Swancon 39 Roundup

Arriving home from Swancon 39 my wife asked me how much Cola and sugar I’d had because of how hyper I was – almost, but not quite, bouncing off the walls hyper. So a week after the con finished I can now look back on it and assess how it worked for me. Particularly as this was the first Swancon that I’d actually been on any panels for.

The Guests

Isobelle-Anne-Sally-Jim, Swancons Guests

L-R: Isobelle Carmody, Anne Bishop, Sally Beasley, and Jim Butcher


Anne Bishop and Jim Butcher were the international guests of honour. Both very nice people, articulate, with very dissimilar writing styles. I hadn’t actually read any of their books, although I had picked up the first in Jim’s ‘Dresden Files’ series when we were in Sydney earlier this year without realising he was the GOH – what can I say, I’m terrible with names.

I’ve since read ‘Storm Front‘ and quite enjoyed it. Not sure I’ll make it through all 16 or so of the other books in the series but book 2 is definitely on my reading list. Jim is definitely one author who tortures his characters by placing them in one difficult situation after another and then watching them struggle to get out of them in one piece (eg facing down a demon naked, without his staff, and with shampoo dripping down his face into his eyes). If you ever liked hard bitten PI stories then this one is definitely for you (4/5 stars)

Anne Bishop’s ‘Written in Red‘ the first in the Others series was simply amazing! I had doubts about the backstory which did seem quite artificial, but she layers the story so skilfully that I was fully immersed in the story within the first couple of pages. Her characters are beautifully drawn, even the elements. I don’t know if it was by accident or on purpose but the way Meg’s sheltered upbringing enables her to calmly accept the strangeness of the ‘others’ was I think one of the strengths to the character. I was also bemused by the stupidity of the human mercenaries in going up against the elementals, made for a great story though. Only the second book in the series is available for now but she’s got a contract for three other books so I’m just going to have pace myself (5/5 stars).

And Isobelle Carmody, a fellow squirrel lover, although my son refused to talk to her for the entire weekend because she hadn’t finished a series he had first read a decade or so ago. I’m looking forward to reading Obernewtyn which I have sitting beside me.

The Panels

As you may be aware I was on two panels: Maintain a Useful and Meaningful Web Presence 101 for Authors with Anne Bishop, Jim Butcher, and Isobelle Carmody; and  How to Piss Off A Publisher with Satimal Flavel, Dave Luckett, and Cat Sparks.

The first panel was fairly typical for Swancon, it started with Jim saying, ‘well we’re all authors’, to which my response was ‘Sorry, I’m not, I’m a small publisher’ and went downhill from there, helped by a comment from the audience saying, ‘you’re not small, you’re tall’. (I’m 195cm or 6ft5 in the old measure). As it happens only Isobelle and I had actually used and read up on social media for marketing purposes. Jim simply uses it to communicate, while Anne leaves it to a professional.

The second panel was a definite success, starting off with about 20 but ending up with over 40 people listening and participating at the end of the hour (10 on the floor) and with Isobelle Carmody lurking in the corridor outside the hall.

Isobelle Carmody and Cat Sparks @ Swancon 39

L-R: Cat Sparks & Isobelle Carmody

I think the reason it was so successful is that Cat Sparks self nominated as the moderator, found out what the audience wanted to hear (which was about 50/50 between horror stories publishers/editors had suffered, and how people should submit their work to publishers to give themselves their best chance) and kept everyone on the panel involved and balanced. I actually had three people come up and get my details after the panel.

One of the more fascinating aspects of the panel was watching a response from Dave to a comment from Cat about how she goes about commissioning work build over the course of the hour into a firm agreement between the two of them for a commissioned work.

In conclusion. I had two days with my son (parenthood having kept him away for the last couple of Swancons), caught up with friends I haven’t seen for a year, talked to authors, played boardgames, learnt stuff, taught stuff. So a successful weekend – definitely!

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About Andrew

Writer, editor and publisher including: former principal for the Davies Literary Agency; editor and publisher of The Western Australian Year Book for a number of years; and editor and writer for Afterlife - the Magazine for Atmosphere users.