Tag Archives: conflux

My 2015 in Review

Wow – another year is just about to say good bye! Where has it gone? It has been an action packed year for me, so maybe that’s why it seems to have flown past. It’s been pretty successful year, too, with lots of highlights, but before I get into that, let’s look at my goals from 2014 and get the unachieved goals out of the way! Then I can move on to the good stuff…

The big goals for 2015:

  • Get that elusive pro sale!
  • Finish the YA novel and get it off for submission.
  • Catch up with Doctor Who.
  • Get my solo novel done.
  • Start another conversational review series about a series of books that are very dear to my heart
  • Try and get involved in some sort of news/discussion podcast

Let’s see:

  • Nope. I came close with one sale at 5c a word, and an anthology that would have given me a pro sale being put on hold.
  • Nope, but as you will read in the achievements section I made some good progress with this one
  • Nope. Don’t even want to talk about that!
  • Nope, but again feel happy with what I did achieve in that area.
  • Started a conversational review series, but not that one!
  • Nope, but have found the idea and other person, so that’s a start

So, as you can see, I didn’t do so well with the goals. But, now that the self flagellation is out of the way, here’s what I did achieve in 2015!


Considering I only had one short story published in 2014, 2015 was a pretty good year on the writing front. I’ve given a comprehensive breakdown on my writing statistics here for those of you who love graphs and stuff, but the upshot was that I had:

  • Five short stories published
  • Managed to crack couer de lion, a market I have coveted for years
  • Sharing a ToC with David Morrell AND Margaret Atwood AND Chelsea Quinn Yarbro AND Tanith Lee (in what was sadly her last appearance) – all in the same amazing book!
  • A reprint
  • A story turned into a podcast at the most excellent StarShipSofa

While I didn’t meet my goal of having my own original solo novel published, the big news was that my first novel length work came out.


This has led to more tie-in work, and I am looking forward to being able to announce what I think will be my biggest news yet.

While the Secret Young Adult book isn’t finished yet, we made real progress, with the first ten chapters refined to the point we were happy to send them off to test readers. I got the first feedback email today and it is look good!

2016 is already shaping up to be an even bigger year, so stay tuned for more news as it comes.


2015 was a bit of a jetsetting year for me. I was lucky enough to get visit New Zealand for their Natcon, and discovered that NZ fandom is incredibly welcoming and friendly. I also met some wonderful authors, and made some new friends.

Having fun with some new writer friends!

Having fun with some new writer friends!

I had a great time at my home con of Continuum, getting to be on some great panels and generally just having fun.

This panel on Religion in Spec Fic was much more fun than I am making it look here!

This panel on Religion in Spec Fic was much more fun than I am making it look here!

I managed to make it back to the US this year for an incredible 4 week trip that took me from LA to New York, and plenty of places in between. While over there I went to Sasquan, the Worldcon in Spokane, Washington. As well as hanging out with the Brotherhood Without Banners, the greatest fan group in the Universe, I had the honour of accepting a Hugo for Galactic Suburbia. The Hugo Awards night will be indelibly etched in my memory, it was a truly wonderful night that was capped off with the Hugo Loser Party to end all parties!


And, last but not least, I went up to Canberra for Conflux, and as usual had a great time. There were many highlights, like a Paying for Our Passion panel, and experiencing the Cabinet of Oddities performance, where I had the privilege of hearing one of my stories set to music composed especially for it and played on flute.


The “Paying for Our Passion” panel

So, not a bad year for conventions!


I was lucky enough to be nominated for a couple of Ditmars this year, including another Atheling nod. I was a little sad that the Snapshot didn’t win, but given the quality of the category it was in I am not complaining–any of the winners would have been deserving!


While we didn’t finish the New Who stuff, we did get some reviews done, and I also started a new series of reviews with Tehani as we Squeed Over Supergirl!

By far the most successful series on my blog was Paying for Our Passion, and again I must thank all the writers and editors who were willing to make themselves so vulnerable with some excellent posts on the sacrifices we make to pursue or passions.


Galactic Chat had a quiet end to the year, but I did get the chance to interview some amazing people. If you haven’t already, you should check out the podcast. I also had my first ever podcast interview when I appeared on it myself.


So, looking back, it was a pretty good year! Despite my abject failure to meet last year’s, I am going to set some goals for 2016:

  • FINALLY catch up on Doctor Who
  • start the new podcast I have planned
  • get the full version of the YA book out to test readers, if not an agent
  • make that elusive pro sale

And that will do for now. 🙂

Thank you to everyone who has read this blog over the course of the year, and to those who have supported and encouraged me in so many ways. I couldn’t have achieved any of the things I have listed without you. Wishing you all a Happy New Year, and hoping that 2016 is your best yet!

Useless Questions Radio Play

Earlier this year at Conflux,  my good friend Laura E. Goodin asked me if I would be willing to help her out with a performance of her radio play, “Useless Questions”. I have done a bit of acting in the past, but this was something new and I was a little dubious!

But, I was so glad I agreed, as we had so much fun performing the play. It is very hard to write good humour (especially humorous science fiction), often times it falls flat or comes across as lame, but Laura got it spot on and the audience loved it. So much so that we did a repeat performance later in the con!

While we didn’t have any specialised equipment, Laura did make a recording, which you can find here. It’s not perfect, but hopefully it will give you a sense of how much fun we had. Enjoy!

From left to right: Cat Sparks, Nichole Murphy, Laura E. Goodin, David McDonald, Stephen Ormsby and Satima Flavell

From left to right: Cat Sparks, Nichole Murphy, Laura E. Goodin, David McDonald, Stephen Ormsby and Satima Flavell

My 2014 in Review

So, 2014 has come and gone. Wow. Time flies, huh?

Looking back, 2014 was a much better year than I realised. Even though I only had one story published, there were a number of significant milestones that are well worth celebrating.

But, first, let me get the negatives out of the way.

We lost some good people last year, and some people I care about had some tough times. That puts my problems into perspective, in the scheme of things I was very fortunate. So, I don’t really want to go into details as so many others have it so much worse, but during 2014 I struggled with some medical issues and, when added to my talent for taking too much on, I had a bit of a meltdown. The medical stuff is nothing life threatening, or anything for anyone to worry about, but enough to cause some issues. It’s not an excuse, but this did contribute to me messing up a couple of deadlines and letting some people down. You know who you are and, again, I apologise. It’s something I am very disappointed with myself in, and I hope that 2015 will be a much better year for that!

Looking back at the goals that I had set myself, I am disappointed to note that I still haven’t caught up on Doctor Who! Hopefully I can remedy that before Easter for reasons that will become clear later in this post.

I also haven’t made that first pro rate sale, though I do feel that I am getting closer and closer, and I might have another announcement to make soon..

But, on to the good things! There really were some wonderful moments, and I have a lot to be thankful for. And, it’s been great to feel like I am actually making some progress with my writing.

Unfortunately, I can’t share my biggest piece of news yet, but stay tuned as it will be announced around February.

Amongst the things I can talk about are:

  • After an eighteen year career in the field (pretty much straight out of Year 11), I left IT. I was seconded to our Editorial Department for 6 months in the position of Deputy Editor of one of our magazines (though I was essentially doing the Editor’s job). I can now announce that last  week I signed a contract extending my contract and naming me Editor. So, I guess I can say that I am a full time editor and writer now! There are not many people who get the chance to make a living from writing, so I feel incredibly blessed to have this opportunity– it really has changed my life. And, this has been so beneficial to my own writing, both in what I am learning from editing, and  because I am excited to be at work everyday instead being stressed and frustrated all the time. (which I know makes me very fortunate). I also think it has made me more productive, too, if there is a writing muscle, the more you use it the stronger it gets
  • From a fiction writing POV, one of the highlights of 2014 was being shortlisted for the WSFA Small Press Award. As I said at the time, seeing my name alongside all the past nominees and winners was a huge thrill and I was gobsmacked when I found out. I never expected to be nominated, let alone win, so I wasn’t that disappointed to lose–especially to a great story.
  • After two previous nominations, winning a William J. Atheling Jr Award for the New Who reviews. I have felt very privileged to get to work with Tehani and Tansy, and humbled to tie with Galactic Suburbia, one of my biggest influences. Hopefully I can catch up on the latest seasons soon!
  • The Ditmar for Galactic Chat. A huge amount of the credit for this needs to go to Sean Wright, our podcast overlord, and it was great to see him recognised for his hard work. It felt a bit weird winning an award for having the opportunity to get to talk to some of my writing heroes. Seems like a bit of a rort, really! lol
  • Which leads on to the interviews with Ken Liu and Kameron Hurley. Wow, talk about gushing fanboy moments. Just a hint: next year wills ee even more fanboying! I have a few more writing superstars lined up for you.
  • Being asked to return as part of the Aussie Snapshot team. This one was even bigger than the last one, and we managed to cover a huge cross section of the Aussie Spec Fic scene. If you haven’t read it yet, you are really missing out!
  • Even though I had a quiet year in publications, I managed to sell some stories and I have already have three new stories confirmed for 2015 (including a sale to Fablecroft and coeur de lion) as well as something a bit longer which I can’t talk about yet (and that is killing me).
  • The release of a bundle of my short stories from Clan Destine Press, including a brand new story that I am rather proud of, and am very glad to see find a home. It already has a great review!
  • Managing to make a good start on the collaborative young adult novel I am working on, It’s definitely starting to take shape now and has gotten to that point where it has developed some momentum, and the process that we decided to use seems to be working (big thanks to Amie Kaufman for her generosity with her time and advice. I am very excited about where it is heading, and you can expect to hear more about it in 2015
  • Helping my good friend, Laura Goodin, perform a radio play at Conflux. Hopefully there will be a version available for your listening pleasure soon
  • Beating “Hold Over Funds” to become the FFANZ delegate. I am really excited about heading over tot New Zealand in 2015, i am sure that it is going to be a blast. It looks like I need to be caught up on Doctor Who by then, though!
  • Amazing fun at Continuum X and Conflux 10

Aside from all these, there is something even more important to mention. I got to spend time with existing friends, made a number of new friends and, most of all, was continually reminded of what an amazing community we have in Australia. A number of my friends had some great moments of their own, and I was delighted to see their successes (and quite often got to help celebrate them, which is always fun).

The big goals for 2015:

  • Get that elusive pro sale!
  • Finish the YA novel and get it off for submission.
  • Catch up with Doctor Who.
  • Get my solo novel done.
  • Start another conversational review series about a series of books that are very dear to my heart
  • Try and get involved in some sort of news/discussion podcast

And, that’s probably enough for now!

Hopefully I will be at a few cons in 2015. I always try and get to Continuum, and I have brought my membership and booked my hotel for the Worldcon on in Spokane. And, of course, I will be in NZ for their Natcon.

I am looking forward to 2015, which I think might be my biggest yet, and I will be hoping for the same for you!

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!

Conflux Roundup

Day One
Day Two
Day Three
Day Four

Conflux was an incredible experience, and I can’t speak highly enough of the job that the organisers did in putting it all together. It was more than worth the expense of the trip up, both in terms of my development as a writer, and just as an enjoyable social occasion.

There were a number of factors that I think contributed to its success.

An excellent committee

It’s often a thankless job running an event like this, so I want to mention the committee first up. It was obvious how hard working and dedicated they were, and it was a pleasure dealing with them in the weeks leading up to the convention, and during it.

An engaged local community

I was really impressed with how vibrant the Canberra spec fic scene seems to be. There were lots of really passionate and committed writers and fans from the area supporting the convention. It was also great to see a sizeable NSW contingent there as well.

Well constructed program

Again the committee deserve massive kudos for this. The program had a great mix of things to help writers develop their craft, and more pop culture type panels for fans who wanted to chat about their respective passions. It’s a hard thing to get right, but I think they nailed it.

Very strong guest lineup

All the guests at Conflux were engaging and informative, and were experts in their field with lots of knowledge  to impart. And, very importantly, they made themselves extremely accessible to the average convention goer. No sequestering themselves in a secret VIP room between engagements, they were always to be found mingling with the con goers and making themselves part of things. There was no feeling of “us” and “them”, just “us”.

The social atmosphere

As I have mentioned a few times, one of the great strengths of Conflux was the central area where people could grab a coffee or some booze and pull up a couch, meaning that it was a constant hub of social interaction. I not only met up with people I had been waiting months to see again, but made new friends without even trying, because that area lent itself to mingling so well. And really, that’s why you go to cons, to meet people who share your passions.

A recurring conversation I seemed to find myself in was how welcoming and inclusive the spec fic scene is. A social group where people have known each other for years (decades in some cases) can quite easily lend itself to cliques, but as a relative newcomer and someone who really hates trying to mix in new circles, I have been constantly and pleasantly surprised by how people go out of their way to include new faces. I was talking to someone who had never been to a spec fic con, but had been to many more literary gatherings, and he talked about the contrast, where one was about egos and competition, Conflux was about enjoying mixing with likeminded people, and celebrating their achievements.

My theory is that most genre writers are still fans at heart, and that is what motivates them to write. So, it’s about sharing their passion with others, not hoarding their knowledge as if there is only so much success to go around. That’s why you saw so many of the big names of Aussie spec fic and writers at the very start of their journeys deep in animated conversation, drawn together by their common interests. It was funny how a love of spec fic managed to trump all the differences of ideology and politics, it was certainly a very diverse crowd!

So, I came away from Conflux with a heap of new friends and contacts, new techniques and methods to apply to my writing, and energised and motivated to take the next step. Oh, and with a bad case of withdrawals that will only be fixed going to another Con as soon as possible!

Conflux: Day Four

Day One
Day Two
Day Three

By the time I checked out and got all my bags to the convention centre it was pushing lunchtime, so I spent most of the early afternoon chatting to various people and stealing chips from Crisetta MacLeod (thanks, Cristetta!). I wasn’t too fussed about getting to panels, I just wanted to take the chance to spend as much time with everyone as possible before the end of the convention. In hindsight, I do regret not making it to at least the “What does an Editor do?” panel, because the feedback was that it was excellent.

Before long, it was time for the final panel, both for me and of the whole convention.

Monday 2:30pm – Melrose Room
“Drop the Dead Donkey” Panel.
Have all the shows that have been rebooted, revised, resurrected been a waste of time? Was the original better than the remake?
Panellists: Conor Bendle, Mik Bennett, and David McDonald.

Donkey Panel

A very seedy looking panel, from left to right David, Mik and Conor


I am sure that Mik and Conor were sick of the sight of me by this point, it was our third panel together, but it also meant that we were familiar with one another, and it could be a pretty casual atmosphere. Because it was the final panel I didn’t expect we would have many people turn up, but it turned out to be the best attended of all the panels I had been on.

It was a very participative atmosphere, with lots of input from the audience which was wonderful. The conversation was wide ranging, from things that we thought should have been left well enough alone, to things that hadn’t been revisited and really deserved a second chance because they had been done so badly the first time (the Phantom!). That led to ideas that had been done well, but perhaps it was time for a new version as to share them with new audiences (my example was a vampire miniseries called Ultraviolet).

I think everyone found common ground with the idea that American remakes of British shows were generally of the Devil (with one or two exceptions). We also talked about how long running characters had so many incarnations that reboots were almost necessary to let all their iterations see the light of day.

It was a lot of fun, and surprisingly engaging considering the energy levels of us all at that end of the con. And, it was my first experience of a panel I was on being live tweeted (thanks, Jodi!)! Kind of scary, but very cool.

After the panel we had the closing ceremony, which quite rightly celebrated the hard work of all the organisers. It was bittersweet, because we all knew it was almost time to say goodbye. There was a mass exodus to the bar and every one hung around and chatted for a while, but gradually people began to disperse. I hate goodbyes.

Tim Reddan was good enough to drive me out to the airport, and as I flew out of Canberra I reflected on an amazing time. Next post I will share my thoughts on why I thought Conflux was such a success, and why I am hoping to go again next year.

Conflux: Day Three

Day One
Day Two

I took advantage of the fact that I had no commitments on Sunday by sleeping until quite late, thus avoiding the whole issue of Daylight Savings Time. I decided to order room service for lunch, thinking pizza sounded rather good. Over the weekend, my friends and I had a few encounters with a member of the staff who was, to put it mildly, eccentric and it was her who was on duty when I called. Our conversation went a little like this:

Me: Hi, could I please order some room service?
Staff Member: Nah, the chef isn’t in yet.
Me: Sorry?
Staff Member: Yeh, we don’t do room service until about 3pm, I think.
Me: But doesn’t the menu say 10am to 10pm?
Staff Member: I guess so, but the chef isn’t in.
Me: Oh, okay. No worries.
Staff Member: What did you want, anyway?
Me: Just a margarita pizza, but it’s not a problem, I will get something down the street.
Staff Member: I will see if I can work out how to use it and call you back in ten minutes. *click*
She hangs up before I can say anything.
Fifteen minutes later..
Staff Member: We stood around and pushed all the buttons until it started doing something. So, we are going to give it a go…
Ten minutes later…
Staff Member: Um, there was a slight problem and I don’t think you should eat it.

It was too funny!

The Craft of Short Story Writing

Panellists: Cat Sparks (moderator), Jack Dann, Helen Stubbs, Kim Westwood, and Kaaron Warren.

In terms of development as a writer, I think this would have to be close to the best panel I have ever attended. At the moment, I am focussing on writing shorts, and the amount of experience and knowledge on offer in this group was mind blowing, and there was pearl after pearl of wisdom handed out. I thought Cat did a great of moderating it, ensuring that it stayed on track and that everyone got a chance to contribute. I also thought Helen more than held her own, despite being amongst very illustrious company indeed.

Once again, my iPad was invaluable as I feverishly took down note after note. There are too many to list here, but some of the highlights included:

  • When asked whether she was a pantser or a planner, Kaaron telling us that she builds a story from a  pile of bones (great image!), and also saying that if she gets bored writing a passage she knows that it will bore the reader later on
  • Jack talking about how short stories are a way for a writer to build a reputation, and how for him when he writes a novel, each chapter is treated like a short story that ends in a semi colon
  • Cat saying that the biggest problem with short stories she receives is that they are boring, that titles are vital, and that every writer should value add to their culture rather than just adding more noise
  • Kim Westwood describing a short story as a world in a tea cup, a phrase that really resonated with me.

Obviously every writer is different, with different methods, and slavishly imitating another writer gets you nowhere. But, I doubt there was a single person who walked away from that panel without feeling like they had just received a master class in becoming a better writer. It was one of those things where you walk away reenergised and fired up, itching to sit down and write.

Instead, I went and socialised at the bar. But, that was fun too. 🙂

Gradually, a group coalesced and discovered it needed food, so we wandered out in search of Chinese. It was a lovely dinner where we had a chance to admire Jodi Cleghorn’s latest editorial efforts, some very impressive volumes indeed. I also had a lovely chat with some locals, who said they had no desire to write but were “only” readers, to which I replied there is no “only” about that, it’s about the most important thing there is! Writers are a dime a dozen at cons, but there is no point writing if no one is going to read it. It was great to hear a bit more about the Canberra scene (which really impressed me with its vibrancy, might I add), and to just enjoy good company and good food, even it was a bit depressing seeing the fish and lobsters swimming in tanks while they awaited their fate.

By the time we got back to the convention centre the disco was winding down, and I had managed to escape another situation where I might be expected to dance, which made me very happy. There was more great conversation late into the evening, and I finally managed to complete my list of meeting all the Guests. Like all the other Guests, Natalie was wonderfully open and friendly, and happy to answer our many questions. Because of the way everyone had grouped together, rearranging furniture creating a massive ovoid, I was able to meet a lot of new faces (to me) I had somehow missed until then. My only regret from the Con is that it took me until the last night to meet some wonderful people!

Gradually, people drifted off to bed leaving only a few die hards sitting around chatting, and when the subject moved on to sumo herpes I decided it might be getting close to my bedtime, too. So, another wonderful day at the Con, spoiled only by the realisation that the next day would be the last. Sigh.

Conflux: Day Two

Day One Report

Due to my misreading of the program, I thought my two Saturday panels were around the other way, and that the comics one was at 10:30! Fortunately, Rob Hood and I had compared notes the night before, and disaster was averted. I am not really at my best at 10am on a Saturday, but getting there with time enough to get a coffee was a great start.

Saturday 10am – Melrose Room
“Ask the Tech Expert” Panel
Our panel of experts examine a range of objects and give us their educated guess about the item’s name and probable function.
Host: Kathleen Jennings Panellists: Rob Hood, David McDonald, Lewis Morley, and John Morris.

Going into this panel, Rob and I still weren’t sure whether we were meant to hazard serious guesses, or simply make up the wildest, most outlandish claims possible. We were, of course, hoping for the latter and fortunately that was the case. We were presented with a bizarre range of implements and the panellists went nuts in their attempts to come up there with the most out there theory. Rob’s obsession with the gouging of eyeballs was a bit disconcerting, though, and I am glad that I wasn’t aware of it before getting a ride through dark and deserted countryside.

Seen through the prism of creative minds objects that started out as merely bizarre became wondrous, we ended up with everything from a unicorn whistle (just like a dog whistle, of course) to a very nasty espionage device. It was all very ably moderated by Kathleen Jennings (who has produced some delightful art which you must check out here). It was also the only real chance I had to interact with one of the Guests, Lewis Morley, which is a shame because he was absolutely brilliant.

This was a very fun panel to be on, with lots of laughs from the panellists and the audience, and I thought everyone involved did a great job.

Saturday 1:30pm – Melrose Room
Comic Adaptations Panel
Comic Book heroes take on the Big Screen” – Superman, Spiderman, Ironman, The Green Hornet, Captain America, the X Men – they’ve all made it to the big screen. Have they done it right?
Panellists: Conor Bendle, Mik Bennett, Rob Hood, Devin Jeyathurai, David McDonald (moderator), and Ian Nichols.

By the time this panel rolled around I was getting rather nervous. It was only the second time I have moderated a panel, and it was very different from the last one. From the emails we had exchanged leading up to the con, I knew there was both a lot of knowledge and a lot of passion amongst the panellists, and it was going to be tough to fit everything we wanted to cover into one hour. But, it makes it much easier to moderate when you have good panellists, and we certainly did.

The discussion was very wide ranging, starting with adaptations that we thought had worked or hadn’t, and then trying to work out what the ingredients to success were. As you can imagine, there was some debate about the relative merits of more than one movie (Batman Begins nearly started a fight haha), and it was great to get so many different perspectives from people with different histories with the comic book world. I think we were all in awe of the fact that Ian Nichols had been reading comics for almost sixty years!

Some of the themes that came up were how vital it is that the adapters have a love of the source material that goes beyond how much money it can make them, the need to not be a slave of continuity but to be aware of it, and how long running characters have different interpretations that allow the adapters to decide which version they will use. In the end we simply ran out of time, but we managed to pack a lot into that hour and I think we managed to leave everyone, both audience and panellists, with a big list of new things to watch and read. In the end, I was really happy with how it all went.

After that I was able to relax for a little while, before heading into a reading.

Reading by Jack Dann

Nebula and World Fantasy Award recipient Jack Dann will read from his new autobiography INSINUATIONS or his new fantasy series-in-progress entitled “SHADOWSIN THE STONE”. If raining, please meet in the lounge area adjacent to the café.

Jack read from Insinuations and it was incredible, like no other autobiography I have read before. It jumped around in time and space, but despite that, or perhaps because of it, it was deeply moving. You could see him struggling with certain passages as he read them, and I think all of the audience felt it too – I know I did. Then we were treated to almost an interview style chat between Jack and Nick Stathopoulos, which gave us all an excellent insight into the creative process from two different points of view. Incidentally, I saw some examples of Nick’s artwork and it is amazing, so I will be checking it out as soon as I can.

Then it was time to frock up and head to the Hellenic Club for the Conflux Banquet. It was an extravagant affair, with a 1920’s theme and set upon the luxurious Graf Zeppelin. There were lots of people completely in character, glamorous dresses and slick suits catching the eyes. The menu was delightful, with one of the best goulashes I have ever had, and Talie Helene’s wonderful vocal stylings provided the perfect backdrop. Gillian Polack did an exceptional job putting it all together, and it is a real shame it is meant to be her last (though I heard a rumour that she may make a comeback for the 2013 Natcon!).

I was at awesome table (every one of my table mates someone I could have happily spent all night talking to), and our conversation was wide ranging, everything from asparagus and its effects on various genetic groups to human trafficking. We were all astounded to learn that Alan Baxter was once a fishmonger (not sure that his new nickname, Mong the Merciless will stick, but here’s hoping!). I wandered around a bit as well, finding some BWBers I first met last year at AussieCon and was very happy to see, and taking some pics of Laura Goodin as Amelia Earhart. Fully satiated by both good food and good company, we made our way back to the convention centre to continue our night.

There was much more talking and socialising. To be honest I had so many great conversations over the Con that the timeframes are rather fuzzy, but I believe that this might have been the night that I met two visiting American authors and had a long and fascinating debate covering topics like the difference between humans and animals, and what political systems and ideologies were the best for humanity. It was all very civilised considering the contentious subjects we addressed!

Finally, it was time to go, however reluctantly, and again I was offered a lift home, this time by Alan Baxter (thanks, Alan!). There was no Dalek, sadly, but plenty of good company and laughs, a great ending to a great day.