Posted by: Nick Walters | October 24, 2012

BristolCon 2012 Report

This was my third BristolCon (I’d been at the relatively tiny launch event in 2009, the much larger 2010 one, but missed last year’s due to holiday commitments) and the biggest and best so far!

I don’t do many conventions but always enjoy the ones I do attend – especially if I am a guest, and get to go on panels, and show off. Such was the case here – my fifteen minutes of fame still paying off after all these years!

I arrived, after an extremely dodgy curry the night before, just in time to miss the opening ceremonies but in time to catch the panel on colonising the solar system (conclusion: never happen, cost too much). I then wandered around meeting old and new frenz and saying Hi to Danie Ware at the Verboten Planet stall. I bought a copy of her novel Ecko Rising and am looking forward to reading it – I’m not a huge fantasy fan, and this promises to be a cyberpunk twist on the genre that should be right up my street.

I then attended a panel on collaborative working which was of interest as I had written my first novel Dry Pilgrimage with Paul Leonard and was keen to know what others thought of the process. Seems there is a dichotomy between the “artist in the garret” view of the writer and the modern, twittering, social media butterfly collaborator view. Fair enough but a lot of writing IS solo hard work (ooer) and I don’t think any social media will change that.

Then it was my first programme item – Toilets in Space! – which I shared with fellow Who writer Mark Clapham, Bristol SF author Michael Dollin, Alex Dally McFarlane and Jaine Fenn (who moderated). I think it’s fair to say that I ruled this panel – the others may be brainier, but none of them have my scatological mind or know thee depths to which it can descend (depths that were barely even touched here). I also have no shame, which helps, in situations like these. I got the biggest laughs and also convinced everyone that teleports are the answer to everything. Job done!

By this time it was lunch, so Sue Winter and I walked to the Coliseum only to find they had stopped serving at 1300. Food Fail #1. We had ghastly sandwiches sitting on a bench in the gardens of St Mary Redcliffe Church instead.

On returning to the con I sat in the bar with my netbook finessing the quiz. I’d already done a lot of work on this but there were a few questions I thought weren’t up to scratch – too easy in one case, too obscure in another. I availed myself of the free wifi and coffee courtesy of the Ramada, for which, much thanks!

At 1500 I was part of The Battle of the Books panel – something for which I had not prepared at all. I’d told Cheryl, the moderator, that my book would be Chris Priest’s The Prestige, but on the panel I changed my mind and plucked a book out of the air. I was going to choose Doctor Who and the Dalek Invasion of Earth by Terrance Dicks, but thankfully chose Brian Aldiss’s Hothouse instead. (And thus avoided being punched in the face by Paul Graham Raven). Such is the greatness of this book that it won despite an incoherent presentation from me; in fact, two of the other panelists supported it and I hardly needed to say a word! Goes to show, stick to the classics and you can’t go wrong! (The other books were Gaimin’s Neverwhere defended by Heather Ashley, Pratchett’s Wyrd Sisters defended by Janet Edwards, and Bruce Sterling’s Schismatrix defended by Paul Graham Raven.) Paul was convincing enough to make me want to read Schizmatrix, despite shamefully having never heard of it or its author. Goes to show how big the SF genre is; I consider myself fairly well-read but am still discovering new things. Or perhaps I’m not well-read at all!

After that glorious victory I attended a panel on apocalypses in SF during which, I shamefully admit, I had a nice snooze, but caught most of it – and inadvertantly gave away a quiz answer in the discussion. D’oh!

I was then invited to record a podcast by a very nice young man called Calum from a fan group whose name escapes me, I’m sorry. This took place in a closed-off Media Room and I was asked about my time writing Doctor Who (which I hope is not over yet!) and about the plethora of Who stories available in  a wide range of media today. Nice to be asked, thanks Calum!

The next panel I was involved in was the Ghost of Honour panel in memory of Colin Harvey, who died tragically young last year. Although this was difficult at times, it was overall a celebration of Colin’s work and a testament to his undeniable talent. I managed to stumble my way through my talk on his anthologies but my reading of the first couple of pages of my story in the Colinthology (the tribute ebook to Colin) went down OK. I wish I had got to know him better, but hindsight is easy. He will be Ghost of Honour at every BristolCon now and will never be forgotten.

Then it was teatime. Off to Don Giovanni’s! But – they were  booked out. Food Fail #2. We ended up back at the hotel where I paid 12 quid for a steak and kidney pie and veg. (To be fair, it was a bloody nice meal).

Then it was the closing ceremony and the launch of BristolCon 2013 – oh yes, no rest for the wicked! – then an hour of blissful folk music from Talis Kimberley.

Then it was quiz-time, where I asserted my authority over teams of quivering geeks, watching their little faces crumple in abject horror as questions of cloistral obscurity were hurled at them. Ha! The quiz was well-attended and enjoyed by all; perhaps, in retrospect, some of the questions were a tad too hard –  but I was put under a lot of pressure from the reputation of the quiz being particulaly difficult. Next year I will collaborate on the quiz with Dolly Garland who is sure to reign me in!

The convention ended at about 2340 as the fire alarms went off and at least 3 fire engines hurtled screaming to the scene. As I walked through the bar on my way out people were still sat there, so I shouted, “What’s the matter with you? Wanna burn to death? FUCKIN’ LEGGIT!”  And they did! Mint. It was like Towering Inferno, only not so tall. (Turned out there was a small electrical fire in the hotel, no-one was hurt, move along now, nothing to see here).

What a way for BristolCon to end!



  1. Thank you for your kind words, Nick!

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