Where does one start with a convention report? I suppose, like with all things, at the beginning.
For those of you who aren't in the know, the Book Expo Australia was cancelled at short notice three days before it was supposed to occur. I won't go into too much detail in regards to this, but the sudden cancellation left a lot of publishers, authors, and artists high and dry with stock they were going to sell, and bookings that couldn't be cancelled at such short notice.
Most people decided to incur the costs, and cancelled their reservations without refund. Disappointment and anger flowed freely online, as people debated what went wrong and pondered how they were going to survive with new and unforeseen debts now hanging over their heads (publishing is often a fine line between solvency and bankruptcy).
Amidst all of this Geoff Brown, and a number of other authors and editors, plotted and made plans. A few hours after the expo was cancelled I got a phone call from Geoff.
"We're still coming up. Fuck it. We'll hold our own convention."
A few hours after that phone call Geoff and Cohesion Press announced that Galaxy Bookshop would host an event that included book signings, launches for Fathomless and Primordial, interviews and meet and greets.
Welcome to Cohesion Con 2016!
Day 1 -
My wife, daughter, and I arrived at our hotel Friday afternoon after a mostly uneventful drive up. We had prepared for almost any child related disaster on the trip, so when our daughter behaved herself we were relieved (props to Frozen for keeping her happy). After getting our luggage up to the room and taking in the view over the Parramatta CBD, we decided to venture forth and explore the surrounding area. I was buzzing, the fatigue from our long commute fading as the family and I followed our noses (and stomachs) down to Harris Park (also known as 'Little India'), where we inhaled some of the best curries I've had in years. A great start to the weekend!
On the walk back to the hotel, Geoff messaged the group we had set up on Facebook.
"Anyone up for a coffee?"
Andrew J. McKiernan was keen, as was I. Plans were made to meet in the lobby downstairs in the hotel where both Geoff and Andrew were staying once I got back from our adventure (across the road from me).
After settling the little one in with my better half, I wandered over to meet Geoff and Andrew. Butterflies gripped my stomach, as I sat down in the lobby and waited.
A couple of minutes later, Andrew strolled up looking relaxed (the luxurious Turkish spa in his room probably had something to do with it!) and greeted me with warmth and kindness, instantly putting my nervousness at ease. Within minutes we were laughing and chatting about different things, from learning to drive right through to parenthood and books we loved. Geoff appeared, and greeted me like a long lost friend. All of my nerves evaporated, as we continued to laugh and chat in the lobby.
"What time is Lee due?"
"Soon, I think."
Lo and behold, an airport shuttle pulled up to the hotel, and out jumped Lee Murray, all smiles and excitement at finally arriving after a long trip from New Zealand. Hugs and greetings were exchanged, and we moved into the hotel restaurant to eat and continue getting to know each other. A couple of hours later, after much laughter and good conversation, I walked back across the road and up to my room to get some much needed sleep.
Day 2 -
Having planned to catch up with everyone again after lunch, my wife and I took the little one to Parramatta and did some shopping in the morning. I wandered into a board game store, and almost spent a shitload of money on some expansions to Arkham Horror. Luckily, I was able to restrain myself and keep what money I had to spend at Galaxy Bookshop the following day.
After more retail therapy, we met up with one of our best friends who lives in Sydney and had a wonderful lunch (dining out in Sydney is brilliant when you come from a town where the best eating is at the local pub). Dashing back to Rosehill afterwards, I scampered over the road again for coffee and finally got to meet Andrew and Geoff's lovely partners, Kylie and Dawn. More great conversation followed, and the laughter and merriment from the group echoed around the restaurant. Lee, because she is an amazing human being, gave me three books for nothing whilst we were drinking coffee and tea. My haul had begun!
Plans were made to go out for dinner, but I couldn't make it as I was on 'Daddy Daycare' duty for the night. I did hear on the grapevine though that the police were called to settle and contain an unruly lot at the gourmet pizza place down the road, and that Andrew trashed his luxurious hotel room in true rock star fashion in the early hours of the morning (ok so that didn't happen... but I never let the truth get in the way of a good story).
Day 3 -
The day had finally arrived. Cohesion Con 2016! Galaxy Bookshop, a temple for speculative fiction fans statewide! HELL YEAH!
Gobbling down a quick brekkie, we jumped in the car and raced over to our friends place in Alexandria again. A quick kiss and cuddle goodbye, and I practically ran to Redfern Station as my excitement grew. A short train ride into the CBD, and I stared up at Galaxy Bookshop. I was finally here! I went to walk into the shop... heavenly trumpets sounding in my head as I imagined the gates of the shop opening up before me... and ran straight into the glass doors that were still locked (I was ten minutes early and the store was still closed).
Finally the doors opened, and I flew up the stairs and almost fell over at the sheer concentration of speculative fiction books in one location. Thousands of books... fantasy... science fiction... horror... weird... all together. I wandered up and down the aisles, like a kid (a balding and hairy kid admittedly) in a candy store, looking at titles, making notes of prices, and planning my purchases.
A few minutes later Geoff, Dawn, Andrew, Kylie, and Lee showed up and as a group we marvelled at the shop. Lee immediately started doing some Christmas shopping, and the rest of us wandered around and struggled to wipe the smiles off our face as we picked up book after book to examine. The lovely staff at Galaxy (Allison, Tamara, and Craig) made us all feel incredibly welcome, and discussions about where everything was taking place were had. Feeling the pangs of hunger, we headed across the road to the Queen Victoria Building to have some brunch, and to wait on the arrival of a few other people.
Whilst we were enjoying our coffee and chatting a tall and roguishly handsome (cheque's in the mail isn't it mate?) man wandered up to the table and introduced himself to me first.
"Geoff... I'm Adrian."
"... err hi... I'm Matthew"
Adrian (of Grimdark Magazine fame, and a very cool dude!) soon met the real Geoff (who was outside having a smoke when Adrian rocked up), and the general merriment continued.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw a flash of red, and AJ Spedding arrived and plonked down next to me at the table after greeting everyone.
"Fuck. I need a coffee!"
Yeah... she's that cool.
The conversation and laughter continued, as we all enjoyed each other's company and talked shop. Adrian, AJ, Lee, Andrew and I chatted about authors such as Mark Lawrence, book piracy, and the projects we were all working on. I also introduced AJ to the amazing artwork of Jason Deem.
Alan Baxter suddenly appeared, like a wizard emerging from behind the curtains at a show, full of energy and carrying a large box filled to the brim with his new collection Crow Shine (if you haven't pre-ordered it go here and do so now... it's amazing). We all reached for our wallets, and practically threw our money at him for signed copies.
Once our bellies were full and our mood was soaring, we wandered back over to Galaxy and the tables were set up and loaded with books and all sorts of other goodies. I hung around and continue to browse, not wanting to get in anyone's way as they set up (I did keep one eye on Lee though, in case she grabbed all of the ARCs of Fathomless and made a dash for the nearest exit).
After set up was done everyone relaxed and stood around chatting. Adrian and I decided to get the party started, and walked up to the signing tables and loaded ourselves up with books. Cohesion Con 2016 had officially begun. I grabbed a copy of everything that was available and walked up to the cash register to pay. As I eagerly pulled out my wallet (again) Greig Beck, one of my all-time favourite writers, strolled past and introduced himself to everyone at the signing tables. Before I could complete my transaction I heard Greig ask everyone where I was, and I timidly raised my hand like a kid who'd been caught with his hand in the lolly jar. Greig rushed over, shook my hand and handed me a gift (context... I do some editing and beta reading for Greig on the side). I quickly unwrapped the paper, and was greeted with a signed first edition of Matthew Reilly's Great Zoo of China (I'm a big fan of Reilly, so my mind was blown by Greig's generosity). Feeling absolutely stunned by everyone's kindness and generosity, and I stumbled back to the signing tables in a haze, where Andrew got the ball rolling by signing my copy of his outstanding collection for me (Last Year, When We Were Young... buy it now. I swear you won't regret it). I worked my way along the tables... convincing Geoff (a reluctant signer hehe) and AJ into penning their signatures in copies of SNAFU: Survival of the Fittest, SNAFU: Unnatural Creatures, and their stunning graphic novel The Road to Golgotha (I found your sneaky signature AJ!).
Next up was Greig, who continued to blow my mind by showing me the acknowledgement he had written for me at the start of Fathomless! I damn near fainted after seeing that. Lee then kept the good times flowing by signing a copy of Into the Mist for me to go with the books she had already gifted to me the day before. Finally, I reached that cheeky photo bomber also known as Alan Baxter, who made my day by signing whatever I put in front of him (he'll sign anything... seriously). With my haul safely secured, I was able to stand back, watch, and chat with Adrian (his knowledge of the industry is amazing). After awhile Adrian had to bail (boo!), so I wandered up to the back of the store where B. Michael Radburn and Wanda Wiltshire, two more authors who were also doing signings at the shop, had set up their tables. I knew Baz from his work in SNAFU, so it was a real delight to finally meet him and get his signature above his story 'Cargo'.
As I turned around and strolled back towards the front of the shop, winding my way in between throngs of people waiting to meet some of their favourite writers, I noticed Mitchell Hogan standing there. He had snuck in and signed a bucket load of his books for the shop without me even noticing. I immediately made a beeline to him and introduced myself (I suspect he was rather alarmed at first as I bore down on him). We chatted for ages, popping downstairs for a sneaky beer and yarn (see what you missed Adrian? Mitchell Hogan... buying me a beer!) before we made our way back upstairs where an impromptu Q&A (run by the Annie and the cool people from the Read3r'z Re-Vu group) was taking place. After that was wrapped up Mitchell and I continued chatting, and I convinced him to buy a copy of Bradley Beaulieu's Twelve Kings, a wonderful swords and sandals fantasy. Like Adrian, he too had to bail and get home to his wife and daughters, so I sat with Dawn and chatted about books and our shared love for all things Sara Douglass.
As the afternoon unfolded and the crowds began to thin, we started to pack up and make plans for dinner. Alan knew of a great burger joint called Grill'd, so we loaded up the cars (we won't speak about Geoff and his liberal interpretation of our road rules here in NSW hehe) after Galaxy shut their doors, said our goodbyes to the people that had to head home, and walked up to World Square to grab a bite to eat.
The next couple of hours were a blur to be honest, as we ate, drank, and laughed after a long and incredibly fun day. We celebrated the successful launches of Fathomless and Primordial, and the fact that everyone had left the shop with mighty hauls! By the end of it we were all exhausted, and with long trips ahead for people like Geoff and Lee, we called it a night and said our goodbyes to each other. AJ and Alan were heading my way (back towards Town Hall train station), so we walked together in the warm air of the city. As I pondered which train I'd have to catch back to Redfern Alan asked me where I was heading.
"Alexandria. We are staying with a friend for the night"
"Ok. Sweet! That'd be great."
So after farewelling AJ at the station I then found myself whizzing around the streets of Sydney with Alan, chatting about Cormac McCarthy, Laird Barron, and the fun trials and tribulations of parenting toddlers as he expertly weaved his car in and out of streets I'd never heard of. Dropping me at my place of residence for the night a little later, he shook my hand, bade me farewell, and sped off into the night to make his own way home. I'm still in awe that one of my favourite authors gave me a lift home! An incredibly act of kindness.
Day 4 -
We set out early, wanting to get our trip done by lunch time so we could have the afternoon to relax. After four hours of driving we arrived home, and I was able to finally sit down and relax. Sipping my coffee as my wife and daughter napped on the couch, I was able to reflect on what was one of the most amazing and enjoyable weekends I've ever had. I met and socialised with some amazing people, visited a store that blew my mind, and bought a stack of signed books that will take pride of place on my bookshelves for decades to come. Most of all though, I got to be an active participant in our wonderful speculative fiction community. I'm grateful for Geoff, Galaxy Bookshop, and everyone else I met over the weekend for making that happen. Together, we are legion people. Onward to Cohesion Con 2017!
You can find signed copies of all of Cohesion Press's amazing books at Galaxy Bookshop. Be sure to pop in as soon as possible to pick up your copies before they run out (if they have run out, ask them to order more in!) Also, remember to grab a signed copy of Andrew J. McKiernan's and Alan Baxter's collections (Last Year, When We Were Young and Crow Shine respectively) whilst you're there! Both are great collections that will blow your minds!
For more information about Cohesion Press head on over to their website. Big things are coming!