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Stewart Hotston

Writing, Editing, Watching and Reading

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Noobs

Reflections from a noob on the conservation of information

This weekend I went to Fantasy Con here in the UK and it was brilliant. This is the second convention I’ve been to, after Nineworlds a little earlier in the year. It was a little smaller than I was expecting but filled with people from across the industry – writers, readers, editors, publishers and even an agent or two. I was supposed to be at a LARP (but a broken tarsal put paid to that) but requests that I do a couple of panels sold me on going because, hey, I quite like talking about stuff when asked and in this case they were topics I felt I could at least contribute to without looking silly.

I also went to a bunch of panels and worked hard on BarCon (which as you can imagine included alcohol). There was a sinister room of which Allen Stroud kindly took a few of us on a tour – only to regret it almost instantly.

 

In terms of personal goals I wanted to meet people in the industry, get to know them, explore current trends and figure out where I go next. Talking to someone about pitches (I think it was Jon Oliver from Solaris/Abaddon) reminded me that I hate being sold to and although as an author I need to find a way to communicate what I’m passionate about writing, I was committed to actually having a good time, laughing and making some new friends (if that last isn’t too bold).

I was delightfully entertained by Nate Crowley every time we crossed paths and I hope we get to crew together at Empire next year because I think we’d make a frightening double act.

I have lots of people to thank, not least David Moore and Jon Oliver for always being around to chat to, Adrian Tchaikovsky (and Annie), Phil Sloman, Simon Bestwick, Allen Stroud, Jeanette Ng, Anna Smith Spark, Theresa Derwin and David Tallerman for all being sparkling company and having interesting stuff to say.

The highlight though was that after my comment last week that I wasn’t quite sure what to do next and entirely different option as presented as the most obvious answer. Roped into a discussion about cosmology (in the theoretical physics sense) I got a bit fanboy about information theory and how there’s a great first contact story in it and someone said – ‘don’t just talk about it, write it because I want to read that story.’

I was pleased to hear it but then it was pointed out that they were a commissioning editor. So guess what…I’m now writing out and planning that very novella. Which involves me reading information theory thermodynamics papers from Arxiv.org…oh, and the stages of grief as it’s that kind of story.

At the same time I got an open invite to pitch to another publisher whose work I love. I’m now also frantically editing that piece because it’s in need of it but there you go. I’m not sure it’s for them but everyone who’s read the alpha version thinks it’s the most compelling piece I’ve written so you never know…

Mixing Professionals and Newbies

Professionals eh? I think, generally, they’re just people who’ve managed to get stuff done ™. However, one other thing tends to differentiate them from those who are not professional. I don’t mean that in the sense that everyone else is unprofessional. More that professionals have a couple of habits that I find rather helpful.

  1. They know how to get stuff done – if they find blockages or obstacles, they don’t need someone to give them a manual, they try to figure it out for themselves
  2. They don’t take everything personally. People sometimes assume that they are their jobs and in those circumstances their egos can get bruised easily when things don’t go their way, when they’re not successful or, worse, when others disagree with them (or actually do them wrong). Professionals tend to stuff the emotional stuff down and deal with it later while they get the job done – they focus past the immediate.

Why this focus on professionals as if they’re some form of Greek hero?

In the very narrow context of anthologies – we’re working to open submissions for our first anthologies (go here to see the announcements) and we’re really very keen to get some people whose work we really love together with some people whose stories will be published for the very first time.

I don’t know what to expect in terms of quality, number or even styles. I’m pretty excited to tell the truth but what I’m also going to be looking for is people, who even if they’re new, have that air of professional to them – who bother to read the submissions guidelines and bother to submit on time. It’ll be interesting to see how that pans out.

Of course, I talk about others but hey, we still have to be professional too and that’s a whole other story!

 

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