GenreCon: The Aftermath

By the time you read this it will have been a little over a week since the inaugural AWM GenreCon ended. I’m going to specify this upfront, ’cause a portion of the content has been written before, during, and after the con, fitting into the little slices of time where I have sufficient brainpower to write. Some of these fragments made sense. Some of them did not. Such is the nature of running conventions.

Point the First: GENRECON ROCKED

I can scarcely believe I’m able to say this, since I spent so long fretting about the various ways that the conference could have gone wrong, but GenreCon proved to be a smashing success. Attendees were happy, guests were happy, my boss was really happy.

We got a massive response rate to the pitching program (and a really high proportion of pitchers got asked to submit partials), the program was packed out, and for once I was at a con where you couldn’t actually find people in the bar when panelling was taking place.

If you’re looking at my definition of success, based on a couple of years going to SF cons, that’s it right there. We spent weeks arguing about the program trying to achieve that no-one in the bar effect, and I’m really glad it was all worthwhile.

‘Course, me being me, I’m not entirely happy with the way things went. There are so many little things I wanted to go a little smoother, a bunch of tiny gaffs I wish I could go back and correct. This is as it should be, I think, ’cause if I got it right I wouldn’t be anywhere near as enthusiastic about next year.

And there is a next year. GenreCon 2013 will be held in Brisbane. It was all announced, official-like, at the end of the con. Watch this space for details.

Point the Second: TALENT MATTERS

GenreCon wasn’t my first bite of the cherry when it comes to running a con program, so I’m under no illusion that the event success was all down to me. Truth is, running a con is a lot of work and it just about kills the person in the convenor’s seat, but it seems to me that a lot of the success and failure of the event comes down to the Guests and Program Participants. If they’re friendly, generous with their time, and available to the attendees, then you’re pretty much made.

Our guests this year? So. Fricken’. AWESOME.

Our volunteer program panellists? See the above.

In some cases this wasn’t really a surprise. QWC has an established relationship with all the agents and publishers we programmed, plus we’ve worked with writers like Anna Campbell, Helene Young, PM Newton, and Simon Higgins in the past. They’re known quantities and they were invited specifically because we knew they would rock the damn Kasbah when they arrived (and they did). Similarly…well, we read Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. We had a lot of confidence that Sarah Wendell would knock it out of the park as a guest (and she did).

Some of the other names…well, let’s just say they were an educated guess. Joe Abercrombie is a big enough name that he’s a veteran of SF cons, but even with that in mind he proved to be the kind of charming and endearing con guest that makes it all worthwhile. We’d invited Canberra-based writer Dan O’Malley because his first book, The Rook, created huge waves when it was released earlier in the year (I believe the conversation actually went “does anyone know anything about him? No? Well, we’ll give him a go). It turns out he’s never been to a con before, but he’s utterly made for it – funny, enthusiastic, extraordinarily generous with his fellow writers. I kinda want Australian SF conferences to start inviting him along, ’cause he’s going to charm the hell out of fandom when he eventually comes into contact with that particular readership.

If you’re running a convention anywhere in the world, I can utterly recommend any of our GenreCon guests without hesitation. Our program participants too, who were awesome across the board.

Point the Third: TEAM QWC? TOTES AWESOME

I’m not really shy about the fact that I adore the people I work with. They are, to a person, smart, dedicated, passionate, and utterly awesome.

Even by those standards, I came to really adore them in the weeks leading up to GenreCon. For a really long time the con was the thing that lived in my head, and that kinda ran me into the red zone on stress levels.

All that changed about three weeks out from GenreCon.  Suddenly find that all these tasks that were doing my head in would be…done. Major catastrophes would hit and someone would be all “don’t worry, I can fix that,” and then they would. Often, they’d fix things so they were better than they’d been before.

Occasionally I talk to people in the arts and publishing who are amazed at how much QWC does with such a small team. Mostly, that’s possible, ’cause that small team is like a crack squad of ninja when it comes to getting stuff done.

Point the Fourth: HOLY FUCK I’M TIRED

Seriously, I’ve spent the week since the con walking around like a man whose gone ten rounds in a boxing match. I’ve got the kind of sleep debt that means the Sandman sends leg-breakers around to the house to strongly suggest that you really should pay that sleep back before something…untoward…happens, you know? Which is then followed by some meaningful staring, and the swinging of baseball bats that accidently shatter your favourite lamp.

‘Course, I’ve immediately followed up GenreCon by working four weekends in a row. This is the curse of not paying attention to the things that happen after the con when you’re asked to do stuff. On the other hand, I’m really looking forward to getting to the point where it hits two o’clock in the afternoon and I don’t feel like I’ve been hit by a truck.

I’m taking today off, ’cause I need it, but I have a feeling it’s barely going to make a dent in the sleep debt. I’m taking a week off in December. As in, a week that is not the week that I take off anyway, ’cause QWC shuts down over the holiday. My original plan was to go to Melbourne and do stuff. My revised plan is to flake out on the couch and sleep. Maybe write some stuff. Anything that reduces my contact with other human beings down to the mandatory minimum required to still be considered a part of the human race.

Point the Fifty: TOTALLY WORTH IT

We talked about tribes a lot at GenreCon. How to find them, how to recognise them, how important it is to get in touch with yours. We tried to help people with that as much as we could, giving our platform over to the various organisations that represent genre tribes in Australia.

Spec Fic was represented by volunteers from Conflux, next year’s NatCon. I’ve both been to Natcons, and to a certain extent I can look at them and say yes, these are my tribes.

But that’s a lie, really. My tribe has always been writers and passionate readers, regardless of their genre. There is nothing that makes me happier than looking out and knowing I had a hand in an event where writers have gathered to learn, develop, and advance their careers. I’m really excited to see how things develop from here, both in terms of the writers themselves and the way GenreCon runs in future years.

Thanks to everyone who came and participated and generally made the weekend a blast.

  3 comments for “GenreCon: The Aftermath

  1. 12/11/2012 at 11:10 PM

    Hey Peter,

    Congratulations on a really well-run and enjoyable (not to say useful) event. I had a great time, and I'd never have known it was the first one. Can't say I've been to many cons that have run so smoothly. Look forward to attending again … some day …

  2. 13/11/2012 at 3:15 AM

    Peter, I was amazed and overjoyed at how Genrecon worked – how much it felt like the more interesting academic conferences I've been to, only INTERESTING and useful to me. It's simply the most practical event I've been to in my publishing career to date.

    And, man. That no one in the bar thing. It really freaked me out. I got the hang of it by day 2, but it was CREEPY AND BEWILDERING. Which says a lot about me and what I'm used to, actually. Because of course the whole 'the best convention happens in the bar' thing only works if you know enough of the cool people to be in on those conversations. Instead, you brought the bar into the program. I have no idea how you did it but I will totally have my eye on you next time.

    Thanks to the complete peer pressure to attend workshops and panels, and the cleverness of the topics/presenters, I ended up feeling like I got far more from the convention than I put into it, which is a new thing for me.

    Also, I still talked to people almost constantly about industry stuff. New people and friends I never have enough time to talk to. I am so excited to see all the projects and partnerships that comes out of this event.

    Considering that it took me 4 years to get the hang of regular SF conventions, this whole thing has blown my mind a bit. But in a good way.

    Love and kisses,

    TansyRR

    & Livia Day

  3. 17/11/2012 at 8:14 AM

    As soon as I have some publication credit I can justify going :). Seriously disappointed I could not attend but I am sure that when the time is right careerwise I'll be there.

    I was going to say that Joe Abercrombie was seriously impressed but he beat me to it 😀

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