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Steve Kilbane
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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in kilbswhitecrow's LiveJournal:

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Thursday, April 12th, 2012
9:29 pm
How to be not on a panel
At Olympus, I was speaking to one person who was attending his first Eastercon. He was having a great time, the programme was fabulous and he found the panels really interesting and engaging --- "but I don't get the audience," he said. "There are some people who seem to think that there's no-one in the room but them and the panel."

True. And it's true of every con to which I've been: Eastercons, Redemptions, various Starfury media cons. It's not true of all panels, and not true of all audience members, by any means, but this happens often enough that it crops up at least once per con. So a few points to remember, next time you're in the audience of a con panel:

- you're not on the panel. Questions and points from the audience are addressed to the panel, not to you. Let the panel answer them.

- when you're asking your question, please try to be as succinct as possible. Aim for a thirty-second question. Under a minute, definitely. A three-minute ramble is way too long. Get to the damn point (or question).

- when you're speaking from the audience, you're making a point, or you're asking a question. You're not engaging in a conversation. You don't get to counter the panel's response, or try to convince them. If you weren't sufficiently clear that they didn't quite understand, tough. You had your go. It's someone else's turn now.

- Wait your turn. If other people are raising their hands and being polite, don't just speak out. Wait for the panel/moderator to indicate that it's your turn next. Especially don't shout out when someone else is still speaking.

- Corollary: please be considerate of others who are also waiting: if the panel hasn't noticed that someone else has been waiting longer when they indicate it's your turn, be kind enough to suggest that the other person gets to speak first.

- Discussions move on. If your point is no longer relevant by the time it's your turn, please don't drag the panel back just because you still want to make your point, unless you can still make the point in a way that's also relevant to where the discussion has now reached.

- If there's a roving microphone being used to make questions audible, wait for it to arrive. Don't just try yelling.

- On occasion, a discussion-item might be very informal (usually, very small panels, often with chairs in a circle), in which case the panel (not you) might choose to run it as more of a free-form discussion. You should still be considerate of other people who are speaking, and not talk over other people who are speaking.
9:22 pm
On broadening the fanbase
The thoroughly-excellent Minorities panel at Olympus raised some very good points which are, I believe, relevant to a number of problems that beset Eastercons.

Ever since I've been going to Eastercons, there have been panels along the lines of "How do we get more young fans coming to Eastercon?" or "Where are the conrunners of the future going to come from?" Broadly speaking, you can replace these questions with "How do you get new people to come to your con for the first time", "How do you get them to come back to your con again in future years," and "How do you get them to volunteer for activity X?"

Read more...Collapse )
Sunday, March 6th, 2011
3:39 pm
Redemption '11: overall
I had a great time at Redemption '11. I ran some panels, I sat in the back for some other panels. I planned to go to yet more panels, then changed my mind and went to different ones instead, or had food, or blobbed in the hotel room or hung out in the bar with friends…

…basically, I went to the con, which is a little different from my experience for the past few Redemptions, where I only had time to attend items I was programmed for.

I'd also scaled down my activities: no wall quizzes, no workshops, no cabaret entry (I was looking forward to seeing the cabaret, instead) - I didn't even take along the guitar for filking.


It wasn't all relaxation; the book panels required quite a bit of advance reading, and despite spending quite a bit of time doing this in the months before the con, I still had a lot to catch up on, so chunks of Friday and Saturday were devoted to sitting in a bar, coffee shop or hotel room reading through SF Shorts or Ghost Stories, and making notes. But that was it, for work.

I thought the Book Thread panels all went well - many thanks to altariel , communicator  and the audience - whether casual attendees or the Usual Suspects who've been turning up religiously since we started these at Redemption '05.

The Panel panel was also good, not to mention worthwhile, and I have some additions for next time already planned.

In terms of other items I attended, I'd like to give a big thumb-up to Keith Smith's talk and workshops on How to Make Songvids. The Friday evening panel needed some pre-con agreement with Jane on the direction, but Keith's individual workshops on Saturday and Sunday were a joy to behold. Hey, steverogerson  - more like this, please! And by "like this", I mean: a presenter who knows his material, has prepared in advance, and knows how to present it well. Lots of well-chosen material, and a very relaxed atmosphere. The only downside was that Keith had to cut short the Sunday presentation due to scheduling a costume change - so he'd spent time the night before re-editing the presentation to address that! Devotion beyond the call of duty.

(And to anyone else doing a talk: this is where the bar is, now. It's certainly given me something to aim for.)

Another sidebar: despite my best efforts, I yet again failed to get along to gaspode 's How to watch it item. But in my head, it was just as smooth as Keith's songvids workshop. So if gaspodex is doing it again at '13, there are two years to live up to that. :-)

I had fun with Piers and others in the pub quiz (we came second! How did we manage that? We were rubbish!), and managed to join in almost all of the ceilidh dancers (but where were all the other kilts?). katlinel  and I enjoyed much boogying during yet another great Marwen disco (though I wish he'd give up on Star Trekkin', etc. Sigh.)

I was impressed with Jane's moderation in the Future of Feminism panel, and with the general level of restraint all round (fewer bodies dragged out of there than expected), and similarly with the How Good Is Matt Smith? item - I've come to expect an XOR response from fandom: I like X, this is not X, therefore this is Not Good. But there was none of that. Smith wasn't universally popular, but he definitely had the vast majority behind him. And interesting points from the guests in the audience. Some of the panellists seemed a bit confused, though.

I caught the second half of the Favourite Gadgets item. Since folks like Tony, Raj, Gryphon and _36 were talking about how easy gadgets were to carry around a con, I pointed out I was wearing one of my favourites: a SWAT vest (see an Army Surplus store; alternatively, get the moral equivalent from a fishing shop). Lots of pockets, no sleeves, and no bag. Combined with a fully-loaded Utilikilt, and you've got more pockets than you could ever want, as you stride (slowly) round the con, clanking as you go…

The Worst SF Show of All Time and Disaster Movies items were okay, but suffered mainly from being in the main hall, and therefore falling foul of both the added formality that comes from using microphones, and being unable to see hands raised in the audience. Yet again, I'd suggest using question-wranglers with microphones and torches for main hall items. Starfury manages - why can't Redemption?

The Future of Comics item was a lot of fun, and quite interesting, but it did need a stronger moderator. And gaspode  left the con before I could have a play with the Marvel Comics app on his iPad. :-(

I spent quite a bit of time talking to folks, about previous cons, about this con, about comics, about ProgDB, about Doctor Who, about rum, about ghost stories, about Edinburgh - lots of things. gaspode , Piers, selenay936 , altariel , fifitrix , glitterboy1 , steverogerson , the_magician , communicator , plus a bunch of others whose LJ names I forget, plus a bunch of others I've no doubt forgotten.

There were quite a few people who weren't at Redemption '11, for one reason or another, who'd originally planned to go. Their absence was keenly noted. :-(

And due to one reason or another, my scheduling collapsed, and I still didn't get to see the cabaret or masquerade. :-(

But these are minor things. I still had a blast. My thanks to all who worked hard to make it go so smoothly.
1:59 pm
Book Panels: Beware of the Shoggoths
This is a panel that i_smell_shite  and iainjcoleman  proposed. Alas, they couldn't make it to the con, so I had to grill iainjcoleman for useful information before the con, and then pass off all his wise insights as my own. I don't think anyone noticed...

I'd done a bunch of reading beforehand (a number of Lovecraft's stories are available online; I'd gone for downloading one of the collections to my phone), but was by no means particularly well-informed, so managed to confuse The Dunwich Horror and A Shadow Over Innsmouth. And I had to go out and buy another copy of Gaiman's Smoke and Mirrors so that I could re-read Shuggoth's Old Peculiar. And then, at the panel, someone mentioned that Gaiman's A Study in Emerald is a Holmes/Cthulhu crossover. That's in Fragile Things, sitting on the shelf here at home, and I hadn't re-read it. Argh!


We had an excellent mix of people in the audience, from fans who knew lots about Lovecraft (heck, I'd say "experts" - you all know you're welcome to volunteer to run these panels next time, right?) to the folks who weren't familiar, but just like the book panels, to some people who've heard of this Cthulhu stuff, and wanted to know where it all came from. One kind lady actually brought along a whole family of Cthulhu plushies, and wanted to know more about them. :-)

We discussed that Lovecraft was pretty much writing fanfic in his own shared world; he scattered common references like Necronomicon, Yog Sothoth and Miskatonic University into his New England settings, and left pretty much everything else as a free-for-all. There was a suggestion that Lovecraft originated the creative commons, in that he left his works for anyone to use.

We spent a while on the sad fact of Lovecraft's racism and classism, and his yearning to be English. We talked about scientific aspects to his fiction. We mentioned the attempts at turning his works into films, including Del Torro's coming adaptation of The Mountains of Madness, and The Lovecraft Historical Society's adaptation of The Call of Cthulhu.

We spent a while on other authors who'd written in Lovecraft's world: in addition to the Gaiman stories just mentioned, there's Charles Stross (the Laundry novels, which I recommend, and short stories such as A Colder War), and Tim Powers with his Declare novel. We talked about the role-playing games and online games.

We were asked to recommend a starting point for someone who hasn't read any Lovecraft.I cribbed shamelessly from Alan Barnes' SFX Magazine article (issue 197), and recommended The Call of Cthulhu; as Barnes notes, it pulls together all the scattered references from earlier works, and really kicks off the shared-world aspect.

A great panel. And there were plushies!
1:38 pm
Book panels: Bump in the Night
This was a bonus panel: we couldn't decide which topics to do, so we added this one as a late-night extra (well, of course a panel on ghost stories has to be late at night).

I had to do quite a bit of research for this one, given that ghost stories are really not my genre, and on reflection, I couldn't really think of a single one beyond the obvious*.

I'd looked at a few classic collections prior to the con, and sent out another reading list, and I was working my way through these until early evening on Saturday. I think that helped.

Early evening, prior to the panel, katlinel , altariel , communicator  and I were lingering in the restaurant, discussing various con aspects, and it was suggested that we check out the Courtyard room where the panel was (all the other book panels were in BR12), as the public bar had a somewhat-loud DJ playing thumping music right on the other side of the connecting doors. As it turns out, the volume wasn't too bad, but communicator had the idea of changing the lighting so that we had the main lights off, and just illuminated the room by the table lamps. Much more atmospheric. Marvellous idea. We were tempted to do something with the white sheets over the tables, too, but never got around to it...

Anyway, an excellent discussion was had. Other stories mentioned, besides those on my pre-con list, that I've noted down are:
  • Sleepy Hollow
  • The Monkey's Paws
  • The Haunting of Hill House
  • Dark Matter
  • The Little Stranger
  • The Small Hand
  • They (Kipling)
  • Poltergeist
  • The Woman in Black
  • Ghost Watch
  • The Tell-tale Heart (Poe)

We had discussions about the differences in western and Japanese ghost stories. We talked about ghosts in Shakespeare, such as Macbeth and Hamlet. we talked about how some SF stories are ghost stories (Clarke's A Walk in the Dark and The Forgotten Enemy were mentioned).

We talked about the difference between ghost stories and horror, and decided that in a ghost story, the ghost itself wouldn't harm you, but might influence you such that you do something that means harm comes to you.

We talked about sleep apnea (sp?), stories which have the ghost as the viewpoint character, and stories where the viewpoint character doesn't realise they're a ghost. We discussed guilt as a key aspect of ghost stories, and of location.

We also talked about real experiences of ghostly events, debunked and otherwise, and how fictional ghost stories make use of friend-of-a-friend narratives to carry more of that "real" quality.

All in all, a surprisingly good panel.

A Christmas Carol. Duh.
1:19 pm
Book Panels: Vampires and Werewolves
This was one of the panels I'd been dreading, because I really didn't know that much about the genre, but it turns out to be huge. I'd done some digging around in advance: I knew that Kelly Armstrong wrote werewolf novels like Bitten, so I looked that up on Amazon, and clicked on the "Customers also bought.." link. And again. And again. And again. They just kept coming...

My search had thrown up the following:
Various series authors/titles.Collapse )Luckily fifitrix  managed to fill in for the sadly-absent siggav , by having read a quite startling quantity of these, and we had a few other fans in the crowd too. So there was some learned discussion to be had.

Also mentioned were Poppy Z Brite's Lost Souls, and Gale Corrigan's steampunky series.

There were comments to the effect that some people got the appeal of vampires, but not werewolves, so there were some discussions down each path. One of my favorite points (I forget who mentioned it, sorry) was that these genre might be a way for teenagers to talk/read about sex and other issues

We talked about the difference between the Hammer view of vampires, and the more contemporary variants. There was some movie-bashing, but there was some love for the actual source materials. Actually, there was some love for the movies, too. And as one librarian in the audience said, this is one folks want to read. If they're reading, then yay.

Overall, quite a fun discussion.
1:07 pm
Book panels: SF Shorts
This seemed to go pretty well. Certainly, sending out a reading list in advance seemed to have been a good idea, so I think we'll be doing that again next time*. Big thanks to altariel  for finding all the on-line texts.

We were joined by communicator  for her first time on the book thread, and a very welcome addition she was too. She brought a different viewpoint, with new insights, and gave altariel and I a break from busking madly and pretending we had useful stuff to say...

There were a few points made that I can recall, such as:
- In many cases, it's the last line of the story that carries the punch in a short story. cf. The Nine Billion Names of God. Sometimes, that's all that people can remember. Or, more rarely, it's the first line.
- SF Short stories are often about moving expectations; something that absolutely knocked people out fifty years ago is quaintly staid and unimaginative now, because we've moved on.
- SF Shorts also rely a lot on the language of the genre; FTLs, ansibles, etc. There's no space to explain such concepts - you just assume your reader will keep up.
- For this reason, genre is a good area for short stories, because each genre has its shared vocabulary.
- Novels are often comfort-reads; you return to them to wallow in favorite stories. Sometimes, a novel writer will set a short in that world, but usually shorts aren't nearly so comforting.
- Shorts don't have a happy ending all that often...

Some things that got a mention that I noted down were:
- Steve Aylett's collections (bursting with ideas)
- Fall of Night (Clarke?)
- Kurt Vonnegut
- Joan Aiken's Humblepuppy
- A Fall of Moondust (Arthur C. Clarke)

Anyone else remember what other things got mentioned?

*Assuming I remember...
12:47 pm
Redemption '11: The Panel panel
This year, I'm breaking the con report up a little, so that I can give more feedback on the panels I ran. First up was the How to run a panel panel. Which isn't really a panel, of course - it's me ranting at people giving helpful advice.

There were good things and bad things. The main bad thing, of course, is that iainjcoleman  couldn't be at the con, so the panel didn't get the benefit of his sage advice.  And there were a few things that we might have covered before that didn't get a mention. such as using microphones (this has been noted for next time). Hmm - might actually write a presentation for next time, so that it's more structured (steverogerson : I might be asking for a room with a projector).

On the plus side, I managed to remember to follow my own advice, and send out the pre-con advice before the actual con, which appears to have had some benefit. And a deliberate restructuring into pre-con preparation, logistics, general people-wrangling and awkward-people wrangling seems to have been an improvement too.

There were good suggestions and questions from the audience too, but the best thing was that there was an audience - it's always good to see people taking the time to turn up and find out how to make the con a more enjoyable experience for others. Though turning up on time would have been better. :-)
Sunday, February 20th, 2011
4:45 pm
Ghost stories
One of the panels at Redemption '11 is on ghost stories: From A Christmas Carol to campfire tales, ghost stories are an enduring genre. We look at what's great, old and new.

In the interests of doing some research, and possibly establishing some common ground, I took a note of the contents of an anthology of classic ghost stories, and then went looking for the text on-line.
List of stories behind cutCollapse )
4:26 pm
SF shorts
One of the panels in the up-coming Redemption '11 is on SF shorts: The 'short form' has a revered position in SF history, in magazines and anthologies. We look back at our favorites, and consider why they work so well. Come share the love..

Una recently had a discussion relating to good SF short stories, and in the process, she collected quite a good list of story titles. For a number of them, she also managed to find the text on-line, so I've reproduced that subset here. If you feel like reading some of these in the coming week, there's more chance of the room not consisting of entirely non-overlapping experiences.

List behind cutCollapse )
Thursday, February 26th, 2009
10:07 pm
Concom chairs: care and feeding
Welcome to the delightful world of concom chair ownership! With proper care and attention, your chair will give you hours of endless enjoyment for many years to come. Be sure to follow these rules. Your chair is a natural product; any markings or irregularities are unique and enhance its natural beauty. Warranty void if sticker removed. Do not remove cover. There are no user-servicable parts inside.

1. Communicate with your chair regularly. Chairs whither and die (or explode) if not talked to regularly. Keep your chair informed about your activities. If you have no activity to report, not to worry - you can maintain the dialogue by informing your chair of this, instead. Include dates. Do not worry about over-feeding your chair with information - chairs have special pouches in their emails and can store concom information for many days at a time, coming back to it later as needed.

2. Inform your chair of absences. If you do not, your chair will fret at the lack of communication (see Rule 1) and start to whither. Advance notice and indication of time of return will keep your chair happy and comfortable.

3. Do not feed after midnight.

4. Carry out your assigned tasks. Chairs are creatures of habit, and will line their nests with lists and schedules and plans. Completing your tasks will help your chair build a proper nest of ticked-off items. Undone items fester, and the nest unravels.

5. Do not cross the streams.

6. Take responsibility for delays and mistakes. Chairs are used to life intruding unexpectedly, and can repair and re-weave schedules where they no longer fit, but a fraying thread, never quite complete or long enough, damages the whole. Everyone forgets something, sometimes, and chairs by nature will resort to plans and schedules and remind you of your omission (and it gives them something with which to occupy their time). It helps the chair if you admit your forgetfulness and move on. If you cannot complete your task, ask for help. The chair will find additional resources, or reallocate tasks as needed. Chairs are happy to do this, as it saves the chair from fretting about whether the chair need intervene, and chairs are never happy when doing so.

7. Do not exceed 88mph.

8. Be proactive. Don't wait until prompted to complete your tasks. Carry them out before your deadlines, and be clear when they're done. When you do this often, the chair may begin to preen or purr. This is quite normal, and indicates a happy chair. (Particularly happy chairs may start to sing; unfortunately, there is no way of stopping this.)

9. Be clear in your communications. When asked questions, give full answers, with as little ambiguity as possible. Do not just answer the convenient parts and ignore the rest. Casual, vague answers will upset your chair, which will then start digging and burrowing for more detail, in case something remains undone. Chairs do not like ambiguity - it interferes with the neat ticks in the nest, and leads to incomplete tasks sprouting unexpectedly out of season.

10. This means you. This is your chair. There are many others like it, but this one is yours. The chair may belong to others too, but it is still your chair, and your responsibility. When the chair speaks, do not assume that the chair is speaking to someone else, and that you may safely ignore it - see Rule 1. Do not wait to see whether someone else is responding. Do not wait until tomorrow. Respond today, as appropriate.

And that's it. Simple rules, for a happy, healthy chair, which will be with you for many years to come. And we're sorry about the singing.
9:46 pm
Redemption '09
Redemption '09 has just happened. Mostly, in a blur. There are fans posting about Best. Redemption. Ever. So I guess it went okay...

I have some regrets. ...Collapse )
Good thingsCollapse )
ThanksCollapse )

It was, I'm told, a great con. With luck, '11 will be even better. See you there!
Friday, August 1st, 2008
6:49 pm
It's here!
Further to this post, my contributor copy of Fabulous Whitby turned up today. Despite the local post office's efforts, which have been epic in the past.

Woo-hoo! Something with a spine has my name in it![1]

[1] Other than the acknowledgements, which to date include a Ben Jeapes and an Alaistair Reynolds.

Current Mood: ecstatic
Saturday, July 12th, 2008
2:19 pm
Anthology Builder
In other writing news, prompted by various Milford folk (specifically the ineffable Chair, who prodded me with an e-spork), I have uploaded A Thief in the Night to AnthologyBuilder.com. I know Sue was going for a Milford-themed anthology; can't see anyone else shifting it. :-)
1:38 pm
Fabulous Whitby
I am informed that Fabulous Whitby, which includes my contribution Wylde in Whitby, now has an actual physical manifestation in this reality. It's listed on both Amazon.co.uk and BookBrain.co.uk, though neither have either a cover image or contents, so you'll just have to take my word for it. This is produced by Fabulous Albion, who were also responsible for Fabulous Brighton. For those of you who haven't heard of this illustrious tome - which, let's face it, is most of you - it's a shared-world anthology set in a town remarkably similar to that of our own, except slightly twisted and fantastical. There are (tentative) plans for more in the series.

Anyway, *Bounce*.

I believe the full contents list runs like this:

Dreaming of Angels, Cherith Baldry
Heritage Ocean, Neville Rhys Barnes
The Whitby Jets, Jacey Bedford
Stone and Stage
, Chris Butler
Thick Hides and Furry Hearts, Mark Concannon
Jettisoned, Deirdre Counihan
Proof of Devotion, Dayle A. Dermatis
Lost in Whitby, Melanie Fletcher
How Thorvald the Bloody-Minded Saved Christmas
, Esther M. Friesner
Wylde in Whitby
, Stephen Kilbane
Hobdale, Ruth Nestvold and Jay Lake
Recalled to the Wrath of Penda, Alistair Rennie
The Whale's Daughter
, Kari Sperring
The Age of Silver, Sue Thomason
Drowning Victims
, Karen Williams
Mortal Coil
, Liz Williams
The Codsman and his Willing Shag, Neil Williamson

Current Mood: excited
Tuesday, March 25th, 2008
12:33 pm
Tell us stuff!
Now that the convention's done, we're collecting both convention reports - what you did, what you saw - and convention feedback - what worked, what didn't - over on our website.

The feedback's especially important. We tried some different things for this Eastercon, and we'd like to know whether they worked.

Current Mood: Tired, but relieved
Tuesday, January 24th, 2006
9:08 am
Hmmm. Prod, poke.
Thursday, September 29th, 2005
11:13 pm
I really hate it when shop-keepers - or, indeed, anyone I'm paying - give me change by placing the note(s) in my palm, and then putting the coins on top. I know it's suppose to be helpful. It makes it considerably harder to put the coins and notes away without dropping something, because my choices are to:
(1) close my hand, wrapping the coins in a little financial parcel that has to be unwrapped later; or
(2) use my other hand - frequently occupied with goods - to retrieve the coins before they slide off the smooth notes.

It's better to give a customer the coins or notes and let them process that however they wish and then give them the rest.

Current Mood: Grumpy
Saturday, July 16th, 2005
1:20 pm
Ed film fest
So there was a big queue at the Filmhouse when the Film Festival box-office opened. Lots of people.

This disconcerted the biddies who just wanted to get tickets for the next showing of a film that day. The staff had announced that at 2pm, they'd be opening a separate queue/counter for same-day tickets.

The irony of all this is that the film showing at 2:30pm was Festival. "Is this where I queue to get Festival tickets" only works if someone can hear the italics...

Current Mood: amused
Friday, May 20th, 2005
11:27 pm
The Gimp
No, not the Tarantino character from Pulp Fiction. I refer, of course, to the Gnu Image Manipulation Program.

I've been fiddling with this of late. It's rather impressive, and also has a rather steep learning curve. Alas. Being a non-Photoshop person, I'm largely lost by many things that are probably intuitively obvious to other people, but I've been having fun achieving not very much with it.

Mind you, I seem to be finding it surprisingly difficult to draw properly-aligned concentric circles with it.

Who knows - maybe one day I'll figure it out enough to actually acquire an icon?
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