Fantasycon 2011

I’m a little behind on things at the moment (I’m fairly sure I’ve still not got round to rambling on about the House of Fear launch yet….) as it’s been a pretty solid week. But really. Fantasycon. Wow.

This year’s convention, organised by Paul Kane & Marie O’Regan on behalf of the BFS, was held in Brighton, in the same hotel as WHC2010 (an event with the dubious honour of being my first ever convention!), and – ever contrary – Brighton laid on its best and hottest weather of the year. In a packed hotel. With enormous picture windows. And broken air-con. Score!

Minor niggles about the hotel aside (it’s an eccentric place, but the location as a Con hotel couldn’t be better) this was roundly declared the best Fantasycon ever, and the best convention many attendees had ever seen. Beautifully run and with a packed, varied programme spanning all aspects of genre writing and film (including film shows, masterclasses and panels on editorial practice, YA literature and how to scare your readers…) it was an excellent example of a convention put together with the broadest possible tastes in mind. As a result, the convention sold out, with 500 weekend memberships sold, and around 100 additional day memberships for the Saturday. To put that into perspective, that’s a higher attendance than Fantasycon has ever seen – including for the year when Neil Gaiman & Clive Barker were guests.

One particular high-point for me (nerve-wracking as it might have been, and indeed was) was that I got to do my first ever public reading from “Blood & Feathers”. The fact I was doing this in Brighton – where I now live, of course – and in the very same building that saw me walk in 18 months ago without the faintest idea what I was doing; in front of a surprising number of people, many of whom I’ve come to see as family… it was very, very special. I’m immensely grateful to everyone who came – and only partly because they didn’t throw things – and asked questions which were far, far too clever for me…!

I went to a couple of other readings, too: notably by Tom Pollock (whose book I’m so excited about), Adam Christopher (whose book I’ve already read… and am still excited about!) and Helen Callaghan‘s (which left me basically wanting to find myself a man who can rip a stiletto apart). I really do wish I’d been able to make it to Anne Lyle and Gaie Sebold‘s readings, but just couldn’t get there.

The YA panel was interesting – and, I think, the only panel I made it to, thanks to all manner of scheduling clashes. After a lively debate about what’s appropriate in a YA book, and the challenges of writing for a teenage audience – and the dangers therein (a point raised by Sarah Pinborough, who talked about having seen some YA readers “stick” there and not progress further) the panel wound up wondering what YA really was. It was a good panel, and it was great to see serious programming time given over to discussing YA.

I was proud to see how packed the Solaris Books event & signing was… mind you: free books, free wine… at Fantasycon, this is always going to guarantee a full house. Even better, they made the fatal mistake of putting me in charge of the bar for a while….. That was a good afternoon.

It’s particularly worth noting, I think, that there were a lot of first-time attendees there: newbies not only to Fantasycon and the BFS but to conventions in general. Hopefully, like me at my first one, they liked what they saw enough to keep coming back. With the exception of the disco. I could totally understand if that made them run like their lives depended on it in the opposite direction. I know. I was there. I’ll be sending the therapy bills to all involved.

For me, though, the convention was – as ever – about the people. I got to spend time with old friends, and to make new ones. Fantasycon is, in my experience, a very relaxed and sociable place – too sociable, maybe, as there were at least five people I would have liked to spend more time with (or indeed, any time at all with!). And let’s not forget the unique double-act that Bella Pagan and I developed on the Saturday night: standing around, looking similar…

Spot the difference...

 

Like all these things, it’s the people who make it. So enormous thanks to Paul, Marie and all the team who organised a convention we’ll all be talking about for years to come – for all the right reasons. And thanks to everyone who made my convention so much fun: in no particular order….

Will Hill, Rob Shearman, Vinny Chong, Jenni Hill, Jon Oliver, Mike Molcher (chopstick ninja!), Scott Andrews, Tom Pollock, Lizzie Barrett, Anne Lyle, Adam Christopher, Michelle Howe, Paul & Nadine Holmes, Mike Shevdon, Sarah Pinborough, Guy Adams, Rio Youers, Gary & Emily McMahon, Joseph D’Lacey, Adele Wearing, Amanda Rutter… and so many more people I’ve lost track of.

Thank you, FCon2011. You *rocked*.

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