Writing What You Want Or Writing For Living?

At Fantasycon 2010 this past weekend, I moderated a panel discussing the tightrope authors have to walk between writing what they want and maintaining a commercial career in the current tough publishing environment. For anyone aspiring to be an author, it’s essential listening:

(The sound quality may not be great in parts due to microphone malfunction, but it does improve if you persevere. Many thanks to Adele at Un:Bound for getting it all down.)

The panel guests are Saran Pinborough, Mark Morris, Conrad Williams and Tim Lebbon, all horror authors now working in other areas. We touched on why horror is commercially dead as a genre (as opposed to individual novels) and the difficult issues facing writers of SF and fantasy in an industry going through a period of rapid change.

It’s worth another blogpost on the challenges facing all the speculative genres in the coming years, I think. Whatever you’re used to on the genre front, the landscape is going to look very different.

Five Things You Really, Really Didn’t Want To Know

I have been “tagged” by Sarah Pinborough over at www.sarahpinborough.com to reveal five things people are unlikely to know about me. As I have been forced to move my growing collection of skeletons out of the closet and into their own rambling house, I’m not really short of potential topics. But having decided to rule out anything that would alert international law enforcement agencies or stories concerning old acquaintances who may feel obliged to engage the services of My Learned Friends, I opted for the following milder revelations:

1) I used to play bass in the revolutionary and rightly unremembered Midlands band, Symbols of Malice. We split up after I had an affair with the lead singer who was the unrequited object of affection for the guitarist. She went off to be (briefly) a stripper. He went off to be a hairdresser. I went off to believe, yes, rock and roll is indeed the best business in the world.

2) I had a six-month course of anti-rabies injections after being bitten by a wild dog in the South of France. The biggest needle you have ever seen in your life, in the gluteus maximus, once a week. It was the only suspected case ever to happen in my area and the vaccine had to be shipped in specially. And to add insult to my injury, my local paper decided this was worthy of front page coverage so I had to endure six months of people stopping me in the street to ask, ‘How’s your arse?’

3) I have a Harry Potter-esque jagged scar on my forehead and another more severe one on the side of my head. The first came from a fight when an opponent decided to bludgeon me into submission with a rock. The second came when, in a drunken stupor, I attempted to break into a club that had refused me admission. Not big, or clever, but in my defence I was very, very drunk. And young. And stupid. But clearly I do have an extremely thick head.

4) I have saved the life of two people and watched one person die.

5) I was severely beaten up by racist thugs outside Leeds United football ground while leafletting for the Anti-Nazi League. Rather than deter me, it set me up for a lifetime believing that you fight for what you stand for or the other side wins.

The rules of the game say I now have to tag others so James Barclay, Chaz Brenchley and Leah Moore, you are ‘it’. Check out their blogs to see what they have to say.

Fantasycon Bits and Pieces

Everything the Americans say about Brit convention goers is usually true. Case in point: the Britannia Hotel ordered an extra week’s booze to cope with Fantasycon XXX in Nottingham. It was polished off on the Friday night…

Away from the main hall:

…2000 AD comics writer Simon Spurrier offering to slip the tongue to a dessicated, fried sea bass head. The sea bass turned him down…

…an up-and-coming author loudly berating the oeuvre of a famous writer without realising said writer’s son was sitting a few chairs down.

…Novelist Graham Joyce getting cornered by two extremely drunk middle-aged women in the Trip to Jerusalem pub (oldest one in Britain) and forced to play a medieval game of skill. Which he then lost. And he was sober.

Here’s my very good friend, fantasy author James Barclay, entertaining all and sundry at the bar in his louche tones. James delivered a heartfelt tribute to David Gemmell who died earlier this year. He won’t thank me for saying it, but I reckon James must be in line to follow in Gemmell’s shoes as the new king of UK heroic fantasy. Good bloke, good writer. Check out his books.

There were more pictures on my crappy cameraphone, but either I was too drunk or the subjects were too unpleasant for them to come out…