I arrived at Aussicon 4 (my first) with many expectations including the will to listen and learn from this rare gathering of experts in the field of speculative fiction. I knew I would be dazzled by the Hugo and Ditmar award ceremonies, and of course I was. I also knew that I would have the opportunity to speak to writers whose work I have read and admired over the years. To this end I was not disappointed.
I had also signed up for three panels and from the very start felt daunted at the prospect. But my fears were quickly dispelled when my fellow panellists proved thoughtful and generous. I not only learned to voice my knowledge confidently, but also learned many new ways of understanding the topics we were discussing. I’d like to thank Juliet Marillier, Trudi Canavan, Richard Harland, Leanne Hall, Ellen Kushner, Rani Graff, Helen Lowe and Ben Chandler for giving me the opportunity to work with them. You all rock.
My only complaint about the panels (it’s actually a compliment to the organizers) is that there were too many to choose from, and for every panel I chose to listen to, there was one or two running at the same time that I wished I could attend also. But for me, the panel that helped the most with my writing was The Steampunk Playground with John Berlyne, Richard Harland and Jay Lake. I went into it expecting to learn about the direction that steampunk was taking and was not disappointed. But something else happened for me as well. I started thinking about the novel I am still second drafting and, as John, Jay and Richard spoke about the mad science factor and the attraction of Steampunk’s visual elements, it suddenly dawned on me how to make my novel not just work but really work. Thanks to this panel, I am now on a much better footing to get this novel finished, knowing exactly where I want it to go and how to get there. I thank John, Jay and Richard for that. Their panel alone made Aussiecon 4 a worthwhile venture for me.
One of the most daunting aspects of the con for me was the twenty-five minute reading slot I signed up for. I decided before hand that I would read from something published – something safe, that I knew more than one reader would approve of. However, at the last moment, I decided that I’d take a risk and read from my novel instead, and hopefully gauge genuine listener reactions to it. So I read the first chapter – one that has been redrafted several times over to the point where I cannot think how to improve it. I began, terrified that people would walk out. But when they stayed till the end, I felt confident that yes, this novel is starting to work. And yes, I will finish it. Huge thanks to everyone who came and listened to me.
Finally the fun part of Aussiecon will be as memorable as the work aspects. I am infinitely grateful to all the generous, amazing people that talked to me, dined with me, partied with me, as well the new friends and old friends who made me feel like I belonged at Aussiecon. For me, this convention was one of those life experiences that will always remain up there with the best.