It’s not long now until Fantasycon, and I’ve noticed a lot of people on Twitter talking about it… including lots of people saying it’s their first one, and wondering what it’s going to be like. So, if you’re an FCon newbie, this is for you.
A: the Royal Albion. This year’s convention hotel is bang in the middle of Brighton, and overlooks the world-famous Palace Pier. Everything you could possibly need over the course of the weekend is within easy walking distance – although as anyone who went to World Horror there in 2010 will tell you, do give yourself a chance to get used to the slightly… eccentric layout! Yes, half the rooms are in the basement, and yes, the lift is the teeny-tiniest known to man (and–according to some who attended WHC–haunted) but you know what? It doesn’t matter. You can’t beat the view.
B: the British Fantasy Society. Fantasycon is the annual convention of the BFS – which this year celebrates its 40th anniversary. The Society publishes its own quarterly Journal, available to members only, and holds regular Open Nights, particularly in London, which are always well-attended.
C: Vincent Chong. Multiple-time British Fantasy Award winner, and one of sthis year’s World Fantasy Award nominees, Vincent Chong will, along with other artists, be taking part in “Artists’ Row”. There’s artwork on display and prints for sale: the Fantasycon art show is always strong, so make sure you find time to look around.
D: Dealers’ Room. No convention is complete without a Dealers’ Room, and FCon is no exception. Here you’ll find all manner of books, as well as small presses and the ever-popular Forbidden Planet table.
E: Eating. One of the highlights of Fantasycon is the awards Banquet, which takes place on the Sunday afternoon. It’s always fun, and even if you’re on your own, it’s a great way to start the build-up to the awards. You never know: you might be sitting next to a winner…
F: Finalists. Straight after the Banquet, it’s the British Fantasy Awards. These are closely-fought, and voted for by the membership of the BFS as well as attendees of this & the previous Fantasycon. The list of nominees for 2011 can be found here.
G: Guests. Every convention needs guests – and Fantasycon is no exception. This year’s line-up is incredible, and includes Gwyneth Jones, Joe Abercrombie, Christopher Paolini and more.
H: History of Fantasycon. It’s a special year for the BFS, and a special year for Fantasycon, too. As part of the weekend programming, keep an eye out for the “History of Fantasycon” item. You’re it’s present, but where has it come from… and what about its future?
I: Interviews & Panels: obviously, you don’t just come to Fantasycon to sit in the bar. Well, some of you do. But mostly, you come for the programming. And with the guests taking part in a wide range of programming–covering everything from editorial practice and the importance of online presence in modern publishing, to comics and SFF–and guest of honour interviews, there’s bound to be something to interest you.
J: Join in. It can be daunting coming to a convention, especially if it’s your first one or you’re coming alone. But don’t panic! Fantasycon is friendly, and there’s always bound to be someone else in the same boat. Get involved. Go to readings, join in the Q&A sessions, the film screenings, the entertainment. Without you, Fantasycon wouldn’t exist. Make the most of it!
K: Paul Kane. Paul is one of this year’s FCon committee, and a familiar face on the convention circuit. He’s also our resident Hellraiser expert: what he doesn’t know about it… well, we’re not sure there is anything he doesn’t know about it. And if you’ve not come across the Arrowhead trilogy (his re-invention of Robin Hood), you’re bound to have come across his short stories. Say hello if you run into him over the weekend… if nothing else, you can always pick his brains about Pinhead.
L: Launches. Fantasycon is legendary for its launches. PS Publishing, Angry Robot, Screaming Dreams and many other houses will be launching new books–not to mention the launch & signing of this year’s edition of the famous “Best New Horror”. On top of that, there’s the Quercus party for Jo Fletcher Books, and the Solaris event where you’ll have the chance to pick up some of their newest titles (and trust me, you’re going to want these.)
M: Mass Signing. Each year, FCon arranges the mass signing. There’s a lot of authors in the convention membership, and you probably have some of their books. In fact, you probably have a lot of their books (and if you don’t, there’s always the Dealers’ Room, right?). This is your chance to get that precious copy signed.
N: Newbies. Everyone has a first time at a convention, and yes, it can be a little confusing. That’s OK. This year, as every year, there’s a corner of the convention just for you: Newbies Corner. Any worries, questions or disasters–now matter how large or small–this is the place to go. You may not need it, but it’ll be there if you do.
O: Outside. There’s so much going on over the weekend that you may not think you’ll get out of the hotel. But if you do, there’s a lot to see. Brighton’s a fantastic city, and the Palace Pier with its arcades, fairground and–yes–ghost train–is at least worth a look. Further up the beach, you can see the skeleton of the old West Pier: now, sadly derelict, but more striking than ever. Go for a stroll in the Pavilion Gardens or wander round the Lanes–the notoriously twisty streets are all that’s left of Brighton’s original streetplan. And if you’re really feeling brave, there’s always one of the regular Ghost Walks…
P: Sarah Pinborough. We’re very lucky this year to have the inimitable Sarah Pinborough as our Mistress of Ceremonies. Laden with awards and nominations, she’s written horror, thrillers, short stories, tie-in novels and has recently ventured into YA. She’s also a genuinely lovely lady, and is bound to make things go glamorously!
Q: Quercus. Quercus is fast-becoming one of the publishers to watch. And they’ll be at Fantasycon to launch their new imprint, Jo Fletcher Books–headed, of course, by Jo Fletcher. Several Quercus authors will also be at the convention.
R: Ramsey Campbell. Ramsey is the President of the BFS, and renowned for his horror fiction, which continues to influence so many of today’s writers. Catch his late-night reading if you can…
S: Society membership. This is the annual convention of the British Fantasy Society, and as always there will be a BFS table. Here you can get copies of the Society’s publications (which cover books and the regular Journal) or, if you’d like to join, sign up for membership. And even if you don’t, you should head over and say hi. They don’t bite…. hard.
T: Team. Like all conventions, FCon relies on a team of volunteers to run smoothly. From the committee–organising the hotel, the programming and the whole shebang–to the runners on the ground: managing registration, wrangling guests and generally running themselves ragged, they work incredibly hard to make sure everyone has a good time. Be nice to them, give them a smile and if you’re enjoying yourself, let them know!
U: Underground. Yes, alright. It’s tenuous, I know, but make sure you do venture downstairs in the Albion. It’s very tempting to spend the whole time on the one level, but there’s stuff happening in the ever-so-slightly creepy basement too. And (top tip) that’s where the loos are!
V: Voices. Another feature of the Fantasycon programme is the readings. Throughout the weekend, authors will be giving readings (and, time permitting, a short Q&A) from works present or future. Catch a reading of an old favourite, or sneak a preview of something new. The reading programme promises to be as eclectic as the guests.
W: Workshops. This year, FCon is running several “Masterclasses”, covering how to work with agents, comics, screenwriting… all aspects of the publishing profession. The workshops are small, and space limited. See here for further details.
X: Extra-curricular. No, not just the bar (you’re spotting a pattern here, aren’t you?). In the evenings, as well as readings and panels, you’ll find entertainment included in the programming. Look out for the film screenings, the quiz, the raffle (oh, god. The raffle! You see, there’s raffles, and there’s the Fantasycon raffle. Just go along. You’ll understand…) and a host of other surprises!
Y: YA. Young Adult literature is one of modern publishing’s phenomena. Hugely popular, often controversial, and arguably read by as many adults as teens, it will be covered in programming, and signings. Several YA authors will be attending throughout the weekend, so if there’s anything you’ve ever wanted to ask them, here’s your chance.
Z: Zzzz. Sleep. You won’t get much. But that’s what next week is for, right?
So, there you go. That’s an entirely subjective, purely personal guide to Fantasycon for you. It’s a lot of fun, and while every year is different, it still has the same spirit.
And if you still want to know what it’s like, you can always read my write-up of last year’s FCon, in Nottingham.
More than anything, relax, and enjoy yourself. You’ve going to have a great time.