The above picture highlights something I particularly like about SF/F fans: they respect their own history. The LonCon proudly featured a number of display panels on which information about past Hugo awards was featured, laced with the highlights of older conventions. A con is a meeting point between friends, you learn that rapidly. We have encountered old friends and made new ones, met some of our own authors for the first time, de-virtualised people we deeply admire, had lunch with our favourite writers and publishers. After attending ComicCon as well, some deeply enjoyable features of LonCon that spring to mind are: (A) its size, not disproportionately large, nor too small; (B) the many goodies to chose from in the form of art, all sorts of creative projects on the go, new and secondhand books, amazing people to stop and have a chat with; and (C) its impressive program of panels, talks, meetings, screenings, workshops, concerts, and many other events (I counted thousands; I doubt I’m wrong) covering… well, absolutely everything.
I arrived on Thursday, and very soon had the pleasure of meeting personally a number of Spanish science-fiction professional bloggers and Con organisers, the brains behind El Fantascopio, Ignotus-winners VerdHugos podcasters, Sense of Wonder, Fantástica Ficción, Más Ficción Que Ciencia, amongst others: people I have followed on social media for a while, and who are, among others, setting the trends in Spanish science-fiction. I also had the pleasure of meeting the brains behind the first Spanish Female S-F Anthology (the Women Destroy Science Fiction of the Hispanic world), forthcoming this year, its editors Cristina Jurado, and Leticia Lara. It was a real pleasure to finally meet some of these interesting people in person, for the first time. Spanish author and speculative fiction rising star, Jesús Cañadas, was also there, participating in a number of panels and events. I also had chance to say hello and chat a bit with Cristina Macía in the stand promoting EuroCon Barcelona 2016, and could ask her about the public’s response to their campaign. Today we know that the EuroCon 2016 will take place in Barcelona. Frankly, after getting to know, during my recent visit during the now legendary #GigaCon, the extent of both fandom and professionals involved in genre fiction in the city, I cannot think of a better place to host not only this event, but any other Con or genre-related event.
In the middle of the day, I boarded the DLR back into the centre of London for Jeff VanderMeer’s reading from Acceptance in genre bookshop Forbidden Planet. Jeff had recently been one of my instructors at the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Workshop, and I have been following, and reading, the Southern Reach trilogy eagerly, so I couldn’t let the opportunity pass to get my hands on the third part, only available on the VanderMeer’s UK tour. One of my fellow Clarionites, Singaporean writer Manish Melwani, was also in the reading, and it was great to catch up with someone who had been involved so shortly ago in that life-changing experience.
After the reading we went for a drink with the VanderMeers and their guests, although I had to leave in a hurry and in the middle of a storm for my panel. As it always happens with London, I hadn’t calculated quite how far away I had gone into the centre, and how far away I was. The rain made progress slow, and a cursory look at the tube’s packed entrance made me realise it would be difficult to find space in the first few trains. I was despairing that I couldn’t find a taxi when, out of nowhere, a pink London “black cab” came to the rescue under the rain! If it hadn’t been for the nice taxi driver, I would have missed my own event!
The panel, my first ever panel, ‘Understanding Steampunk’, was a wonderful experience. I was allowed to take part in an interesting debate with a Steampunk dream-team: Steampunk authors Oliver Plaschka, Kaja Foglio, Kim Lakin-Smith, and moderated by one of my absolute role-models, young visionary publisher Gillian Redfearn. Considering I tend to shy away from public speaking, the generosity of my co-panellists meant I had a delightful first-ever-panel experience, and the chance to talk at length about our forthcoming book in English The Best of Spanish Steampunk. The day ended with a charming dinner with part of the extremely well-informed corps of Spanish science-fiction intelligentsia I had met earlier in the day.
Friday was an intense panel day, both attending and collaborating. My co-editor at Ediciones Nevsky, James Womack, participated in the panel ‘Translating Genre’, with translators Tom Clegg, Gili Bar-Hillel and Elisabeth Vonaburg, and moderated by Sue Burke, highlighting the problems to get genre books translated into English from other languages. This panel led to a very interesting discussion with a fellow Dutch publisher over translation projects and initiatives destined to bring talent into the English-speaking markets. There was so much good going on, that I decided to leave translation topics safely into my partner’s expert hands, and attended a simultaneous panel I was specially interested in attending, ‘An Anthology of One’s Own’, moderated by Julia Ríos and with the presence of Ann VanderMeer, Jeanne Gomoll, Alisa Krasnostein and Alex Dally, in which past, present and possible futures of female anthologies were discussed with deep knowledge, humour and intelligence. Between panels, we could say hello briefly to Nina Allan, in her way to one of her many events, and finally explore to our leisure the books on sale. We visited the stands of Titan Books, NewCon Press, Gollancz, and had a good look at the secondhand goodies on offer. We are particularly pleased with our major find, shown above: the complete collection of science-fiction anthologies compiled by our adored Edmund Crispin for Faber & Faber in the mid nineteenth fifties. As an unexpected bonus (they were carefully wrapped by the bookseller in plastic bags), some of the authors had signed their contributions in the TOC. Sweet! In our walk over the main resting area, we saw Laurie Penny and another of my Clarion instructors, Geoff Ryman, having coffee together. James knows Laurie from his Oxford days, and I rejoiced in the chance to say hello to another of my Clarion teachers, so we went to say hello and had a chat with them.
|Nina Allan poses with Máquinas del tiempo, the Spanish translation of The Silver Wind.|
Saturday was our more intense day. We started early, attending another panel I would like to highlight here (it is practically impossible mentioning them all), on voice and narrative structure, ‘The Lexicon Gap’, moderated by Alistair Rennie and with James Patrick Kelly, Stanislaw Krawczyck, Gary Wolfe, and our author Nina Allan. We had the chance to have coffee with Nina after the panel, and to get to know her a bit better. She will be attending the MirCon next December, something for which we also have to thank the MirCon organisers and Nina’s fellow Spanish-speaking publishers, Fata Libelli. One of the highlights of our day was lunch with Ann and Jeff VanderMeer. The couple behind the most inspiring anthologies in genre were kind enough to make a little break in their busy schedule (Jeff had signed one thousands copies of Acceptance that morning!) to have lunch with us, Spanish bloggers and some of the organisers of MirCon, in order to share with them a bit about Cons and gatherings in the Spanish speaking world. After this lovely interlude, it was back to the ExCel Center for more panels and meetings. We had a chance to meet Jo Walton, one of my favourite writers of fantasy, and completed a wonderful afternoon attending Lisa Tuttle’s reading, a writer I greatly admire. After her magnificent and spine-chilling tale, we were able to chat with her for a bit. Next up was the panel ‘The World at WorldCon: SF/F in Spain’, moderated by Sue Burke and with Susana Arroyo, Miquel Codony, Elías Combarro, Leticia Lara and Cristina Jurado. I was deeply impressed among other things with the attending audiences’ knowledge of Spanish gatherings such as Semana Negra and Celsius, as well as some of the most relevant Spanish authors in the field.
After this panel, it was again running to the DLR to attend a dinner organised by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer with some charming Clarion alumni Tamsyn Muir; Hugo Nominees Jeremy Zerfoss, Wonderbook’s designer extraordinaire, young rising star Thomas Olde Heuvelt, and John Chu; and other guests. A perfect ending for a perfect LonCon. The VanderMeers are an exception in that they take a real interest, and put a lot of effort, in bringing into English voices from other languages and cultures. I could never thank them enough for their hospitality and their welcoming attitude to anyone interested in learning, sharing and finding out about exciting new translation projects and cross-cultural activities.
LonCon has been magnificent, extremely useful, and packed with interesting things. And I have learnt so much. After three extremely packed days, we weren’t able to return on Sunday and Monday; but I still got to enjoy Geoff Ryman’s wonderful tiara, and the buzzing excitement of the Hugo Awards, from a leafy corner of the world thanks to streaming. There is only hope for more Cons, more interesting people, more amazing creativity, more projects, more sharing between different countries, in the future.