I trekked to Room 12 in good time to listen to the person reading before me. Anne Lyle's The Alchemist of Souls has just gone onto my Wishlist.
My own reading went pretty well, I think. Only a small audience, but I read the whole of 'Matthew and the Flutterby People', one of the bonus stories to A Series of Ordinary Adventures, and then took questions. All rather fun, and not too intimidating.
After an hour's break, I was an audience member for 'The Metagame' in which a bunch of folks I know had to justify where their randomly allocated video game was more --- than their opponents' allocation. Much fun ensued.
The next panel I attended was 'How Not to Suppress Women's Writing', obviously riffing off the book by Joanna Russ. This was a pretty lively discussion, though not quite as energetic as the one that I went to a little later (I love the energy of feminist panels at conventions).
The panel started by discussing some numbers from university creative writing courses, where the intake at postgraduate level is skewed towards female students and more women than men get publishing deals as a result of the courses. On the other hand, fewer women write SF, and the panel asked whether this is out of preference or because of a perceived lack of success. Do women hold themselves to a higher standard than men? SF is an emerging trend in young adult fiction, but fewer women are submitting within the genre.
The panel agreed that the suppression of women's SF writing is at a systemic level, and that no one group is taking deliberate action in that regard. The increased requirement for self-promotion may put women at a disadvantage, so it was suggested that women should promote each other as much as possible. This is especially important since studies have shown that men are better at remembering the names of (and the titles of books by) other men. Likewise bookshop displays tend to feature more male authors, and reviewers tend to review more male authors, although few track their own numbers.
Since more book bloggers are women, there is probably an important need for them to review more women's SF and to track their numbers, just as the reviewers should be doing. Obviously, though the important issue is recruiting more people to the cause and avoiding the ghetoisation of women's SF.
The issue of categorisation also extends to publishers, who need educating in better ways of selling different types of story. The way books are sold is changing, and the market needs to move with that. Mention was also made of the problem of multi-genre authors. I really should have said something at that point regarding the issue of whether tagging systems on Amazon and the like will eventually lessen this problem: can the underlying theme link a particular author's books regardless of whether she's writing eg SF, fantasy or historical mystery?
Finally everyone agreed that we all need to buy and read more books by women and to buy more books by women to give as presents to everyone we know.
In a quiet hour between panels I joined various folks in the games room for a couple of rounds of Guillotine. Evidently I need to acquire and play more card games.
Then it was back to Room 12 for 'A History of Feminist SF in Britain', which really needs a post of its own since I have many pages of notes, some of which need cross-referencing.
I stayed in Room 12 for 'Publishing Outside the Box', which discussed Kickstarter in the main. Early discussion focussed on the choice of add-on materials, which everyone agreed was a learning process in terms of what supporters want, and what it is possible to supply. This led on to one of the pitfalls of an over-successful Kickstarter: the time and costs involved in producing rewards for everyone.
Evidently there is still a need for a go-between to link creators and the public. There is also a strong need to make a very careful assessment of what people are prepared to pay for an item: sometimes a lower-priced item will be more successful than a higher-priced, higher-quality item of a similar type.
Currently Kickstarter appears to be on a highpoint of the hype-cycle, but there's a likelihood that enthusiasm will wane eventually and therefore discoverability and pre-Kickstarter publicity are important, as is the need to perfect a work before releasing it to a wider audience.
This is also true for self-publishing and other alternative publishing structures. Parallel publishing streams can be very useful, with authors who gain a following through more traditional publishing routes also being successful with alternative routes and vice versa. Strength of brand is important.
Finally, emphasis was placed on the need to look at pricing structures. Lower prices don't always lead to increased sales in the long term.
After a one hour break, it was off to Room 41 for 'At Least I Still Have my Dignity'. This mostly focussed on the antics of those who have been in fandom for many decades, but was an interesting lead-in (for me and the few others who stayed) to the next panel.
'No Country for Old Men', talked about whether fandom and conventions in particular represent a safe space for women. The discussion revolved around the need for a code of conduct and points of contact who were able to deal with incidents, but I'm not entirely certain that as much progress was made as could have been. It's an issue that merits discussion, but possibly at an earlier hour of the day and with greater attendance from those running upcoming conventions (I may be wrong: from where I was sitting it was difficult to judge how many of the audience were on the committees of upcoming cons).
And now I shall just squee again about A Series of Ordinary Adventures having its own page on Goodreads.