Tag Archives: Natcon

Conflux 2013 Roundup

Wow! What an awesome Con! After a month of solid travel, I have to admit that a little part of me was wishing that I had another week or so before I had to jump on another plane, but once I got there I realised just how much I needed to be around the spec fic community. There are much better con round ups out there (if you have one feel free to post in the comments), so this is just a very quick one from me.


At around 3:30am Thursday morning I realised there was probably no point going to sleep, and I am now terrified of missing another flight, so I gave up on the idea. That meant for a change I got to the airport nice and early and felt rather relaxed. It also meant when I got to Canberra, I was absolutely exhausted! Fortunately, someone had very kindly offered to come out and pick me up (thanks, Simon!) and through the wonders of Twitter we collected someone else and headed to the Rydges (going to the wrong one first lol).

After a coffee with some friends, I decided I should go and get some sleep in my hotel to preapre myself for the excitement ahead.

Photo by Helen Stubbs

Photo by Helen Stubbs

The hotel looked closer on the map than it was, but it was still only about 2.5km away. Someone else gave me a lift back there (the generosity of others was a recurring theme over the con) and I felt much better after a nap. The only problem was I cut it a bit fine to get back for the first event I had locked in and had to run the 2.5km back!

But it was worth the heart palpitations as I got there in time for the launch of “The Bride Price”, the awesome new collection from Cat Sparks! I love Cat’s writing, and this looks like it is going to be incredible! Unsurprisingly, it didn’t take long to sell out.

Photo by Cat Sparks

Russell Farr and Cat Sparks-Photo by Cat Sparks

Then, it was off to the cocktail hour where I got to mingle with lots of awesome people, both old friends and new. From there, we all naturally migrated to the bar to continue socialising until late. Despite our warnings, the hotel obviously did not believe the stories of writerly habits and left a few poor staff to face the hordes.


Had a bit of a late start on Friday, you know, because of the flight etc My first event for the day was the long awaited launch of Rob Hood’s Fragments of a Broken Land: Valarl Undead. As always, Jack Dann was an excellent MC and it was wonderful to see the support from the community for this much anticipated release.

Photo by Cat Sparks

Jack Dann and Rob Hood – Photo by Cat Sparks

Once we had toasted Rob’s book, I headed off to a Memorial for Jan Howard Finder, or Wombat as he was affectionately known. I only met Jan once, on a panel at Worldcon, but he was a really nice guy and made me feel very welcome. It was a sad occasion, yes, but filled with lots of happy memories and funny stories about a well loved member of fandom.

The rest of the night was devoted to more socialising, and a great dinner with friends.


On Saturday, my awesome Mentor’s awesome book was launched!

Jason Fischer - photo by Cat Sparks

Jason Fischer – photo by Cat Sparks

And, then lunch and – you guessed it – more socialising!

Soon, it was time to suit up for the Ditmars. Someone had the great idea (not sarcasm – I loved it!) of handing out bubble blowing kits, so I spent most of the ceremony feeling bubbles land on the back of my head – they tickled! Deb Biancotti was our host this year, and did an exceptional job. After the awesomeness that was Mondy and Kirstyn’s show last year, it would have been tempting to try and copy it, and easy to fall short. But, instead, Deb made it her own, ably assisted by the wonderful Terri.

One of my favourite innovations was the way that the twitter stream was displayed on the big screen. Aussie spec fic fans are obviously far more mature than Bryan Adams fans, because every fifth word wasn’t “boobs”! For a great slice of the night, check out Sean’s storify roundup here.

One of the great things about this community is that most of the people nominated are friends so, I was very excited for each of the winners. It is obviously how important Peter McNamara’s legacy is (and rightly so) and it was lovely to see some of his family watch the amazing Nick Stathopoulos take away the Lifetime Achievement Award, while Russell Farr was overwhelmed after being awarded the A. Bertram Chandler for his services to Aussie Spec Fic.

And, I was absolutely stunned to win the Ditmar for Best New Talent! I was completely unprepared, in fact I hadn’t even voted for myself, and I didn’t have a speech ready. I have no idea what I said, other than that I forgot to thank some people I should have (sigh), but it was a massive honour, especially given the quality of the other nominees. I was delighted that it was Kaaron who handed me the award, as she is someone who has been extremely kind to me since I came on the scene. This was the first award I have ever won in my life, and I can’t think of a crowd I would have rather won it in front of.

Kaaron hands me the award - Photo by Cat Sparks

Kaaron hands me the award – Photo by Cat Sparks

As you can imagine, I was a bit stunned by all this, in fact I still am! I really don’t know what to say, other than thank you to everyone who has supported me, and everyone who nominated and voted for me. When I look at the past winners, there is a lot to live up and I promise I will do my utmost to do so.

You can find a full list of the winners here.


The trophies themselves were beautfiul, Lewis Morley designed them and did an incredible job.

The Trophy

Trophy – Photo by Amanda Rainey

I couldn’t celebrate too hard as I had a panel at 9pm, so I lingered in the bar for a while before heading back up.

SF, movies, television and fictionIs there an increased market for things SF? Movies, books, short fiction, TV series? Dr Who just keeps going.  There’s been a new Star Trek, a movie based on the Battleship game with groovy aliens, there’s Looper, Prometheus and Iron Sky. In books, Egan, Reynolds, and Peter F Hamilton are still in the game. The panellists talk about what they are seeing? Hard SF, space opera, romance in SF? What is driving this?

The panel went really well, with some great comments from Jonathan Blum, Devin Jeyathurai, Cat Sparks as we discussed whether TV has replaced the cinema has the source of quality SF, whether we are in a “Golden Age” of spec fic adaptations and whether complex ideas are being dumbed done to suit a simpler medium. Lots of robust, but respectful debate made for an hour that flew by!

Then it was time to celebrate an eventful day, first at the bar and then onwards to a room party until the wee hours..


In my capacity as a Continuum committee member I had to attend the Natcon Business Meeting. It was fascinating see the things that need to happen behind the scenes to make conventions happen. After two hours or so, the shine of discovery had worn off a little, but I am glad I went.

The rest of the day was devoted to trying to catch up with some of the people I’d missed, though I didn’t completely succeed. I was going to go to the Closing Ceremony but ended just chilling out with some friends until I was given another lift by generous, people to the airport. The flight home wasn’t the greatest, for some reason I went through Sydney and got stuck on the tarmac in Melbourne due to an airbridge malfunction. The drunken ice hockey team expressing their displeasure didn’t help either. But, none of that could take the shine off a truly wonderful few days.

Nicole and Donna and the rest of their team deserve much congratulations for staging such an incredible Con. It had all the things I consider essential – friendly and accessible guests, strong programming, a good area for social interaction and a great venue. This was my second Conflux and reinforced my belief that it is one of the best cons for writers in Australia.

While I didn’t make it to many panels I don;t regret it, because for me a convention is about catching up with old friends and making new ones. The time I took to socialise was definitely well spent, but the beauty of this con was that whatever stage of your writing career and whatever you were looking for, you would have been well catered to. Well done to all involved!

You can find a roundup of roundups here, with more in the comments. And, please feel free to link to your own in the comments for this post.



Conflux is coming!

Not many sleeps until I get up way too early in the morning to fly to Canberra for the Natcon. I’m very excited, as it means catching up with friends I don’t get to see too often.

I plan on a very casual convention and will no doubt be in the bar for most of the time, though there are a multitude of exciting book launches I plan on attending. I am also (I think) doing one panel:

Saturday 9pm-9.55pm Panel – SF, movies, television and fiction, Forrest Room 3

which I am sure will be a lot of fun, especially as it will be after the Awards ceremony so most of the panellists and the audience will be undoubtedly be..well lubricated.

Hope to see you at Conflux!

My (very belated) Natcon report

I thought I had survived the excitement of the Con unscathed, but around Thursday the dreaded Con lurgy hit me like a tonne of bricks, and I’ve been the walking dead since. But, it was worth it, I had an awesome time at Natcon.

On the Friday I had the privilege of being part of Kelly Link’s short story workshop. Not only did I get excellent feedback on the story I submitted, from Kelly and the group, but we also went through some very useful exercises, one of which I have used already to great effect. I also met some very talented writers and hope to stay in touch with them. It’s amazing how much Kelly packed into the time we had, I can see why she is as highly regarded as she is.

After the workshop I didn’t have a great deal of time before my first panel, so after a quick trip to the bar, it was time for Daikaiju Go Heavenly!. As well featuring the dashing Dirk Flinthart, Cat had roped in expert assistance in the form of Robin Pen, and a hilarious panel ensued. I don’t think we really decided on a victor, but I think I defended Christ’s honour reasonably well, though I might have committed both blasphemy and heresy at various points.

Photo by Cat Sparks

Dirk Flinthart and Robin Pen impart their wisdom.

Then it was time for a quick meal, which in hindsight turned out to be a big mistake, then off to the Twelfth Planet Hour, where we sampled the most incredible range of cupcakes imaginable (well done on an awesome job, Terri!). It was wonderful to spend time mingling with so many people as we celebrated the well deserved success of TPP. And, I accidentally discovered that the cupcakes were capable of exploding in a cloud of cream if dropped….

Photo by Cat Sparks

Meg Mundell and I – before the cupcake goes all kamikaze!

This segued nicely into the opening ceremony, where the Continuum tradition (well, this is my second) of excellent video montages continued. With a smack of the gavel, the Con was officially launched. I then had to quickly head to another panel, Continuum 101, where I imparted my meagre Con wisdom to an audience of neophyte Con goers who listened very politely. It was around then that I started to feel ill, and I retired to a friend’s motel room to lie down for a while (A big thank you to Steve and Pete who were very generous with their room all weekend), which turned into a few hours. There was a rather embarrassing moment when I staggered out of the room wearing a wet face washer on my hat like a bedraggled hat, only to almost walk into two people I was on panel with the next day (when I attempted to explain the next day they were very understanding, and pointed out it was far from the strangest thing that they had seen at a Con). Eventually I made my way downstairs, bid a few quick goodbyes and somehow got home.

The next morning I had two panels on religion back to back, and to be honest I was a little nervous – it isn’t the most safe of topics at times. But, both went really well. The first, New Faiths for New Worlds was really well moderated by Russell, and we covered some interesting ground. Alan and I both picked the same examples for a religion done well and a religion done badly, and took turns beating each other to the punch. The second, Fans and Faith was one of the best panels I had ever been on, and a very different vibe than I was used to. Not only did Mondy moderate brilliantly, with his usual mix of wit and perception, he also raised some points I had never even thought of and gave me a story idea! Through out the weekend I had people, religious and non religious, approaching me to remark on these two panels and tell me how much they enjoyed them or to ask questions, which is not something I have had happen before.

After all that excitement I was very happy to take some time for lunch and take in some caffeine, and do some socialising. Then it was off to Winter is Coming, a panel on the various works of George R.R. Martin. After the more serious morning ones, this was a lot of fun, very energetic with lots of audience interaction. We covered everything from piracy to the state of television, as well as plenty of talk about the “Game of Thrones” television series.

Photo by Tom Bicknell

Ben Mckenzie gets expressive as Kelly Link, David McDonald, Mick Mihalic and Jules Wilkinson look on

Then it was time for something that had really been giving me the heebie jeebies, my first reading. It was a bit of an anti climax, four writers from Epilogue facing an audience one person, so Dirk invoked an ancient and venerable rule regarding panels, if the panel outnumbers the audience you all go to the bar! To be honest, I wasn’t that crushed, I had been rather nervous at the idea of reading from my story. Maybe next time.

Photo by Jo Anderton

Signing a book for only the second time ever!

That was the end of my commitments for the day, which meant I got down to the real business of a convention, socialising! There were so many people to chat to that the time flew. After a lovely dinner, and more time in the bar I realised that, yet again, I had missed the Maskobalo!

On Sunday, my first panel was a zombie themed one, We Want Your Brainz. Fortunately, a very kind soul brought me in a coffee so I wasn’t a complete zombie myself. We talked about what exactly makes a zombie, and whether zombies and romance are ever a good mix. As well as all the other excellent panellists, I got to sit with the author of one of the best short stories I have ever read (Stephen Dedman and his story “Never Seen by Waking Eyes”), which was a thrill.

Later that afternoon, after more socialising, it was time for the Newbie’s Guide to Writing, where a bunch of newish writers were able to talk about the mistakes that they had made so that others could avoid them, and pass on hard won tips. We also had the editor of the amazing collection Ishtar present, Amanda Pillar, who gave an excellent perspective from the other side of the submissions process. It was a well attended, and I hope really informative panel. And, that was the end of my scheduled panels for the convention, so I could relax.

Photo by Tom Bicknell

Travis McKenzie and I on the “Newbie’s Guide to Writing”

I then wandered up to the launch of Felicity Dowker’s Bread and Circuses, which was very well attended. I thought Alan Baxter spoke very well, and it was heartening to see all the launch copies disappearing as people put their money where their mouth is, and supported Aussie small press.

From there I moved on to the bar, where a large crowd shared a bittersweet hour as we remembered Paul Haines. I say bittersweet because despite the sadness, there were lots of laughs and fond reminisces as people who had known him shared their stories with those who had not had the pleasure. Truly moving. The time flew, and then it was time to suit up for the awards ceremony.

Despite the fact that there were a lot of awards to be presented, the evening did not drag at all, thanks in no small part to the excellent hosts, Mondy and Kirstyn. They shared a great chemistry without it being in jokey or over the top, and they kept the night flowing. It was an evening of both celebration and remembrance, with some truly emotional moments that included a number of awards deservedly won by the late Paul Haines and Sara Douglass. There was also a truly beautiful moment when Merv Binns with presented with the inaugural Infinity Award for contributions to the Aussie scene. There was a spontaneous standing ovation as we thanked him for his part in creating the sort of fandom that gives us wonderful events like Continuum.

I know they aren’t really some people’s cup of tea, but I’ve loved the awards ceremonies I have been to so far, I am was really happy to see this one follow the trend of last year’s Natcon with lots of people glamming up and a real effort to make them a prestigious event on the spec fic calendar. I really enjoy seeing people’ hard work rewarded, not just for standalone achievements but the awards that recognise an ongoing commitment to the community. It was a very strong field, but I don’t think anyone can argue that the winners did not deserve their awards (and the squeaking octopi that came with them!).

After the awards ceremony a few of us wandered back to Lygon Street until we were kicked out of the excellent little bar we found and went in search of more refreshments. By the time I got home it was around 4:30am so I only just made it back to the convention for a coffee catch up with a friend I had to see before they left the state and the Closing Ceremony where all the volunteers and committee members and guests were quite rightly applauded for a stellar convention.

On a personal level, I had an amazing time. Getting feedback on a story from someone like Kelly Link was a huge privilege, as was being on a number of panels with her. And, I really enjoyed the chance to be on so many panels, despite my relatively minor status in the scheme of things. I was able to catch up with people who I don’t get to see half as much as I would like, and to get to know some people with whom I’d previously only had a fleeting acquaintance with a lot better. And, of course, I was able to make a whole heap of new friends, and meet people who formerly had only been names on a byline or a webpage. As always, I was astounded and delighted by how inclusive and welcoming everyone was.

One of the more exciting writerly moments was being asked to sign a book for the first time, and by someone I didn’t know! A measure of how little I was expecting this was the fact I didn’t even have a signature worked out, as I had never expected someone to ask. I just scrawled something and mentally resolved that I would have to work something out for the future. I can just imagine myself sitting with a notepad signing my name again and again like someone about to get married and wanting to get their new name right! I ended up signing three books over the Con which was three more than I had expected, but hopefully they won’t be the last.

It’s hard to divorce my own experience and give an objective rating of the convention, but I think you would have to say it was a resounding success. It had all the elements that I think make for a good Con:

  • A hardworking, conscientious and wonderful committee and a dedicated group of volunteers
  • Notable guests who went out their way to be accessible to con goers and took their responsibilities as guests very seriously
  •  A very strong program that had something for everyone, whether you wanted a focus on writing or on pop culture
  • A central place for people to gather and hang out because, after all, it is the social aspect that makes or breaks a Con.

The only possible criticism I could make is that, yet again, the hotel management obviously hadn’t taken warnings seriously enough about how much writers can drink and didn’t have enough staff on hand. One can’t fault the bar staff though, they were unfailingly gracious and polite under a great deal of pressure.

And, the other downside of the Con was that it came to end. I always struggle readjusting to life after an event like that, where you have to go back to the boring routine of a day job and not being surrounded by wonderful people who share you passions. But, with Chicon on the horizon, at least I can start counting down to that!

Award Winners:

The 2012 Ditmars and Australian SF Awards were awarded at Continuum 8: Craftonomicon, the 51st Australian National SF Convention.  And those winners are:

The A Bertram Chandler Award: Richard Harland

The Norma K Hemming Award: AA Bell, for Hindsight, and Sara Douglass, for The Devil’s Diadem

The Peter McNamara Award: Bill Congreve

The Chronos Awards:

Best Long Fiction:
The Last Days of Kali Yuga, Paul Haines (Brimstone Press)

Best Short Fiction:
The Past is a Bridge Best Left Burnt, Paul Haines (in The Last Days of Kali Yuga)

Best Fan Writer:
Jason Nahrung

Best Fan Artist:
Rachel Holkner

Best Fan Written Work:
Tiptree, and a collection of her short stories, Alexandra Pierce (in Randomly Yours, Alex)

Best Fan Artwork:
Blue Locks, Rebecca Ing (Scape 2)

Best Fan Publication:
The Writer and the Critic, Kirstyn McDermott and Ian Mond

Best Achievement:
Conquilt, Rachel Holkner and Jeanette Holkner (Continuum 7)

The Infinity Award, for overwhelming contribution to Australian SF: Merv Binns

The Ditmar Awards:

Best Novel
The Courier’s New Bicycle, Kim Westwood (HarperCollins)

Best Novella or Novelette
“The Past is a Bridge Best Left Burnt”, Paul Haines, in The Last Days of Kali Yuga(Brimstone Press)

Best Short Story
“The Patrician”, Tansy Rayner Roberts, in Love and Romanpunk (Twelfth Planet Press)

Best Collected Work
The Last Days of Kali Yuga by Paul Haines, edited by Angela Challis (Brimstone Press)

Best Artwork
“Finishing School”, Kathleen Jennings, in Steampunk!: An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories (Candlewick Press)

Best Fan Writer
Robin Pen, for “The Ballad of the Unrequited Ditmar”

Best Fan Artist
Kathleen Jennings, for work in Errantry (tanaudel.wordpress.com) including “The Dalek Game”

Best Fan Publication in Any Medium
The Writer and the Critic, Kirstyn McDermott and Ian Mond

Best New Talent
Joanne Anderton

William Atheling Jr Award for Criticism or Review
Alexandra Pierce and Tehani Wessely, for reviews of Vorkosigan Saga, in Randomly Yours, Alex

Continuum Program

With only a week to go I am starting to get very excited about Natcon! As usual, the organisers have done an incredible job and the program looks amazing.

For those interested, my schedule looks like this:

Daikaiju Go Heavenly!

From Friday 17:00 until Friday 18:00 (60 Minutes)
Dirk Flinthart, David McDonald, Cat Sparks

What if the gods were daikaiju? Could Buddha beat Jesus, could Loki outwit Allah? Is anyone strong enough to defeat Thor and his mighty Hammer? Jade Emperor, Kali, Ganesh. Which deity will reign supreme, or will king of the daikaiju Godzilla crush them all?

Venues: Argyle Room, Lincoln Room

Continuum 101

From Friday 20:30 until Friday 21:00 (30 Minutes)
Hespa , David McDonald, Sarah Lee Parker

Everything you wanted to know about fan conventions and con-going – an ideal starting point for anyone relatively new to conventions. Learn the secrets from those who have been around long enough to know better.

Venues: Pelham Room

New Faiths For New Worlds

From Saturday 10:00 until Saturday 11:00 (60 Minutes)
Alan Baxter, Jenny Blackford, Russell Blackford, David McDonald

Love it or hate it, religion plays a huge role in our society. When creating a new society from scratch, what part will religion play? How do you create a convincing set of beliefs, and what are the pitfalls you need to avoid?

Venues: Lincoln Room

Fans And Faith

From Saturday 11:00 until Saturday 12:00 (60 Minutes)
Avril Hannah-Jones, David McDonald, Ian Mond, Alexandra Pierce

Religion often frowns upon science fiction and fantasy, and fandom can be quite critical of religion. So how do our panellists reconcile their passion for SF/F/H and their faith?

Venues: Faraday Room

Winter Is Coming

From Saturday 14:00 until Saturday 15:00 (60 Minutes)
Kelly Link, David McDonald, Ben McKenzie, Mick Mihalic, Jules Wilkinson

As the second season of the TV adaptation draws to a close, join us for a discussion of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series in all its forms.

Venues: Argyle Room

Readings – Fablecroft Hour

From Saturday 15:00 until Saturday 16:00 (60 Minutes)
Including: Joanne Anderton, Steve Cameron, Dirk Flinthart, David McDonald

Venues: Faraday Room

We Want Your Brainz

From Sunday 11:00 until Sunday 12:00 (60 Minutes)
Peter M. Ball, Stephen Dedman, Felicity Dowker, Kelly Link, David McDonald

Zombies have taken over in the last 5 years or so and have gone mainstream, but their lore is still being written. How have they changed since the 1970s and what does the explosion of them now say about our present psyche? Could it be a pandemic as recent writers have postulated? And will they ever become sparkly?

Venues: Pelham Room

The Newbie’s Guide To Writing

From Sunday 15:00 until Sunday 16:00 (60 Minutes)
Steve Cameron, David McDonald, Travis McKenzie, Amanda Pillar, Jane Routley

New to writing? Not sure what to expect? Our panellists discuss critiquing, dealing with rejection, and everything else they wish they’d known when they’d started.

Venues: Pelham Room

Not only am I thrilled with the panels I am, but with the people I get to do them with! And, my first ever reading – how nerve wracking!

Hope to see you there. 🙂

Chronos Awards – Nominations Open

I don’t know about you, but I am really looking forward to this year’s Natcon, Craftonomicon! Last year’s Continuum was simply amazing, and from everything I have heard and seen so far, this one will be even better.

As part of the lead up to the con, nominations for the Chronos Awards are now open. From John Samuel’s blog:

We are now halfway through the nominations period for the Chronos Awards. Nominations close on 18 March 2012.
Please remember that to make the ballot works require 4 nominations in the professional categories, and 2 nominations in the other categories.  Please refer to the Chronos Award rules for more information.
At present a relatively small number of works have passed these thresholds, and most categories do not have more than one eligible work.

You can find a comprehensive list of eligible works here, and I would encourage those of you eligible to nominate to take some time to read through the list and nominate those you find deserving.

I do have some short stories eligible (see below), however there are lots of other wonderful pieces there. The important thing is that you nominate the works that spoke to you, and give their creators the recognition they deserve.

Short Stories

“Catspaw” by David McDonald in Tales of the Shadowmen Vol 8: Agents Provocateurs (Black Coat Press).

“Just Like Cuckoo” by Brendan Duffy and David McDonald in The ePocalypse: emails at the end, edited by Jessy Marie Roberts (Pill Hill Press).

“Venus Transiens” by David McDonald in Horror, Humor and Heroes 3 – New Faces of Science Fiction, edited by Jim Bernheimer (EJB Networking).