On Saturday Eve and I made our annual pilgrimage to Derby for Edge Lit, a one day convention for Fantasy, SF and Horror. It's a small affair, but that only makes it better and more impressive. This year it was particularly nice to see that despite the fact they've slashed the number of panels, the day was still busy and there seemed to be a bustling crowd, one that seemed larger than in previous years.
Our first event was Mike Carey (now publishing under the name M R Carey, the R is because M J Carey takes you to an erotica writer on Good Reads apparently), as he did readings and a Q&A. I'm not sure what the first thing he read was, beyond it being a very human tale of punishment in a prison, but the second was from the second book of short stories he has written with his wife and daughter, The House of War and Witness. Both tales were compelling and the imagery they evoked was stark and fascinating. The second story in particular was very strong, but I may have liked it because it was a Stone Age set piece of dark fantasy and I'm becoming interested in that. As ever Mike was friendly, open and informative, and its a pleasure to listen to him read.
The first panel was on the subject of Fantasy and History, and how much one needs the other. The panellists were drawn from a wide range of authors, including some that write pure fantasy and others, among them Joanne Harris, who have written 'real world' fantasy, which is to say the sort of books where you take a historical period or mythology and give it a twist. The panel discussed a number of things, from the history of settings to the use of history within works, with a shout out to the wonderful Fevre Dream by George RR Martin. They also discussed the frequency of historical periods as settings, noting that though Ancient Rome is often used in crime and historical novels, there's not a lot of fantasy based there. All in all it was an interesting panel with a lot of wisdom and knowledge among the panelists.
After lunch, and meeting up with some friends who were trading at the con, we went to Monstrous Regiments, a panel about monsters in horror and whether they are overused. It was an interesting panel, though it did get a bit sidetracked into self publishing and the huge amount of zombie and vampire novels that market produces. My own feeling is that we're a bit saturated with monsters and that it'd be nice to see some of the emphasis taken off them, especially the undead (this may be because I find zombies dull). The main thing I took away was that there's nothing new out there and that perhaps we need to look at other sources of horror.
The third, and best, panel was about whether literary and genre fiction are closer together now than they've ever been. This was my favourite panel of the day, and the panelists were brilliant, opinionated and vociferous, levened with the occasional minion impression. They tackled the apparent contradiction of wanting and fearing the genres to be taken seriously and adopted by the mainstream - that 'out stuff is as valid as yours' and the 'hey we cared about Aragorn son of Arathorn years before you'd even heard of him'. They made good points throughout and thoroughly explored the subject, from the nature of genre, and if an orc needs to be a symbol of something, to the fact that in French story and history have the same word, 'histoire', and beyond.
Lastly, we attended the Knight Watch Press launch of... lots of books (I'll leave you to Google them). The readings were good and the anthologies sound brilliant, so I would encourage you to support them if you can. They serve brain cake, which I did not partake of because brains give me the wiggins.
All in all, a good day. Its a shame we didn't get to talk to some of the people there, and next year we're thinking of staying over in Derby to avoid travel worries and hang around for longer.