

After a quick (free!) coffee I attended ‘A Fistful Of Genres’ about how the western has influenced SF and fantasy. I’m writing a fantasy novella set in the Wild West so this was of particular interest. The panel might have been more apt two days earlier because the ‘Gunfight At The OK Corral’ occurred on 26th October 1881 but I guess Thursday is not a good day for conventions.

It was agreed that colonising new planets was a close parallel to colonising the west and led to the same sorts of situations in stories: lawless frontiers where the hero was on his own and possibly war-like natives who resent you taking over their territory. Nobody mentioned Heinlein whose colonial yarns are more about the colony seeking independence from the mother planet, harking back to America’s own history. ‘Firefly’ was named as the most obvious example of westerns influencing SF and one panellist mentioned ‘Outland’ which is ‘High Noon’ in space. The panellists were inclined to think that SF and Fantasy have now grown more sophisticated so the white hat vs black hat clear-cut hero and villain characters are more subtle. With the notable exception of Doctor Evil, someone said a villain doesn’t himself as a villain.

At 12.00 came ‘She Infodumped Me’. This was about the difficulty of getting across the complicated background of SF and fantasy without resorting to clumsy lectures or one character having mad conversations with another in which he tells him stuff he already must know. Portal fantasy came up as a common means of introducing the new world where we follow the protagonist into it and learn with him or her. Some said this was getting to be old hat. The genres have different problems with information. SF has a complex future society to tell the reader about. Fantasy, nowadays, has twenty 600 page volumes of backstory to summarise. The consensus was that different writers approach it in different ways, some more successfully than others. A couple of the panellists shamefully admitted to committing Preface or Prologue sins. It gladdened my heart that right from the start they agreed that honest infodumping with a lecture to the reader is sometimes necessary and even the most efficient way to do it, as long as you don’t go on too long.

The next sessions ran from 2.00 – 3.00 and I had to meet a friend in town at 3.00 so I left. Only this morning did I see information in the back of the programme on a session for aspiring writers at 10.00am, ‘A Pep Talk For Unpublished Writers!’ at 12.00 and ‘Writing Middle-Grade Fantasy And Science Fiction’ at 13.00, all of which I might have liked. I’m not unpublished but a pep talk is always good. I don’t much regret it because I was attending as a fan, not a writer and was there to listen.

All in all, a jolly good experience. The convention was not huge, only taking up a few rooms of the hotel. There were enough people to make it lively but not so many you couldn’t move around. There were book dealers and art dealers present if you were in consumer mode. The ticket price of £25.00 worked out dear for me because I only did half a day. It’s a fair price if you stay until 10.00 pm for the rest of the fun. Next year, I may well do that.

I’ll close with a vote of thanks to the organisers and a hearty recommendation of Bristol-Con to fans and professionals alike. See you in 2018!

Eamonn Murphy

October 2017

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About the Author ()

Eamonn Murphy lives in the west country and grew up reading Asimov, Heinlein, lots of other old SF and Marvel Comics. After many years hard labour he has settled down to a quiet life with a nice lady, two rescue dogs and four ducks. He writes reviews for crowsnest and a few short stories, some of which even get published in obscure magazines. His YA novelette ‘The Brigstowe Dragons’ was published in September by Alban Lake and the sequel will be out in April 2018. A collection of his short stories will be published shortly by Nomadic Delirium Press. His website and blog is at https://eamonnmurphyblog.com/

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