Genrecon 2013

Last weekend I went to Brisbane for the second annual Genrecon event.

It was my first time in Brisbane and the weather was perfect, just as the tourism board promises. Genrecon was set amongst the brutalist installations of the late 80s (Southbank was tidied up for Expo 88) and the cultural precinct was a great place to wander around nursing a coffee or a hangover.

Genrecon 2013 itself was, as 2012 had been, an amazing experience. Huge thanks to Peter Ball and Meg Vann and all the QWC ninjas for making it happen.

I came straight from the airport to the Opening Night Reception where I caught up with some of the 2012 veterans such as The Mercieca boys, Chris Andrews and others, and met several new and exciting young writers (like Chris White), editors, agents, publishers and genre-fiction lovers. Special mention here to the Romance writers,  some of whom I knew already, others of whom I met for the first time (such as Cathryn Hein, who was happy to talk footy with me). They were, universally, a pleasure to speak with.

On Saturday morning I made my pitch to Alex Adsett, agent extraordinaire. She was interested enough to request a partial, so I will be emailing that off this week. Having the pitch done early meant I could relax and enjoy the rest of the weekend.

Scott Baker‘s talk on book trailers was (although I missed the start while pitching) a fascinating insight into how new or established authors can build a profile, or open themselves to a diversified market. His own example (for his novel The Rule of Knowledge was excellent. “It’s better to have no book trailer, than to have a bad book trailer.”

Patrick O’Duffy, Kate Cuthbert and Kim Wilkins dragged the workshop on mixing genre into the realm of Dino-erotica, complete with role play. “It’s easier to market a story that is at the centre of an established genre, but that’s not (an author’s) job. Just write the damn book and let the marketing department decide how to sell it.”

The conversation event with John Connolly was fantastic. He’s such a witty and entertaining speaker and shared a lot of wisdom about persistence, effort, professionalism and the need to finish things. “You will always be an amateur if you don’t finish things.”

The Kimonos and Cutlasses Dinner was great. Chuck Wendig gave a live action rendition of his famous “25 lists”. This time ’25 Reasons Why I Fucking Love Genre Fiction”, and followed that up with an interview with Kate Cuthbert that had the room in great spirits. Special mention here to the lovely Denise Rosetti, whom I met at GC 2012, an Erotic Romance writer who has been wonderfully generous with tips on writing craft and the publishing industry.

The post-dinner party was a great night. A chance to debate the relative merits of Kirk and Pickard with Kate Cuthbert (she for Pickard, me arguing for Kirk. Something surely must be said for romancing the unfettered masculine, rather than the dignified and refined. I saw Picard as too staid and paternal. She saw him differently. I think we decided on the terminology ‘Gent in the street/Beast in the bed’).
Later I had the chance to have a few drinks with Scott and John. Here I am then, a young writer, finding his way into the industry, sat at a table with an international best-seller and someone who helped create the Hobbit films… I probably didn’t take full advantage of that, but it was a great conversation. I won’t reproduce it here, but after those trapped in the elevator (including the lovely Gemma Smith) escaped we turned our musing toward cannibalism, and I think that raised the tone.

Sunday began with an almighty hangover, but I made it to the Leanpub presentation, which gave a very interesting history of genre fictions origins in Dickensian serials. Alex gave an insight into the business of being a writer and what to look for in publishing contracts, and Anita Heiss told some hard truths about sales, genre, and finding a niche.

One of the absolute highlights was Charlotte Nash and Rebekah Turner‘s workshop on Action films. Die Hard, Terminator, Aliens, Predator, Speed and The Matrix, all used to show universal truths about how Character, Conflict and Context can be used to tell a compelling narrative.  “You need to give the characters authentic reasons to act in character. There has to be a reason in the context for the characters to act as they do.”

The panel on antagonists gave Chuck and PM Newton a chance to get side-tracked by The Wire and discussing the various ways in which McNulty, Stringer, Barksdale and Marlo were mutual antagonists, and Omar was everyone’s antagonist. Interestingly the discussion turned to the dearth of female antagonists, and it seemed that when they were present it was often opposite female protagonists or as the face of some larger systemic antagonism. “A good antagonist is the hero of his own story.”

And a wonderful event ended with a debate over whether “Genre just wants to have fun,” and despite the best efforts of John “Paris” Birmingham and his impassioned call for the negative team to stop hating life, it was Scott Baker’s reworking of Poe’s ‘The Raven’ that won the day.

Next Genrecon is 2015. I cannot recommend it highly enough. The genre writing community is so supportive and the whole event was so inspiring. There is a diverse range of perspectives, from Horror, to Romance, to Crime, to Sci-Fi, to Fantasy; novelists, short story writers… all sorts. And my people.
Any room where you can get cheered for knowing the significance of LV-426 is my kind of room!

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