You would have thought that I'd written enough about AussieCon 4, but I wanted to blog about some of the personal highlights.
Kim Stanley Robinson talking about the importance of utopian science fiction. This really made me think about my own writing, because he's so right - writing about utopia is so much more of a challenge. I write a lot of dystopian stuff, although since having kids I generally aim for happy endings! It got me thinking about utopian stories. I don't have any, but at least it got me thinking about it!
Sitting on the panel next to Paul Haines, talking about why we're into horror when the real world is so awful (or words to that effect). I said that I generally enjoy reading and writing escapist fiction. Giant cockroaches, zombies, that kinda thing. But that's only partially true. Paul said that writing what he writes is a cathartic experience for him. For me, I can only write when I'm not down (or, I find it hard to write when I'm down). On the plane home I read three stories from Scenes From the Second Story, including Paul's "I've Seen The Man".
When I interviewed Ellen Datlow in 2006 she told me:
"When I read a half a dozen really excellent, very strong short stories one after another, it's exhausting. You can't just go straight from one story to another if the first one makes the impact it should. It's difficult to switch gears that quickly."
And that's exactly what it was like. I'm not going to go all 'lit' on yer ass or anything like that (well, maybe a little). I like writing over-the-top escapist stuff because it's fun. But reading those stories made me aspire to something else. I want to write stories where the reader needs to take a pause at the end, catch their breath, have a think.
(Kinda like how I was today, after reading Stephen Dedman's "Never Seen By Waking Eyes" in Macabre - an excellent example of taking a well-worn trope, giving it depth and making it genuinely creepy.)
The short story panel with Cory Doctorow and Stephen Dedman was good for me, because it reminded me about podcasting (which Doctorow suits today's commuting lifestyle). I've since subbed two stories to podcast markets. Keep your fingers crossed for me! :)
As well as that, just meeting people! It was so good to catch up with Angela Challis and Shane Jiraiya Cummings from Brimstone Press. It was hard to believe I hadn't seen them IRL since 2006. When we were working on BLACK together it was almost as though the experience was so intense we were summoning each other, if that makes sense. It was great to see Kyla Ward again. And then there were a bunch of people from the horror scene I've had lots to do with, but never met IRL. eg Talie Helene, Marty Young -- I'm going to forget people here and get in trouble.
Then there were 'the next generation'. People who I've got to know on Twitter but never met. eg Alan Baxter, Felicity Dowker, and Helen Stubbs.
So, all in all, it was brilliant. And I really hope it's not another four years before I can get to my next con!
Last but certainly not least, I'd like to thank everyone who helped me with my grant application: Queensland Writers Centre CEO Kate Eltham, my boss at the ABC Stuart Watt, and Marty Young from the Australian Horror Writers Association. I'd also like to thank Kyla Ward for her efforts programming the horror stream, and honouring me by inviting me to sit on a couple of panels, and also Angela Challis for letting me read from 'Feast or Famine' at the Macabre launch.