Tuesday, 21 September 2010

My First Fantasycon, Part 1: All the Stuff That's Not About Trying to Sell My Novel

So I not only went to but survived, and not only survived but enjoyed my first Fantasycon - that being, for anyone who doesn't know, the annual conference organised by the British Fantasy Society - and it seems only right that I say a few words about it.

I went to Fantasycon with a few ulterior motives - to be discussed in part 2 - but I mainly went because it seems to be the UK event that people consistently rave about.  I had no idea what to expect, but as a miserable cynic, that didn't stop me expecting the worst: perhaps me and and two other people in a room slightly smaller than the average broom cupboard, forced to debate the relative merits of the Silmarillion and the Lord of the Rings for thirty two hours straight.

That didn't happen, (believe me, I wouldn't be taking the time to post about it), but tons of other stuff did.  That said, because I missed the first day and it took me a few hours to tune into the whole thing I suspect I missed more than I saw.  I completely failed to go to any readings, for example, and I only made one panel, though at least it was thoroughly interesting - Robert E. Howard discussed by folks including the prodigious Ramsay Campbell and Stephen Jones, who edited the excellent Gollancz volumes of Conan that really got me interested in Howard.  Similarly, although I only went to one signing, I picked a good one: the Never Again anthology from Gray Friar Press, including too many great writers to name but specifically from my point of view my friend Alison Littlewood, whose work never fails to impress me.

Apart from that and the stuff I'm going to talk about in part 2, I mostly spent my time browsing stalls, mingling, drinking (oh, so much drinking) and catching up with people.  Some of these were old friends that I haven't seen in ages like the multi-talented Alasdair Stuart and Angry Robot and Hub editor and all-round nice bloke Lee Harris.  Others were well-known names that I finally got to put a face to, like Stephen Theaker (who between Dark Horizons and Theaker's Quarterly Fiction has accepted more of my work than any other editor, and is every bit as nice in reality as he seems in the digiworld) and author-editor Geoff Nelder, who I hope I run into again so we can finish the conversation I rudely rushed out of.  A few were complete strangers - and I realise that isn't catching up, exactly, but it's a way of mentioning just how damn friendly most people were, and how willing and eager to share their knowledge and experience of the industry.  Of these, BFS Publicity and Events Co-Ordinator Martin Roberts particularly stands out, since I only approached him in a muddled attempt to sell my novel to PS Publishing and we ended up chatting for about half an hour.

I was determined not to spend too much money, or at least only spend it on absolute necessities like food and alcohol, but in the last couple of hours I went a little mad, and I still think I got off lightly given how much awesome stuff I could have splashed out on.  Most expensive single purchase was PS's sci-fi movie essay antho Cinema Futura (pictured left), and I also picked up The Places Between by Terry Grimwood, (right), because I was bothering Pendragon Press's editor Christopher Teague and that lovely cover kept catching my eye.  But my biggest purchase was five art prints by the astonishingly talented Les Edwards - four of these, a series based on Lovecraft's The Shadow Over Innsmouth, can be found in the bottom right of this page.  I nearly split them up to save a few quid and I've never been so glad to have defeated my cheapskate Yorkshireman instincts.  Now if only I had some frames and wall space!

Were there any low points?  Well, having to point out to Terry Martin which issue and then which page of Murky Depths he'd published me in before he remembered who I was was a sobering moment, though completely understandable in retrospect (and congrats, by the way, to Murky Depths for picking up the Best Magazine / Periodical award, it was well deserved.)  Complimenting Lisa Tuttle on a story actually written by Sarah Pinborough wasn't my finest moment, (and then I completely failed to tell Sarah I liked it either - Sarah, if you should happen to read this, Snow Angels blew me away).  There was the point where I realised that all the less miserly and antisocial people had all gone off for the banquet and that I'd have to find somewhere to eat alone amidst the sinister and alarming surrounds of Nottingham - although that ended up in fantastic take away pizza, so all was more than well.

Apart from that, the two days ranged from relaxing and interesting to flat-out great, and I know that I'll have a better time next year for knowing the ropes.  The really great bit was seeing, with my own eyes, that the British genre scene is truly healthy - definitely struggling, who or what the hell isn't these days? - but definitely alive and definitely kicking.  And the best bit?  That'd have to be getting to feel like a part of that scene for a couple of days.

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