China Mieville @ Forbidden Planet, 30 April
Star Trek Week #1: Classic Trek

"Writing Young Adult Fantasy" @ Sci Fi London, 2 May

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The event: In its 8th year, the Sci Fi London film festival has experimentally added a set of literature 'labs'  - panel discussions on a variety of topics. The "Writing Young Adult Fantasy" panel was the first. The seven panel members discussed the challenges and rewards of writing for a young audience, their own influences, whether or not 'young adult' was an arbitrary (or marketing) distinction and their approach to addressing adult themes (specifically gender and sexuality issues).

The stars: Paul Stewart, Chris Riddell, Oisin McGann, Chris Wooding, China Mieville, Pat Cadigan and a moderator (name unknown - she was writing a survey book on young adult genre fiction).

The two stars were Oisin McGann and China Mieville. The former, an award-winning Irish author, impressed us with his open discussion of the importance of story-telling over world-building, especially with a younger audience. Mieville was articulate and controversial, happy to disagree with other panel members about the role of commercial influences - simply put, no matter how hard an author may try to 'ignore' them, they're inescapably part of the author's subconscious mix. 

The moderator (whose name escapes me and isn't on the web site) took too much of an active role, often answering questions herself by drawing on her experience "reading 750 young adult books" (a sentence we heard frequently). I naturally find quantitative criticism a bit dubious - and, on top of that, I'd be surprised if that number even eclipsed adolescent reading experiences of anyone else in the crowd. 

The setting: One of the theaters at the Apollo Piccadilly. Comfy chairs had a good sightline from every seat. There was a bar for snacks and drinks and a table set up with loads of books for every author (and they even took cards). 

The only possible venue-related criticism would be the godawful online ticket ordering system for Apollo Cinemas. However, there was always a live person on the end of the phone - good service overcoming technical hurdles.

The crowd: About 30-40 people, which is particularly impressive for 11 am on a Saturday morning. Very few children, which was a little disappointing given the panel topic. Not time for many questions, but the ones asked were shockingly relevant. 

The signature: Oisin McGann thoughtfully signed three books (he's got great handwriting). China MiƩville allowed himself to be cornered again for another signature and a chat. Spoke briefly with Pat Cadigan, but none of her books were on sale (or in print, as she sadly noted).

Suggestions: Given the tightly-regimented 1-hour length, it needed fewer panelists (3-4 would have been ideal) - some of the authors were visibly frustrated with the mob format. It also needed a less intrusive moderator. Overall, a well-organized and smoothly-run event at a professional venue. I look forward to attending many, many more of these in the future.