‘So THAT Was BristolCon 2022… (convention report)

Before BristolCon 2022!

BristolCon is a now annual one-day friendly Science Fiction and Fantasy convention held on the last Saturday in October at the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel. This is, according to their website (https://www.bristolcon.org), 400 metres away from Bristol Temple Meads railway station. Yes, the one Brunel helped build!

The convention comprised two streams of panels, readings and guest of honour interviews, two streams of small workgroups and kaffeeklatsches, a dealers’ room and an artists’ display area. This is a similar format to last year’s BristolCon.

For this year, they added an Open Mic session on the Friday evening, which was ably run by Bav (BristolCon’s vice-chair). It was an eclectic mix of readings of readings, mainly Science Fiction pieces, some serious and others hilarious.

The guests of honour, Liz Williams and Stark Holborn, have both written Science Fiction and Fantasy. Liz Williams then went on to launch her new book, ‘The Fallow Sisters’, with the help of her publisher, Ian Whates at Newcon Press. I did not attend any of these events, but you could feel the buzz of excitement as the panel room disgorged its audience. So they must have had fun and been riveting!

The dealers’ room was full, buzzing with excitement and sales and with the continuous chatter of the meet and greet of old friends. It was nice to see so many local businesses and those with long term BristolCon associations there. The dealers did spill over into the art space. The art show was not as extensive as in previous years, in part due to its main organiser being forced to stay away. There were interesting models, leather goods, photographs and pargeting. Yes I do mean pargeting, which is external artwork. Here is a photo of Mike Hardwick with his targeting:


Mike Hardwick with his Pargeting.

Certainly something very different…and those stones did weigh quite a bit! What was interesting was I recognised what every piece of his artwork represented.

As I was interested in Science Fiction and writing, these are the panel sessions I concentrated on. First up was ‘Pixies In Space’, which was about whether folklore and local legend could end up being an inspiration for Science Fiction as well as fantasy. I felt the discussion tended to devolve to the differences between the two genres, but it did eventually conclude with the idea that both genres recycle stories from myth and legend and tended to make things ‘wondrous’.

I attended the ‘So You’ve Written A Book. What Now?’ panel. There was an interesting debate of the pros and cons between traditional publishing, self-publishing and hybrid publishing. Here, hybrid publishing refers to the author getting in some professional help for some aspects of publishing their own book. An interesting tip for those authors who want go down the traditional publishing route is to avoid pro-forma applications; try to strike up some form of interaction before formally approaching an agent. If a writer can’t indicate what published books are similar to the one they are offering, they should list the inspiration points instead. One fact I found hard to believe, based on my personal experience, is that an agent takes on between two and five percent of the books they are offered but then I refuse to write standard-ish Science Fiction!

‘Jack Of All Trades’ talked about writing in different genres. The general conclusion seemed to be that unless you were writing erotica, there was very little difference in the writing styles required for different genres. Yes, a couple of authors on the panel admitted to writing erotica! Genre and sub-genre definition is considered a tool of the publishers and booksellers.

Ian Whates came up with an interesting anecdote. His Newcon Press was offered and published Nina Allan’s ‘The Race’ after it had done the rounds and been rejected by all the major publishers. An editor from one such publisher thanked Ian for publishing Nina’s lovely novel. Ian, of course, asked why his publisher had not taken it on. Apparently Nina’s novel had been so unusual it would not fit into any of the formulaic success stories and marketing ploys. The publisher’s moneymen would automatically turn it down and not sponsor it.

As a rule, writers tend not to compromise for the market. They write in the market or they don’t. Editors tend to be on the side of the authors and give their talent as much leeway as they can.

Everyone agreed that there must be a circle of hell where writers are forced to produce synopses for their own novels!

The ‘I’ve Got An Idea’ panel was an in general fun panel about to solve the climate and cost of living crises. Many laughs were had about implementing the rule of unintended consequences eg forcing ants to produce chutneys much like bees produce honey. There was a little bit of seriousness brought up about how Wales was legislating for climate change ie making people think about the impact of their projects on the wellbeing of future generations.

I was actually on one panel, ‘The Disappointment Of AI. It was about why the dreams of sentient robots and computers have not yet been realised and how the panel see AI evolving in the near future. It certainly was a wide-ranging discussion, covering anything from legal responsibility for the functioning of AIs to whether species other than humans will develop true AIs. I can only hope the audience and panel members found my comments interesting.

I did attend one small group session, a general chat session with Gareth L Powell, he of ‘Embers Of War’ fame. He did the author thing of talking about how he came up with ideas and what his plans are for the future…all very convivial.

This report can only be snapshots of parts of BristolCon. There was far more going on, certainly a lot of it to interest the fantasy fans. But the mood towards the end of the day was one of general contentment at a day well spent with one’s tribe of Science Fictionists and Fantasists.

My thanks go to all the people who work so hard behind the scenes to make this an enjoyable experience, especially the BristoCon committee.

Rosie Oliver

October 2022

3 thoughts on “‘So THAT Was BristolCon 2022… (convention report)

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  • Thank you for the mention.
    It really was another very enjoyable day with lots to join in with or listen to. The AI panel was particularly good.

  • Thank you for the mention.
    It really was another very enjoyable day with lots to join in with or listen to. The AI panel was particularly good.
    Room ONE panels and readings are on YouTube under BristolCon.


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