I should probably start by admitting that I saw next to nothing of Fantasycon 2011. For that reason - and also because it's only the second one I've been to - you might want to take it with a pinch of salt when I say that it was the best Fantasycon EVER. But, you know what? You'd be wrong. Because it really was.
For a start, there was the weather. A seafront hotel in Brighton, on the hottest weekend of the year? That's a good start right there. Compare that with the concrete gulag that was last year's venue and you've already hit the ground running. But the Royal Albion was a damn fine choice of venue by any definition. Good food, nice staff, decent rooms, a floor plan that would have given Theseus a seizure, a reasonably priced bar (I'll be returning to this point later) ... I may not know a great deal about conventions or the organisation thereof, but I think those things pretty much speak for themselves.
Then add to that a load of great-sounding events - like those masterclass things I only managed to hear about after they were all booked up - and a ridiculous industry who's-who guest list,with not only famous FCon regulars like Ramsay Campbell, Mark Morris and the lovely Sarah Pinborough, but guests like Joe Abercrombie, John Lindqvist and Brian Aldiss (Brian bloody Aldiss!)
So how come I saw hardly any of the 'Con then? I mean, if it was so great and there were so many exciting things to do and so many neat authors to be in awe of? Well, unfortunately, this is where we come back to that reasonably priced bar. Okay, that and the fact that my friend and Endangered Weapon B artist Bob Molesworth happens to live in Brighton and most of Saturday was taken up by him and his girlfriend taking me to a fantastic pub and introducing me to Dave's Comics, the greatest comic shop I've ever seen.
But ... yeah ... mainly it was the bar.
That said, it seems only right to focus the rest of this post on a handful of the people who kept me company through my Fantasycon 2011 experience:
First up has got to be Lavie Tidhar. If you don't know Lavie then you almost certainly weren't at Fantasycon; if you do know him, it's probably because he's one of the most reliably fascinating writers (notice how I didn't say genre writers) working today. To me, though, Lavie's my Zeno and Angry Robot stablemate and the guy who kept me company throughout much of the weekend, shared his encyclopedic knowledge of everyone there and introduced me to most of them, and generally entertained the hell out of me. My biggest regret of the conference is being too broke (and okay, too cheap) to buy his latest, the fascinating-looking Osama.
Then there's Alison Littlewood, who I've known for a fair old while now and been published besides on more than a few occasions, and who really couldn't deserve her recent deal with Jo Fletcher books more. A Cold Season is going to be an absolute stunner. And I'm damn glad we're not working in the same genre, since in the freakiest of coincidences, me and Ali are launching on exactly the same day*, and she would totally steal all my readers. Ali, if you read this, apologies for missing your reading like I promised not to do. At that point, I'd been asleep for precisely three and a half hours. It was a long Saturday night.
But if there was one thing that really made the hell out of my weekend, it was meeting Mike Carey. And not just meeting him, but getting to hang out with him for about an hour at the Jo Fletcher launch, drinking free wine and anatomising his career in great and minute detail. Following on from my similar idiocy last year, my way of introducing myself to Mike was by professing my admiration for something he never actually wrote, and the fact that the conversation didn't end right there is testimony to the fact that he's - and I don't say this lightly! - the nicest person who also happens to be one of the top five writers working in the comics industry working today I've ever met.
Of course, I ran into a whole lot of other people, and most of them were completely brilliant. The fact that I don't know their names has no relation to the merits of their conversation and everything to do with the fact that my memory is crap at the best of times and even worse when drowned in alcohol. That and the way the name badges had apparently been designed to turn around at the slightest excuse, meaning everyone ended up being called . So ... whoever you were and wherever you may be, thanks for hanging out and listening to whatever alcohol-fuelled ridiculousness I happened to be coming out with.
(Odds were, I was boring the hell out of you about how I met Mike Carey.)
So next year? Next year I'm going to actually make some events. And readings. And signings. I'm going to do all those things that make a convention a convention and not just a load of industry folks propping up a bar like it's the last bar on earth and if it should ever fall the sun will immediately implode and annihilate all life in the universe.
I'm not even kidding here.
* (that'd be the 2nd of February 2012, incidentally)