Monday, 16 November 2015

Another Nova Over...

As I arrived at Nottingham's Park Inn Hotel on Friday afternoon, it really didn't feel like a year had elapsed since last year's Novacon. Here I was already about to do it all over again. And here are my personal highlights...

Novacon 45 saw the usual mix of socialising, book launches and talk panels, which included a superb mix of science, science fiction and publishing. This year's Guests of Honour were writers Stan and Anne Nicholls – lovely people, whose books I've come home with and look forward to reading.

As usual my involvement was exhibiting at the art show, which this year saw a really good variety of artists and styles, including resident artists David A. Hardy and Sue Jones, and first-time displays from Anne Nicholls, with a selection of delightfully eerie fantasy paintings, and Mike Gould, whose display of disturbed surrealism and abstracts really gave the art show a different edge.

Even if overall attendance appeared to be slightly less than usual (this was at least my perception), the art room had a pretty constant influx of visitors, which was nice.

My own art display

Having recently produced my first cover for independent publisher Elsewhen Press, it was great to meet up with the team again at Novacon, and also meet many of their other authors. Most significantly, I was instantly welcomed into what has become known as the 'Elsewhen Family', and treated to dinner at a nearby Indian restaurant. Great company, great food and great conversation – who could ask for more?

This year also saw the Initiative for Interstellar Studies (I4IS) make their Novacon debut. While I4IS' mission is centred around creating a sustainable future in the stars and the technology and engineering required, much of its foundation really stems from science fiction – so Novacon being a heavily literary and science-oriented event, this was certainly the perfect audience for I4IS.

Director Kelvin F. Long with the I4IS display in the dealer's room

Sadly, the tragic events in Paris did affect the mood of the event come the Saturday morning – I don't intend to dwell on this, as I simply cannot find sufficient words. But needless to say, knowing what devastating acts stupidity were going on just across the Channel, did make our little event feel futile and irrelevant. But in the same sense it also highlighted the community feel at the heart of Novacon, and brought the crowd together. It was a topic on everyone's lips.

I attended various discussion panels over the weekend, including a fascinating genre discussion, touching on the vibrant YA scene and the ups and downs of self-publishing and the ongoing struggle to be fond or seen in a heavily saturated market. This had actually evolved out of an initial discussion about what makes decent SF, and if anything I found these subjects very insightful and posed questions that the publishing and self-publishing industries will need to find answers and solutions to in the very near future. Writers on the panel included Bryony Pearce and Janet Edwards.

Floodtide author Helen Claire Gould (wife of the aforementioned Mike) was present for the whole weekend, and presented an original panel on geology, which involved an interesting examination of various stones and rocks, where the audience got to participate and look at them under magnifiers, which in no time were being compared to strange alien landscapes!

The audience rocked up to the stage (literally) to examine Helen's geology collection.

Sunday saw the launch of Katrina Mountfort's Forbidden Alliance (out now from Elsewhen Press). This is a cover I'm extremely proud of, particularly because because Mountfort's Blueprint series is exactly my kind of dystopian SF. I had really enjoyed the first book, Future Perfect, so it was great to see Forbidden Alliance have its official launch – complete with mugs and t-shirts!

Katrina Mountfort and Elsewhen Press' Peter Buck

Author, book, artist and t-shirt!

The Sunday afternoon saw the traditional art auction, where work from the show went under the hammer – a pleasing time for us artists, as a chance to make a bit of cash!

Closing the panel of events was the Initiative for Interstellar Studies, with Kelvin F. Long's enthralling and passionate talk on The Physics of Starships in Science Fiction.

But, in no time at all, it was all over. Again! It's always a slightly sad moment on the last day to be disassembling the art show, which we'd lovingly installed on the Friday afternoon – the art show organisers Serena and John work tirelessly every year to put on a great show and they really know how to look after their artists.

A great event, as always and a pleasure to meet so many nice and likeminded people. Here's to Novacon 46!

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