Dublin debrief

Worldcon was a blast, and by ‘blast’ I mean it was exactly like I was fired out of a cannon and sped past thousands of people to crash noisily on the other side. Five days of incredibly hectic panels, meetings, and of course socialising!

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The Dublin Convention Centre – our mad home for 5 days

I finally arrived after a somewhat nightmarish Journey of Doom(TM) consisting of something like 45 straight hours of travel horror including:

  • runway closures for high winds
  • horrible hair-pulling and constant-reclining fellow passengers
  • a very unhappy baby (poor thing, only expressing what we were all feeling)
  • a woman who thought ‘loose fruit in an open woolies bag is a totally cool thing to just pop in the overhead compartment’
  • missed connections
  • a line we stood in for 2 and a half hours developing shared PTSD with the other stranded travelers
  • the worst coffee I’d ever had*
  • a reroute through London
  • missing our entire day (aka at LEAST 3 hot chocolates at O’Connaills and sausage at the English market) in Cork
  • a rerouted bus arriving at midnight, in the pouring rain, not right near our hotel as planned but several kilometres away because of roadworks, and
  • our luggage getting lost (3 travellers, 2 different flights, bags went to 3 different locations, none of which were Dublin or Cork)

at which point I was melodramatically declaring I would never be able to face flying to Europe ever again. But we made it, and we bought some spare underpants when the shops finally opened (I always forget how much Europe shuts down on Sundays) and we stayed in a castle and drank good beer and found a dog to pat and et good food, and soon I had stopped sulking. So: on to Worldcon we went!

* At that point. We would find worse coffee a few days later. Oh, if only you knew, innocent Sam, how much worse coffee could be.

Appearances

I was on four panels, moderating two. The first was on liking problematic things, with Leo Adams, AT Greenblatt and Sarah Gulde moderating. We covered a lot of interesting material about the differences between problematic themes within a work itself, and work that is made by or involves creators or other participants who have exhibited problematic behaviour outside the work, and discussed how we manage the inherent conflict of enjoying something while recognising its flaws. We also talked about how to handle it when other people point out issues with your work or work that you love, or on the other hand, how you can go about bringing up issues with work to people you care about. This panel had a good audience engaged and interested in learning to do better around these issues. It was definitely about offering strategies rather than answers.

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View from my first panel

My second panel was one I moderated, on the rise of Hopepunk as a subgenre. This was a fantastic, lively panel featuring Lettie Prell, Jo Walton and the creator of the term ‘hopepunk’, Alex Rowland, and we talked about what hopepunk means, how the term gets misinterpreted and why, and what are some great examples out there right now. As someone who is definitely influenced by the state of the world right now in what I want to see in my fiction, this was a topic I was really interested in and had a lot of fun moderating to a very packed room despite the late hour!

The next day I had Using SFF as a Sandbox for Political Ideas, with Nicholas Whyte, Eyal Kless and Taiyo Fujii. Taiyo had some very interesting points about how he was exploring digital currency and universal basic income in his work, Eyal felt very much that his nationality as an Israeli strongly shaped how his writing was seen. We all agreed that it’s impossible to separate politics from fiction as large and small choices we make in creating worlds, whether in SF or fantasy, are themselves political choices, and that politics is not limited to how institutions and societies are formally structured but also extends to how different people are treated and valued and contribute to the society.

And finally I moderated ‘Send in the Crones’ which was about older women in SFF, with Lauren Roy, Ali Baker, Julie C. Day and Anna Stephens. Our panel talked a bit about why women over the ‘last fuckable day’ tend to disappear in our fiction (just as they mysteriously often disappear in other media) and what advantages writing older women can bring, as well as talking about our favourite awesome older ladies in SFF. This was an incredibly fun packed panel and a special shout out to Anna who stepped in at literally the last minute (alright, she was foolish enough to be having dinner with us and when Devin Madson had to pull out due to having lost her voice, Anna got roped in) and was intelligent and hilarious on the fly. Really enjoyed this one.

I also did a signing which was mostly populated by friends of mine keeping me company so as to not feel bad about my lack of real line (sitting between Victoria Schwab and Marie Brennan, it was inevitable!), but did have some lovely actual readers too, and I really appreciated them coming.

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Signed books for sale in the dealers’ room

Things I got to watch

I didn’t get to attend that many panels partly because of other commitments but mostly because it was bloody hard to get into anything! There were enormous numbers of people lining up for basically every panel and if you weren’t there and in the line at *least* 30 minutes before the panel started you likely weren’t making it. Longer for panels with big names.

I did get to watch the live recording of the Serpentcast (the Hugo nominated ‘Be the Serpent’, hosted by the excellent Freya Marske, Alex Rowland and Jennifer ‘Macey’ Mace), and thoroughly enjoyed the phenomenon of all three Serpents in a single location, and also to see Kate Elliott’s reading (which was from her genderbent Alexander the Great novel, coming out next July with Tor).

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Watching the live recording of Be the Serpent

But mostly the rest of my time was spent doing less official things…

Other highlights

So many things, but off the top of my head:

  • I got to hang out with people from both my US and UK publishers – had fun drinks with some of the Tor crowd which started out with two of us and ended up with about 10, including editors Lindsay, Melissa and Will, and authors Jenn Lyons, Kassie Larkwood and Everina Maxwell, and dinner with the lovely Simon Taylor from Transworld.
  • I got to meet and hang out with my agent, the fabulous Julie Crisp, in person, as well as have lunch with those of us from Team Crispy who made it to Worldcon – my pal Devin Madson and the lovely Den Patrick.
  • In the realm of getting to hang out with really famous people, I somehow ended up having lunch with Kate Elliott and Victoria Schwab (!!!) and drinks with Joe Abercrombie and Joe Hill (highlights included swapping dog pictures with Victoria and Kate, and watching hilariously gruesome public service announcements with Joe H), wondering the entire time how I managed to get there and waiting for someone to realise and kick me out.
  • We managed a catch-up breakfast with the Robin’s Kitchen Table crowd – friends from around the world who met through the old Robin Hobb fan group on SFF.net – was so lovely to see Sini, Steve and Guido, and exchange stroopwaffels and Tim Tams and strange peppery licqorice! 🙂
  • I met some industry greats like Gollancz editor Gillian Redfearn, esteemed reviewer Liz Bourke, and excellent blogger pals from across the world like Timy Takács, Adam ‘Swiff’ Weller, TS Chan & Yasser Ahmed.
  • Exchanged Irn Bru for Tim Tams with my Scottish pals Emma and Dave, continuing our tradition of meeting in glamourous locations and trying to kill each other with diabetes.
  • I got to hang in person with online author friends including the above as well as Laura Lam, Cameron Johnson, Kareem Mahfouz, Ben Galley, Anna Smith Spark, Dyrk Ashton, RJ Barker, Tasha Suri, Melissa Caruso & Anna Stephens, all of whom were just as fab in person as they are online (some of them even more so!). I did not manage to meet and befriend SA Chakraborty (foiled!) but did find Fonda Lee finally on the very last day, who is as cool and lovely as you’d expect, and managed to at least find the gorgeous Fran Wilde and say hi in person, which I didn’t manage last Worldcon despite all attempts.
  • I caught a train with Adrian Tchiakovsky and talked about statutory interpretation, as it turns out we are both lawyer nerds
  • HUGOs! I watched the stream with friends and drinks from the bar rather than actually getting into the ceremony, but it was amazing seeing so many talented people getting recognition. Special shoutout to the brilliant Jeanette Ng, who was not only a winner but an amazing instrument of change, and also to my friend, the wonderful and talented Mia (Likhain), for winning for her amazing art.
  • I also found out after the Hugos were announced and they released the numbers etc that I actually made the once-the-Campbell-now-the-Astounding longlist for best new writer. Considering the company that puts me in, I was extremely humbled and delighted to have been nominated by enough attendees to make that list, so thank you so much to those who did.

Though I couldn’t bring my husband and kids this time (next year!) I was very lucky to have my awesome sister Meg (or Gemma, as she may have been introduced to you if we met in Dublin) and honourary little sister Jacinta in tow the whole time, and we squeezed in a few days of holiday before and after the con, including getting to go up to NI and stay with cousins on their farm. Meg and Cin kept me sane, let me drag them around everywhere, kept cups of tea in hand and made sure I didn’t miss any panels – thanks girls! #TeamGoblin

I didn’t see anywhere *near* enough of the people I wanted to see, or spend as much time with friends as I wanted to (I got fleeting hellos at best with a bunch of people I would like to have had time to have a proper meal with!) but that’s all the more reason to do it all again next year in NZ, eh?

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Homeward bound

 

 

 

Worldcon approaching!

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It is with excitement and no small degree of alarm that I can now say ‘I’m going to Ireland next week!’ and fortunately the Worldcon programme is now finalised, so I can tell you where you can find me!

Of course in addition to these fixed events, I’ll also be wandering around and attending panels and hanging out in the bar for the whole con, and I am very happy for a chat whenever, so please do come and say hello. If we know each other from online, let me know!

Autographs

16 Aug 2019, Friday 14:00 – 14:50, Level 4 Foyer (CCD)

I will be signing at the same time as many more famous authors than me, so just think how great you’ll feel popping over to see me instead of waiting an hour to see Victoria Schwab or Marie Brennan! I will happily scribble in a copy of my book if you have one, and will also have bookmarks and bookplates if you don’t. Or, hell, I’ll scribble in someone else’s book, if you want.

With Victoria “V.E.” Schwab, Marie Brennan, Sarah Pinsker, Taiyo Fujii, & Mary Turzillo

I will be on the following panels:

Liking problematic things

15 Aug 2019, Thursday 12:00 – 12:50, Liffey Hall-2 (CCD)

What happens when you find out that something you really love is sexist, racist, homophobic, ableist, or similarly problematic – or that a performer, director, or producer whose work you liked a lot is not who you thought they were? Can you still enjoy problematic creations? How do you reconcile your enjoyment with your values? Our panellists have felt your pain and have some tips to share.

With Leo Adams, A. T. Greenblatt, & Sarah Gulde

Introduction to hopepunk

15 Aug 2019, Thursday 20:00 – 20:50, Wicklow Hall 2B (CCD)

Alexandra Rowland coined the term ‘hopepunk’ in a Tumblr post in 2017, saying that: ‘…the opposite of Grimdark is Hopepunk’. Our panel will discuss what the term means and how hopepunk intersects with other speculative sub-genres such as grimdark, noblebright, and solarpunk, as well as offering reading recommendations.

With Jo Walton, Alexandra Rowland, & Lettie Prell

 

Using SFF as sandboxes for ideas on politics and society

16 Aug 2019, Friday 16:00 – 16:50, Wicklow Room-3 (CCD)

Speculative fiction can offer readers and writers a space, removed from ‘real’ life, to explore and criticise society and politics and offer possible solutions. From the economy of your galactic empire to the status of dwarves in your epic fantasy, it is impossible to separate the political from the fantastical, and SFF is a great place to imagine other ways of existing.

With Nicholas Whyte, Eyal Kless, & Taiyo Fujii

Send in the crones: older women in SFF

17 Aug 2019, Saturday 21:00 – 21:50, Wicklow Hall-1 (CCD)

Very often SFF stories centre on young women, with older female characters being consigned to background dressing at best and cliched depictions of elders and antagonists at worst. Is anyone writing stories that focus on older women? Where are the middle-aged heroines?

With Lauren Roy, Ali Baker, Devin Madson, & Julie C. Day

 

Melbournians! Come hither!

It’s event season, apparently, because somehow June has snuck up on us without any warning, no polite note slipped under the door, no quick text reminder, just appearing with no notice like the UTTER BASTARD it is.

Ahem.

The good side, when you stop with the existential dread that comes from realising almost half the year is gone, is that it’s Continuum time! I will be in Melbourne for this year’s Continuum 15, and looking forward to hopefully seeing many of you lovely folk there.

The full program is here but you can see me on the following panels:

  • Friday 6pm: Publishing Q&A: Join Abigail NathanAlex AdsettDevin MadsonJack DannDarren Nash and me to ask whatever questions you might have about the murky and mysterious totally transparent and logical world of publishing!
  • Saturday 11am: Animals in SFF: From creating new animals from the bones up to renaming the ones we already have, a look at all things animals in SFF. Porgs, tribbles, thestrals, dragons and so much more. Discussion of the ethics of Fantastic Beasts and how to avoid cultural appropriation of mythical creatures from other cultures most welcome. Join Paula BoerCarolyn DenmanClare Rhoden and me to talk weird and wonderful creatures in SFF
  • Sunday 11am: Sports in SFF: Quidditch! Podracing! Blood bowl! Calvinball! What would you like to see in a speculative fiction Olympics? Join  Freya MarskeKate ElliottDevin Madson and me to talk sports!
  • Sunday 3pm: What makes a hero? What makes someone a hero, not just a protagonist? Why do some people argue that Snape was the real hero of Harry Potter? Join Gillian PolackE. J. BeatonAiki Flinthart and me to shout angrily that Snape is not ‘the real hero’ of anything calmly discuss heroes!
  • Monday 11am: Recommendations panel: This is where TamElizabeth Fitzgerald and I shout at you to buy the books that we love

I will also be at the award ceremony on Saturday arvo, where I am up for 2 categories of Ditmar (best novel and best new talent), and the Norma K Hemming award, and although I have no expectations of winning any of them, I will at least be in attendance this time just in case! 🙂

Come and find me and say hi if you’re planning to be around. If we know each other from the internet, please let me know that we do – I have no capacity to match twitter avatars to actual humans so you’ll have to give me a hint, I’m very old and tired after all.

See you soon!

I won a thing!

So last night was the Aurealis Award ceremony in Melbourne. (For context for my overseas readers, the Aurealis Awards are Australia’s big national juried SFF awards). City of Lies was shortlisted for Best Fantasy Novel but I didn’t go to the ceremony because – well, because of quite a few things; I’d already been to Melbourne in March for Cursed Child and am going again in June for Continuum and I didn’t think I could justify the expense, juggling kids’ activities on weekends is hard for the remaining parent, and honestly, with the mess around book 2 I haven’t really been feeling super positive about my writing and I genuinely didn’t think I had a chance. All solid reasons. I stayed home with my family and sat in bed with a glass of wine to watch the awards on the livestream, happily texting with friends who were there, including my friend and agent sibling Devin Madson (whose excellent ‘We Ride the Storm’ was also shortlisted for Best Fantasy Novel, and which you should absolutely rush out and buy if you haven’t already).

Dev had offered to accept on my behalf if I did win and had asked me to write an acceptance speech for her to deliver for me and I put it off and put it off and eventually told her that I was far too British* to write a speech for an award I wasn’t going to win, it was too embarrassing to think about, and I jokingly said she could say ‘I’m too British for this… *mumble mumble embarrassed thank you*” in the unlikely event that I did.

Which. Uh.

Here is my real time reaction as they read the results (excuse the usual profanity):

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But she is fabulous and did a lovely speech which is FAR more than her idiot friend deserves, and holy CRAP I won an Aurealis guys!!  (As did many other awesome writers – special shout out to my pal Maria Lewis whose wonderful The Witch Who Courted Death tied with me to win Best Fantasy Novel, and to other excellent folks including Shauna O’Meara, Joseph Ashley-Smith, Kaaron Warren, Stephanie Gunn, Juliet Marillier and Cat Sparks, as well as so many worthy authors on the shortlists – too many friends and talented colleagues to list here, but check out the full list of the winners and the shortlist)

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The moral to this story is,  don’t prepare and rewards will come your way? Uh. That’s probably not meant to be it?

Anyway I did a big gabbly rant thanking people on twitter and FB but obviously, huge thanks to the Aurealis organisers and judges for your time and efforts (and for picking meeeee! 🙂 ), to my agent Julie and my publishing team including editors Diana and Simon (from Tor and Transworld/Penguin respectively), to my hugely supportive husband, children, siblings, parents, extended family and friends – honestly couldn’t do this ridiculous writing gig without you all. Love you to pieces.**

(And hey if you are in the US and haven’t read the book yet, by great coincidence City of Lies is on sale for a measly $2.99 on all the electronic platforms, a price that even my six year old could afford with 2 weeks pocket money if he were so inclined, and if I do say so myself that is a pretty good ratio of hours of entertainment per dollar – no idea how long this will last though so hop to it! Link to US sale.)

I will leave you with my favourite review of City:

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and would like to note that this is officially AWARD WINNING GIBBERISH now, mate.


* In spirit, I mean, in the Very British Problems sense, rather than by actual nationality. Some of us Aussies are very British in that sense, I promise.

** Not literal pieces, obviously, what are you *thinking*, these are *GOOD* people

Ripping the bandaid right off

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

This isn’t a fun announcement to make, so I’m gonna bandaid this sucker and tell you all that I’m sorry to have to say that Hollow Empire is being delayed. Although we all worked really hard to have the book ready for release this year, my editor didn’t feel that the story was as strong as it could be, and we are starting from scratch with a view to publishing the sequel in late 2020 instead.

The good news is that I’m still going to be working really hard to bring you a story that you’ll love. The bad news is that’s just going to take longer than any of us wanted. I absolutely hate having to disappoint the readers, bloggers, and booksellers who loved and supported City of Lies and had been looking forward to Hollow Empire. So many of you took the time and effort to reach out to tell me, to review the book, or tell your friends and family about it; it’s a cliché, but this was my lifelong dream and you all made it feel real. It sucks to have to make you wait. But I promise to do my utmost to bring you something that you’ll love, even if it’s not as timely as planned.

Thanks for understanding.

Cheers

Sam

A bit of an update…

… because I’m aware it’s been awfully quiet over here while I was working on the revisions to Hollow Empire. Those are safely in the hands of my editor at Tor and I am slowly feeling human again!  Turning a 300K behemoth into something a little more digestible was quite a task, but I’m really proud of the revised version and I hope you guys are going to love it.

In other news, City of Lies just made the shortlist for the Aurealis award for Best Fantasy Novel! For those of you outside the country, these are Australia’s major judged speculative fiction awards, and it is a huge honour to be on the list.

The best thing about the shortlist is that it’s full of excellent writers and friends of mine (particular shoutout to my agent sister Devin Madson, whose We Ride the Storm was one of my favourite books of the year, and to the brilliant Maria Lewis, who’s slowly recruiting all members of my family as fans via her excellent The Witch Who Courted Death), so I’ll be happy whoever wins, but it’s an enormous privilege to be sitting by them.

The other major Australian spec fic awards are the Ditmars – these are our fan-voted awards (so sort of like the Australian Hugos). City of Lies is eligible to be nominated in the Best Novel category and since I’ve never done anything before this, I’m eligible in the Best New Talent category, so if you enjoyed the books or me generally, haha, you can nominate via this form. If you are going to Continuum this June, or you’re otherwise active in fandom, you’re eligible to nominate. Full rules here.

I am also finally organising my first newsletter, so if you’d like to hear (very occasional*) updates about what’s happening, you can sign up on the Contact pageI hope to be sending that out in the next couple of weeks so now’s a good time to get on the list.

Now, back to grinning like a wee idiot about this shortlist! 🙂

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* So occasional that it has not yet occurred even once… I won’t be regular spamming you is what I’m saying, no matter what my primary school nickname was.

Holiday giveaway!

48373193_10156978899509809_5370928282357202944_nSome of my fellow 2018 debut fantasy authors are getting together and giving away this amazing mega bundle of books, loaded onto a Kindle Fire.* To go into the draw, all you need to do is comment beneath this blog post (or on the equivalent post on FB, twitter or insta) AND sign up to my newsletter

I will host a random draw of entries on 22 December and the winner of that round will win ONE book of their choice from the list of 11 books, plus go in the grand prize draw for the kindle and the whole list.

GOOD LUCK!

* International entries are OK but the exact nature of the prize may vary depending on region.