On Saturday I venutred to Alt.Fiction in Derby, my first SF convention. It's a small event in its infancy - I'm not sure, but I think it's either in its third or fourth year. I did have a good time, aside from a terrible head cold which capped the amount of socialising I could do, but I do think it could have been better.
Obviously, as a convention virgin, there were some things I found strange that apparently is just how it is; for instance, in the programme there was a gap from 5pm - 7pm where nothing happened. I think this is so that people have time to eat, but it just felt weird that there was nothing going on - it made it feel like two events, especially as a lot of people left at around 5.
I didn't go to any of the workshops, which I'm regretting a bit now, as the panels I went to weren't that great. Again, I think a lot of it is down to my expectations. I knew a lot already from the "How to get published" panel from attending the Writing Industries Conference (which was much more useful). The panel entitled "Hack & Slash Vs Sparkly Vampires" was a disappointment, as it seemed to just be a bitter rant about the popularity of paranormal romance in comparison with the panellists' own genres. I thought they missed a treat by not turning it into a proper debate about the changing role of sex and violence in YA literature as well as adult literature, eg taking the desexualisation of vampires in fiction as a starting point, charting the rise historically as well as sociologically. I mean, I think that any author or wannabe writer should take note of what is popular at the moment (rather than just dismissing it as "crap"), and dissect it to see what and why that is - yes, there is a certain amount of alchemy involved, but sometimes changing social trends and, in general changing sociological positions can have an impact on the cultural psyche and that in turn changes what people read and how people respond to literature. However, in its defense, I do think maybe the panel was a last minute addition, so maybe they were just winging it and hadn't had any time to prepare properly.
I think I'm more critical because I organise events for a living. I've organised conferences and events similar to conventions in the past (and at present - there's one on Saturday!), which does mean I am perhaps a bit quicker at deconstructing events than most!
I think one of the problems with Alt.Fiction is that it's not sure what it wants to be. I mean, I think pretty much everyone there was a writer, which is a good job, as there wasn't much there for fans of the genre who didn't write (the readings were in the evening and the one I went to only had about 5 - 6 people in it). A little evaluation form/post-event survey could find out who it is who is attending this event, and then focus it a little more - which would in turn attract more people (both guests and participants). As a writer, it would have been nice to have a panel specifically on the market at this time, predictions for the next 2 years, how to conduct market research, and how agents conduct their market research. I know, these are tricks of the trade, and agents are loathe to say "this is what will be big next year" because it will mean they get sent nothing but "that" for the next few months or more (and their predictions might prove incorrect). But I'm sure there are some things that could be said so aspiring authors don't feel like they are wandering around in the dark so much.
There, rant over! Anyway, I had a good day hanging out with my Speculator chums, and have to thank them for humoring me all day with my tissues and anti-viral hand wipes. Hopefully none of them have been contaminated!