09 August, 2006

Continuum 4 Con Rapport

I know—long time no blog. I have excuses.

Ideas that I will not use because they would be stolen from people at Continuum 4:

  • a law that forces engaged couples to go on a perilous road trip/quest together, before they are allowed to marry (Shaun Tan)

  • a dumpling bucket, a dumpling funnel, a dumpling raincoat (Grace Dugan, Cat Sparks, Chris Barnes—group effort)

  • a creature, half-woman, half-raincoat (same group, same meal—of dumplings, did you guess?)

  • something being as difficult as ‘kicking a dead whale up a beach’ (Charles Stross).

Books I’m taking home in spite of vowing I wouldn’t take home any books:

  • Bill Congreve and Michelle Marquardt (eds), Year’s Best Australian SF & Fantasy 2

  • Jonathan Strahan and Jeremy G. Byrne (eds), Eidolon I

  • Lucy Sussex, A Tour Guide in Utopia

  • Kaaron Warren, The Grinding House

  • Mitch? Four: Slow Dancing in Quicksand


Are Weblogs the New Fanzines? with Sara Eggen, Chuck McKenzie, Janice Gelb. I was only of limited use on this panel, not being entirely clear what a fanzine was. However, we had Janice to help out—she said she had been doing this panel for ten years, so everyone picked her brain, and she seemed happy to have it picked. I learned a lot!

Eidolon I and The Silver Road launch. Charles Stross launched the first, I launched the second—I’d finished reading the book on the plane to Melbourne, and finished making my notes for the launch speech five minutes before going downstairs to the launch. It’s been that kind of three weeks. But Grace Dugan’s The Silver Road is now out there, launched and dripping with champagne. Get ahold of your copy today.

The Great Debate: The Future is Now with Charles, Richard Harland, Shaun Tan, Sarah Marland and Ian Mond, Jack Dann presiding. I’d been writing my notes for this while I was supposed to be at the Opening Ceremony—oops. It was a great deal of very silly fun. Plus, we won. This is the future we were all promised in the 1950s. Well, obviously. *rolls eyes*

Guilty Pleasures: Books, films and TV shows we love but don’t want our friends to know about with Charles, Shaun and Bruce Gillespie. Turns out no one was really, really embarrassed about anything they watched or read. Probably they were all keeping their real secret embarrassments under their hats…


The Evolution of Young Adult Genre Literature with Lucy Sussex, Sue Bursztynski, Lili Wilkinson and Gillian Polack, Bev Hope as chair. This was the panel I’ve been doing for ten years, with added genre.

The Margo Lanagan Guest of Honour Speech. Meep. In the end it panned out at half an hour talking and twenty minutes reading ‘Winkie’ aloud. I’d forgotten how dark and creepy that story was. At the end, when I opened it up to questions, I think people were kind of frozen in their seats. But some told me later they enjoyed it.

And then the scariest parts of the con were over for me, so I could relax. Really, I could have relaxed a lot earlier if I’d only prepared for my sessions a little earlier than the day before (I lie; I wrote most of my speech on Thursday)—oh, and if I’d realised how not-terrifying this con crowd was going to be. Anyway, from then on it was all fun and no jitters.

Short Reading Slam with Charles, Shaun, Richard, Jack. Lots of variety. We all went a little over time, but not too seriously. Richard’s short story ‘At the Top of the Stairs’ was deeply spooky—I hope you get to see it some time. Or hear him read it, which will make your hair stand on end.

Judging costumes at the Masked Ball. One of the more challenging duties of a GoH, let me tell you. It’s hard to say which was the bigger feast for the eyes, the ball or Shaun’s slide presentation.


Writing and the Art of Money with Shaun, Trudi Canavan, George Ivanoff and Russell Blackford. This was a really interesting panel about work/life balance, and what works for five different writers (and illustrators). It was a lot more subtle than ‘don’t give up your day job’, but…just don’t, anyway, all right?

Signing session with Shaun Tan, who was doing a small but careful and lovely illustration in every book he signed. Curse those illustrators and their gifts!

On Writing Short Fiction This was a very buzzy panel on which Shaun, Richard, Cat Sparks, Grace Dugan and I all had heaps to say. Cat was very useful in the home-truths-about-publishing department, particularly (don’t write boring stories, was a useful piece of advice; I had a flashback to dutifully reading some of my stories in the 1980s, wondering what was wrong with them, why they didn’t seem to be doing anything for me. Because they weren’t doing anything at all much, that was why. That was before I knew you could bung in an angel or an elephant to get things going.)

All-Star Blankety Blanks with George, Shaun, Paul Poulton, Chuck, Ian Mond and Rachel Holkner. This was hard! Hilarious, but sometimes my mind went blank, which wasn’t supposed to happen. George looked gorgeous in a red and yellow sequinned jacket and bow tie (Cat will have a picture somewhere, I’m sure), and nagged and beat us through the game as a good MC should. Jenny Blackford scored with admirable impartiality. There was a lot of intricate psychological bobbing and feinting, but mostly we were just silly and smutty, although someone remarked afterwards to me that we didn’t really get very rude. Must try harder next time.

Closing ceremony, with everyone, so that all us guests got a chance to thank everyone for a great weekend. And we got presents!—a con T-shirt and a beautiful leather-bound notebook (slurrrp!) each.


The Shaun Tan Guest of Honour Speech. If you know Shaun’s work you’ll have an idea what an hour of wonders this was. There were slides. Big pictures. Pages from The Arrival. What Shaun will end up filling his leather-bound Continuum notebook with, none of us can imagine.

The Charles Stross Guest of Honour Q&A Session. Boy, can Charles extemporise. How do people do that (she says, clutching her notes in her sweaty hand)? Plus, he can read really small writing, something else I can’t do (any more). Plus, he knows heaps—makes my mind feel very squishy and disordered by contrast. Plus, he has a very sly, twinkling sense of humour. And a fierce black beard. He’s impressive all round.

Murasaki Japanese Restaurant in Russell Street.
Camy Shanghai Dumpling and Noodle Restaurant in Tattersalls Lane. But it closes at 9, so get there early. Watch other diners to learn how to use the bucket and the funnel.


Blogger lili said...

Winkie was terrifying.

I think everyone was sitting stunned, thinking I thought that Margo Lanagan was such a nice lady! She looks so friendly and normal! How could something so dark and scary come out of such a nice normal brain! We expect creepy things to come out of Neil Gaiman, cause he always wears a black leather jacket! But never from lovely Margo!

(some of us knew better, though)

10 August, 2006 10:09  
Blogger Among Amid While said...

Bwahaha. My brain is only nice and normal from the outside...

David Cake emailed me to say: "...just thought I would let you know that the phrase 'like kicking dead whales up a beach', while charming, is far from original to Mr Stross but in quite common use in computer geek circles, and is included in 'the Jargon file', a well known (to computer geeks) compendium of computer hacker slang

So it's a good thing I didn't try to pass it off as my own, eh.

10 August, 2006 21:12  
Blogger Russell Blackford said...

If you go to my blog you'll see a couple of pics that might bring back more memories of the con.

15 August, 2006 10:41  

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