Gollanczfest returned on 16-18 October and I’m happy to say it was bigger and indeed better than ever before. Not only was there a day in Waterstones London Piccadilly, but the festival had been expanded to include a day in Waterstones Manchester Deansgate, followed by an extra day in Piccadilly response to the number of people disappointed they’d missed out on tickets, as well as a digital programme.
I was lucky enough to get my mitts on a ticket for Room 1 in London Piccadilly. The day kicked off at 2pm with a panel on Allomancers vs the Orfano vs Luna Colinisation vs Zombie Plague, featuring Ian McDonald, Brandon Sanderson, Stephen Deas, Den Patrick and Sarah Pinborough. It’s the kind of panel which has always gone down well at conventions like Nine Worlds, because it’s so damn fun. Things I learned: Pinborough’s The Death House has an implied zombie plague, which is something I certainly didn’t pick up on. I maintain this is because it got hard to think through all the crying.
Next up was an introduction to the debut authors, the class of 2015. This was great for the authors who got a kick out of making us all cheer whenever they mentioned the name of their book, and less good for the size of my Amazon wishlist, which has reached frankly mammoth proportions. The new class is a likely looking lot, featuring as it does Antonia Honeywell (I absolutely love The Ship; if you’re a fan of the kind of Station Eleven style hopeful apocalypse, I think you’ll love it too), Alex Lamb, Al Robertson, Mark Stay, Tom Toner and Catriona Ward. Things I learned: Tom Toner once got a job on the basis that he pretended to know Photoshop, and was then fired on the basis that he pretended to know Photoshop. He advises us all to never pretend to know Photoshop.
We then had a discussion on Writing Real and Imagined Cities, with Ben Aaronovitch, Aliette de Bodard, Suzanne McLeod, Bradley Beaulieu and Stephen Hunt. This was definitely one for the map perverts among us (I’m always happy to see a map when I open a book; oddly the exact opposite feeling to the one I get when I see several enormous, complicated family trees) and it was quite fascinating to hear the different processes of writing stories which are very grounded in their geography. Things I learned: Ben Aaronovitch once moved a sex shop just so it would fit in with this story. The owners were not available for comment.
There was a break with a quiz for those who are so inclined, and for those who weren’t there were free drinks and the whole of a very big bookshop to browse. When the second room ran over time, Gillian Redfearn and Marcus Gipps of Gollancz stepped into the breach to hold an impromptu publishing Q&A. Things I learned: don’t try to pitch to a publisher in a pub.
We continued with Stranger Than History: The Real History That Inspired Their Fiction and a slight change to the programming with Ed Cox replacing Adam Roberts to join Mark Alder, AK Benedict, Paul Cornell and Joanne Harris. It’s always interesting to find out the influences on an author’s work, and this was no exception. Things I learned: there are many Marvel fanboys who really don’t get that Loki was around long before Marvel. Oh, dear.
Next up was Predictions of the Future in SF: Is The Apocalypse Inevitable? Joe Hill, Pat Cadigan, Ed Cox, Paul McAuley and Jon Wallace kept the end of the world surprisingly light and entertaining for us. This was quite possibly my favourite panel of the day, because I am a teeny bit obsessed with the end of the world. Things I learned: if a meteor were to hit us, there would be no time to do anything except run around screaming. So much for my plan of live tweeting it.
The final panel was on They Said It Would Never Work, But It Did(N’t). Joe Abercrombie, Jaine Fenn, MG Harris, Simon Ings and Chris Wooding talked through the things which had, and which hadn’t worked for them. Overall this was a really positive panel, with the emphasis being on not giving up, particularly if you’re an aspiring writer who is getting ground down by the rejection letters. Things I learned: Joe Abercrombie has never had anything not work. What did you expect? He is Lord Grimdark, after all! Nobody would dare refuse him anything.
After the panels were over, there was the chance to buy all the books and get them all signed. There was inevitably an enormous queue, but more free drinks were available and the line was very ably wrangled by Gollancz and Waterstones staff and kept moving pretty quickly.
All in all, it was a fantastic day and more than worth the tenner I paid for my ticket. I was also very impressed with the goodie bag, in particular the sneak preview of Joe Hill’s new apocalyptic novel The Fireman, which isn’t out until next year. I’d highly recommend Gollanczfest as a day out, although get a wriggle on for your ticket as soon as they’re made available, as it sold out incredibly quickly this year.
In the meantime, keep an eye out for our upcoming interviews with Gollancz authors Jon Wallace and Tom Toner!
GS Blogger: Michaela Gray (@bookiesnacksize)