BFS

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.

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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….

British Fantasy Awards: voting now open

In case you hadn’t noticed – which by now, I highly doubt (but that’s me – always late to the party) – voting for the British Fantasy Society’s annual awards, the British Fantasy Awards, is now open.

This year sees an overhauled system with a view to creating more interesting and relevant awards: one which nominees are genuinely excited to be shortlisted for, and which the eventual winners feel proud to be taking home.

We want people to care about these awards. We want them to reflect the passion that so many of you have for genre literature – whether you come down on the horror or the fantasy side of the fence; whether your thing’s major publisher or independent press… or whether you love all of the above.

We want it to mean something when a book wins a BFA: we want it to be seen as an endorsement of quality, voted for by readers, writers, editors… anyone who loves genre.

We can’t do it without you.

Without your votes.

Without you shouting for the books you’ve loved; the books you think deserve it.

You don’t have to have read every single book out there. You don’t have to have read every genre book published in the last year. You don’t even have to have an opinion on every award category. All we’re asking is that you recommend a couple of books. That’s it.

You can recommend three things in each category (ideally giving us as many details, like publisher, as you can – it makes our lives easier and helps the team check that your recommendation is valid). You don’t have to recommend three, though: one recommendation in one category is enough, if that’s all you want to include. It still counts.

Don’t tell me you’ve not read at least one genre book in the last year that you think is worth nominating – I simply won’t believe you.

You will need to be a member of the BFS (or a member of FantasyCon 2011 or FantasyCon 2012) to be eligible to vote. If you don’t already fall into one of those categories, why not join the BFS? Or get your membership to FCon 2012 – I can guarantee you’ll have a great time.

And if you are already eligible, go and vote. Now. Use your voice. Thank the writers, the editors, the artists, the publishers… everyone involved in making the books, the stories, the art you’ve enjoyed over the last year.

This is your chance to champion them. Don’t waste it.

Return to Murderess Lane

“May you live in interesting times.”

That’s the saying, isn’t it?

Boy, are my times interesting.

As I mentioned before, the Other Half and I sold our house and moved out just over a week ago.

There were a couple of delays in the purchase we were making, an old barn which needed renovating and converting, and while these were causing a bit of a headache they were no major problem: we’d rent somewhere for a couple of weeks, and it’d be fine.

Until the whole thing fell through.

Like I said, interesting times.

So for now, we’re holed up in a little flat on the edge of the City of London, not even a hundred yards from our old stomping ground of the Barbican. The deli I worked in after college is round the corner, as is the church where we were married. But more peculiar, for me, is living an offal-fling from Smithfield market again.

This is, hands down, my favourite part of London (and I’ve lived all over it in the last 12 or so years). Smithfield being a trade market specialising in meat, it’s nocturnal; the market itself locked-up and dead in the day. Despite the office workers buzzing round (and they do: we’re still in the City, just) and the traffic stampeding in and out of St Bartholomew’s Hospital (possibly my favourite saint: he’s the one who carries his own flayed skin over his arm. Lovely.) there’s still a hulking great behemoth in the midst of it all, silent until the sun goes down.

I wrote a story about Smithfield a while back. It’s one of my favourites, although sometimes I wonder whether I wrote it, or whether I uncovered it and that it’s about something that was always there and just needed the words lining up on the page.

When people think about the City, they think of banks and bonuses, skyscrapers and steel. They forget what’s underneath, and has been for a very, very long time. That was where “Murderess Lane” came from: the things that are hidden, and the things that should stay hidden—because the oldest cities are built of more than bricks and glass.

In a funny way, walking around these same places a decade after I last lived here, I feel like a ghost. Not quite connected to them as they are, but not seeing them as they were. Some things change; some things stay the same—but some parts of the City never do either. They adapt, and what was once above is pushed below, where it hides in the darkness; waiting to snatch at your ankles or whisper in your ear when you least expect it.

“Murderess Lane” was published in Hub Fiction #127. It’s still available online and free to read (if you like it—and are a BFS or Fantasycon member—I’d be thrilled if you considered recommending it in the “Short Story” category for this year’s British Fantasy Awards).

As for me? I’ve got plans. Well, a plan. Which you’ll agree is better than no plan at all. I might be a bit sporadic, but I’m still here. And in the meantime, I’ll be making sure I don’t go wandering into any dark alleys. Who knows what I might find…

 

Little Epiphanies

It’s my son’s birthday. He’s 3 today, and I honestly can’t work out where the time’s gone.

Actually, that’s not entirely true: I know most of it’s been spent swearing, crawling round the floor (I’ve gone through the knees of five pairs of jeans in that time) and doing washing. There seems to be an endless march through the kitchen of clothes in need of a damn good clean these days. No-one warned me about that.

Also, while we’re on the subject, no-one thought to warn me that the smaller the socks, the easier they are to lose–and I was already a champion league sock-loser. There’s something almost zen about it.

Still. Three whole years. And in that time, he’s gone from a tiny wrinkled blue thing to a smart little boy who asks me why it’s dark at night (“Because it’s night time, and it goes dark at night.”… “But, why?”… “Because the sun goes to bed at night, because it’s tired.”… “But, why?” “Because.”… “But, why?”… “Because Mama needs a gin. Shhh.” Apparently I should be grateful: when I was 3, I turned around and asked my parents: “How did carrots first get on the Earth?” I’m not entirely convinced that I wouldn’t answer the same question with “Tralfamadorians“) and who told his first joke last week. Granted, it was one wholly plagiarised from Gigglebiz, but everyone’s got to start somewhere.

As it turns out, he’s not the only person I know celebrating today: big birthday cheers to my friend Andie, and to the lovely Guy Adams.

Rod Rees, too, has cause to be happy today: it’s publication day for Winter: the first volume of “The Demi-Monde“. Long-time readers of the blog (especially if you’ve come from the old Tumblr site) will know I’ve been behind this book since I heard about it in March. Rod was kind enough to send me a proof of it during the summer, and I couldn’t put it down. It’s a glorious romp, and I’m intensely jealous I didn’t think of it first. Or ever, because I can’t even begin to imagine how he fits it all into his head. And there’s another three to come…

I interviewed Rod for the British Fantasy Society a couple of months ago. The full interview, with much more insight into how the Demi-Monde functions, and the challenges of writing it, will appear in a future issue of the BFS Journal. For now, though, you can read a short version on the BFS website.

Big day. I’m off for a glass of champagne.

Tentacular-Spectacular!

Dan Hillier: "Deeps" c/o Under Vhoorl's Shadow

Art week continues.

Tonight, it’s the turn of Dan Hillier. Not enough people know his work, although I seem to remember he did make the BFA longlist for this year.

He specialises in “altered engravings” – meaning he takes an original engraving and, umm, alters it; usually by adding skulls or tentacles. They’re… well, they’re eldritch.

We’ve got Mother and Father hanging at either end of our dining table, and they tend to draw comments. These have ranged from: “Hmmm” to “Awesome” to “Good god, they’re revolting.”  And just like with Ben Baldwin’s stuff, there’s a couple more I have my eye on.

I’m very fond of the ones we have – again, something which draws comment: my raging squid-phobia is well-noted, so why on earth would I want tentacles on my wall? Because I just do. And because I love these pictures.

Cthulutastic.

Pack Up Your Troubles

Well, I’m off to the bright lights of Nottingham for a couple of days, for Fantasycon. I’m really looking forward to it, as it’ll be a chance to catch up with lots of people–most of whom I’ve not seen since World Horror in March–and to meet some new ones too.

I promised myself I’d pack light, you know, just fling a few choice things in a bag tomorrow morning… FAIL. I’ve actually spent the last half hour sitting on my case and inching the zips on it together to get it to close. Sitting on it. This for a trip which will inevitably see me wearing jeans & a t-shirt a good 80% of the time, and for which I’ll be away the dizzying total of 2 nights.

Girls, eh?

Try not to break anything while I’m gone…