Continuum 8 – Day 1 (Friday)

Day 1 of Continuum 8 (my first National SF Convention) kicked off this afternoon, with the first panel session at 4:00pm. There were several different streams going on at any given time, so of course my perspectives are going to be limited to those sessions I went along to. One general thing that interested me was that there seemed to be as many people out of sessions talking as there were in sessions. Unfortunately, due to the layout of the hotel where the convention was being held, that meant a lot of people standing just outside the panel session doors talking, which was a bit distracting. Fortunately the quality of the sessions more than made up for it.

The first session I attended was titled Splicing Genres, moderated by Jenny Blackford with fellow panelists Jane Routley, Lisa Hannett and Claire Corbett, talking about fiction that defied genre boundaries. There was some interesting discussion about the tensions that be created between the “needs” of different genres (e.g. the need for immediate pace in a thriller vs world building in a science fiction or fantasy novel), as well as the marketing problems that occur with cross genre novels.

General agreement that cross genre novels are interesting (and what is pure anyway). “Write the novel you want to write and worry about classifying it later” theme came up here (and in other sessions later in the evening). Made me think about the compact between the author and reader, in particular that when confounding expected tropes to be sensitive to the fact that this may alienate some readers.

My second session of the day was The Forgotten Frontier chaired by the enigmatically named m1k3y (at least according to the program) with Jonathan Strahan and Alexandra Pierce on the panel. This panel discussed the space opera and whether it was a dying sub-genre.

Some interesting points made defining space opera (large scale and melodramatic). Ms Pierce started off with a “Homer in space” definition, which I blush to admit left me scratching my head and thinking “the Simpsons in space would be funny, but I’m not sure it would be my definition of space opera” only to later realise she meant traditionally Greek story style Homer, not “doh” Homer.

This was representative of my slightly out of place feeling in this session. Whenever you get a group of people together which shared narrow but deep expertise there is often a race to find out who can quote the most obscure or arcane fact. In this case history of science fiction was the topic area, and quoting obscure but worthy authors/works seemed to be the race. Still, despite me knowing probably only half the works referred to, there was some interesting discussion on the cycles/fads that certain types of science fiction goes through and speculation on the form that the next wave of “space opera” might take. This made me think (not for the first time) that I need to read more of the seminal works from the history of the field. Although given that I have barely any spare time now I’m not sure how I’m going to manage that. Slowly, I expect.

Writing different genders, sexualities and cultures was my third session of the evening. Chaired by Deborah Biancotti with fellow panel members Gillian Polack, Trudi Canavan and Louise Cusack, this session was an interesting discussion by authors about what it took to represent characters from outside their personal experience. Ms Biancotti did an excellent job in convening, keeping the focus on her fellow panel members (although I would have been very interested in hearing more from her on the topic – but then I am a fan of her writing). I particularly enjoyed the discussion on defaults, and being aware of the defaults of your target audience (the difference between writing for a US based audience compared to an Australian one for instance). It was a very nuanced conversation well worth attending.

Come 7:00pm and it was time for Twelfth Planet Press to have a cocktail hour, with cupcakes representing each of the Twelve Planets series released so far. It seemed well timed and a good chance for people that knew each other to catch up. Of course I didn’t know anyone, but it was a good chance to observe the crowd (and write up the first part of this post!). Alisa Krasnostein, the head of Twelfth Planet press, gave a brief speech talking about the next couple of titles in the Twelve Planets range, as well as the launch of Jason Nahrung’s Salvage. She also announced that Twelfth Planet Press were launching a new crime imprint, with the next book to be launched to be a crime novel rather than a speculative fiction one.

Next in what was turning into a busy evening was the official opening of the convention. The guests of honour (Kelly Link, Alison Goodman and Sue Ann Barber) were introduced and the official national convention gavel was banged (they have a gavel!).

This being my first proper convention, I then popped along to the Continuum 101 session with some knowledgeable people talking about what you should expect if you are new to conventions. A lot of good common sense, including a plea to pace ourselves. I haven’t seen too much rowdy behaviour so far, but they were so insistent on the pacing that I can only assume things get more “robust” from here.

After popping out to grab a sandwich (I didn’t think about dinner when planning my evening), I then went along to a fun session Spicks and Speculation – a quiz show along the lines of Spics and Specs (an Australian music based quiz show) dealing with speculative fiction. Nostalgia highlight: the opening credits for Battle of the Planets. Funny highlight: Star Trek memorabilia – Star Trek “Fundies” (fun undies?). Disturbing highlight: the original opening credits for Buck Rodgers in the 25th Century.

The final couple of sessions were more film/TV based, which I’m less interested in. I decided to take those nice Continuum 101 people’s advice and pace myself. Currently waiting for the tram that will whisk me back to my weekend abode.

Overall impressions – great to put a lot of faces to voices I’ve heard on podcasts etc. Lots of very nice seeming people and a lot of passion for speculative fiction. I’ve picked up a couple of interesting thoughts listening to people talk on the panels. I also learnt not to grab a sandwich from the local 7-11.

All in all a good start to the convention. Stay tuned for further updates tomorrow.

Attending Continuum 8

Starting tomorrow (Friday 8th June 2012) I’ll be attending all four days of Continuum 8, the Australian National SF Convention. It looks like a really interesting program and I’m quite excited to be attending.

I’ll be doing a quick write up each day on the blog with personal highlights.

So if you’re in attendance and see my name badge, make sure you come over and say hello.