FantasyCon 2011 Round-up

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

This past weekend was the hottest October weekend in the UK since records began, and as such it was a great time to be heading to the seaside town of Brighton, back to the same hotel where World Horror Con was held about 18 months ago.

FantasyCon is a Con both Hubby and I like to attend, and we arrived in Brighton around 2pm. My reading was at 3:30pm, so I figured this was plenty of time to prepare. Unfortunately the hotel wouldn’t let us check in until 3, so we left our bags with the concierge and went to find the bar. We ran into a few T Party people on the way.

I wasn’t so nervous about doing the reading. I was more worried about not having an audience. There were two reading rooms, with readings scheduled against each other, and I think I lost out to the competition in the end. Plus, Friday afternoon was a quiet time, as not everyone had arrrived. Still, Mark West of Stumar Press – the publisher of my forthcoming collection – made it to the reading, a couple of T Party people and one or two others so I wasn’t playing to an empty house. I read two stories from the forthcoming SOUL SCREAMS. When I rehearsed them at home, I timed them together at over 20 minutes. For the reading, though, I was done in 15. I guess I was reading a bit fast.

Once the reading was done, I felt I could indulge in some alcohol (I didn’t want to be incoherent for my reading) but I really wanted to attend the panel on crossing genres, so I didn’t get to spend much time in the bar. Panel moderator was Sarah Pinborough, and the wonderful Mike Carey was on the panel, along with other writers whose work I haven’t read: Gary McMahon, Steve Mosby and Suzanne McLeod. I think I shall have to remedy this soon. They all write some variation of crime/supernatural crossover, and that’s just my cup of tea.

During the panel, Hubby had succeeded in getting us checked into our room (the queue had been far too long at 3pm). We attended the FantasyCon welcome party, catching up with a few more people in the bar. I encountered Simon Clark, whom I remember having long conversations with nearly 20 years ago, when a group of mainly BFS members used to have monthly pub meets in the Wellington pub in Waterloo. The monthly pub meets still happen, but the venue has changed several times since then, as has regular attendees. I don’t think he remembered talking to me nearly as well as I remembered him, but he was gracious enough to pretend he did.

Friday night ended with the infamous FantasyCon raffle. There are usually a lot of donated prizes, so it goes on for a while. Happily, I did win a prize – a book called WAKE UP AND DREAM by Ian R Macleod. Not an author I know, but the book looks quite interesting, and I’m never one to turn down free books, so it, too, has been added to the towering TBR pile.

Saturday Hubby and I decided to sample panels representing all genre fiction, so we went to the Trends in Fantasy Fiction panel, and the Where Next in SF? panel. Hubby then snuck off to his favourite Brighton guitar shop, while I wandered around investigating various launches, and a couple of readings.

In the hotel lobby I caught up with Gavin Williams and Tim Lebbon. As I mentioned in my lowdown of Horror Con, these two chaps and I used to be in the same writing folio – a sort of postal writing group – many, many years ago. They’ve both subsequently become very successful writers. Tim Lebbon especially is now a Famous British Horror Writer (and yes, that’s Famous with a Capital F). Quite nice that they both still remember me, though. We had a good chat.

Hubby returned with his loot from the guitar shop in time for the interview of veteran sf writer Brian Alldis, by Christopher Priest. Mr Alldis has led a fascinating life. After the interview he was signing books, and Hubby went off to buy one. He came back very happy, having engaged Mr Alldis in conversation for about 15 minutes, mostly about Singapore, where the writer was stationed during the war, and where Hubby ends up travelling to for work fairly regularly.

After a foray outside for some dinner and a walk along Brighton’s sea front – well, it seemed a shame to waste such a lovely day inside all the time – we returned to the bar for some more drinking and socialising. The evening’s entertainment included a Burlesque show. However, after the first half I dragged myself away from the girls with nipple tassels to attend another panel, on How to Scare Your Readers, which was populated by some of the best contemporary British horror writers. And one might be forgiven for thinking that contemporary British horror is dominated by bald blokes, as there were three of them sitting in a row – namely, Adam Nevill, Tim Lebbon and Simon Clark. The other two panellists were also blokes, though not bald – Ramsey Campbell and Tom Fletcher. Personally I think this panel should have had at least one woman – we women of horror are woefully under-represented.

In any case, the panel was very interesting, and Adam Nevill’s book THE RITUAL has gone on my TBR list, after Tim Lebbon – who himself writes some damn scary books – cited it as being the scariest story he’d ever read.

This panel was followed by Ramsey Campbell’s midnight reading, where the iconic horror writer read out one of his characteristically whimsical and disturbing short stories.

After that, I ventured back to the bar to find the first FantasyCon disco in full swing. Since the delegates at FantasyCon are mostly, like me, 40-plus geeks, the music played was entirely to my liking. The disco was Sarah Pinborough’s idea and I hope it becomes a FantasyCon tradition, because it was jolly good fun, even though bopping around in such sweltering heat meant none of us smelled too fragrant by the end of the evening.

Sadly, the evening had to end, and we retired to bed. Although there were activities scheduled for Sunday until mid afternoon, we were anxious to make an early start home, as engineering works meant our journey was going to be somewhat arduous. We said our goodbyes and left.

The post-Con comedown is always a struggle. After a weekend in such excellent company, getting back to real life can be a wrench. Sadly, I was obliged to return to the day job on Monday morning, but I have many wonderful memories from this year’s FantasyCon. I feel doubly sad about this Con ending as it’s the last one I’m attending this year. Already I’ve got post-Con withdrawal symptoms, and I don’t, as yet, have any Cons for 2012 booked up to have more to look forward to. I need to address this soon, methinks.

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