Friday, August 10, 2012

Tempus fugit

Isn't it amazing how quickly two years can fly by? And even more amazing that nine years can seem like last month? Maybe it's a sign of age, but I’m finding as I get older that time is telescoping into ever-smaller collapsible segments.

It's already time for another mini-con at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre in Greenmount, a lovely district in the hills that lie east of Perth, Western Australia. Greenmount is really an outer suburb these days, but when Australian writer and political activist Katharine Susannah Prichard lived there (she died in 1969 at the age of 86) Greenmount was a tiny place and considered to be a long way out of Perth. Her house is now a writers centre; one I have been involved with for ten years.

In 2003, I attended a workshop at KSP with Perth author Dave Luckett, also known as DH Lawrence. I learnt so much from that workshop that I was delighted when Dave suggested that a speculative fiction group be started at the centre.

About a dozen people attended the first get-together, and after we’d been meeting for a few months, some of us formed a team to produce an entry for the 2004 Book-in-a-Day contest, which is run annually by the Centre. Led by Dave Luckett and Stephen Dedman, the team also included several authors who have gone on to achieve other gongs in the publishing world – Ian McHugh, for instance, who created the cover art as well as writing his obligatory chapter, has since won many other awards for both artwork and writing, and has an impressive run of short stories to his credit. James Hansen, Carol Ryles and I have also had some success with our work (Carol has a novella in the pipeline – watch this space!) while Lee Battersby is forging a career for himself as an arts administrator, writer and writing coach. His first book, The Corpse-Rat King, is just on the market from Angry Robot publishing.

And guess what? TA DAH … Lee is launching the book at the KSP SF group’s fourth biennial mini-con next month!

It was actually Lee and I who got the mini-con going. Numbers in the newly-formed group dwindled a bit after that first rush of enthusiasm, and at one meeting we were wondering what we might do to perk up our own interest and maybe attract a few more people. The first mini-con, held in late winter of 2006, was the fruit of our discussion.

It was hard work, though. There are two clear-cut sets of responsibilities involved, and realistically, it’s not practical to have more than one person working on each set of duties, so the bulk of the work falls on two pairs of shoulders right up until the day of the convention. On the day, of course, it’s all hands to the wheel – we take entrance money from several score attendees; we prepare and serve a hearty mid-day meal, we feed and water our invited guests and sit with them on panels ranging from topics as diverse as character creation, the writing of erotica and the role played by the internet in modern publishing, and at the end of the day we clear it all away for another two years.

I have been one of the two organisers for the first three mini-cons, but this year Helen Venn (who took over from Lee when he moved to the Deep South) and I can take a back seat while two other members, Carol, David and Lynda, take over. They are learning fast, so hopefully Helen and I can retire gracefully from the mini-con field after this year. My biggest chore this time will be minding a bookstall for a few hours.

We bill it as ‘the writers' con’ because it’s run BY readers and writers of Speculative Fiction FOR readers and writers of speculative fiction! No movies, no gaming, no cosplay – just lots of talk about reading and writing books!

Local authors come ready and willing to sign books and chat with like-minded souls. This year, for instance, Juliet Marillier hopes to be there to discuss her newest book, Shadowfell. (I’ve already read it and it’s a beauty!)

And, as announced above, we are proud to have foundation member Lee Battersby launching his first novel. If you want to be among the first in Perth to get a copy, get thee to the KSP SF mini-con! It’s at Katharine’s Place, 11 Old York Road, Greenmount, on Sunday 9 September, starting at 10.00 am.

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