A Jolly Weekend at Mancunicon

Cram a thousand sci-fi writers and fans into a single hotel and what do you get? A fantastic weekend, it turns out.

I spent Easter weekend at Mancunicon, aka Eastercon 2016, one of the biggest UK science fiction and fantasy conventions of the year. It was a great weekend, with interesting talks and panels, lots of fantastic people, and a real ale bar to make up for the terrible hotel beer. I listened to mathematician Colin Wright talk about the maths of juggling, lawyer Lilian Edwards talk about how the Marvel universe explores privacy and identity, and a whole bunch of authors talk about plot twists.

That’s not to mention the late night bar conversations, on everything from the new series of Daredevil to the peril of bees to abandoning author R. A. Smith naked in the streets of Helsinki (it made sense when we were drunk).

 

If you’ve never attended a con then I heartily recommend it. If you’re in the UK then I particularly recommend Eastercon – I’ll certainly be back next year. Reading is more fun if you can enthuse about the books with others later. Writing is a lonely business, and meeting others in your field can be sanity saving. Frankly, any time you can spend with people who share your passions is great, and that’s what this was.

Huge thanks to the volunteers who ran the con.

I’ll finish with a few pictures from the hotel I stayed at. It was a couple of miles from the convention, out in Trafford. This is a somewhat neglected area of Manchester, and I expected a cheap hotel catering to football fans. What I’d forgotten was that it was near the BBC’s media city complex, and so the hotel catered to creative types. Which leads to this…

Predator

 

anchor chain

 

lobby

 

chair

 

books

When characters act out

It might not look like much to you, but to me this is as terrifying as any horror film
It might not look like much to you, but to me this is as terrifying as any horror film

I hate heights, even imaginary ones. But the first time I came to visit Laura in Manchester we rode a huge wheel that lets you see the city from above – like the London Eye, but not in London.* It was something I would never normally do, but Laura suggested it and I didn’t want to say no to the woman I’d been halfway in love with on and off for years, so I said yes. The view was cool, and though my heart was in my stomach the whole time I managed not to completely freak out. The joy of spending time with Laura saw me through it.

I mention this because it’s the sort of moment that says something about my character, and that can be used to say something about characters in fiction. By climbing onto that wheel I was acting completely out of character, but it reflected something deeper about my priorities, which is to say that Laura was very high among them.

When writing characters, consistency is important. But occasional moments when the character acts out of character can also be a powerful tool, the jolt of unexpected behaviour adding tension and focusing the readers’ attention. If used badly or over-used it makes a mess, but if used well it’s a source of drama. At its crudest use, think of all those TV episodes where characters spend the time trying to work out why someone else is acting strangely – it’s not subtle, but it can drive a whole episode’s plot.

I struggled to think of good literary examples of this off the top of my head, but I know they’re out there, so can anyone recommend some?

 

* Or an eye for that matter. And now I’m thinking about how creepy it would be if the London Eye really was an eye, a hundred feet tall and staring down Sauron-like upon the capital.

 

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NaNoWriMo update:

I have my work back under control, at least a bit. That makes me less stressed. It hasn’t given me the energy to catch up on the word count I lost, but it has let me get back on top of the daily writing. Fingers crossed for catching up later.