Conventions

Nine Worlds

6a00d8345295c269e201901e93506c970b-800wiNext weekend (this weekend? I always come unstuck at the start of the week. Unstuck in time, unstuck in reality… all of that. Anyway. Moving on) I’ll be at the new Nine Worlds convention near Heathrow, along with many, many awesome people.

The convention runs from Friday afternoon through to Sunday, with pretty much everything you could think of on the programming somewhere: books, games, TV, film, cosplay… the works.

There are also live-gaming streams happening and – somewhere – I’m sure I saw mention of a gin appreciation session. Now, I don’t need anyone to teach me to appreciate gin (can do that quite well myself, actually) but I may well pop in there just in case they need a professional, as it were…

The full programme’s online here.

Uh… wow.

In terms of what I’m actually going to be doing, you can find me here:

Friday, 10.15pm: NEW VOICES SLAM SESSION, in the Lobby room. I’ll be doing a short reading, along with other writers like Adam Christopher, Emma Newman and my Agency Group stablemates Liz de Jager and Jennifer Williams. It’ll be fun. Bring a drink, bring a friend.

Saturday, 3.15pm, NEW VOICES, OLD GHOSTS: REINVENTING MYTHOLOGY AND THE SUPERNATURAL panel along with Kate Griffin, Ben Aaronovitch, Barry Nugent and Jo Fletcher.

Saturday, 5 – 6pm: SIGNING at the Forbidden Planet table, along with Ben Aaronovitch. I know. You may have to nudge me…

If you’re around, come and say hi. It looks like a brilliant line-up, and it would be fantastic to see a new convention get off to a flying start.

So. Nine Worlds.

Come for the programme…

… Stay for the Loki.

 

 

 

Edge-Lit 2

This weekend sees the return of the one-day Edge-Lit festival up in Derby (Edge Lit 2: Edgier!) and I’ll be dropping by to chat and take part in a couple of panels.

At 5pm, I’ll be involved in the “Urban Renewal: what makes urban fantasy so popular?” panel, along with Suzanne McLeod, Emma Newman, Freda Warrington and my Solaris stablemate Gaie Sebold; and after dinner I’ll be talking with Adam Christopher, Gary McMahon and Gavin Smith about where it all started on the “My first genre reads” panel.

I think this second panel was originally scheduled for 8pm, but has since been moved to 9pm: if you’re coming along, do be sure to check the programme!

There’s some great panels and events on the line-up, and the guests of honour include the fabulous Mike Carey – so if you’re in the area, do swing by. It’s going to be a fantastic day. (See what I did there?)

 

 

 

FantasyCon 2012

 This weekend sees the annual convention of the British Fantasy Society, FantasyCon, which is heading back to Brighton for the second year in a row. It’s a hugely friendly event with authors, editors, agents, readers and publishers all getting together to spend time together. And there’s a disco. And bars which never seem to close…

I’ve been involved in the background of this one for the first time, helping to organise the reading slots which will be running from the Friday afternoon through to the Sunday lunchtime. We were incredibly fortunate that – thanks largely to the overwhelming success of last year’s event – we had a fantastic pool of potential readers to pick from, and we’ve put together a reading programme which should have something for everyone, including Kate Griffin, Will Hill, Joe Abercrombie, Adam Christopher, Gary McMahon, Mike Carey, Stacia Kane… and more, mixing familiar names with debut authors and up-and-comers.

And that’s just the readings. There are all sorts of book launches, parties, panels, signings and events spread throughout the weekend.

I may have been running around working on this one, but they aren’t letting me off yet. I’ll be popping up a few times across the weekend – so if you want me, I’ll definitely be at these events (and will probably be running around or lurking in the background at a few others. I’ll be the one with a vaguely panicked expression…)

FRIDAY 28TH SEPTEMBER:

4 – 5pm, PANEL: YOUR FIRST CONVENTION. (Fitzherbert Room)

I’ll be discussing conventions with Guy Adams, Tim Lebbon, Joanne Hall and super-con-organiser Mandy Slater: how they work, what to do (or not to do!) and how to get the most out of them. Whether you’re an FCon newbie, a convention virgin or an old hand at both, come along.

8.30 – 9pm: READING. (Room 134)

Solaris are launching their new MAGIC anthology at FantasyCon, so I’ll be reading my short story from that, “Bottom Line” for the very first time. If there’s time, I’ll also try and squeeze in a very short excerpt from BLOOD AND FEATHERS. That’ll be a section I’ve not read before (basically, come to enough events I’m reading at, and you may well hear the whole book by the end of it….)

11:30pm – midnight: JUST A MINUTE (Regency Lounge)

This is the scary one. I’m playing the legendary game against James Barclay, Rob Shearman and FCon Guest of Honour Muriel Gray, all under the watchful eye of Gollancz’s Gillian Redfearn. Swing by the lounge to watch us all fail to talk for a minute without hesitation, repetition or deviation on any given subject. Heckle, cheer, laugh… whatever. But bring your moral support. And gin.

SATURDAY 29th SEPTEMBER

2 – 3pm: MAGIC LAUNCH (Bar Rogue)

Along with other contributors (including Rob Shearman, Alison Littlewood, Thana Niveau and Will Hill) I’ll be signing at the launch of the fantastic Solaris anthology. I’ve read a couple of the stories in this now, and I can promise you it’s worth it…

5 – 6pm: launch of A CARNIVALE OF HORROR: DARK TALES FROM THE FAIRGROUND (Regency Lounge)

Another anthology launch: this time, a collection of dark circus stories, edited by the Paul Kane and Marie O’Regan and featuring my story “Face of the Circus”. I’ll be signing, as will Rio Youers, James Lovegrove, Muriel Gray and the cover artist Ben Baldwin.

I’m incredibly excited about both these anthologies, as I’m very proud of those stories and I’m thrilled to be in such amazing line-ups.

###

Someone asked me whether I’ll be at the Big Solaris Give-Away & Signing on the Saturday afternoon: the answer to that is “sort of”. I’m not actually involved (I think the lovely Solaris crew will all need a bit of a break from me, to be honest…) but I may well be hovering somewhere in the background and I *will* be around most of Saturday afternoon – most likely either hanging out in the bar or running interference on launches and other events. So if you have a copy of BLOOD AND FEATHERS that you’d like me to sign, just keep an eye out for me and I’d be delighted to oblige!

As an aside, we’re also running a CHARITY CUPCAKE SALE on the FRIDAY AFTERNOON from 2 – 3pm (I think it’s in Bar Rogue, but please check the programme). All cakes are being made specifically by a group of crack volunteer bakers and have a fantasy theme. I’m told there *will* be some GF / vegan choices too, and all proceeds will go to the National Literacy Trust.

My contributions will have a Once Upon A Time theme, and (barring bakery disasters, which are entirely possible, given this is me…) be:

Rumpelstiltskin’s Revenge: chocolate & rum cupcakes with chocolate fudge icing… and plenty of gold.

Snow White: rose-flavoured cupcakes with vanilla icing

The Dark Curse: blackberry and lemon marbled cakes with chocolate icing

So there you go. FantasyCon’s shaping up to be a fantastic (gettit?) weekend all round. Weekend memberships are now sold out, but there may still be some day tickets available for the Saturday.

If you’re coming, I’ll see you in Brighton in a few days. The full programme is online here, with details of launches here. I’m looking forward to it….

Alt.Fiction 2012

So, Alt.Fiction happened. 

And it was good. No, seriously good.

While some worried about the unfortunate sandwich effect created by Eastercon and the start of the LBF, it didn’t seem to have caused too many problems: there was a great atmosphere and a good attendance (a little too good, in some cases – but more of that later).

I got to Leicester on Friday night, having met up with Will Hill, Tom Pollock and Lizzie Barrett on the way, and we collectively endured the most stressful train journey I think I’ve ever had… (a big “nul points” to the grumpy woman who caused a big fuss about her seat in our carriage) but it was fine. Honestly. Fine.

Friday evening saw a bit of socialising and an impromptu cinema trip, and then it was all about Alt.Fiction.

The 10am SFF non-fiction panel which I was on along with Tom, and Anne Perry of Pornokitsch, had a slight hiccup when our moderator was delayed – but Jared Shurin heroically stepped in with only a few minutes’ warning. It ended up being a very interesting discussion covering everything from the importance of research in fiction (and whether there’s such a thing as too much of it), to reviews and the responsibility of reviewers in how they handle issues like subtext, via steampunk, Jules Verne, hard SF, Werner Herzog and alternate histories.

As an aside, if anyone who was there wants to read the Michael Marshall Smith story I mentioned towards the end, it’s called “The Good Listener”, and you can find it here. There’s also a podcast of it here.

My next panel was “New Writers”, along with Tom Pollock (again. I like panels with him, because he uses big words and says terribly clever insightful things, so as long as he always speaks first I can just nod and sagely say, “Yeah. What Tom said….”) and Emma Newman and Vincent Holland-Keen. We were ably wrangled by Jon Weir, who was fantastic and made us all look like we knew what we were doing. No small feat, in my case.

The panels I went to were interesting: by far and away my favourite was the panel on comics which was as engaging as it was entertaining, and very good indeed. I was particularly impressed by Emma Vieceli – and even more so by her art! Her book is absolutely gorgeous, and although I’ve only just had time to flip through it I’m very much looking forward to reading it properly. You should all go out and buy it immediately.

The genre television panel was slightly frustrating in that it got very caught up in the technical aspects of programming, as opposed to discussion as viewers. I would have liked to see more debate about solid, long-running genre shows like Buffy or BSG or Supernatural or Dark Shadows (particularly the latter, given that Adam Christopher was on the panel) but was very taken with Alasdair Stuart’s ideas about “parachuting” cast members of existing shows into franchised versions in different countries.

Saturday evening involved an absolutely lovely dinner where I laughed so hard I actually cried and had a huge amount of fun, then drinks in the hotel bar, which were just the right level of noisy and silly. Sunday was a quieter day, with people drifting off to panels or towards home with the usual resolutions to do nothing but sleep for a week.

Everyone always says it’s the people who make conventions a good or bad experience, and this one doubly proved that. The whole atmosphere was so easy-going that everyone relaxed. The layout of the venue also meant that everyone was (largely) in the same space – although arguably some of the panels were in the wrong rooms: the smallest room always had more people trying to get in than could, while several of the panels in the larger rooms had relatively few attendees. Name tags would have been nice, too, as would some more volunteers to keep participants organised – but these are minor niggles and easily corrected next time around.

And yes: there will be a next time around. Alt.Fiction 2013 has already been announced; tentatively scheduled for the third weekend in May next year. It’s already in my diary…

Huge thanks, of course, go to everyone involved in organising the weekend: it was a big success, and rightly so.

And thanks to the people who made the weekend so memorable for me – in no particular order: Tom Pollock, Lizzie Barrett, Will Hill, Andrew Reid, Paul Cornell, Tom Hunter, Adam Christopher, Alasdair Stuart, Jon Weir, Nadine Holmes, Tom Fletcher, Anne Lyle, Marie O’Regan, Paul Kane and a lot more people I just know I’ve left out….

SFX Weekender 3

North Wales.

February.

Chalet.

It takes a special kind of circumstance to make me even consider contemplating those three ideas in combination. It takes the marvellously over-the-top geekfest that is the SFX Weekender.

Other people have already covered the majority of big things that need to be said: Sophia McDougall‘s blog post on the gender issue within programming has already been widely discussed, and as far as I can tell, what that all boils down to is the old chestnut about visibility on a range of levels, including publisher.

On a more positive note, I was pleasantly surprised by how many women were there, and there for themselves (as opposed to wearing the standard “My boyfriend / husband / son / best mate brought me along–but in 37 hours, I’ll be out of here” expression). I frequently bang on about how inclusive the SFF & genre scene can be, so it’s heartening to  see it playing out on a larger scale.

SFX Weekender bar (photo borrowed from Jonathan Green)

And talk about scale. There were thousands of attendees, making it by far the largest convention I’ve been to, and the first non-writery one. It’s a bit of a bemusing experience for writers: we’re not quite sure what to do when a bunch of cosplayers wander past us, and I still can’t quite get my head around Darth Vader pulling pints behind the bar.

I’ve also seen more 11th Doctors than I ever imagined possible, and a startling number of 10th Doctors who were women (and while I applaud your cosplay, ladies, you’ve left me slightly… confused as to my 10th Doctor-related feelings…).

I think I handled it pretty well–particularly the moment when Anne Lyle, Amanda Rutter and I were ambushed by a Dalek demanding we open the door for it. Thinking fast, Anne and I did what every loyal friend would do, and threw Amanda to our new portal overlord. She was rewarded with the promise she’d be exterminated last, so technically we did her a favour. Stop judging.

I also particularly enjoyed seeing a Dalek aggressively refuse a massage (where do you even start?) and hearing yet another Dalek tell a passing Stormtrooper that “I am not the droid you are looking for.” Like a true Rebellion girl, I spent a significant portion of my time hiding from at least one Judge Dredd, because He Scares Me.

There were a lot of great moments: the roadtrip (because one does not simply walk into Mordor) up to Prestatyn with my fabulous chalet-mates Amanda and Anne, as well as the lovely Will Hill. Being shouted at by Amanda for “doing it wrong” when someone asked about my book. Sitting in Adam Christopher’s car with Adam, Will and Laura Lam on the way to the Tor party, driving down the narrowest lanes imaginable and trying to decide who we’d send out if a hook-handed serial killer started banging on the roof. Sorry, Will. We needed Adam to drive, and Laura and I will be required later for the role of Screaming Female #1 and #2…

I got to catch up with friends: people like Sarah Pinborough, who was incredible at the Just A Minute session–which is up on Youtube: the first part’s here, and I cannot encourage you to watch the whole thing strongly enough–and I met some fantastic new people–Joe Abercrombie is just as awesome a person as he is a writer, quite a dancer, and a bloody sight better at getting pizza than I am. Dammit.

I magicked G&Ts out of thin air, and was presented with a half-pint of wine (Johannes Roberts, you’re a man after my own heart….).

I had huge fun, too, hanging out with the Solaris, Abaddon & 2000AD crew, who are a fantastic bunch and who feel like family. I don’t get to see them in force that often, but the Weekender marked 2000AD‘s 35th birthday, so they were there en masse, and what a fine masse that was.

I danced like a loon to Craig Charles on the decks on the Saturday night, and am fervently hoping that no video of the event exists. I will also keep the photo of a certain editor and a certain author playing “Dinohunt” with intense concentration to myself. For now.

The SFX disco (photo borrowed from Jonathan Green)

I may also have inadvertently started an “Alasdair Stuart for god!” campaign. I would totally vote for that ticket, by the way.

So: I went to very little of the programming, and I’m sure I missed catching up with a whole bunch of people, but that wasn’t really the point. Part of the Weekender’s appeal is that you never quite know what’s coming, or who’s round the corner… summed up best by walking straight into Dave Monteith from Geek Syndicate on the Saturday night. Many moons ago, we used to work in the same incredibly boring office and haven’t seen each other in years–so when we did bump into each other, there was a lot of hugging, squealing and general “Ohmygod!”ing. It was nice.

The downside, of course, is that the site is so large it’s easy to lose people: there were several times I got separated from friends in the middle of a conversation, and many chats which went unfinished–but I hope they can be picked up again next time. A common complaint was that there was nowhere to sit and catch up with people, and that’s true. Hopefully it’s something that can be remedied next year. Because, yes, it’s back next year… and yes, I’m already provisionally booked in at the hotel across the road.

To conclude, then: a good weekend, made–as always–by the people. And in this instance, quick shouts go out to Will Hill, Amanda Rutter, Anne Lyle, Jon Oliver, Dave Moore, Mike Molcher, Simon Parr, Tom Pollock, Lizzie Barrett, Sarah Pinborough, Johannes Roberts, Alasdair Stuart, Jonathan Green, Lee Harris, Adam Christopher, Laura Lam, Jared Shurin, Anne Perry, Andrew Reid… and so many more people who’ve been obscured by the post-convention fug.

If you weren’t there, and you want to get a feel for the weekend (or maybe you were there, and you’d like to relive it from the comfort of your own home…) you could do worse than to check out Jonathan Green’s fabulous vlog & slideshow here.

Meanwhile, and for reasons which I don’t altogether understand, I seem to have got this song stuck in my head as my SFX Weekender theme-tune, probably because I have a strange little ipod. Still, y’know. Let’s go with it…

Ego, Ego, Ego

One of my mad-dash self-pimping posts, this. If you’re averse to the odd spot of self-promotion and shoes with goldfish in the heels* then this is probably the time to look away…

If you’re still here, that’s good. This was worth sticking around for.

Last week, Solaris announced the line-up for their autumn anthology (you might well have read “End of the Line” or “House of Fear”, which were released in 2010 and 2011 respectively). This year, the theme – and the title – is Magic.

Full details including the line-up are on the Solaris blog, and if you look carefully, you’ll see that the “and others” includes, umm, me.

I can’t even begin to explain how excited I am about being involved in this: quite apart from the fact that so many of the people on that list are authors I admire hugely, Audrey Niffenegger is the kind of name that makes my jaw go from here ^ to here _.

The Time Traveler’s Wife is one of my favourite books (because I am a girl and in love with Henry, even though he’s an idiot for most of the book, yes, I know, don’t even try.) and so for me, this is a very, very big deal.

Random other pimpening: I’ll be turning up at the SFX Weekender coming up next weekend – I won’t be doing anything other than mooching around and enjoying myself, hopefully, but there’s a good chance I’ll be lurking around the Rebellion / Solaris & Abaddon crew at least some of the time so if you spot me, come and say hello! You can even ask about the fish.

I’ll be at a couple of conventions this year, attempting to sound intelligent… or at the very least, to smile nicely while failing to sound intelligent.

You can catch me at AltFiction in Leicester (April 14th & 15th), where I’ll be wearing my editor’s hat (which has a really big feather in it and goes nicely with the shoes) for one panel to discuss SFF non-fiction. Then I’ll be joining in with the “New Writers” panel, with Jon Weir, Tom Pollock and Vincent Holland-Keen – I’m particularly looking forward to this one.

I’ll also be at the Discover Festival in Snibston (May 18th – 20th), where it’s entirely possible I could be wearing a different hat. With or without feather…

*Note: no goldfish were harmed in the making of this blog post.

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*.

The A-Z of Fantasycon

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.

Truthless Consequences

In my last post, I mentioned a game Ro Smith introduced us to at Eastercon – “Creative Consequences”. It’s a variation on the blind story: each player writes a line, having read only the line which immediately precedes theirs… which makes for some interesting results.

The other three players (Adam Christopher, Anne Lyle and – of course – Ro) have already posted the stories they took home, so now it’s my turn. And I’ll take the secret of who-wrote-what to my grave, thankyouverymuch.

There is a house in the woods, long-lost to the bracken and the dark.

In the house lives a charcoal burner and his three sons: Tom, Dick and Harry.

Harry was a professional blackjack dealer, who dreamed of large women from Oregon.

The large women were always wearing orange hats–it worried him.

He didn’t know why he was afraid of the colour–it might have something to do with his great-aunt Mildred.

She had been inordinately fond of kissing him with her sticky, blubbery lips.

Her tentacles, however, he wasn’t so keen on, however much she tried to show them off.

He’d always had a phobia of suckers–he didn’t know how to tell her politely.

Instead, he sat awkwardly on the edge of the chair, toying with the anti-macassar.

“Deidre,” he whispered, “I’m sorry. I’m leaving you to start a yak farm in Uzbekistan.”

Alright. So that one’s not the best of the bunch. But I’m drawn to the Lovecraftian mystery going on in the background: who were the large women from Oregon? Why did they wear orange hats? Was Aunt Mildred one of them? Was Aunt Mildred, in fact, Dagon, and the large citrus-attired ladies actually her cult? And where the hell did the yak farm come into it?

I like to think of the second one as a steampunk romance. A very, very silly steampunk romance….

“Roger!” she shouted, loudly. “What?” he replied manfully. “Push it!” she said, and he did, neither of them really sure.

“One should never push a big red button,” Charlton admonished, “Everybody knows that.”

He shrugged, “You’ll find that the blue button gets things going much quicker.”

She ignored him and pulled on the ivory-handled lever above the aetherscope.

“That lever doesn’t do what you think it does,” he said, covering his hands in industrial lubricant.

“Things are going to get sticky from here on out,” he continued, smiling with a little too much glee.

“I don’t care, Captain, as long as we’re together!”

He folded her in his arms and kissed her, as the first stars appeared in the sky.

She didn’t like being folded, despite his qualification in human origami.

So, one night when he least expected it, she plucked a piano wire from the grand and garrotted him.

Yeah. About the romance bit…. didn’t end well for poor old Roger-slash-Charlton, however manful he was. But yay for girl power. And for a possible dirigible with a grand piano on board.

Honestly, these kept us entertained for ages in the bar (and with only a couple of beers between us, I swear). It was impossible to keep a straight face reading them out afterwards – so if you were in the bar at Eastercon and saw the four of us weeping with laughter, that’ll be why. Sorry about that.

But it was worth it. Really, it was.