About Me

Me with Angel of the North

Hi, my name is James Shields.

I've been a fan of science fiction books, movies and TV for as long as I can remember. I kept this mostly to myself through my childhood, but that all changed when I wandered into the Royal Marine hotel because I'd heard there was a science fiction convention on.

I got involved with helping to run conventions almost straight away, assisting with publications for my second convention, before joining the committee for my third. I have been on and off the committee of Octocon, the Irish national convention, a number of times, but have always been helping out even when I'm not directly involved, and I currently run their website. I chaired Octocon in 2000, which was one of its best attended years. I have also helped out with P-Con, the other Irish convention.

I have been a regular attendee at UK conventions since the mid 1990s, though I just missed out on the 1995 worldcon. I've been to numerous Eastercons and have helped in one way or another whenever I could. At the 2005 Eastercon I co-ran a display of LEGO models that was very well received. More recently I've been helping with Ops, which I find a great way to find out what's going on at the convention while getting to meet lots of people and solve their problems.

My interest in desktop publishing led me to produce flyers and programme books for many conventions. I also produced several convention newsletters. I helped found the Robert Rankin fan club, Sproutlore, and produced fifty issues of its magazine before passing the reins over to a new club, Order of the Golden Sprout. I've helped various people to produce fanzines over the years, but it was only last year that I got around to launching my own fanzine, Brick Fix.

What I like

Some of the earliest books I remember reading were the Hobbit and Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy and John Christopher's Tripods. The first movies I remember seeing (apart from Fantasia, which I recall finding a big disappointment) were Star Wars (which was amazing) and Battle Beyond the Stars (which wasn't, though it may have taken me several years to realise it). As a child my favourite TV shows included Blakes 7, Star Trek, Space 1999, and (I'm ashamed to admit) Buck Rogers.

But my favourite TV show of all was Doctor Who. I only started watching it when I was eight, because prior to that we only had one channel, which didn't carry it, but I was instantly hooked, and watched it religiously until it stopped broadcasting it. However, around that time, one of the cable channels started showing repeats of old Who shows, and I caught up with a lot of the history. More recently I've been collecting them on DVD and trying to get hold of the last remnants of some of the missing early shows. I am very glad that we can enjoy new episodes of the show once again.

I'm still an avid reader, and particularly like cyberpunk, steampunk, the odd dash of hard SF, all washed down with a dash of 1950s pulps. I'm also interested in science and read a lot of science books.

My non science fiction interests

I'm a little bit of a fan of LEGO. I have a whole room full of it and like building large models to take to LEGO shows. Last year I was lucky enough to be involved in a project LEGO sponsored, which involved building models of famous UK landmarks and taking them to schools where we worked with children to smash them up and make something else from the pieces. I built Angel of the North near Newcastle.

I'm also something of a computer geek. It was my interest in desktop publishing that initially got me involved in convention running, and as the technology moved towards online publication, I got into web design. I wrote several content management systems in PHP, which have been used on several convention websites. In the last few years I have been moving my websites to the open source CMS, Drupal, which is an excellent system (eagle eyed observers may have noticed its use for this site).

One of my current projects is a member registration add-on module for Drupal, which I intend to make freely available for any conventions that wish to use it.