British Fantasy Awards

Rebellion and the weaver

BFS_Logo_red_SMALLI had a pretty awesome piece of news last week: BLOOD AND FEATHERS: REBELLION has been shortlisted for this year’s British Fantasy Awards, in the “Best Fantasy Novel” category.

It’s a fantastic shortlist (you can see the other nominees here, plus the shortlists for all the other BFA categories) and I’m absolutely thrilled to be a part of it… and making it even lovelier is the fact that the first B&F book, BLOOD AND FEATHERS, was nominated in the same category last year. Thank you so, so much to everyone who voted it onto the shortlist – it means an enormous amount.

Other good news comes in the form of a short story: I’m delighted to announce that my story, “Death and the Weaver” will appear in Alchemy Press‘s URBAN MYTHIC 2 anthology, launching later this year. My contribution is set in an area I know very well and have a huge amount of affection for: Brittany in northern France, and is the story of what happens to a woman who moves back to the small town where she spent her summers growing up.

The idea behind the anthology (which like its predecessor, the original URBAN MYTHIC, has a great line-up) is to reinterpret myths and legends in a modern way – and there’s no shortage of myths in Brittany. I’ll talk a bit more about the story and this particular myth in “Death and the Weaver” closer to release – which should be at FantasyCon in September.

Another thank you too, to everyone who commented on the SLEEPLESS cover: I’m so pleased you like it as much as I do!

 

 

 

 

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The Lists

So, I had a bit of an odd evening yesterday. Mainly because this happened.

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The British Fantasy Society announced the shortlists for their annual awards (the British Fantasy Awards). And I was delighted to find I’ve been included in the list for the Sydney J. Bounds Award, given to a newcomer every year [insert debate about all possible meanings of the word “best” here].

I was even more delighted to see the other names on that list – partly because there are some wonderful books on there, and partly because I’m lucky enough to be able to call a good few of the authors of them friends – particularly Kim Curran, Anne Lyle and Helen Marshall. All three of them are doing very different things – something which extends to the rest of the shortlist, incidentally – but I’d be more than happy for any of them to win. (Of course I won’t win. Don’t be so silly.)

The point is that this is an exciting shortlist. I can’t claim to have read all the books on it – although I certainly will try to – but of the ones I have read, there’s an enormous amount of scope. There’s YA in there (and not crossover YA, either: solid, properly-teenage YA) and there’s historical fiction and there’s SF and there’s literary. And there’s urban fantasy peppered with angels and a fair amount of swearing. Cough. Moving on…

It’s a shortlist I’m immensely proud and honoured to be part of, because it’s completely unpredictable and reflects what’s emerging from writers working in genre right now.

That made me happy.

And then there was this.

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Which – I’ll be honest – gave me a funny ringing sort of sound in both ears and made me need a bit of a sit down. It was a shock, let’s put it that way, and I still don’t quite have the words for how I feel. The closest I can get is a sort of “Snnnngggzzztzttp” noise, followed by a high-pitched giggle and needing to sit down again.

I cannot even begin to emphasise how much I won’t win this (because come on. Seriously.) but I will enjoy seeing someone else win it (and I know who I’d like it to be…) because it’s a fantastic party to be invited to.

It’s also a lovely thing to be able to say that the Solaris Books “Magic” Anthology is also on the shortlist for best anthology (and it’s a very tough category this year) and there are appearances by friends throughout the nominations. All in all, it’s an exciting list – and I can’t wait to see what happens.

I should also point out that Blood and Feathers being there at all has everything to do with the members of both the BFS & FantasyCon, who nominated for the shortlists. And it also has to do with the tremendous trust and hard work of my editor, Jon Oliver, and everyone at Solaris. So thank you all. You’ve rendered me speechless(ish) and that’s pretty damn hard to do.

Take it away, Dean…

 

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.

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.

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…