Bristolcon 22

Bristolcon is the perfect convention for my set of requirements: easily accessible from where I live (a five minute walk from Bristol Temple Meads*); only one day (though I know there are voices clamouring for making it a two-day event); just the right size for the optimum mix of socialising and business; and above all, a good programme that will probably have at least a couple of somethings for everyone. In between the somethings – well, see the above point about socialising.

(*This year for the first time I drove, or rather got driven, which also is very easy apart from having to cope in the last ten minutes of the journey with Bristolian traffic, and one of Bristol’s quaint roundabouts that are actually two parallel bridges over the river. Also, the hotel’s carpark is not big and as my driver remarked, it appeared to be National Park Like A Twat Day, but we squeezed in.)

I will confess making it to only three panels, of which I was on two and moderating one. Though I did also make it to the essential guest of honour interview with Liz Williams, who is always interesting, a lovely person, a consummate professional, an extremely good writer, and hopefully now recovered from the cold that had lowered her voice to the nearly subsonic bass range.

My panels were “My Back Up Plan” (writing and producing art can be a precarious occupation. How do you balance the books as a writer, how do you pay the bills?) and, the one I was moderating, “Author, Publish Thyself” (a panel about the experiences of self-published authors). I enjoyed both of these greatly, I think because they weren’t just opinions that ultimately come down to taste (see paragraph below): all of us were money-earning professionals in these fields and were able to impart, share and learn actual practical expertise. And that was just among the panellists, but I hope the audience got the same.

The third panel, just to show the range, was “There were no elves at Helm’s Deep”, which is a pet peeve of many who watched the Jackson movies. I have to confess it’s not one of mine, a) because I didn’t know the book that well when I watched the movies and b) because I didn’t care. But thankfully this was not a panel of Tolkeinista fanboy ranting; it was in fact a very good discussion about adaptations. When does the adapted item become an item in its own right, divorced from the original source material?

And as J.A. Mortimore pointed out, even those who burst a blood vessel at an elven presence at Helm’s Deep stay strangely quiet over the omission of Tom Bombadil from the movies.

I also bought Juliet McKenna’s latest from Wizard’s Tower Press: if you haven’t discovered her perfectly blended brand of folk and modern fantasy, then start now. Greatly looking forward to reading this one. This is a series that richly deserves to be adapted for screen; it really should be a matter of time.

So, that was Bristolcon for another year. For all that there was so much more I could have seen, I’m also in the group that would rather keep it as a one-day event. It’s far more fun to have so much that you can’t get a grip on it all than to start spreading it thin.

Occasional recipes: Sautéed Courgettes and Basil with Tagliatelle

Another discovery from that hidden gem, The Essential Pasta Cookbook – but with differences. First, you will notice I do not call it what the book does, Fettuccine with Zucchini and Crisp-Fried Basil, for a number of reasons. 1) We use tagliatelle (though fettucine doesn’t involve eggs so would work for vegans). 2) We call them courgettes. 3) What monster would crisp-fry basil? What on earth is the point of that? Basil au naturel, freshly torn and mixed into the food, is the only way to go.

But other than that … the only word of caution is that this is almost too easy. See the recipe below, or just take my word for it: you grate the courgettes (1 per person) and fry them with as much crushed garlic as you can take, in plenty of butter, and you can do all of this from beginning to end in the time it takes the pasta (75g per person) to cook. But, you still need to be fairly sharpish because it’s quite easy for tagliatelle to overcook to the point where it slithers out of the holes in the colandar – not the best look.

It goes without saying that rather than perpetrate any atrocities involving oil upon a few innocent basil leaves, you shred them at the end and mix them in with the pasta and the courgettes. Then leave to mature in the pan while you enjoy your G&T. Scatter with the parmesan just before eating.

Occasional recipes: (venison)(pork)(veggie)(any) sausage and squash traybake

This was a treat for us as we accidentally came by some venison sausages, and we didn’t even have to catch our deer first. But frankly I see no reason why it shouldn’t work with any kind of sausage – or indeed, no sausages at all if that’s your fancy. Though something that is more rather than less strongly flavoured will work the best. You will end with a gorgeous, sticky mixture of multiple flavours and textures, all working together in perfect harmony and filling the kitchen with heavenly aromas.

The recipe is by Tamsin Burnett-Hall and can be found at For once I have very little to add or to alter, not even to correct the amount of garlic (which turns into a fantastic goo inside the skin and needs to be squeezed out, flavouring the whole dish) – except to say that where she mentions redcurrant jelly … Well, we didn’t have any redcurrant jelly. We did however have some sloe and apple jelly, which worked just as well.