Alt.Fiction 2008 was, as predicted, fun, entertaining, enlightening and…expensive!
Ticket to Alt.Fiction – £20. Various snack meals – £30. Too many excellent small press books and magazine subscriptions – £100. Getting to hear John Jarrold bang his fist on the table whilst telling us all that publishing is a commercial industry – £PRICELESS!
I’ve seen JJ talk at every con and festival I’ve been to in recent years, and to be frank I agree with pretty much everything he says. Publishing is a commercial industry. Good isn’t good enough, new writers have to be great. You need to know the spectrum of writers working in your genre today, thats who you will be compared with, not writers of thirty or forty years ago. Agents, publishers and bookselers are investing in an authors career, not just one book. JJ was backed up by the commisioning editors for Harper Collins Voyager and Games Workshop Solaris imprints, and novelist Mike Marshall Smith. It was a stark but encouraging message, because what came over clearly was that all the professionals in the publishing biz are really passionate about writing they think is good enough and work damn hard to champion it.
Charlie Stross’ reading was excellent. I now have a signed ARC of ‘Haltiing State’, the novel which has seen Stross summoned to address the Pentagon Defense Commiteee and is on the summer reading list of the United States Secretary of Defense. Stross had brought the wrong notes of a talk he had given at MIT the week before. We were up to it, the audience told him. No you aren’t, he responded, flicking past the third extract from Halting State to a less jargony piece from his yet to be published space opera. I’m going to get an interview with Charlie soon, I want to know more about this Pentagon thing.
Outside the talks, most of the fun and games were taking place in the bar and book hall. Elastic Press had a bunch of excellent small press titles and I renewed by subscription to Interzone and Black Static. I think the money I spend on magazine subscriptions is singlehandedly propping up the specualtive fiction market place at the moment. As usual Alt.Fiction was really about chatting to people in the genre community, and its amazing what you find out. Not that I’m telling you lot, you’ll just have to make it to next years Alt.Fiction and find out for yourself!