Well, the past week or so has been crazy. Surgery (again) last Tuesday, then the extraordinary madness that was AussieCon 4. I had an incredibly good time there, which I will go into further, but I am absolutely exhausted. Who knew geeks could party like that?!
I have also received a rejection notice for a short story I submitted more in hope than anything else, and a rewrite request for an anthology I desperately want to get into. It’s long odds, but there were (as far as I know) approximately 170 stories rejected in the first round, so I am happy to get a chance to submit a revised version. The challenge, of course, is balancing how much I want to get published with maintaining the integrity of the story.
AussieCon was my first major convention, and I really did have a blast. The funny thing was that I only actually made it to two of the panels for the whole event! But, I certainly don’t think I wasted my money, because it was the activities that surrounded the Con that really made it a truly memorable experience.
For a number of years I have been a member of a fan group for the author George R.R. Martin. This started when I started reading his “A Song of Ice and Fire” series and went looking for some information online. I stumbled across a fan run message board called Westeros and discovered a massive online community of fantasy and science fiction fans (15,000 plus). While it was ostensibly about GRRM and his works, there was discussion of every author imaginable, and huge debates about politics and religion. I made a lot of friends there and for a number of years was very active. I credit my exposure to so many diverse view points and some of the most intelligent people I have ever spoken to with honing my skills as an apologist, because in those debates if you didn’t know what you were talking about you would get torn to pieces. Lazy arguments were punished they way they deserved to be.
While as life moved on I cut down on my day to day posting, I still maintained the relationships I had formed, because these people meant a lot to me. Anyone who doesn’t understand that online friends can be just as important as ones you see daily probably should stop reading now! But, I had always hoped to meet some of them, and I knew there would be a fair few at AussieCon, and that GRRM would be there as well.
The fan group (the BWB – Brotherhood Without Banners) prides itself on its profile at conventions. and usually throws at least one party for the entire Con and organises a chance for the fans to meet GRRM. As someone “on the ground” I was involved in organising things in the lead up, like buying supplies and finding a venue for dinner the first night. Unfortunately, surgery meant I couldn’t be as useful as I had hoped! But, I managed to get the things done that were needed. It meant a fair bit of running around t, but I certainly didn’t mind that. The amount of pleasure I had gotten from GRRM’s writing and from my involvement on the board meant whatever help I could give was a privilege.
On the Thursday night 25 of us met with GRRM and his partner Parris for a private dinner at a pizze place in Southbank. It was incredibly exciting to get a chance to chat to one of my favourite authors, and over the course of the Con he gave us all plenty of his time. In fact, I cannot speak highly enough of their attitude to fans and how accessible they made themselves to us, even in the last stages of the Con, when they must have been exhausted. The way they treated their fans was in stark contrast to some other authors who were there, including one very big name, who I will refrain from identifying!
Obviously, GRRM is someone I have always wanted to meet and I really did feel honoured and privileged by the amount of time I got to chat to him one on one. Not only at the dinner, I also shared a cab with them when taking them back to their hotel. I am, however, terribly embarrassed by the fact that I really did babble like the rankest fan boy each time! He was also very kind about my very modest writing achievements (which I couldn’t stop myself from telling him about) and left me inspired and encouraged to keep going with my dreams in that area.
But, as much as meeting George was the fulfilment of a long held dream, I have to say that I enjoyed just as much the chances I had to chat with Parris, and getting to hear about her fascinating life. She really is a lovely person, and she really made us fans feel important and valuable. I just can’t say enough good things about her (my wife thinks I have a bit of a crush on her because of how much I have talked about how wonderful she is, and maybe she is right haha).
On the Friday night there was a Con party, and I spent a lot of time talking to my fellow BWBers, and before I knew, it was 4:30am. After taking a few pain killers (due to the surgery after effects) I crashed and didn’t get back until late afternoon. Saturday was taken up with organising the finer details for the official BWB party we were throwing. We had to make a last minute venue change, and ended up hiring the VIP room at a Crown nightclub. I have to say it was a interesting experience going in and out and walking past the line of 50-100 people waiting to get into the actual nightclub to flash my ID and have a bouncer lift the ribbon and gesture me through with a “This way, Sir”!
The party was a huge success with hundreds of Con attendees turning up, and again we got a chance to see more of GRRM and Parris. We also raised a significant amount of money for charity. As fun as the party was, my glimpses of the nightclub itself reinforced my lack of interest in such things. No one out there looked like they were having much fun. My opinion of nightclubs is there are only three reasons to go…to drink, to dance and to pick up. As I don’t drink, I can’t dance and am very happily married it doesn’t really appeal to me at all!
Again, I got home in the wee hours of the morning only to discover I didn’t have my house keys. My wife reacted surprisingly well to being woken by my tapping on the window!
Sunday night we had more of a private party with GRRM and got to go on a traditonal BWB quest. Everyone just sat around and chilled, getting to talk to GRRM about all sorts of subjects. Monday was a sadder day as everyone began making their goodbyes, until finally there was only a few of the overseas visitors, the driving force duo from WA and myself left, sitting around reflecting on the wonderful time we had all had.
Aside from meeting one of my inspirations and spending time with people I had wanted to meet for years, I also got to make a lot of new friends (people who had started using the board after my time there had lessened). You couldn’t meet a better bunch of people, and I will be endeavouring to catch up with them as soon as I can. And, the Con allowed to me to find out what some of the resources available to me as an aspiring Australian writer, and caused me to sit down and set some real goals for the next few years.
I will probably post more on the Con in the next few weeks, but right now I am still recovering from all the excitment!!