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PHOENIX CONVENTION VIII, Dublin, 2011 – guest post by Ruth Long

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Coinciding with Dublin Book Festival was another spectacular literary event. Now, try as I might, I can’t be in two places at once. Thankfully, Ruth Long was attending and has provided this fabulous account of the merriment and mayhem that was Phoenix Convention VIII…

While the Dublin Book Festival took over much of the city centre this weekend, less than a stone’s throw away another literary convention met, replete with fantasy worlds, ghosts, zombies, future libraries and one way trips to Mars.

The Phoenix Convention (or PCon as it is affectionately know) is an annual literary event with an emphasis on Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror. It was held on 4th, 5th and 6th of March 2011, in the Central Hotel, Dublin and the Guest of Honour this year was the fabulous Ian MacDonald (author of bestselling novels, “Brasyl”, “River of Gods”, “The Dervish House”, and many more – see pic below). Other guests included Juliette E. McKenna, C. E. Murphy, Peadar O’Guilín, Maura McHugh, Derek Gunn, Cheryl Morgan, Michael Carroll, Erin Pringle, Oísin McGann, Wayne Simmons and many more (including me!).


This was my third year at PCon, the second as a guest. It’s a wonderful, intimate, educational and always entertaining convention. The type you come away from just wanting to get stuck back into writing as quickly as possible, you’re so full of ideas. Many old friends come to it, to meet up and have fun, but we’re always happy to make new friends too. The social aspect of PCon is another one of its very obvious attractions.

The opening ceremony on Friday night featured the book launch of Wayne Simmons’ zombie horror novel “Drop Dead Gorgeous”. We were treated to readings from the novel, as well as background information from Wayne about the story, its characters and the setting, Belfast. This was followed by a reading of a story by Stefan Grabinski “the Polish Poe”.


Saturday started for me with a discussion on “What disasters are left for fiction?” with Ian McDonald, Bob Neilsen, Peadar OGuilín and Steve Westcott—a lively and entertaining debate covering Grey Goo, Anti-matter galaxies, GM and Mayan Disaster Prophecies. Food for thought, but more importantly, food for future stories, as everyone scribbled down notes. In the other room, a discussion on Zombies and the death of humanity was reportedly just as “lively”.

Some panels were practical discussions on Viewpoints and aspects of novel writing such as Plot, Character and Voice, a Mystery Workshop and the much anticipated Sunday morning Writer’s workshop by Juliette E. McKenna and Dr. George Green, which got a huge attendance, even at 10am. Did I mention it was Sunday Morning?!

Meanwhile, at the same time, a (smaller) group were entertained by Peadar, Erin, Steve and myself talking on The Art of Reading (complete with imaginary puppets and since we were told a good reading could make or break a career a chorus of “No Pressure” to Erin, who was due to read at lunchtime).


In terms of the business side of writing there was a panel on Pitching (with Cheryl Morgan and Ivan O’Brien) while O’Brien Press and Wizard’s Tower Press gave presentations on their future plans. There were also more general panels on small presses, ebooks and markets. One of my favourites was the panel on Ghost Stories and their enduring appeal (with Maura McHugh, Wayne Simmons and Dave Murphy) while throughout Saturday people voted on who to select for a one-way trip to Mars (Jedward , Justin Beiber and Rupert Murdoch apparently being front runners). If you want to follow some of the madness that entailed, have a look at the #PCON hashtag on Twitter.

The closing ceremony included the investiture of Ian McDonald as a Friend of PCon and the prize giving for the Frank Darcy drabble contest (a 100 word short story containing the worlds ‘polar’ and ‘drivel’ to be written and submitted by Saturday afternoon). This year’s winner was Fionnuala Murphy and as she could not attend the closing ceremony Ian read her story to us. Also at the closing ceremony a torch was passed from Peter McClean who stepped down as organiser (and next year will get to enjoy some of the panels for a change) to one of PCon’s founders Pádraig Ó Méalóid who announced the details of next year’s convention.

March 3rd & 4th, 2012 in the Irish Writers’ Centre. The Guests of Honour will be Robert Rankin & Bryan Talbot. Further details can be found on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/#!/event.php?eid=188137717890006) and by following @PCONIX on Twitter.

The more the merrier!

I’d like to say a huge thank you to Ruth for this excellent post – it certainly gives a feel for the event. I’m off to follow on Twitter. Massive thanks also to Kate Sheehy for providing photographs. Elizabeth Rose Murray

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