Home Again, Home Again: Post-Natcon, Post-Retreat, Post-Brisbane Post

This is probably the last and latest “post-Natcon” post to show its face on the interwebs — considering it’s now, what, a whole week after the convention ended? — but better late than never, I say.

Angela and Ben Aaronovich

I had a grand time at Contact 2016, which kicked off on the Thursday evening with a completely fun “in conversation” session with Angela and Natcon Guest of Honour, Ben Aaronovich, held at the State Library of Queensland. Ben was full of hilarious anecdotes, tangents, wry advice, and general good humour — just what you want in a GoH — and the audience repaid his great answers with bucketloads of laughter, applause, and cheek-aching smiles.

Friday was the first day of the convention proper, which consisted of many panels (of course), including a great one about speculative fiction illustrations chaired by Kathleen Jennings, and general swanning around until it was time to get ready for the Aurealis Awards that night. (You can see a bunch of great pics from the Awards over on Cat Sparks’ flickr stream; as always, Cat captured the sparkle and spirit of the celebrations). I was delighted to be able to present the award for ‘Best Science Fiction Short Story’ to my dear friend Sean Williams (I assume I was supposed to maintain a neutral expression while looking at the winner’s name in the envelope, but I was grinning ear to ear!) and to have spent the night celebrating Australian speculative fiction in fine style. And, really, any excuse to get dolled up is a-okay with me.

Juliet, Kate, Kim, and me
Juliet, Kate, Kim, and me

On Saturday, FableCroft launched Kate Forsyth’s The Rebirth of Rapunzel, a fantastic work derived from Kate’s doctoral exegesis — and with champagne, sweets, and lovely (not to mention concise) speeches, the launch was perfect.

Afterwards, I had the complete joy of moderating/participating in the ‘Real Fantasy’ panel with Kate, Kim Wilkins, and Juliet Marillier, in which we chatted about researching for fantasy novels — and, in all honesty, it was the most fun I’ve ever had chairing a session. The time flew like whoa and before we knew it, we were getting the “5 mins to go” signal. We had a great (packed) audience, and every time I looked up they were smiling, nodding, and sending wonderful happy vibes our way, for which I was very grateful! My only regret is that we didn’t have another hour or so to continue the conversation!

Swanky for the banquet!
Swanky for the banquet!

The rest of the afternoon flew by in a blur of lunch fun with the ladies, panels, and then more getting dolled up for the Natcon banquet. (You’ll note a theme for this whole convention: namely, getting fancy with friends! Banqueting! Celebrating! All of which was a feat considering it was Easter weekend, and, apparently, this is the only time it’s difficult to source booze in Australia, a nation of unbeatable drinking prowess.)

Day three started early: at the near-crack-of-dawn (in convention terms, anyway) I was on a panel with Kirstyn McDermott, Juliet Marillier, and Thoraiya Dyer, in which we talked about “the story I never wrote”. That is, other people’s books / stories we wished we had written — and I’ll admit, I was unsure how this panel was going to go. I’ll also admit, I was a total doofus for questioning it because this was a fantastic panel.

Juliet, Thoraiya, Kirstyn, and me
Juliet, Thoraiya, Kirstyn, and me

Thoraiya was a brilliant moderator, and she and the other panellists so completely sold me on the various books they loved/wished they’d written that now my To Be Read pile is substantially bigger. Again, the time seemed to fly and I was left wishing we’d had more of it to keep talking (and gushing about) books.

(For the record: Juliet chose a book called Gingerbread by Robert Dinsdale, Thoraiya chose The Swan Book by Alexis Wright, Kirstyn chose House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski, and I chose The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood — amongst others. These books kicked off a much larger discussion.)

The rest of the afternoon was spent — surprise, surprise — going to panels. And then getting dolled up. (Actually, small aside: this is the first convention I’ve gone to in, well, ever, that I’ve attended so many panel sessions. And not just because the bar was closed sometimes because of Easter.)

MC Lisa! (Photo by Liz McEwin)
MC Lisa! (Photo by Liz McEwin)

The Ditmar Awards were on Sunday night, and they were particularly memorable this year for a few reasons.

First, I was asked to MC the ceremony this time around, and (very much thanks to Catherine Moller, who prepared much of the material for me to present / aka made sure I didn’t sound like a complete dork) I had a wonderful time fulfilling this role.

Second, I won my first ever Ditmar Award! Lament for the Afterlife got the gong for ‘Best Novel’ — and I was (and still am) so completely chuffed to have received this award — and such a swanky piece of glasswork it is, too!

Third, Angela won ‘Best Novella’, which added to the happy-happy glow of the evening — but also, I was so stoked for the winners for all of the categories!

And last but not least, champagne flowed throughout and afterwards, and it’s my firm belief that all awards shows should be viewed through a glass fizzing with bubbles.

IMG_2430By the time Monday rolled around, I was pretty wiped (aren’t we all by Day Four?) but really enjoyed the ‘Ask Me Anything’ session with all of this year’s Guests of Honour (Ben Aaronovich, Keri Arthur, and Jill Pantozzi). In between all of these sessions, it was such great fun catching up with friends throughout the convention, chatting with Ron from Pulp Fiction Books, and also buying a marvellous little plague doctor “Doctor Bird” statue from K.J. Bishop (whose work is amazing, and you should all be tempted to buy her pieces as quickly and easily as many of us at the convention were; my “Doctor Bird” is the figure on the left up on her website’s header, seen here. Also, she has an Etsy shop. Just saying.)

So it was with much pleasure, and a great sigh of relaxation, that Angela and I escaped on a writing retreat after the convention was over. We drove up to a peaceful cabin in Eumarella, which is somewhere close to Noosa (I’m horrible with directions, not from Brisbane, and also have I mentioned my bad sense of direction?) so that’s about as specific as I can get. BUT, I can say that it was in the middle of a forest, on a lake, with kangaroos hopping across our yard (sometimes at night, which, I gotta say, was a bit unsettling until I realised it was roos and not, say, Jason from Friday the 13th skulking outside my window after dark), and where we had nothing to do but write, edit, watch episodes of Adventure Time, go for runs in the ridiculous humidity, write more, edit more, and, of course, drink champagne. (See pics of the lovely surrounds below.)

Finally, last night after a loooooooong drive home (because of an accident on the Bruce Hwy that turned our 2 hr drive into a 6.5 hr drive) I spent one final evening in the company of Brisbane friends, sharing stories and delicious pizza with Kathleen, Pete, Angela, and David — and possibly falling in love with a schnauzer named Boston. A wonderful end to a wonderful, whirlwind time away!



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