Those that have been following along with my day to day posts (day 1, day 2, day 3, day 4 and the awards ceremony) could probably tell that I enjoyed the convention immensely. I was attending more from a writing perspective than a general fan perspective, but the program was varied enough that there was usually always something on that I was interested in. It was also a great time to sit back and think about my own writing, while listening to experienced and knowledgeable people talk about the craft and the industry more generally.
Given the ongoing commentary about gender issues in the publishing industry, I was very interested to see how the gender balance on the panels went. A quick count over the sessions I went to comes to 53 female panel members compared to 21 male panel members, so certainly not male dominated (keep in mind this is just the panels I attended – the effort required for the task of checking the gender balance across the entire convention exceeds my laziness level).
Sydney seems to be quite fallow when it comes to speculative fiction events, but Jason Nahrung did mention GenreCon in Paramatta later in the year. According to Jason this is more of a writers conference than a fan conference. I’ve signed up for it, sounds like it will be very interesting.
I still have a bit of “credibility cringe” when it comes to approaching people at these kinds of events. It reminds me of the early years of my day job – you can’t help but wonder what on earth you could add to a conversation by people that are obviously experienced in their field. So I didn’t avail myself of the social aspects of the convention over the first two days. But even given my natural reticence, I did meet up with a few people that I had interacted with online. Sean Wright (Sean the Bookonaut to his internet fans) and David Golding made excellent dinner companions on Sunday night, and I really enjoyed my conversations with authors Jason Nahrung and Kirstyn McDermott on Monday. There were a few shorter conversations with some people who seemed quite cool and it would have been interesting to speak to for longer – Ian Mond (from The Writer and the Critic), Alex Pierce (from Galactic Suburbia and one of my favourite reviewers) and Russell B. Farr from Ticonderoga Publications to name a few.
My lesson for future conventions would be to explicitly organise to meet up with people I know earlier in the convention. From reading a few other convention round ups, the conversations in the bar seem to be a big part of the appeal. Hopefully next time I’ll know a few more people and I’ll be able to enjoy this part of the convention experience a little more.
I tended to pick which panels I would attend based on the subject matter the panel was covering. Without naming any names, there were panel members that were more prepared and perhaps slightly more thoughtful in their commentary. I think in future conventions I’ll be picking panels based as much on the people on the panels as the subject matter.
Attending the award ceremony was a good part of the experience. Because I’ve been paying a bit more attention to the Australian speculative fiction scene over the last year, I was more aware many of the works on the short lists and had voted accordingly. The atmosphere at the ceremony itself was great and it felt like a bit of a capstone for a lot of the reading and reviewing I’ve been doing lately. I’ll certainly be making sure I participate in the voting process again in future years.
All in all, I am really pleased that I attended Continuum 8. I feel recharged with respect to my own writing, and had quite a few interesting ideas inspired by the environment and the people I interacted with. If you are an aspiring writer in the speculative fiction field, I’d certainly recommend attending the national convention. In 2013 it will be based in Canberra, at the Conflux 9 convention. If you decide to go, make sure you let me know. We’ll organise to meet up on day 1!