Future and past collide in Wolverhampton

Futura logo

Future and past collided on Saturday as the first-ever Futura science fiction convention took place at the historic yet cutting edge Light House media centre in Wolverhampton.

This was a convention of the literary variety, not media sci-fi, the latter of which is no stranger to Wolverhampton, which has been visited by many a Dalek or Cyberman over the years – back in the 1990s I even took on the aspect of that excellent silver nemesis myself at the Light House on one occasion!

But as I said, Futura was very much a literary event, focusing as it did on books, writers and publishers, and the fans thereof.

The event was an ambitious one, especially for a completely new offer – many such SF ‘cons’ have been running for decades and are so well-established they are fannish fixtures and it can be difficult for something new to break through, especially in the Black Country which, let’s face it, is little known as a venue for this kind of event, especially as sf cons are usually multi-day hotel-based affairs.

Authors, publishers and booksellers in the courtyard

Authors, publishers and booksellers in the courtyard

The decidedly Steampunkish venue was, however, the perfect host for a one-day con, as it turned out. Firstly, it is perfectly placed for transport, being a two minutes walk from the biggest bus station in the Black Country and a five minute walk from the main line Wolverhampton railway station.

Secondly, it contains not only two cinemas plus meeting rooms, it also houses an art gallery and that essential fannish watering hole, the cafe bar (the Lock Works bar).  All those centre on a massive glazed courtyard with iron columns and a stage with back wall bedecked with enough massive cogs to easily qualify the place as the ideal haven for Steampunks.

In any case, as far as the event on the day is concerned, there was an ambitious three-stream programme of author presentations and panels from writers, small press publishers and major authors that was more than enough to keep the most energetic of sf fans hopping and leaping (Quatermass allusion!) from cinema to meeting room to courtyard and back again all day (the programme started at 11am) and well into the evening, the final event beginning at 9.30pm!

There was no way of course that I could get to see everything, which is a common enough problem with multi-stream sf cons.  The fact that there was only a relatively modest number of attendees for this first event made this a bit tricky, however, as it meant the audience was effectively split into small groups, giving the excellent range of speakers and panels less attention than they clearly deserved.  It can only be hoped that the guests were happy with quality rather than quantity in this occasion, as it would be a great pity if they were put off future events as a result – Futura has enormous potential and deserves support.

I’ve appended the full programme below as a matter of interest.  For my part, I was only able to stay until 5pm as I’m a carer, but I was delighted to be able to attend the following programme items, which were universally fascinating and highly enjoyable:

In Cinema One:

11am What makes a great short story – panel by Mike Chinn, Theresa Derwin and Andrew Hook.  A cracking discussion by these experienced exponents of the art in sf and horror.

12pm Guest of Honour, author Ian R MacLeod – reading plus Q&A. This turned into a very enlightening discussion of ‘idea processing’ amongst much else.

2pm Guest of Honour, author Ken MacLeod – reading plus Q&A.  This mutated almost immediately into a poignant and insightful reminiscence of the late, great Iain M Banks, a close friend of the GOH.

3pm independent publishing in science fiction – a lively and fascinating panel by quality small press publishers Theresa Derwin (Fringeworks/Knightwatch), Adele Wearing (Fox Spirit), Jay Eales (Factor Fiction) and Chris Teague (Pendragon Press).

In the Studio Cinema:

4pm Boundaries of SF – this last minute addition to the programme was a fascinating and wide-ranging discussion between Andrew Hook, Selena Lock, Ian R MacLeod and Adele Wearing.

AUTHORS/PUBLISHERS

I had some very interesting chats with publishers and booksellers during the day, most notably with Theresa Derwin and Adrian Middleton of Fringeworks (centre, below) plus one of their authors, Mike Chinn (standing, right).

The Fringeworks table

The Fringeworks table

Other publishers/authors on display were Murky Depths (Terry Martin), Pendragon Press (Chris Teague), Screaming Dreams (Steve Upham), Aethernet Magazine, Rod Rees and others (sorry I didn’t get as much chance as I would have liked to chat to everyone, and sorry if I missed anyone!).  The Wolverhampton branch of Watestones bookstore were also there.

SWAG

Book swag

I also managed to bag a few good books, a couple of which were given free in the goody bag provided to all attendees, another of which was a bonus freebie (the excellent ‘The Demi-Monde: Winter by Rod Rees, signed!), one (a Ray Bradbury anthology) I bought from the organiser Alex Davis and last but not least another from Knightwatch Press (now part of Fringeworks), ‘New Tales of the Old Ones’, which was kindly signed by Theresa Derwin.

CONCLUSION

I really enjoyed Futura. I’ve not been to a literary sf con for many years due to lack of time and involvement with other things.  This has certainly reinvigorated my interest in such events and I hope Futura not only continues at the Light House but goes from strength to strength.

Larger numbers of attendees are clearly needed to ensure its future (if you weren’t there, you missed a treat!) but I heartily congratulate organiser Alex Davis and the Light House for getting this exciting new addition to the SF calendar off the launch pad!

A few photos are given here of the programme items I attended and tables in the courtyard (see the panorama above). Click on the photos for a larger version.  If anyone pictured would like to use these images for their own publicity or on their websites they are welcome to do so as long as I am acknowledged as the photographer and a link back is given to this blog.  I have a few other photos of individual tables which aren’t shown here – if anyone needs them feel free to get in touch.

– A. Stuart Williams

Event organiser’s website:  http://www.alexdavisevents.co.uk/

PHOTOS

Andre Hook, Mike Chinn and Theresa Derwin presented the short story panel

Andrew Hook, Mike Chinn and Theresa Derwin presented the short story panel

GOH author Ian R MacLeod

GOH author Ian R MacLeod

GOH author Ken MacLeod

GOH author Ken MacLeod

Independent publishers panel Chris Teague, Adele Waring, Theresa Derwin and Jay Eales

Independent publishers panel Chris Teague, Adele Waring, Theresa Derwin and Jay Eales

Boundaries of SF panelists Adele Wearing, Ian R MacLeod, Andrew Hook and Selena Lock

Boundaries of SF panelists Adele Wearing, Ian R MacLeod, Andrew Hook and Selena Lock

FULL PROGRAMME

FUTURA – Saturday 15th June 2013
SCHEDULE OF THE DAY
CINEMA ONE

11am: What Makes a Great Short Story (panel)
Mike Chinn, Theresa Derwin, Andrew Hook

12pm: Guest of Honour: Ian R MacLeod
Reading and Q+A session

1pm: LUNCH BREAK

2pm: Guest of Honour: Ken MacLeod
Reading and Q+A session

3pm: Independent publishing in science-fiction (panel)
Theresa Derwin, Jay Eales, Adele Wearing, Christopher Teague

4pm: Guest of Honour: Adam Roberts
Reading and Q+A session

5pm: Raffle
Drawn by Theresa Derwin and Alex Davis
(Tickets available from registration throughout the day)

STUDIO CINEMA

11am: Creating a Strong SF setting (panel)
Janet Edwards, Kim Lakin-Smith, Rod Rees

12pm: Has SF finally broken into the mainstream? (panel)
Sarah Cawkwell, Jay Eales, Adele Wearing

1pm: LUNCH BREAK

2pm: The World of Comics and Graphic Novels
Mike Chinn, Jay Eales, Selina Lock

3pm: Technology in SF – how much do you need?
Tony Ballantyne, Sarah Cawkwell, Janet Edwards, Philip Palmer

TRAINING ROOM

Please note that in order to attend kafeeklatsches you will need to collect a free ticket from Light House box office on the day.

11am: Tony Ballanyne
Kafeeklatsch

12pm: Kim Lakin-Smith 
Kafeeklatsch

1pm: LUNCH BREAK

2pm: Adam Roberts
Kafeeklatsch

3pm: Ken MacLeod
Kafeeklatsch

4pm: Philip Palmer
Kafeeklatsch

5pm: Rod Rees
Kafeeklatsch

6pm: DINNER BREAK

7:30pm: No Kafeeklatsch

8:30pm: Janet Edwards
Kafeeklatsch

9:30pm: Ian R MacLeod
Kafeeklatsch

COURTYARD:

11am-6pm: Booksales Area
Featuring Fringeworks, Pendragon Press, Screaming Dreams, Waterstones Wolverhampton and many more booksellers

6pm: DINNER BREAK

7:30pm: Mass Signing
Your chance to get your books signed by your favourite authors at Futura!

8:30pm: BREAK

9pm: Science-fiction Quiz
Test your knowledge of SF and win some fantastic prizes at our science-fiction quiz! Maximum team size of four.

BALCONY:

11am-6pm: Balcony Bookshop and Balcony Bookswap
The Balcony Bookshop offers a unique shopping experience, with stock changing throughout the day – stop by for our host of specials each hour! Plus the Balcony Bookswap – if you don’t like the look of your free books, then switch them for another title more to your taste!

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