So, this morning, after a good breakfast in the LSE hall and knowing that things wouldn't get started too early, I did a little work before setting off to travel to the con hotel. All I had to do was walk to Russell Square and get the Piccadilly line tube all the way to Heathrow, then hop on the free bus from the airport to the hotel. Simple!
Actually, it was, but I was really glad that I have an Oyster card. You can top them up online, but to be honest, I've only had about a 50% success rate. I don't know why it doesn't always work and you always get your money back a few weeks later, but if the top up hasn't successfully gone on to the card, you need to go to the ticket window to get them to put money on for you. Which is fine, except not when you get to Russell Square tube station and find the queue for tickets stretching out onto the pavement.
Squeezing around the queuing tourists (mostly foreign), I approached the barrier mentally praying to whatever gods are in charge of electronic money transfers and smart card technology. It felt like tossing a coin, heads I get in to the trains, tails I have to slink back and join the end of the queue.
The imaginary coin came down heads and the barrier parted to let me through. Oh, frabjous day. :)
So then it was just a case of sitting on the tube to the terminus and then making my way out to where the buses went from. It did take about half an hour longer than I had thought it would when I made my plans to do the con this way, but on the other hand it wasn't a stressful journey and once the tube came out above ground, I saw some bits of London new to me and the day was beautifully bright and sunny. Anyway, the plan worked and I reached the Radisson Edwardian hotel without incident.
I arrived at about 11.45 am and was in time to register and collect my badge and bag of goodies before listening to George RR Martin read a chapter from his latest novel. As this is number six of a series I have not read (nor have I seen the TV adaptation), I had no idea who the characters were and to be honest, it wasn't really my sort of thing, being an epic fantasy with all male characters, apart from the dusky priestess, who appeared to have no name, but was happy to provide one character with some sexual amusement pre-battle. However, it was perfectly well written for those who like that kind of story, which it seems I no longer do.
There was then an hour with no panels of particular interest, so I grabbed a sandwich in a dining area which turned out to be one of the few bits of the hotel I remembered from my last visit (except it had a swimming pool in it in 1998 and now it doesn't). A very swift tour round the dealers' room was followed by the "Pushing the boundaries of genre" panel. Panelists were: Gillian Redfearn, Paul Cornell, Jon Courtenay Grimwood, Sophia McDougall and Robert VS Redick. This proved very interesting, though I'm not sure that any definite conclusions were reached. I think it was decided that genres were both useful and a hindrance. Having a genre enabled books to be in dialogue with others in the same genre and allowed readers to come to books knowing what to expect and to bring the right reading protocols to the story. (JCG referred to a Thurber story about a woman who tried to read Macbeth as though it were a murder mystery!) On the other hand, there was a danger of people trying to create a hierarchy of genres where some writers/readers look down on others.
One interesting point was made by Robert Redick when he said he went into a bookshop and found no SF section. As he was leaving, he commented to a sales assistant that it was a shame they had no SF and was surprised to told, "Oh, we do have SF, but it's shelved in amongst the other fiction." He realised that after all the years of complaining that SF shouldn't be put into a ghetto, when it was just bundled in with all the other genres, he felt lost and didn't know what to look for.
Brief comment was made that perhaps genres weren't so necessary now with ebooks and self-publication and book sellers like Amazon suggesting, "People who bought this also bought..." A member of the audience suggested that rather than genres, books could come with say three hashtags. However, even if you are self-publishing, if you have a recognisable genre to promote, it helps you to focus your marketing and it gives you a ready made audience.
I would have liked to have stayed on in the room for the talk on "Our new alien masters: The markets", but it was too hot and airless and I was feeling suffocated, so I went out into the atrium and conversed first with del_c and then with birdsedge. Next panel I went to was "There's a hole in my plot", which was amusing, though didn't tell me anything I didn't know already. birdsedge and I then slipped in to catch the end of Cory Doctorow being interviewed by Patrick Nielsen Hayden. I think I will take on board his tip not to go back and revise but to bash on to the end of the story. (Note, he did mention that this advice was specific to him at a particular point in his writing life, but I think it's applicable to me too, so I will take heed of it.)
A few of us had by then assembled and there was then talk of where to eat. The majority decision was to eat in the bistro but I a) didn't want a big meal and b) thought it might take a long time and I was beginning to feel peopled out so I bailed at that point and had an uneventful journey back to Passfield Hall, buying food from a convenient Tesco express on the way back. So, fed and caught up online, I am now ready for bed and another day of interesting panels and conversation tomorrow.