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Conventionally speaking

I spent my Easter weekend at Odyssey2010. It was my second Eastercon and I enjoyed it every bit as much as my first back in 2008.

Unfortunately I spent most of my time checking out the panels (summary under the cuts), which meant that I managed to completely fail to say hello to stephanieburgis, psamphire, teriegarrison or shevdon.

:hangs head in shame:

Life of a Proton

Dr Nik Whitehead did a comprehensive and fascinating talk on the life of a proton from the beginnings of the universe right up to its death. Although my knowledge of physics and chemistry remains frozen at GCSE level, the concepts discussed could easily be followed and I even found that I remembered a few things (which is frankly a miracle).

Comics 101 - Essential Comics For New Readers

Sam Sykes, Claude Lalumiee, Mike Carey and Dave Mansfield went through their recommendations for comics they'd recommend to people who know nothing about comics but want to start.

For those interested, the titles (apologies but I didn't get the creator/artist names for all of these) are as follows:

Science Fiction:

- Flight Anthologies

- Transmetropolitan

- Starstruck

- Shlock Mercernary

- The Stars Are My Destination


- All Star Superman - self-contained volume.

- Batman Year 1 - self-contained volume.

- Daredevil Born Again - self-contained volume.

- Marvel's Ultimate Line - this is a 15 volume series.

- The Killing Joke - this is a Batman story.

Comics For Children:

- Marvel Adventures Line

- Flight Explorer

- Johnny Quest

- The DFC Library

- Lucky Luke

- Tiny Titans


- Uzumaki

- Gyo

- Walking Dead Omnibus

- Man Thing by Steve Gerber

- Swamp Thing by Alan Moore

- City of Glass - this is an adaptation of the Paul Auster novel of the same title)

- Death Note

- Parasite


At the end of the panel, each panellist was asked to recommend their favourite comics.

Sam chose 'The Boys'.

Claude chose 'Love and Rockets' and 'Locus'

Mike opted for anything by Alan Moore and when pressed named 'V For Vendetta' and also chose 'Been World'.

Dave suggested 'Gar', 'Palestine' and 'Notes From Gaza'.

All in all, this was one of my favourite panels of the Convention because it was pure Ronseal - did exactly what it said on the tin. My Amazon Wish List thanks it.

Iain Banks - Before The Wasp Factory

David Haddock, the editor of an Iain Banks fanzine called The Banksoniain did a comprehensive run through of the very first novels written by Iain Banks and weaved them into his subsequent publishing career.

Not only was this an exceedingly informative talk, but for someone whose knowledge of Banks's work is limited to The Wasp Factory, the enthusiasm was such that I've now gone out and added the authors works to my Wish List (which again, thanks it).

Particularly fascinating was the way in which Haddock described how Banks used concepts written in his early unpublished novels into his later works.

The English In The Marvelverse

Mike Carey, Paul Cornell and Roz Kaverney ran a panel that was billed as being about English characters in Marvel comics and the experience of English writers working for Marvel.

To be honest, this was my least favourite panel of the convention purely because the panellists clearly knew their subject so well and assumed that the audience had the same level of knowledge about plot lines, characters etc. As a result there was a lot of discussion about different plotlines, alternate histories, character resurrections etc, which as a novice, I found difficult to follow. However, those people who did know their comic history all seemed to get a lot from it so I suspect I was in a minority.

One interesting comment to come out though was the suggestion that there has been a loss of a moral compass in comics because they now tend to follow what the market wants (e.g. darkness and torture).

Writing Steampunk

Stephen Hunt, Kim-Lakin-Smith, Alastair Reynolds and Paul S. Kevington were on a lively panel that ran through what steampunk literature is (and also a discussion of diesel punk and gas punk) and the technology behind it.

There were times when it strayed into discussing steampunk lifestyle, which wasn't quite my thing, but what did come through was the belief that you really need to have a passion for steampunk and machinery in order to write it well because many in the market are viewing it as a popular bandwagon, which shows up in the writing.

How To Be A Panellist Or Moderator

Christian Sauve, Judith Proctor, Fran Dowd and Kelvin Proctor did a run through of the basic dos and don'ts of being a moderator and panel - from not treating a microphone as a panel to making sure that you're fully prepared and briefed on the panel subject before hand.

Disability And Villains

Pat Reynolds, PinkDormouse, Paul Cockburn, Heather, Roger Octon and Al Davidson held a thought-provoking discussion on the portrayal of disabled characters in fiction. Particularly interesting was the way they pointed out how disability was often used to give a villain a motivation for their actions, or how disabled characters usually had their disability negated in some way (e.g. blind characters have super hearing).

The novel 'Blood Ties' by Tanya Huff and the movie Gattaca were cited as examples of SF and F media where disability was well portrayed.

It's Shit But We Like It - Crap TV and Film

Tony Lee, David L Clements, Steve Rogerson, Fiona Scarlett and John Coxon were on a lively panel that gave a merry run down on truly rubbish tv and films that were nevertheless great to watch.

I for one shall be checking out John Coxon's suggestion 'Jesus Christ: Vampire Hunter' as any film with the line "If I'm not back in 5 minutes, call the Pope" is clearly a must-see.

Interview: Iain M Banks

Jane Killick ran an informative and humourous interview with Iain Banks which went through his career both as a published writer and before hand. It definitely cemented by desire to read more of his work.

Watchmen: Was The Movie Worth It?

Tony Lee, Sue Wadsworth-Ladkin, Zoe Parkinson and Gaspode were on an interesting panel that discussed the good and the bad of last year's movie adapation of Alan Moore's classic comic and it seems that the forthcoming Ultimate Cut of the film is worth the money.

Writers Workshop

I was part of the T-Party group that held workshops on submitted short stories and novel openings and was in the session with Sara Townsend and Julia Knight. It seemed to me that the session went well - tightly run, no one cried or tried to kill anyone else and hopefully things have been said that will prove useful.

Lab Lit - Fiction Set In The Laboratory

Jennifer Rohn, David L Clements, Clare Boothby and Henry Gee went through what makes lab lit, lab lit (answer: where scientists are characters, the plot involves a laboratory and the story is set in a realistic world, either present-day or historic but which does not necessarily have a plot that is about science). The difficulties in writing lab lit were mentioned (specifically in making science engaging and interesting) and it was agreed that good lab lit had an atmosphere and a good character.

Jennifer Rohn keeps a list of lab lit on her website here, for anyone interested in checking out examples of the genre.

Legal Status of Fanfiction and Video

Simon Bradshaw, Peter Harrow, Kat Takenaka and Toby Frost ran through the generic law relating to fanfiction and fan videos and their legal status (without offering specific advice).

Particularly interesting was the discussion on costumes and costume rights. The point was also made that just because you've received a cease and desist letter does not mean that you are actually guilty of IP infringement and you do not automatically have to pay the sum claimed. Check out your rights and be prepared to negotiate.

Mention was made of this website which can give free initial IP advice to fans who think they may have run into trouble.

Guest of Honour Talk: Alastair Reynolds

Alastair Reynolds did a great presentation on space, despite some initial technical hiccups.

Young Adult Fiction - Junior Panel

Michael, Kyara, Charlotte and Kethry-Ashira hosted an interactive panel where they shared their favoute and least favourite things about YA literature. Particularly refreshing was the attitude to Twilight.

Fantasy and SF - Differing Attitudes to YA And Adult Readers

Terry Edge, Sabine Furlong and Elizabeth Counihan hosted a thought-provoking panel on the differences between fantasy pitched to YA and adult audiences and the trend by some publishers to throw anything fantasy at the teen audience.

Humour In SF and Fantasy

Raven Dane, Esther Friesner, John Coxon, Donna Scott and Jonny Nexus were on a good natured panel on humorous books and how to write humorous SF and F.

Obviously, a lot of discussion focused on Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams and the conclusion that appeared to be reached was that jokes were more important than plot and characterisation to determine if a book was funny.

Novels: A Product Of Their Time

Ellen Datlow, Caroline Mullan, Graham Sleight and Jetse de Vries went through some of the assumptions that fiction writers make about the future.

All in all, it was a great convention and I'm looking at going to Illustrious in 2011

In other news, many thanks to cynthia_black for buying me a virtual puppy. I'm allergic to most dogs (and indeed, most other animals) so this is pretty much the only kind of pet I can cope with. I just hope that it doesn't poo on my keyboard.


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 9th, 2010 01:25 pm (UTC)
Ok now I am beginning to regret not going!
Apr. 9th, 2010 02:23 pm (UTC)
Ben Goldacre's talk was very entertaining and informative, and my favourite-est panel was Cataloging Your Collection. Also good was the Comedy Songs panel, and the Science & the Media panel was quite lively.

But the Clanger Symposium was excellent all round!
Apr. 9th, 2010 02:25 pm (UTC)
It's Shit But We Like It has to be one of the best titles for a panel I've ever heard. :D
Apr. 9th, 2010 02:45 pm (UTC)
Particularly refreshing was the attitude to Twilight.


I had a friend chairing a panel, and several other friends who went. Wish I'd thought of going, now!
Apr. 11th, 2010 04:37 am (UTC)
I just reread The Killing Joke last week, and then found some awesome meta about it that really got me thinking (if you want, I can track down the link again). It's a really interesting comic despite Alan Moore's biases peeking through (as usual).

If you're looking for something more interesting than the generic All Star Superman, try Superman: Secret Identity which is about a guy who lives in a world where super heroes are only in comics and his parents name him Clark Kent as a joke.

Uzumaki really is one of the most disturbing horror mangas out there. It's got stories that stick with you for years (much to your horror).
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )


Caroline Hooton

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