alt.fiction 2007

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


Hi All,

Yes I know I promised you a report pre-FantasyCon but what can I say...apart from sorry, of course...

Well FantasyCon was fantastic, as usual. I was over there with three of my very good friends volunteering and despite having to run for the raffle and so on we all had a great time. I didn't catch much by way of panels but I was involved in a couple throughout the weekend. I also really enjoyed the session on taboo- a fave topic of mine, as anyone who has ever read anything I've written will probably testify. Also thoroughly enjoyed readings from Ramsey and Chaz. I really enjoy their stuff as well as their styles of reading, so that was a good double-act for me.

Much of the weekend (as one would expect) was spent in the bar, catching up with various old acquantances and meeting afew new people along the way. I love the way that people mingle at a FantasyCon and you feel you can just chat to anyone you like. Still reovering from two exceptionally late nights really, although I suspect two twelve-hour working days this week have also played a hand in my tiredness.

Current situation for Alt.Fiction at the minute is that planning is simply going to have to wait until the end of October, with both the Festival of Words and also the Hallowe'en tour to concentrate on. However I thought the following two events in October may be of interest...

Thursday 11th October
Classic Dr Who Evening

A night combining classic Dr Who episodes with featured readings from author Paul Magrs.

Metro Cinema, University of Derby, Kedleston Road
Booking- 01332 340170

Sunday 14th October
Writers Networking Evening

A chance for local writers to get to know one another, as well as a local publishing panel featuring Mark Netwon (Solaris), Adrian Buckner (Poetry Nottingham), Sean Woodward (Dragonheart Press) and yours truly. You'll also get to see Atonement for £2.50 at 8:30pm!

Metro Cinema
FREE, places limited
Booking- 01332 340170

Until we meet again...


Friday, September 07, 2007

Alt.Fiction latest

Hi All,

Just thought I'd pop in to let you know I hadn't forgotten my blog here...

Things have been rather fraught with Derby's impending Festival of Words, so for the time being at least, Alt.Fiction will be taking a seat on the back burner. For those of you thinking that the Festival of Words isn't for you, we will be hosting a Classic Dr Who night featuring readings from Paul Magrs as well as a Writers Networking event in which the publishing panel will include a representative from Black Library.

However matters of Alt.Fiction are still very much in my mind and I find myself plotting away every now and then, considering what workshops and panels we could run, what author pairings would work and so on. Hopefully at least a few of those daydreams will be coming to fruition.

I'll be sending out another round of author invites in the near future- I won't be naming names until things are sewn up but I think it'll be great to get some more of our local writers on board to go alongside some of the talent we've already confirmed. The Festival will still be taking up a lot of time, so much of that I expect will be done from home. Don't let anyone tell you that people work in the arts for the great hours...

I'm still plotting away on various different things in my 'free' time, and will keep you posted on some of that in the near future.

So very much a post to let you know I'm still breathing- expect something more extensive before the FantasyCon weekend, 21st-23rd September.

Thanks a lot


Thursday, August 16, 2007

The first look at the schedule...

Hi All,

You'll have to forgive me if this post is rather thinking aloud but I've just been having a first think about the programming for Alt.Fiction next year and I'm finding myself torn on a couple of issues...

Those of you who attended last year will remember that for most of the day we were actually working on a 4-room basis, with spaces designated for book launches, readings, discussions/panels and of course a workshop space. I can't pretend to anyone that the workshop space was ideal. so ensuring that those take place in a better space will be a priority for 2008. My current thinking is to move the workshops to the '45 suite, which was the home of the book launches last year. However this poses another issue because this room is in close proximity to the venue's Great hall and as such we can only have this till the end of the dinner break, which hopefully will again be 4:45pm-6pm.

So it looks like the most likely outcome will be 5 workshops in the '45 Suite, discussions/panels in the Reception suite (possibly with some launches thrown in) and then the reading/q+a sessions in the Darwin Suite. Someone please stop me if I'm overthinking this... :-0

The thing that's a shame in that layout, of course, is that the workshop schedule is pretty light and I've always felt that these are really beneficial for people who attend. It's also, in my opinion, an important aspect of the day. In an ideal world I'd love to have the three spaces all day but short of laying out a fortune to have the whole building to ourselves it's not going to be practiceable.

Basically it's looking like 21 sessions throughout the day with 5 of those being workshops, about 8 readings and about 8 panels. Hopefully we'll come up with something really exciting with plenty of good slots throughout the day.

The other reason for looking at the programme so early is also thinking who would be good to fill the spaces that are currently empty. I'll make no secret that I'm looking to be a lot tighter with the budget for '08, and as such I'll be thinking about the participants on the day very carefully before sending invites around. My reckoning is that I can pay for anything from 8-10 authors on the day, and that's a figure which is largely down to the great support so far from publishers (take a bow Orbit, Solaris and Hodder Headline...). Without going into specifics that's a lot less authors than we have invited and paid in the previous instances. I don't think this will be noticeable from an audience perspective but it does make it a pretty different experience to plan from the organising perspective!!

I did have a point at the start of all this, but I lost what it was somewhere in the midst of typing all this. I think it was to ask if anyone has any opinions on the types of sessions they'd like to see throughout the day- perhaps that would help me stop pondering over it so much...

I'll be checking in again soon, so keep popping back for a look.

Thanks a lot


Thursday, August 02, 2007

Regional events news 1

Hi All,

This is the first in what I'm hoping will become a regular feature on this page featuring some SFF and horror wriring news from around the region. If you're involved in something, or know of something going on that would be suitable drop me a line either at or at


1st September 2007- BOOK LAUNCH & SIGNING: The Voyage by Tony AMCA
2pm - 5pm Weston Favell Library
Weston Favell Library is proud to host the launch of The Voyage, the first novel in Tony AMCA’s exciting series of novels, The Vluvidium Collection. The Vluvidium Collection takes you into a new literary dimension. Rich in scientific fact and innovative thinking, it introduces new philosophies and dogmas and offers an explanation to many unanswered questions.

Tickets from Weston Favell Library: 01604 403100 /

30th October 2007- PHOBIC – Halloween Horrors
7pm Northampton Central Library
Halloween is the traditional time of year when our fears are supposed to come to life. But do ghosts, gremlins and ghouls still frighten us? Or are there more modern terrors lurking out there? Join us in this special event exploring the shape of irrational fear in a modern context. Expect chilling readings from two fantastic authors, as well as your chance to pose your questions on horror. Readings will be from a new anthology Phobic, a gathering of 15 new horror stories from a wide range of authors – both masters of the genre like Ramsey Campbell as well as comedy, TV and literary writers such as Jeremy Dyson, Matt Holness and Hanif Kureishi.

Tickets from Northampton Central Library: 01604 462040 /

*You'll find more about this event further into the bulletin


Nottingham again hosts this year's FantasyCon event, which takes place from the 21st-23rd September at the Brittania Hotel. Guests of Honour for 2007 are Terry Brooks, Stephen Jones and Michael Marshall Smith. I'll be posting a brief interview with Michael about the event here in due course. I'll be co-running a session at the event about funding so that'll be a good chance to quiz me on where the money is...

You can find more details on the FantasyCon event at


In my home working capacity I've been putting together a 6-date tour for 'Phobic', a fabulous horror anthology as released by Comma Press. You can find out more about the anthology at It's a book that I thoroughly enjoyed and features a great range of authors.

The dates and venues look as follows, and I'll be putting some meat on these bones in the very near future. Be sure to get them in your diary, and I'll look forward to seeing you there!!

Wednesday 24th October: Donington-Le-Heath Manor House, Coalville, Leicestershire
Thursday 25th October: West Bridgford Library, Nottinghamshire
Friday 26th October: Leicester Guildhall
Monday 29th October: Chesterfield Pomegranate, Bar Area, Derbyshire
Tuesday 30th October: Northampton Central Library
Wednesday 31st October: Lincoln Central Library

That's all for now- expect more Alt.Fiction news and regional news soon.

Thanks a lot


Friday, July 27, 2007

Alt.Fiction 2008 and other news

Hi All,

Another rather overdue posting. I'm hereby making a resolution to post on this blog more regularly with all the latest updates about Alt.Fiction and perhaps going into a few other genre news bits from the local area.

It's been a really interesting time for me personally as I've recently gone jobshare in my role as Literature Development Officer. This won't have any direct impact on Alt.Fiction, which as a project will remain in my hands, but it has freed up some time for other SFF and horror projects around the region, a few of which are kicking off relatively soon. Chief among them is a planned East Midlands tour for Comma Press' Phobic, an excellent horror anthology featuring writers such as Ramsey Campbell, Matt Holness, Paul Cornell, Paul Magrs, Chaz Brenchley, Frank Cottrell Boyce, Nicholas Royle, Conrad Williams and many more. It's an anthology I really enjoyed and hopefully we'll be seeing you at a venue near you. The tour itself will be taking place (suitably) in the lead up to Hallowe'en...

Alt.Fiction is in its early stages but I suppose the biggest discussion point to date is that 2008 will remain a one-day event. I am conscious this flies in the face of a lot of demand for a weekend event but in my defence this is the first year Alt.Fiction will be looking to meet its costs. We've had some pretty generous support from funders to date which we can't guarantee in 2008 and as such I've had to err on the conservative side. 2008 will really be an acid test for the future of the event and if we can make ends meet I think things will be looking healthy. There are a whole host of surrounding issues which I can't/won't go into here, but it's an event that's very close to my heart and as such I want it to continue long into the future, and I hope it can carry on making a contribution to the genre and its event calendar.

We also have the rather big news of early writer bookings for 2008 and on that note I'd like to thank Orbit, Solaris and Hodder Headline for their very generous support of the event. So I'm pleased to announced our confirmed authors so far are Christopher Fowler, Mike Carey (returning after two very popular slots this year), Charlie Stross, Philip Palmer, Brian Ruckley, Eric Brown, Adam Roberts and Simon Spurrier. Expect plenty more names to be confirmed in the near future.

I'm currently in the process of booking the Derby Festival of Words, which runs in October, but after that I'll be focussing fairly heavily on the Alt.Fiction event.

Of course before any of that I'll be along at the FantasyCon event ( at the Brittania Hotel and look forward to seeing some of you there. It's a really good weekend event- I had a great time last year (despite having about four hours sleep total for the weekend!!) and I'm looking forward to it thoroughly this time around.

So keep checking back for all the latest Alt.Fiction news- if you'd like to express any opinions, thoughts, ideas or musings feel free to get in touch at

Thanks a lot


Thursday, May 03, 2007

Looking back...

Hi All,

Well, Alt.Fiction has been and gone for another year. It's a very strange feeling post-event because something that has basically been six months in the making has shot by over the course of a weekend, and soon enough the planning stages will be starting all over again. The day itself was an absolute blast with some absolutely great experiences for me personally.

Friday morning I drop all our boxes of stuff off at the venue, with thank to Barbara and Antoinette in the Arts and Events office. Not driving is only very occassionally an issue for me but with 200 complimentary books, 500 programmes and two boxes of stationery and signage to get to the venue this is one occassion where it is! I'm able to nip over later that afternoon to check out the venue and with help from one of our fabulous volunteers in Mia, we're able to get some of the setting up done in advance. A lot of the posters are out already and one of our book tables is set up so it's nice to have a bit of a headstart.

As a consequence of this I make myself a little late to the Midland, where I'm due to meet John Jarrold, Paul Tomlinson and Harry Harrison for a drink. I have time to get in a half of coke (I'll state at this point that I don't actually drink alcohol) before we head out for a very nice Indian at Masala Art, which spends the whole weekend getting enthusiatic thumbs up from anyone who happens to eat there. It was great to have a nice dinner before the Saturday event, and to catch up with John again- we're in contact a lot via email but it's good to catch up in person. Thoroughly stuffed, we had back to the hotel and end up catching up with Debbie Miller and her daughter as well as Brian from Chronicles Network, who has again undertaken the arduous journey from Inverness to Derby. I won't go into how technical that one was...

I leave about 11:00, as I want to get a reasonably early night before arriving at the venue for 9am next morning. The venue staff let me in and it's the first chance to survey the venue, which is laid out to my satisfaction barring one or two minor changes. These are very quickly ironed out and myself and the intrepid team of volunteers (who were very prompt indeed!!) begin to make the place a bit more Alt.Fiction-ish. All the posters are up in no time, the badges are sorted, all the info is on the desks and by about 10am we're virtually ready to go. In fact most surprisingly I find myself turning Andi and Malcolm away, who have paid for a ticket and offered to volunteer before it all kicks off! I'm sure that they preferred the extra pint to volunteering mind you...

The bookshops filter in gradually, with Porcupine and Ad Astra arriving at the same time but we manage to avoid too much of a log jam in the lifts! They're those very old-fashioned ones with the pull door, which I always find kind of disturbing. It's a squeeze o fit in them as well with the big rolling cages which we use to get the books up in. Anyway, they're all set up for the best part by 11am and showtime is upon is. It really snuck up in fact- I looked at my phone to see that it was 'suddenly' ten to eleven. It's amazing how time can fly when you're busy!!

There's a pleasing number of people turning up at 11am, and peope begin to take a look over the bookstalls. The bar opens at 11:30, which is a little later than planned but nothing major really. People seem to live with their thirst anyway. A photographer turns up from the Derby Trader, whom my girlfriend deals with while I tear about doing something or other. He'd have had some great shots if he'd turned up later in the day but he's already got other plans elsewhere. Mark, Dan T and Dan C pose for a lovely photo in the t-shirts, so I shall be looking out for that one!!

At this time I find myself clocking what writers have arrived, particularly relative to who's on at 12 o'clock. I'm a chronic panicker at this stage of the day and James Barclay gives me a scare when he is fashionably on-time. It's absurd to worry so much about these things really but until I'm settled into the day I tend to be going a mile a minute!! So things kick off promptly at twelve, with our technical manager Shoki making the first announcement of many that day. They seemed to have more of an effect than last year, althouh I don't really know why.

Barclay and Mark Chadbourn both give excellent readings from their books, with mark giving us a preview of his upcoming release. A few people did this throughout the day and I think it's a real bonus for the readers (or indeed listeners) there on the day. The Q+A throws up a lot of issues about fantasy writing at large which Mark and James deal with well, and soon enough I find myself finishing off session one for the day.

The typical pattern for my free fifteen minutes was to check out what was going on elsewhere with our room managers (all of whom did a great job- that's you Pauline, Catherine and Dan T) and then locate any AWOL writers. To be fair I never bumped into anoyone who didn't know where they were supposed to be, which takes a lot of the weight off!!

Peter and Tony are already making themselves comfy when I arrive back at the Darwin Suite, which is good news for me. Another standard step before each reading was to get some water for the writers (I can imagine dry lips during a reading must be a recurring problem) and with that done we're all set for an excellent science-fiction session. Both read from books that are upcoming, giving another treat to their avid readers. I've tried writing science-fiction and struggled so I really respect people who can create those vivid future worlds, and it's evident throughout the session that we are in the presence of two excellent writers. Another good session in the bag, and the day seems to be shooting by.

2:00 sees another fantasy session with Juliet McKenna and Chaz Brenchley. Juliet reads a section from her novella with PS Publishing and Chaz regales us with the opening scene of his newest release, 'River of the World.' I have to guiltily admit that its forerunner is still on my reading pile at this point in time! Not that many in for this session but both entertaining readings and Chaz and Juliet have always been good friends and a great double-act.

Come 3:00 we're onto deadly serious subject matter with the Publishing Panel, which is always resoundingly popular with budding authors. I often suspect they'd rather hear better news during these sessions but I've always been a great believer in people knowing what they're up against! Some fantastic insights here, including the frightening statistic that John jarrold has taken on 30 clients out of 2000 submitted manuscripts. So no need to feel to bad if you're in that approximately 99% to be rejected! George Walkley from Orbit is also great on this panel and there's a very interesting discussion between the two about the relationship between agent and publishers. John Berlyne facilitates this one really well and I think this session is a real success.

By this time I'm flagging a bit and counting on a large energy drink and a bit of food over the dinner break to keep me going till 9. But before now and then there is the not inconsiderable matter of Harry Harrison's interview session with Paul Tomlinson. I must admit this session really revives my spirits, as Harry is tremendously entertaining and seems to have a near endless supply of anecdotes and tales featuring run-ins with other writers, illustrators, directors, producers and many more industry types. Paul's knowledge is absolutely enyclopaedic and the chronological tread through Harry's career is flawless. After this session one moment that stayed with me was a man who gets his book signed for a second time by Harry, having had it signed back in 1966!! I have to say it was a pleasure to have Harry at the event and I enter the dinner break feeling good about the day so far.

Unfortunately our dinner break starts with a slight hitch as the venue has had to close of the '45 suite to us earlier than expected. It's a shame because basically e lose quite a good seating area and with people carrying plates of food about that would have been ideal. I'll be looking at seating for next time around- it did come up in a few of our evaluation forms. I catch a word with John Berlyne who say 'Don't worry, you're dealing with resilient people.' I treat myself to a reasonable enough chilli and chips and a can of Relentless, which comes in a pint glass and looks uncannily like beer, which solicits a few weird looks from people who know me. They must think the stress has driven me to drink...

I grab a word with a few people during this break and sort out an interview with Mike Carey for a film website, which Mike is more than happy to oblige. His comic session by all accounts went down a storm in the slot just prior. I'm forever trying to gauge opinion at my own events and it seems to be largely positive so far, although inevitably there are a variety of small complaints and sugesstions which frankly I'm always grateful for. If you don't tell me I'll just keep getting on with it as I am...

So we kick off again pretty prompt at 6pm with Ramsey Campbell's reading, which is a stroy by the name of 'Peep'. I'd been involved in some events in Leicester and Ramsey had read the story their also, but it unquestionably warrants a second listen. I always find Ramsey's readings really engaging and it's only when he closes that I notice it's taken up most of the session! We take a couple of questions before closing and moving on to the penultimate session, and I can barely believe how much it has whistled by.

Mike Carey is on next and I have to credit how well he read- the scene he gave us from 'Dead Man's Boots' was really action packed and his intonation of everything is bang on. he gets a very good response as well and the Q+A session covers everything from Felix Castor to X-Men and Lucifer, and makes some interesting comparisons between writing novels and writing graphic novels. A great penultimate session.

The next break is pretty fraught as our booksellers are ready to leave and we've got 15 minutes before the closing session of the day! Our volunteers really came through here- the last thing anyone wants is people wheeling through half-way throug a session because it can be really off-putting.

Next up is Iain Banks, who has undertaken the arduous journey from Fife to be with us and arrives at the venue around 7:30 for his 8pm reading. iain's appearance gave the event a real added buzz in the weeks leading up to it and I'm pleased to report that he lives up to reputation. Iain receives a generous round of applause upon taking the stage and reads the prologue from his next Culture novel, Matter, which is due out in 2008 so that is a real bonus for his readers! The Q+A session goes really swimmingly and Iain is really entertaining, so much so that I wish I had booked extra time at the venue because I don't think anyone would have objected if the session were twice as long!!

So we close the day at about 8:50 with a nother big hand for Iain Banks and also one for myself, which always makes me feel a little shy but is appreciated after it all!! I must admit to real mixed feeling here and even during Iain's session- I'm not entirely sure whether to cheer or laugh or cry or what. There were a whole lot of emotions going on at that time with everything done. I think the strongest sensation is probably relief at that point though- I'm glad that everybody turned up, everything went OK with the venue and that people seemed to enjoy themselves. The period after the last session sees a lot of positive comments about the day, which is really encouraging and the evaluation forms seem to back up that opinion.

People file out of the building over the course of the next fifteen minutes and at that very point in time I feel about ready to fall into a heap! Myself and the remaining volunteers get all the stuff tidied up, packed into a storeroom with a lot of ice-cream and some random alcohol and we're away from the Assembly Rooms with another great event in the bag (I think, anyway).

By such a time as we leave the venue (that's myself, Brian, Mark, Mia and Catherine) most people have piled off for a meal of some kind, be it Italian or Indian, so we decie to head back to the Midland bar for a while. There are quite a few of our day's audience there ahead of me, as well as Harry and Paul and the mood seems to be generally very laidback and festive. Many of the day's other participants garadually filter in and it's great to have a chat and really relax after such a long day. We're sat in the back room until about midnight and I manage to chat for a bit to Iain, George and most of the Write Fantastic. A whole range of topics are on discussion and for me this is such a great end to the day. It's only when I come out to the little gentleman's room that I realise a whole host of our particpants are in there as well, including Paul and Marie, Graham, Stephen, Tim, Sarah, Pete and Nicki, Adam and Mark (I think that's everybody!) It was about 2:30 by the time that everybody had filed of to bed and I decided to head home for some rest!!

Sunday I'm pretty tired but there's still work to be done in the shape of the Alt.Fiction film screening. The showing is at 3 so myself and Emma take Ramsey (who is introducing the film) and Jenny to Le Bistrot Pierre, which is one of our favourite restaurants in Derby. The food never lets you down, so it comes with my thorough recommendation! From there we head to the Metro Cinema, arriving in plenty of time and chatting away to a few people who were along on the Saturday and a few friends of mine who've popped along. Ramsey gives a great introduction to the work of David Lynch, paying particular attention to our day's film, Mulholland Drive. With that said I sit and watch the film, which I've forgotten just how much I like and I manage to keep my attention up despite increasing tiredness!

So that's all for the weekend- this week I've been looking over the evaluation stuff, doing a little thinking about 2008 and taking it easy wherever possible as well!

Hope that everybody there enjoyed the day, and hopefully will see you all in 2008 if not before.

Thanks a lot


Thursday, April 26, 2007

And now the panic sets in...

Hi All,

Two days away and things are certainly picking up towards the big day. For the first time I'm really starting to feel the nerves about it. As some of you will know, as organiser when something gets this close you start playing through all manner of awful scenarios that could happen between now and then. Thankfully largely they never happen, but it doesn't seem to stop you worrying!!

I've got boxes and boxes of stuff piled up ready to take over to the venue, which will be a task for tomorrow. In fact I've been told I could make myself a fortress around my desk if I re-organised these boxes a bit, and it's a tempting option...

The programmes have arrived and I'm really pleased with the way they look. They're A4 but fairly light-weight so they shouldn't be too much to carry around!! Really nice glossy look and hopefully everybody on the day will like them. They're a nice souvenir as well as a handy guide to the day, or at least I hope that's the case!!

T-shirts are now here for our volunteers and also looking good. I've been rounding together various other necessary bits and pieces- plastic bags, raffle tickets, blu-tak, flip's surprising how much it can actually mount up but if the event needs it then the event shall have it.

I spent a while yesterday afternoon on Radio Derby promoting the event- I managed not to trip up anything, get all the main details in and hopefully convey just how exciting it all is. The presenter, Alex Trellinski, was great as well and pretty much put me at ease, which was a decent achievement bearing in mind it's only my second time on the radio!

Tickets have been going well and I'm really looking forward to a good crowd on the day. I think we'll have quite a few people coming along on the day as well, so I'm really optimistic of recreating some of the atmosphere of last year.

I think that's about all of my final thoughts- hopefully I'll see most of you on Saturday for a fantastic day!!

Thanks a lot