Science fiction and fantasy                                            


News and events

Symphony of War Declared
The second novel in the Kaddon Keys series is available in ebook.

WFC 2013
Impressions from the World Fantasy Convention held in Brighton in 2013.

Threat Of Massive Closures To Lincolnshire Libraries
Lincolnshire County Council plan to shut down two thirds of Lincolnshire libraries, and to slash mobile library services. They must be stopped.

The BFS Award Nominations, And A Hiatus
This is possibly the best kind of jury duty there is.

FantasyCon 2012
The annual convention of the BFS at Brighton was the first convention to feature a dance-off between Joe Abercrombie and Tom Pollock. It may not be the last.

The In-Between Musical
A new fantasy musical concept album launches, but will Laura Tisdall get to put it on the stage?

SFF Imprints Launching
Berkley UK will debut, and Elsewhen Press is to expand into print.

Lincoln Book Festival 2011
YA authors in costume, steamy paranormal romance, and eye-popping visual appeal from the 2011 Lincoln Book Festival.

Eastercon 2011
Pictures from the 62nd Illustrious Eastercon at the Hilton Metropole in Birmingham.

Genre for Japan
The science fiction, fantasy and horror community is rallying in support of the people of Japan hit by the devastating earthquake and tsunami and its aftermath.

An Interview With John Beachem
John riffs on zombies, trilogies and his plans for The Lorradda Stone, and the Dumbledore and Gandalf deathmatch in this interview.

British Fantasy Awards 2010
Pictures and results from the award ceremony of the British Fantasy Society.

The Heady Heights of Book Reviewing
Take a peek into the Headline offices, where bloggers were let loose on defenceless authors for the Headline Meets Online do on the 24th March.

Novacon 41

16th November 2011

The opening ceremony 
The opening ceremony

John Meaney 
John Meaney at the Transmission launch

John Meaney 
John Meaney

Dr Meghan Gray 
Dr Meghan Gray

Kari Sperring and Julia Robson 
Kari Sperring and Julia Robson

Dave Hardy and Dave Lally  
Dave Hardy and Dave Lally

  Fluff Cthulhu
  Fluff Cthulhu

  Ian Whates, Helena Bowles and Theresa Derwin
  Ian Whates, Helena Bowles and
  Theresa Derwin

Novacon 41 took place from the 11th to the 13th of November at the Park Inn Hotel in Nottingham, a pleasant hotel on the outskirts of the city centre with friendly staff and clean rooms. It's an annual science fiction convention with an emphasis on fandom, culminating in the Nova awards for fanzines, fan writing and art.

The programme was single-stream, which meant it was quite a relaxed weekend without the need to choose between items and inevitably miss something good. There were lots of interesting talks, though. Dr Meghan Gray from the University of Nottingham discussed the evidence for dark matter and dark energy in the universe with some shocking pie charts. On the Sunday Dr Frazer Pearce scared everyone with a run-down of just a few of the scenarios that could lead to planet-wide catastrophe: asteroid strikes, plague, supervolcanoes, and so on. The guest of honour, John Meaney, gave a couple of talks as well as signing copies of his new novel, Transmission, which is due for general release in 2012. Getting a signed copy from him is like getting a personalised essay, he doesn't do anything by halves. John bounces around with kid-in-a-candy-shop enthusiasm, refusing to take himself too seriously, and his talks are a lot of fun. One of the highlights of Novacon for me was his "I Can Make You Write" talk, where he explained the psychological techniques that have helped him and others, and he demonstrated some of the motivational hypnosis that he uses in his other job, when he's not being a writer. It was fascinating and useful. He hypnotised everyone in the room as well, but I don't see any quack quack quack so it obviously didn't affect me.

The women's panel

It's become a staple for conventions lately to have at least one panel about the lack of women's voices in science fiction publishing. Ian Whates agreed to be the token male in Novacon's version, and he gave an explanation of how submissions are skewed because women aren't putting work forward. Kari Sperring suggested that it's because women are pressured or inclined towards perfectionism. Justina Robson talked about the difficulties women face in escaping their biology, and the way she felt about having to justify writing about feelings by adding in a glob of sciencey intellectualism to water down all the touchy-feely stuff.

Helena Bowles from Waterstones talked about her efforts to sell science fiction by women, which for some reason wasn't doing as well as similar works by male writers. The role of subtle clues in cover art and the publisher's input also came up for discussion. I thought it was a very balanced panel with contributions from people working in different areas of publishing and bookselling. Moreover, it made me wonder if the 2 ½ years I've spent polishing the fantasy novel I'm still not ready to submit to publishers is entirely because I'm awash with oestrogen. There are plenty of male perfectionists, but how do editing times stack up between the sexes? It would be a good topic for a poll.


One of the great things about Novacon was getting to chat with lots of interesting people. I learnt that Feòrag NicBhrìde, Charlie Stross and Kari Sperring are cat people, ruled over by felines even more batshit crazy than my own dear dark furry overlord of evil. And talking of overlords, his mightiness Fluff Cthulhu was in attendance, to the quailing and astonishment of all his minions.

I also learnt from Terry Martin that the magazine Murky Depths is closing for financial reasons, but at least he's making some of the strips available as collections. He showed me some of the new covers for Sam Stone's vampire gene series by Rick Fairlamb, which I think look a lot better and make it obvious they're works of fantasy rather than horror/paranormal romance. Sam Stone was the centre of a furore over her BFS award for best novel, so it was nice to be able to get a fresh perspective from other people who were there as well, such as Juliet McKenna and Kari. They were promoting Eightcon Squared and Congenial in Bradford and Cambridge respectively. There's also a bid to host Worldcon in London in 2014, which should be a blast.


Sunday evening saw the awards ceremony and closing speeches. The Novas are very informal, and nobody much cares if the voting system is imperfect or who the winners are related to. It's too casual for that.

The winners were:

  • Best Fan Artist - Dave Hicks
  • Best Fan Writer - Claire Briarley
  • Best Fanzine - Head by Doug Bell and Christina Lake

Overall impressions

This was my first Novacon, and it seemed a very cosy affair. It's a relatively small convention and it could have been a bit cliquey had it not been for the way everyone welcomed me into their conversations and made me feel as if I belonged. People like Dave Lally, D.C., Nik Whitehead, Vernon Brown, and many others. Vernon founded Novacon, and he asked me what I would change about it. The truth is, I wouldn't have it any different. It didn't have the hustle and bustle or the crowds of a big London-based convention might, but as a space to think and debate with like-minded fans, writers, and other creative people it was very successful.

© Ros Jackson