Not long back from my eighth consecutive Fantasycon, and my personal favourite of the eight marvellous Fantasycon conventions (organised by the British Fantasy Society). Like World Horror Con in 2010, at the same venue in Brighton (Royal Albion), this one went vertical. The attendance was at record levels (in an economic downturn), which meant there was a good crowd attending just about everything in the programme – launches, panels, master classes, interviews, films, raffles, awards. There was a Forbidden Planet store and a dealers Room for book buying (I treated myself to Tartarus’s Strangers and Pilgrims, a definitive weird tale collection by Walter del la Mare, that I have been circling for some time) and more socialising than you could shake a cocktail at. Even the horror panel I sat on, at 11pm on Saturday night, which went up against the disco and burlesque, didn’t have an empty seat showing. In fact, people stood at the back and sat on the floor until midnight. There was appetite and enthusiasm in spades.
The special guests this weekend were, as ever, first rate – John Ajvide Lindqvist, Brian Aldiss, Peter Atkins, Gwyneth Jones, Joe Abercrombie, Christopher Paolini – and the mistress of ceremonies, Sarah Pinborough, was on fire. And what really stood out for me at Fantasycon this year, was the turnout from major London publishing. We’re nearly all writers, artists, small publishers, or a part of the review community attending Fantasycon, so to have key publishing professionals in commissioning roles attending – Quercus and the new Jo Fletcher imprint, Orbit, Gollansz, Transworld, Hodder – was monumental. The generous spirits, the collegiate atmosphere, the geniality, the dedicated small presses and mid size series publishers, that we count upon as a Fantasycon signature, was finally augmented by the attendance of so many big international publishers. It was an EVENT.
Bit of background on my association, which I think is a not uncommon experience for new and aspiring writers who discover and take a chance on the BFS. I used to live in a genre writer vacuum. In fact, I think I only knew Mark Samuels pre 2004, through the London Adventure and Fitzroy Societies. Besides the other students on a creative writing masters in 97/98, I didn’t know any writers who lived to write. But when Banquet for the Damned was published in 2004, Ramsey Campbell and Peter Crowther, who brought me into print as a horror writer, encouraged me by email to attend Fantasycon. I imagined Klingon masks and Federation uniforms. Instead, I walked through the front door of a hotel in Walsall, knowing no one beyond a little correspondence, and inched into a hotel lounge packed with people I’d read and admired for years. Literally a Who’s Who. I’d come home. I genuinely feel my association and participation ever since has been a privilege.
Mentioning my involvement in the BFS, or my long weekends at Fantasycon, to the uninitiated often produces a snigger or an attempt at ridicule (but that’s soon fixed by a chair brought down over a head … only kidding), but I don’t really care. If you are serious about writing genre fiction, you would have failed to have been in Disneyland at this year’s Fantasycon. You might not walk away with a book deal (though you may well come away with an invitation to write a short story for a small press anthology), but you’ll come away wiser, better informed, eager to write with a spring in your step, in possession of a coven of new friends who are still friends years later, confirmed, comforted, sleep deprived and hung-over …
Here’s a few pics:
Royal Albion hotel, Brighton. That Thing on the Shore (apologies to Tom Fletcher!)
Steve Mosby and Tom Fletcher.
Will Hill and Gary McMahon
Stephen Volk and Conrad Williams
Peter Crowther and Mark Morris
Quentin Crisp and Joseph D’Lacey
Clive Nevill and Peter Mark May
Joseph D’Lacey (again, but check out the shirt)
Clive Nevill, Tim Lebbon, Guy Adams, Catherine Rogers, Robert Shearman, Stephen Volk
Simon Bestwick (seated) at the GUTSHOT launch
Christopher Priest interviewing Brian Aldiss
As the Salvation Army used to sing, Come and join us!