brighton

FantasyCon 2012

┬áThis 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….

Burning the Clocks

Yes, yes. I know. I give you a pretty picture to look at and then I disappear for a fortnight. Sorry. I have been a bit rubbish, haven’t I?

If it’s any consolation, I have spent most of the last two weeks running around like a cat with its tail on fire, stopping only to whimper quietly in a corner. I’m knackered. I’ve worked nowhere near as much as I’d have liked (although this morning’s attempt at research has landed me on a website with a very scary url beginning http://www.secretservice… so if I suddenly disappear, it’s probably best if you don’t come looking for me. But I do appreciate the thought.) and have eaten far more than I should have.

Christmas has apparently Been Done Properly.

Just before Christmas, though, I went to Burning the Clocks here in Brighton. Held every year around the midwinter solstice, it’s a lantern-lit parade through the centre of town, down to the beach. Once the parade reaches the shoreline, the lanterns (which are made of willow withies and paper) are thrown onto a huge bonfire and ceremonially burned.

Some of the “clocks” are built to look like… stuff, as opposed to being little lanterns. I was particularly taken with these two: a phoenix, and a griffin.

And there’s fireworks. Because Brighton is never knowingly subtle.

It was a fantastic way to start Christmas, and if you happen to be round this way for next year’s, I thoroughly recommend it.

There are, by the way, much better pictures on the Guardian’s site, here. See if you can spot the geek-tastic lantern in photo 3…

Hot Zombie

Somewhat different from the Flaming Zombies I was drinking at the launch of “Ashes”, Ilsa Bick’s new YA book for Quercus on Monday, these zombies are another animal altogether.

I’ll explain.

Brighton being Brighton, we’re not exactly a subdued bunch in the city. Brightonians take most things in their stride (take, for instance, the awful homophobic itinerant preacher prowling the streets of town yesterday. He began howling at a gay couple walking past him, and they duly stopped, looked him up & down… and one of them responded with “You’ll never get me to turn, love. Not in those shoes,” to rousing applause from passers-by). ┬áBut I digress.

Yesterday was Beach of the Dead day. For the uninitiated, that’s our annual mass zombie-walk. I know. It’s hard to tell the difference between that and a regular weekend on the seafront – what can I say?

But yesterday, I was on my way home through town – not long before the walk (shuffle?) started, and I ran into a bunch of teenage zombies lurking outside Burger King. One of them was wearing a cardboard crown. Fair enough. However, what bothered me were the two girls in the middle of the group, who were adjusting their lipstick…

Yes, they weren’t just zombies. They were sexy zombies.

Now, maybe I’m getting cynical in my dotage… but isn’t this rather missing the point? Sexy zombies? Seriously? And let’s be clear – this wasn’t oh-my-god-these-girls-are-so-hot-they-even-look-gorgeous-when-they’re-part-of-a-horde-of-shuffling-undead. No. This was “Excuse me? I heard there’s a Britney circa-1998 video casting round here somewhere…” sexy.

Maybe I’m just not crediting them where credit’s due: perhaps they were channelling kids who were on their way to a fancy-dress party when they were attacked by rampaging monsters… It just seems like that option is, frankly, a bit meta.

I’m not saying you can’t have sexy monsters. Vampires are the old standard, despite being, y’know, dead. Werewolves, too: they’re all about the inner beast. Both have reasonable, logical justifications for bringing a bit of sexy back with them.

But zombies…?

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 Impossible House & the Inexplicable Genie

Just in case you saw yesterday’s post about our… colourful local street decoration; here he is, for your very viewing pleasure!

(For reasons utterly unknown to me, WordPress has decided that this is best viewed sideways if you click on it… Who am I to question the wisdom of the blog-gods?)

And seeing as I had the camera out, here’s a quick shot of the not-house on our street. It looks just like all the other front doors, but there’s no street number, no doorstep and no letterbox. And that’s because there’s no house behind it.

Don’t even ask about the window next door. I think it might have fallen victim to the Great Pavement Hunger of ’82…

Brighton Rocks

I live in a strange town, I really do.

Yesterday, I discovered that one of the houses on our street is actually a fake: that the front door opens onto a passageway that runs between the houses either side and connecting to the old midden that runs behind the buildings. (It’s a Georgian street. They were big on middens).

And then, while I was on my way to collect Small Boy from his nursery, I spotted one of our street signs has been… decorated. Where there was once a sign telling drivers that no, they could not enter that particular road, there is now a large, fibreglass genie.

Seriously.

I think I’m going to have to go and get a photo of it before someone nicks it. Although quite what you’d do with a large fibreglass genie in your living room, I dread to think. Even in Brighton…

Time & Tide

It’s been just over a week, and things are starting to feel… well, “normal” would be an overstatement, but it’s getting to the point where I kind of have to stop being so bloody emo and feeling sorry for myself.

So.

I’ll say thank you – genuinely, thank you – to everyone who got in touch and sent me messages, texts, DMs, carrier pigeons and virtual flowers (how modern are we? The internetz are awesome). I might not have been very good at replying, but they were appreciated more than I could possibly express. If nothing else, this has shown me what wonderful friends I have: from the ones I’ve known for years and years to the ones I’ve only really met (so far, anyway) online.

And now, I think I’m going to move on. Because if nothing else, this is an excellent way to procrastinate. Not only am I supposed to be winding up the final chapters of The Book What I Have Been Writing (and which is now leaving me going: “Why did I do that? What was I thinking???” at various points through the 90,000 odd words…. very odd words.) but I’ve got a eulogy to write. An eulogy. Whatever.

Anyway, moving on.

I think I could really get to love Brighton. On Monday, it was cold and drizzly and I took Small Boy down to the beach. Apart from a couple of dog-walkers, we had it entirely to ourselves.

Today, the sun was shining and even though the wind was freezing, I laughed at it from the safety of my snuggly new snowboarding jacket. (Three days after moving down here, I realised that my typical London-dweller’s outerwear was far more suited to hopping on and off buses than it was to dealing with February coastal winds. This was not a battle I could win. I didn’t try. I hied me to the nearest shop and bought a jacket which makes me resemble a chocolate Michelin Man. But I’m warm.)

So today we went to the beach and threw stones into the waves, and watched the seagulls being seagulls – for which read “incredibly noisy, and generally menacing”…

(it’s funny because it’s true) … and we built a series of small stone towers which will prove vital to the defence of the realm come the Zompocalypse. Or at least, they would if they weren’t made of pebbles and stood about 4 inches high.

Basically, if we’re invaded by tiny, undead pirates? Relax, I’ve got it covered. Anything else and, umm, we’re screwed.

Also, as Small Boy did his best to dig another Channel Tunnel using only a piece of driftwood which I suspect started out life as an ice-lolly stick, I vaguely recalled reading something about the beach being mined during the Second World War.

I really hope they remembered where they put them all.